Home Exchanges 2014

Old Feb 8th, 2014, 07:09 PM
  #1  
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Home Exchanges 2014

For those who follow my home exchange sagas, summer home exchanges are finally all set. Home exchange #56 will be in Warsaw, Poland, at the end of June. Home exchange # 57 will be Istanbul in July. The trip will finish with a small town in Northern Italy about an hour from Venice in August. A side trip to Belarus is planned between Warsaw and and Istanbul, as my maternal grandmother's family came from two villages there. I have engaged a guide for that and they will handle all of that for me. After Belarus, I leave there and fly to Istanbul from whatever city is convenient.

This series of home exchanges has had a lot of people accept this year and then cancel. There was a disappointment in "losing" Krakow (I had two families commit and then cancel--ugh), but I gained Istanbul. I tell people that, with home exchange, you get what you get and be glad of it. My goal is always to have the home exchanges in the same general area when I do more than one, but that rarely works out.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 12:06 AM
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You are adventurous. I once managed, serendipitously, to combine two separate offers, to Toronto and Vancouver, for six whole weeks in Canada, but these days I tend to stick to familiar cities - Hamburg last autumn, just back from three weeks in Amsterdam, probably Paris in July.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 03:01 AM
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For those who follow my home exchange sagas
______
Only second to that of Downton Abbey
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 10:12 AM
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Does Downton Abbey do home exchange IMDonehere?

Personally, I just can't see letting strangers stay in my home or wanting to stay in their home. But to each his own of course. However, I would be willling to host Violet, the Dowager Countess in my home for a few days if only to hear what witticism's she might come out with.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 11:52 AM
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Does Downton Abbey do home exchange IMDonehere?

Yes, but with other families who do not seem to need it. And be very, very careful of the visitors' help.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 01:27 PM
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We mostly stick to center of bigger cities.
Last year, it was Barcelona and Seville.

For the spring 2014, Barcelona and San Sebastian.
Working on the summer and fall.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 08:03 PM
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I basically will go anywhere. Rural areas have their advantages as well. I am more concerned that my home exchanges are serious about exchanging than I am where they live. I have exchanged all over Western Europe but still not in Iceland, Ireland, Portugal or Greece. Last year I went to Toulouse, had home hospitality in Bordeaux and then a second home exchange in Salamanca. Each year I try to put two exchanges together that are fairly close together. It almost never works--and it certainly did not this year.

I am going to Krakow first. I hosted a woman from Krakow and she will put me up for the first 3 nights of the trip. I already have that airline ticket (a combination of American and Air Berlin). I bought it today. I am waiting to buy my return ticket until the Italians tell me they have purchased.

I use a combination of planes, trains and buses to travel within Europe. The trip is involved with some hotel stays between Warsaw and Istanbul because I want to visit the towns where my mother's family originated in Belarus. Belarus is the last Stalinist style government in Europe, so you need a visa, to register with a guide service,etc. I already arranged for the guide. It is just for a couple of days. Then I will take a train to Vilnius for 2 nights. Why Vilnius besides the fact that I have never been there? Well, there are cheap flights from Vilnius to Istanbul on Air Baltic so that's why.

In Turkey I will do a side trip to Ephesus (I went to Cappadocia and Edirne when I first home exchanged there). In Italy I will certainly go to Venice and to the lakes.

Other than what I have laid out I do not heavily script my activities each day on a long trip. I just do what I feel like and take a rest day occasionally. A long trip has to move at a much slower pace than a short trip where you try to "do it all". I stopped trying to do that years ago.

I have been doing home exchanges since 1990. Since I retired, I put together longer trips. Airfare just goes up and up. It's the main thing that causes people to cancel deals. They think there is a cheap fare somewhere, but cheap fares disappeared years ago. There are just fares that are less expensive than other fares.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 08:18 PM
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I use a combination of planes, trains and buses to travel

