Usertips

As a pet owner who is exchanging home or office within the community, you have several options:

  • Take the pet with you. 
  • Board your pet with a professional facility or friend.
  • Swap pet care with your exchange partner.

 

Taking Your Pet with You

If you're doing a long-term exchange, you may consider bringing your pet(s) with you if your exchange partner is OK with that. 

Naturally, this will be easier if you are driving to your destination. Flying is feasible with a small dog or a cat, but can be difficult for larger dogs. So be sure to carefully research your pet's experience, as well as travel regulations and restrictions, before you decide. You may need to get special documents from your veterinarian.  

As soon as you arrive at your home exchange, survey the home and every room before letting your pet loose. Look for anything you think your pet might knock over, eat or damage, and put it away, out of range. You want to make sure that your pet is safe AND that the home stays intact! 

If your pet will be going outside, don’t forget to check the grounds and perimeter thoroughly. Look for holes in the fencing or if there is anything that might be dangerous, such as shallow cables or wires. 

Whether your exchange partners are bringing their own pet to your home or not, do tidy up all of Fido's toys, food, blankets and trinkets before their arrival.  

 

Boarding Your Pet

If you decide to board your pet with a professional facility or friend, do a "test run" or two to make sure your pet is thriving in a different location. 

Give your pet care person or facility a list of your pet's favorite games or toys, feeding requirements, medication/supplements and instructions, and any other special considerations. Bring food, as required. Include contact info for your veterinarian and an emergency hospital. Of course, we never want to think about the worst case, but it's good to be prepared. 

 

Exchange Pet Care

This can be a lovely option for all involved—humans and animals alike—when you exchange homes with a fellow pet lover/owner. You'll feel good that Fido or Kitty will feel loved and be in good, responsible hands. 

PLUS you'll get to fill your own needs for soft snuggles and walks to the dog park—which can be a GREAT way to meet people in your new location. 

If your exchange partner will arrive at your home when you're not there (perhaps already winging your way to THEIR home), arrange to have a friend or family member who knows your pet be there to "introduce" them. You'll also want to have on hand enough food, treats, supplements, etc. to last the length of time you'll be gone. 

Be sure to leave (or email) a document with all pet care instructions. It's also a good idea to discuss your pets and instructions in advance by phone or Skype, and likewise for any pets you will be caring for yourself in your exchange partner's home. 

Don't forget to authorize your exchange partner with your vet as a person who can care for your pet in an emergency. Discuss how you would like your caretaker to respond in such an incident. Make arrangements with your vet for payment should a visit be needed. 

Finally, be a thoughtful pet caretaker. Send photos from time to time of your exchange partner's pet playing around and feeling good. Write email updates about Fido and Kitty to put the other person's mind (and heart) at ease. We get quite attached to our animals, so a little reassurance goes a long way.

Exchanging homes is not just for singles or empty nesters or "pre-nesters." In fact, living in another country, for even just a month, can be an extraordinary experience for the developing minds of children. 

Or you can go even further and place your children in foreign schools for a semester or more. You may find just the right exchange partner who wants to do the same, and you can introduce each other to your respective school communities. 

In any case, the point is: don't use kids as an excuse NOT to pursue your dreams of traveling and experiencing other cultures. Bring them along!

Start by searching for homes that have enough beds and bathrooms to fit your family's unique needs. Yes, someone listed their property as 3 bedrooms, but does anyone really want to room with snoring Uncle Johnny? You might need an extra room for him.

When you have a few leads, ask your prospective exchange partners any questions you have related to family fun and safety. Consider all aspects of the exchange property and location. Is there a pool? Outdoor grill? Nearby park? How close are you to other potential family activities? Are there kids of similar ages in the neighborhood?

Once you agree to an exchange, think through your time there. Do you know who to call if the pool's water pump breaks? Will you be cooking or eating out the majority of the time? Ask for oven instructions and grocery store recommendations or where the best family-friendly restaurants in town are. 

Want to have a family movie night in your home away from home? Ask for TV and DVD instructions (and provide them yourself for your own home). 

One of the best things about being somewhere new is the adventure. Involve your children as much as possible in both finding the ideal home to exchange and in making your experience there one the whole family will remember.

You've secured a home/office swap. Travel plans have been finalized and now you're ready to prep for guests. Here are some helpful tips and reminders on tasks to complete before your visitors arrive and before you leave for your destination.

