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A House Swap Affords the Comforts of Home

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By Lois Sealey, Home Base Holidays

The idea of travelling abroad with a baby, toddler and even older children can be daunting. Think of all the 'essential stuff' you take along when you head out of the house for just one day! Swapping homes can alleviate much of the packing related trauma often associated with a family holiday. In addition, it provides a familiar environment for children and circumvents the constraints of a hotel.

And the advantages of a vacation home exchange don't end there. A childproof home offers a safe environment for your children. Books, toys, games and DVDs will keep the kids entertained. Cars, often included in an exchange, are likely to be fitted with the requisite car or booster seat and can significantly lower the cost of your family vacation. While a kitchen may mean that mom or dad feel obligated to cook, at least once, it allows you to prepare food your kids like, pack lunches and, in contrast to the small refrigerator found in most hotel rooms, keep milk, juice and snacks fresh.

Families with older children benefit too. Teens don't have to give up their privacy. They are likely to have their own bedroom and, possibly, their own bathroom. And a house swap offers a different way for them to get involved. Exchanging emails with your host family's children will provide them with a teen's view on local attractions and more.

Getting started:
  • Allow plenty of time to find a suitable swap partner.
  • Use an established and reputable agency. Check references, read testimonials and pose questions on travel forums.
  • In addition to up-to-date listings, comprehensive home exchange information and an email address, the agency's website should include a telephone number, essential in the event you need to speak to a 'real' person.
  • Make sure the listings include countries or areas of interest to your family before you join.
  • Spend time corresponding with a potential partner before you agree to an exchange as this will help you feel comfortable about entrusting your home to your swap partners.
Things to keep in mind
  • If possible, select a home with children of a similar age.
  • Flexibility in terms of location, dates and length of the exchange, provides for greater opportunities.
  • Find out if your exchange family has a regular babysitter or access to a local babysitting circle.
  • Ask your exchange family about local attractions, restaurants and even the neighborhood park.
  • Get a list of emergency numbers from your exchange partners.
  • Find out if there are other children in the neighborhood; both younger and older kids may be interested in making friends.
Before you depart
  • Leave your home clean and tidy for your guests. Make the beds with clean linen and provide a supply of clean towels in the bathroom.
  • Make space in a bedroom closet and in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare a folder including instructions for your appliances as well as a list of emergency numbers, information on public transport and taxis as well as fun things to do with kids.
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