Adventures in Nest Swapping

of the many advantages to having an “empty” nest is the freedom
to swap your nest with other adventurous types. We decided
that before we sold our house, we would try using it as bait
for a cheap month in New York City.

Being in the habit of
googling at the drop of a hat, we took the online
approach to finding suitable exchanges. We looked at several
different sites, and chose a well known site for its ease
of use and abundant choices from all over the globe. For a small
annual fee, one can peruse homes, set up destinations to visit and
receive emails when opportunities become available.

We were looking
to make an extended trip to visit our fast-walking, subway-chasing,
black-wearing, taxi-flagging urbanite daughters, The Piglet and Decibel. Bunking with
them in their microscopic Manhattan flats or paying $500 a night
for a “cheap” hotel were out of the question. The hotel
costs alone would be enough for the down payment on Buckingham

So we logged
on, posted pics of our house and set NYC as one of our preferred
destinations. We were floored by the flood of e-mails from Manhattanites
who wanted to escape the summer in the city. We’re talking
hundreds of takers. With a few more searches, we discovered that
the possibilities were nearly endless – we could take ski trips,
spend April in Paris, run with the bulls (wherever they run with
bulls) – anywhere from Walla Walla to Guatemala.

In no time
came an offer from a designer in Park Slope with a quintessential
New York brownstone. Fiona and her family were old hands at the
exchange game and they suggested a three week swap. She promised
to leave take out menus, a Zagat restaurant guide and a subway
map. We promised snorkeling gear, beach towels and directions
to the crab races. After a few emails and a phone call or two,
we were on our way.

Upon arrival,
we found two bottles of lovely wine as a welcoming gift, a list
of the house’s “quirks” and a note on the individual
specialties of the local markets. We immediately took the Zagat
to the brownstone’s stoop with a bottle of the wine and mapped out our urban
culinary escapades. We soon realized that Fiona’s kitchen
would not get much use – there was Ethiopian, Indian, Halal and
New York’s first pizza (Lombardi’s – go there!) to be
consumed. And consume we did.

are some things were learned along the way:

to each other prior to the exchange

This is REALLY important. It’s very comforting to be able
to ask questions over the phone, especially for newbies.

a “house file”

Ours had issues like “don’t use the hairdryer upstairs
and the espresso machine in the kitchen at the same time,
but just in case, the fuse box is by the fridge” and
“stick your finger in the hole of the TV to turn it

sure your rules are clear

Fiona’s family didn’t wear street shoes in the house and
forbade smoking. We put a ban on using Grandma’s china.

that each exchange will pose special issues

Fiona recalled “a very amusing period in a French home
trying to get into the washing machine.” A highly educated
woman, she found the knobs and levers of the Gallic system
of laundering indecipherable. Leave clear instructions – especially
for those who come from far away places.

about the first day

Make sure your exchangers know where the closest grocery store
is (with directions and store hours). They are going to show up
tired and hungry so be sure to let them know how to find the nearest
late-night diner too. If your area has unique customs, fill them

them an option of a housekeeper

We took advantage of this – less stress and more time at the Statue
of Liberty, eateries and cheesy tourist diversions

cell numbers

Try not to use it, nice if you need it.

anything you use or break

Most of the online exchange sites have a rating system – you don’t
want a bad rating – you will be black balled in the future. Plus,
it’s mannerly – don’t be a heathen – it’s not nice. Remember, they’re
in YOUR house too!

a thank you note

Be sure to let them know about the great time you had and problems,
if any, that arose – it is helpful for their future home exchanges.

Overall, our
experience was fantastic and our research shows that most all
exchanges go off without a hitch. So don’t be afraid to take wing
and swap that empty nest!

David & Veronica,

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17 thoughts on “Adventures in Nest Swapping”

  1. To anyone thinking of doing this, please look here:

    After 54 home exchanges in 24 years, I have a whole website devoted to exchanging. There are positives–and negatives–and you need to know before you sign on the dotted line.

    Here is a piece on the negatives:

    All the home exchange sites indulge in puffery. They want you to think that exchanging is easy. It is and it isn’t. Just because you want someone’s house does not mean they want yours–and photos do not reveal whether someone’s home is filthy. All experienced exchangers have experiences with dirty homes. I did a series of home exchanges in Australia during Dec. to Jan. 2013 and had a home in Sydney I cannot recommend. I am currently in Salamanca Spain finishing up my 54th home exchange. The Salamanca apartment is teeny but very comfortable and clean–but do not ask me about home exchange 52 in Toulouse. The house was nasty. You have to be prepared to adapt when things are not 100 nice and move on. I would say the nasty homes make up about 15% of my home exchanges. When you get one, you are just driving around more.

    I favor Homelink & Intervac–the two oldest exchange services that have been in business since the 1950’a. I belong to both and have no financial baksheesh arrangement with either to promote them, but I do promote them simply because I do want people to be successful if they decide to exchange.

    Many favor, but I got nowhere on that site. New home exchange sites are often established simply to make money for the owner. There is nothing wrong with that, but you do have to teach people how to do a home exchange. The impression given is often that you can pick a home and, boom, you get it. That is not true. The people have to want your place too. is full of new people who are uncertain, do not know what they want, and don’t even answer emails. Many homes in unusual areas are really rentals masquerading as home exchange homes.

    Further information can be found on my website.

  2. Thanks for the helpful tips. We joined 2 different home exchange websites a year ago, and still haven't found a place in San Sebastian, Spain, which is where we want to be be next summer. I'm not sure why – we live in San Clemente, a beautiful beach town that's just lovely. But, I'll keep trying…..

  3. Thank you so much for this wonderful idea! I love to travel but, unfortunately, have not been able to for a while because of expenses. I, too, am a list-maker so I appreciated your points well laid out.

  4. What a wonderful idea! And if I ever get the urge to leave my own backyard, I'll consider it, lol! I'm a real homebody, I'm afraid. And, thankfully, all my little birds and grandbirds that don't live my my nest, have been nice enough to nest within driving distance for frequent visits:))

  5. Nest swapping – that’s a new way of putting it! Although home exchange has been around for many years (we have been running our London based agency, Home Base Holidays, since 1985), the word is spreading and it is becoming more popular as a great way to travel without costing a fortune.

    Now is a perfect time for Americans to consider exchanges abroad. Even though people are feeling the affects of the economic downturn worldwide, as the dollar is now much stronger against the euro (and even more so against the pound sterling!) than has been the case in recent years, we expect to see many more US visitors this side of the Atlantic in 2009.

    Do check out the many attractive exchange offers (all current – listings include join and expiry dates) and visit our blog, Travel the Home Exchange Way, for regular updates.


  6. Hi David and Veronica,

    Thanks for including home swapping in your blog as a great way to travel free (or almost!)

    I’m glad to see that you mentioned the security aspects of having people living in your home too.

    With the value of the dollar low, no doubt many of your readers have dismissed Europe as a destination at present. But it doesn’t have to be if you swap homes.

    In fact, as our own home exchange service,, has been operating in New York for many years, we have a huge number of attractive exchange offers here, making even our notoriously expensive city affordable (and there’s lots of free stuff to do here too!).

    If interested in finding out more about home swapping, visit


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