 

Create a List of Action Items

  • Exchange important information. Make sure to send your swap partner important phone numbers and addresses for a local contact in case of emergencies, directions on how to get to your home/office, information on how to exchange keys, codes for a lockbox or alarm system, and Wi-Fi passwords, etc.
  • Review your insurance policy. Check in with your insurance company and review what is covered and under what circumstances. If necessary, purchase additional insurance before your home/office swap. Do the same with your auto insurance, if a car exchange is part of your arrangement.
  • Store valuables. Put items that are of value or are special to you in a safe and secure location. Lock them up in a closet or put them in storage.
  • Suspend deliveries and subscriptions. Ask your post office to hold your mail. Temporarily discontinue newspaper delivery and magazine subscriptions.  Or have your packages delivered to a trusted neighbor or friend.
    Prepay bills. Take care of cable, mortgage and other regular bills before you leave. This will also ensure that all utilities are set up for your guests.
  • Get your car serviced. If you have a vehicle in your home/office swap agreement, make sure it’s been properly maintained. Take it in for an oil change and make any necessary repairs.
  • Stock up on home supplies and essentials. Depending on the length of stay for your guests, outline the exact details of what will be provided for them before their arrival. But basic necessities such as toiletries (toilet paper, soaps) and kitchen and cleaning supplies (trash bags, paper towels) should be in stock before your visitors arrive. 

 

Arrange a Local Contact for Guests

Enlist a trusted neighbor or friend to be your guests’ emergency contact, check in on your home/office from time to time and just provide general assistance for your visitors. You can have this person be the welcoming party for your guests upon their arrival, delivering keys or holding a security box with important paperwork. You can have this person also collect keys when the home/office swap is over.

 

Clean Your Home/Office

  • First impressions are everything, in business and especially in hospitality. Make your guests feel comfortable in your home—in the same way you'd like to feel comfortable in theirs. That starts with cleanliness. Communicate expectations in advance of your guests’ arrival. Your guests' idea of a clean home/office may lean toward relaxed more than organized.
  • There are many considerations to think about, from children to pets, and should be discussed beforehand. So get an idea of their needs and a sense of their expectations and communicate your own. Here a few recommendations applicable to almost any situation: 
  • Set aside fresh linens and towels.
  • Make sure bedrooms, workspaces and all common rooms are tidy.
  • Mow your lawn, clean your pool, and ensure outside areas are straightened up and safe for guests.
  • Clean all surfaces, especially in the kitchen and all bathrooms.
  • Empty wastebaskets, wipe down mirrors and clean out the fridge.
  • Employ a professional cleaning service if needed.
  • Additionally, guests will need enough space to store their luggage and groceries. Leave room in the closet. Provide plenty of hangers and empty out a few drawers for guests to place their clothes. Clear some shelves in the pantry and make some space in the fridge for guests to store food and drinks.
  • Most importantly, give yourself enough time to prepare for your guests. The small details complete the big picture. Uncluttered spaces make home/offices feel more inviting and allow guests to settle in.

 

Prepare a Welcome Basket and Guide

  • Include owner's manuals or a "How-To" list with instructions on how to use appliances in your home/office—from the coffee maker to the air conditioner.
  • Provide information on the location of the breaker box, how to operate the alarm system.
  • Leave post-it notes about amenities and common household items guests can expect to find if needed: iron, hair dryer, umbrellas, power adapters etc.
  • Include instructions on how to take care of any plants or pets. 
  • Leave copies of vital paperwork (car insurance and registration).
  • Write down Wi-Fi passwords and important contact information. Include phone numbers and addresses to the nearest hospital, police, and fire department. Include your car repair shop, plumber, cleaners, etc.
  • Provide a city map, with travel instructions, pubic transit information, and directions to popular destinations. Give them directions to the local post office, grocery store or market, and banks and ATMs.
  • Add takeaway and delivery menus, recommendations on restaurants and activities not found in tourist books. Mix in some of YOUR favorite activities. Give your guests the opportunity to live like a local. 
  • Write a personalized message. Maybe include a small gift. Set out a coloring book if you’re expecting children or a bottle of wine and snacks for your visitors to enjoy on their first night.

 

These simple tips and recommendations will allow your guests to comfortably settle into their home away from home. It will also give you the piece of mind that your home/office is in good hands while you’re traveling.

Your profile is filled out and your home/office is properly listed. Now it's time to start planning your trip and searching for the perfect exchange partner. These tips also work in reverse, when you've been contacted by another member to explore a possible home/office exchange.

Be Flexible

When you begin your search for a home/office swap, keep an open mind. Decide on a timeframe for when you want to travel: a weekend, a week, a month or longer. And know generally when you want to travel: next month, in the fall, next summer. But at this point, know that exact dates will be finalized later. The key to finding the right situation for both parties is allowing for all possibilities. You never know where you may end up and the experiences you'll encounter; that's the beauty of traveling.

