Tips for a Successful Home Exchange Experience

by: Lydie Thomas

You've found a great home exchange partner.  Now, to have a sucessful home exchange experience, it's important to prepare your home well and play the part of a good host even if you will not be there to welcome your guests.



Set House Rules

If you are swapping with people who have children, make sure that you leave a note telling them what you do not want other children to do: stand on bed or on the couch for example or eat in the living room. 


Put away anything precious or breakable

Before you leave your home, if some items are very dear to your heart for any reason, just hide them in a closet or put them out a reach.  When you arrive at your destination, sweep through the house and put away breakables in a safe place.  Nancy, from San Francisco, mother of two young children, has a great tip: she takes pictures of the room the way she finds it. Upon leaving, she looks at the pictures and puts everything back in order.


Leave appropriate baby or child equipment available at full view

After a long journey, you don’t want to hunt through a stranger’s home looking for equipment.  Ask that your swapper put essential equipment out in the open.  Do the same for your guests.

Assemble a welcome binder

Once both families have agreed to the exchange, get ready to assemble a binder of important and helpful information.  Start with information about how to get the heat and hot water running.  Include information about the day of the garbage pick-ups, your favorite groceries stores and restaurants, parks, things to do with children in the neighborhood.  Tell them if they can use your phone for local, long distance, or even international calls. They may pay a monthly fee for unlimited international calling. Template for welcome binder.


Be a good host

Leaving books, magazines, and a list of websites that offer suggestions of things to do in your area with children. Mark down the surrounding parks and playgrounds on a map.  Provide some tips on public transportation and leave some road maps.  If your children are old enough encourage them to write a note to the visiting children to share about neighborhood friends, attractions, and favorite restaurants.


Ask a neighbor to be available in case issues arise

It's always a good idea to let your neighbors know that you are leaving for vacation and that you're expecting some guests during your time away.  Ask you a trusted neighbor if they would be willing to be available to help in case there is an emergency.  You might want to leave your neighbor an extra key just in case.  Ask if it's okay for you to share their telephone number with your guests and share their contact information with your guests before they arrive.  At least your home exchange partner will have someone local to call if they have difficulty getting into your home upon arrival.



It sounds tempting to swap cars but you have to make sure that you feel very comfortable with your decision. Other families may allow their children to eat in their car and you may not. If you have an old car, will the insurance reimburse you enough money to get a new one if there is a bad accident?



Home Exchangers are considered your guests, even though you are not in your home at the time of your visit. Your homeowner or renter’s insurance should cover them as such but make sure you call your agent to double-check with them. If you are a renter, make sure that your landlords are fine with you doing a home exchange.


Some exchangers will prefer to pay for somebody to come clean the home at the end of the visit. Some of them are fine about doing the cleaning themselves. This is something you will have to decide on together.  Your welcome binder should include expectations of what your guest should do to clean up the house and close it up when they leave.

It is normal to feel hesistent at first with the idea of doing a home exchange but keep in mind that families are in the same mindset as you are: they want to have a good experience too. Being open about your feelings and preparing your home for your guests are the keys to a successful home exchange experience.  It’s important to realize that home exchanges are not for everyone.  If you are very particular or protective about your home, then this might not be for you.  You’ve got to be realistic that plates, glasses or toys might be broken, or cleaning may not be done the way you would do it yourself.  If you can be flexible, this is a small price to pay for a free rental.


Related Resoureces:




Lydie Thomas is a Travel Whisperer. She loves to visit new places with her two daughters and husband. Follow her blog at to know all the tricks to travel in the San Francisco Bay Area (where she lives) and France (where she was born and raised).

updated: April 19 2012 by Lydie

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