It’s (almost) free. It’s family-friendly.  If you don’t mind strangers staying in your house while you are away, a house swap holiday can be an economical and enjoyable solution to a family holiday. Why?

Why a house swap holiday can be a great family travel option.

  1. It’s convenient.
    Staying in a house means easy solves for practical things like cooking and washing. You’ll probably also have other nice to haves like wifi or a backyard.
  2. It’s spacious.
    There’s also a lot more space than a hotel room;  if your baby sleeping in a separate room, or if they simply need somewhere quiet to sleep until you come to bed, you’re likely have one, two, three or more bedrooms to choose from.
  3. You might save on car rental.
    Some house swappers even swap cars: although if you do so, we recommend checking you’ll be covered by their vehicle insurance (or your travel insurance), and that you take and instal your own baby car seat.
  4. House swapping homes are often setup for kids.
    Why? The two biggest target markets are families and retirees. If you’re staying in a house which has children (or the home of doting grandparents)  they’ll often have things like high chairs, and sometimes even a cot for you to use. At the very least, they will probably be a few suitable toys for your baby to play with.

Downsides of a house swap holiday.

Like everything, there are downsides. First, you have to find a family willing to swap at the same time. (However some people with holiday houses are able to do non– simultaneous swaps, you might find this useful.)

And while it hasn’t happened to Sue (who did three house swaps in her son’s first year – as well as a few housesits), it stands to reason that a house swapper is more likely to cancel on you hotel will.

Still, we love house swapping for families: it’s cheap, it’s baby-friendly, and it’s a lovely way to travel at this time in your life.

5 tips for setting up a profile for your house swap holiday:

1. Register with more than one site.

We recommend joining one or two sites. A few good options include Home Exchange, Aussie house swap (for the Aussies or those wanting to visit) or Love Home Swap. Some sites are better for domestic swaps than international swaps and vice versa, so ask around for recommendations.  Expect to invest a couple of hours getting your listing up and running and uploading photos – see below.  And don’t skimp on the bit where you tell swappers about your family – people like to know a bit about whose home they will be staying in. Wouldn’t you?

2. Upload good photos.

Naturally, nice photos will make a difference, so organise these in advance. For house swapping sites, you don’t need professional pics (whereas that does make a huge difference on sites like Airbnb – who will organise free professional photography for you in most locations), but don’t just slap up a dodgy snapshot; try to make the space look nice.  Also, try to show features other families or house swappers might like: a good BBQ area, any toys kids can use, a nice place to sit in the sun, all the available bedrooms so people can see bedding configurations, and an external pic so they recognise the place on arrival.

3. Location counts – but not in the way you might think.

Of course, the more appealing your home (more in terms of location than ‘glamour’), the more requests you’ll get (or the more enthusiastic replies you’ll find when you ask others to swap).  In popular cities you’ll likely have no trouble finding keen house swappers, especially in peak periods or locations (ie: Sydney by the beach, Central London, romantic cities like Paris etc.) Live somewhere less celubrious? People still will want to come to visit friends or relatives, or for a shorter stay. Really!

4. Reverse search to find people who want to come to you.

Most house swap websites allow you to do a ‘reverse search’, which means the only listings which show up are people looking to travel to your destination – a handy feature that can save a lot of time.

5. Plan in advance where possible.

Be aware: many experienced house swappers will line up trips a long way in advance (up to a year).  And there’ll always be more demand for swaps in school holidays – this makes sense, given the main users of house swap sites are typically families, closely followed by retirees.

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Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of Sue White has always been a traveller. When her son was born, Sue knew her travel itch would still need regular scratching. But how do you travel with a baby under one and still have a good time? Is it even possible? Where do busy new parents discover practical tips to support those first few trips? To find out, Sue and her baby son travelled both Australia and Europe doing house sits and house swaps; cat sitting and car journeys; took on 24 hours flights and short domestic jaunts; travelled with friends, solo and family members; and cycled, drove, flew and train-ed around seven countries, all before his first birthday. Learn more about Sue.