Travel Cheap with Kids via Home Swap & House Exchange — Family Travel Tips

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We’re all trying to figure out how to travel cheap with kids, but some of you have a house that you want to hold onto. How do you travel with kids when you have rent or a mortgage to pay?

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There are several ways to hold onto your home and still travel extensively. One option to consider is renting your house — we discuss that here. Another option that is gaining popularity is doing a home swap.


If you own a house and want to know how to travel cheap with kids, consider this option. A home swap is basically where you and another family switch where you live for a set amount of time. It could be for a week, a month or much longer.

Depending on the home swapping group or service you use, you may set it up directly with another family, or you might work through a service that helps thousands of homeowners make these arrangements.  

Here are just a few of the sites dedicated to home exchanges:

Previous Epic Education Radio guest, Daniel Prince travels the world with his family using home swaps. So does travel blogger Marta Correale.

There are also a number of home exchange groups on Facebook. I’m a member of a few but will refrain from adding them here as they are closed groups. I’ve even had readers contact me directly about switching apartments for a week or more. Our place isn’t fancy, but it’s in a great location for families with young kids since it’s right next to Turia Park. We haven’t taken them up on it, but in the future, we just might.


How to Travel Cheap with Kids: The Home Swap / House Exchange mexico-house

The benefits to home swaps are immense. The biggest benefit, of course, is being able to travel cheap with kids. Your accommodation in your new destination is essentially free!

Moreover, like renting an apartment through Airbnb or another service, your place is personalized. If you swap homes with a family who has similarly-aged kids, then your child has the excitement of moving into a room already equipped with books, toys, and games. Best of all, you now have local information, as your host may be able to help you have a more authentic experience.

Some home swapping services simply act as the conduit between two interested parties, while others use established systems where you essentially build credit when you let people stay in your home. For example, people who use the LoveHomeSwap service earn points when people stay in their place. These points are then used as currency to stay elsewhere.


How to Travel Cheap with Kids: The Home Swap / House Exchange edinburgh-house

Well, if it isn’t obvious, there is an inherent risk in staying in a stranger’s home and letting strangers stay in yours. The key is verification. Make sure that you are verified as much as possible (more on that below) and that you only deal with people who have been similarly verified.

Then there is the risk and stress of household damage — to your house, and to theirs. Fortunately, there are a lot of systems to validate potential home exchange/ home swap candidates and to ensure that the experience is a smooth one, but yes, just like using Airbnb and other services in the new sharing economy, trust and research play a role.


Below I’ve listed up some of the most common recommendations for those planning to do a home swap. I have many friends who travel cheap with kids via home exchanges, but my own experience with it is very limited. If you have any tips or advice to add, please write it in the comments or contact me directly. I’ll happily add your feedback, and give you the appropriate attribution.

Start a conversation

When you’re arranging these swaps online, you’re usually talking directly with the other homeowner. This isn’t hotel reception. This is a person who cares about their house. Say hello. Go beyond the transaction and start a conversation. That way you come across as a more desirable partner in this exchange, and you might learn more about the place you’re considering going to.

Cast a wide net

Don’t just write one person at a time. Write a handful of people in the place you want to go. Contact them all simultaneously to save time, because you probably won’t get a reply from every place you’re considering.

Use great pictures

Like with renting your house, the images of your home and of your family should be clear, sharp, warm and inviting. Natural light looks best. If you can’t do that, then make sure to color-correct any greenish tint left from neon indoor lighting. Clean up the home before you shoot, and if you can’t take the pictures well yourself, then get someone who can.

Organize a family photo session

Your profile page should also have clear, sharp and welcoming images of you and your family. Possibly in a situation that would put other home-swappers at ease, or make you look more desirable. Don’t stage a pic of you diligently vacuuming — stuff like that comes across as fake.

Details, details, details

List as much info as you can: the house size, number of rooms, and what appliances will be available. If you’re considering a swap with a family with young children, think about safety-related details that those parents would find important: stairs, guardrails, balconies, etc.

Keep in mind that many (if not most) of your potential home swapping partners won’t know your town well, so avoid adding vague details or neighborhood names that mean nothing to people unfamiliar with the area. Or remember to describe that detail or neighborhood. 


Renting a house and home swaps don’t work for anyone. Take me, for example. We travel cheap with kids, but we use other methods to save money because we never bought a house. I was moving around so much that I didn’t want to be tied down to one place. However, now I understand that a house isn’t simply an anchor — it can also be a slingshot, propelling you out into the world, all while waiting for you to return.

Do you have a home and still travel cheap with kids? How do you do it? Tell us your techniques in the comments below.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places & services that I believe will genuinely help you travel cheap with kids via home swap.

Photo Credits via Creative Commons CC BY or other Royalty-free image sites. Some images may have been altered slightly via cropping or color enhancement: #2, #3, #4