Now start searching through the listings and find possible locations that you would like to go. Maybe a summer in Italy is the perfect time and place to hold a business retreat. Or maybe plan a getaway in South America for the winter, right before the cold weather hits. Use the Swap My Office filters to sort through necessary requirements and amenities needed during your stay.

Just give yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare. While some members are prepared to be spontaneous (and love it!), you'll give yourself a greater chance for success by planning well in advance.

Contact Multiple Users

Before you contact other members, read their profile carefully to see if there are any restrictions in their listing that may not be right for your situation. Use your best judgment as to who might be a potential swap-mate.

Now it's time to reach out to all potential swap-mates. Start by contacting members who are looking for an exchange in the date ranges that you have in mind. Then contact members looking for swap dates that are just outside of that timeline. Turn that weekend trip into a weeklong retreat. And keep in mind that some members have not specified a desired date range for exchanging. Don't hesitate to contact them as well. The more people you reach out to, the better.

In your initial email, be up front about what you're looking for: the ideal length of stay, the purpose of your trip, who will be traveling with you, if you have children, pets, etc. Find something in their profile that stuck out to you and add it into your message. Like in business, it's about connecting with potential partners.

Open Up a Dialogue/Choose the Right Situation

Once the replies start reaching your inbox, respond to the ones that seem like a right fit, while politely declining any that unfortunately won't work out. For the opportunities that seem like a match, start an open conversation with your potential swap-mate(s). If they didn't include it in their response email, get a sense for the things that they're looking for in a swap. Find out if they have any specific requirements that they will need during their stay. The more information you can gather beforehand the better. It will help you narrow down your choices and find the perfect match.

Once you've decided on which swap will work out for both parties, start the planning process. Finalize arrival and departure dates. Coordinate key exchanges and arrange for emergency contacts. Give them directions on how to get to your home/office and other transportation or transit information. Send your swapmate any passwords for wifi and Internet access and codes for any lockboxes on your door, alarm system, etc.

For a complete to-do list on setting up your home/office for a swap, read Preparing Your Home and Office for Visitors.

It's natural to think of a home exchange as simply "You stay in my home while I stay in your home." It's even the plot to a popular comedy film called "The Holiday."

But that's actually only ONE way you can swap homes. 

Below is a non-comprehensive list of different exchange "types." We say "non-comprehensive" because we are sure you can find even more ways to utilize the voluminous possibilities available to you on this home/office exchange site. 

Simultaneous exchange. This is what was described above. "You stay at my place while I stay at yours." It happens more or less at the same time, plus or minus a few days. 

Non-simultaneous exchange. As the name clearly spells out, this type of exchange doesn't have to happen at the same time, which makes it often easier for two parties to arrange. Let's say Couple A wants to spend a week in Georgia for a family reunion, leaving their house available back home. They arrange to be in Couple B's home while Couple B is in Mexico (and, therefore, cannot go to Couple A's home simultaneously). Couple B makes plans to go to Couple A's home the following year when that couple is in Amsterdam. 

2nd home exchange. Non-simultaneous exchanges are easily accomplished when at least one of the parties has, or has access to, a second home.  Again, you can get creative with these, such as considering your timeshare or your parents' cottage on the lake as a second home to "play" with in arranging exchanges.   

Guest exchange. You're not going to be gone when a fellow member wants to stay in your place…but you DO have a spare bedroom. Also known as "hospitality exchanges," these generous gestures grow out of feeling part of a community. 

Office-only exchange. This will typically involve exchanging only an outside-of-the-home office, but it doesn't necessarily have to be limited.  You may have a spare office either in your home or not that you can swap to a fellow community member who's coming into town to see clients for 2 weeks. 

Multi-party exchange. This is similar to the non-simultaneous exchange above, but 1 or more other parties can get involved. Person A goes to Person B's home. Person B swaps an outside-the-home office with Person C, who will be traveling to Person D's home for a guest exchange. It can get complex! Or…as we prefer to say: "It can get quite creative!" 

One last set of options to throw into the mix relates to timing, as in for how long do you want to exchange? Specify on your profile if you are open to weekend or long-term exchanges (multiple months at a time). This will help those seeking one or the other to find you in a search. 

It's better if you keep yourself flexible, too. For instance, if your swap-mate wants to use your second home for a month, but you only have 10 days at their house, let go of the "day-for-a-day" mentality and either call it even or make arrangements for 10 more days another time. 

The main point here is to communicate about this BEFORE making your home exchange agreements so that no one is surprised, disappointed or worse. 

So there you have the variety of ways people can exchange homes/offices. If you come up with others, please DO let us know so that we can include them in this list!