Adventures in Nest Swapping

One of the many advantages to having an “empty” nest is the freedom to swap your nest with other adventurous types.

If you love travelling as we do, this can save you a lot of money of potentially hiring Global Guardians while you’re away for extended periods.

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 Palace.

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.

Here are some things were learned along the way:

–Talk 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.

–Create 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 on.”

–Make 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.

–Remember 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.

–Think 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 in.

–Give 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

–Exchange cell numbers
Try not to use it, nice if you need it.

–Replace 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!

–Leave 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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21 thoughts on “Adventures in Nest Swapping”

  1. I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of
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  2. 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.

  3. I am trying to convince my husband to stop “dying” and start “living.” But, while he makes up his mind, I do what you do! only alone. Thanks for the fun tips, videos and all

    1. Thanks for the link Brian. We have had great experiences with house swapping but now that we don’t have a house… anyway, everyone should check it out.

  4. 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…..

  5. 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.

  6. 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:))

  7. 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.


  8. 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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