Sounds like your traveling with John Candy.
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 08:23 PM
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Hi Lauren
I lost track of my exchanges after #30.
For 2014 we have a home exchange in Venice for one month, then one in the Dolomites for 2 weeks, on to the Austrian Alps for about two weeks and the fourth exchange takes us to Vienna.
By the time we get to the home exchange, we are no longer strangers, we have become friends. We Skyped with one of our exchanges for about 1 hour yesterday.
We are traveling the world by doing home exchanges. We now have friends all over the world.
Nice to meet you.
The site I use www.homeexchange.com has a meetup scheduled in Los Angeles in February. Which site do you use?
Maria in Los Angeles
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 09:37 PM
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Hi Lauren, again
I looked up your posts and I found out which sites you use and how much you hate www.homeexchange.com and Ed Kushins.
Sorry to hear that. I have done all my exchanges using that site and I usually get what I am looking for either here or in Europe. The new live chat is very helpful. I love the site and Ed Kushins.
Sometimes we get an exchange by responding to an inquiry, but most of the time I send out requests to where I want to go. It's a numbers game. For my 2014 exchange, I probably sent out 300 inquiries and out of that I got 2 offers in Venice, 5 in the Dolomites and 5 in Austria. I am able to send the same inquiry to 100 members a day. It is very easy to do. If I get "no", I delete the email right away.
Typically within 3-4 days I get all the positive offers I am going to get.
Yes, they had problems with their new website launch. They should have known better.
No, they are not paying me.
Maria
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Old Feb 9th, 2014, 10:34 PM
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We have used Homeexchange ( their new website is PITA) and Homelink.
Both have been good to us.
Since we exchange for 2 weeks max. and mostly in big cities, it takes a bit of work.
We make day trips, or spend part of the trip in a different location ( in a hotel.)
Hot weather and beaches is not for us. We have two homes ,no-sim is not a problem.
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Old Feb 12th, 2014, 07:53 PM
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You know I joined homeexchange.com for a year and got absolutely no serious inquiries despite working the site to death. I really joined because Kushins claimed he had listings in Asia. Everyone I contacted either did not write back or was a rental.

I think Kushins inflates his numbers by keeping old members who have left in his count. I think that is why it is hard to get responses on homeexchange.com. There are lots of complaints on the internet. You can find some on fodors as well if you look. Homelink and Intervac, in my experience, are much more reliable. Kushins is suspected of inflating his numbers by keeping up the listings of members who have left (almost all experienced people leave after trying homeexchange.com for the same reasons I did). Recently there were complaints about homeexchange.com charging people's credit cards without permission for membership extensions without asking and then refusing to refund the money.

My take on Kushins is that he is a master of PR but I don't think he has then numbers he claims--and there is no way to check the claims of numbers of real members on any home exchange service. I currently belong to Homelink, Intervac, and HomeForexchange.com--none of which have the problems with unanswered email I experienced on homeexchange.com.

My home exchanges for summer 2014 come from Intervac (Warsaw and Istanbul) and HomeForExchange.com (northern Italy). I would never fool with homeexchange.com again.

On facebook, by the way, homeexchange.com blocks members--or exmembers--with complaints from posting. If posts are negative, they get deleted. I don't suppose that that is surprising.

And, yes, I think, homeexchange.com is not a reputable site and probably has way less the number of members than Ed Kushins claims. It is my view, and, if you like them and the site works for you, that's fine. For Americans it is very hard to get deals in Europe from homeexchange.com because the site is top heavy with Americans.
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Old Feb 13th, 2014, 06:07 AM
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So for someone who has never done an exchange, and is considering joining one site, which one would the experienced exchangers here recommend? Does it depends you one's preferred exchange locations? Thanks!
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Old Feb 13th, 2014, 06:55 AM
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I would recommend Homelink
We have used Intervac, but I found too many listings are in smaller towns or rural properties, and
many families with children - neither is for us.
There is some truth about Homeexchange, although
we have had several excellent
exchanges using the site ( Sydney, Seville, San Sebastián)
A number of listings seem to be renters or expired, but I think they have improved
in last year or two.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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If you go over to my website and read this article, you can get a run down on some of the gazillion home exchange sites:

http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/...-exchange.html

There is lots of other advice if you look around. It does depend on where you want to go. I belong to Homelink, Intervac and HomeForExchange. I still would not touch homeexchange.com with a 10 foot pole. I believe they, well, lie, about their numbers of members and deliberately keep up members who have quit to inflate their numbers. The end result is that everyone complains about the low response rate--probably because you email a lot of "dead" listings. It is all the same complaints from everyone--and some of the complaints about homeexchange.com are recent. The complaints are all over the internet.

For next summer 2 of my deals are from Intervac and one from HomeForExchange. I have had plenty from Homelink over the years (the best of my 3 websites if you want to exchange within North America).

Homelink is also the strongest for Australia & New Zealand.

No home exchange service has much in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Homeexchange.com allows--and even encourages--rentals. When that happens, the site that does that is really not a home exchange site anymore.

In 24 years of exchanging I have never had an offer from Africa or Asia. I just completed my first home exchange in Latin America--in Costa Rica.

Unlike the danon, I do not mind locations in rural areas. They can be just as interesting as big cities. My home exchange in Italy this year is in a relatively rural area, but I can take the train to Venice so, who cares? Also small towns are easier to negotiate. You rarely get a house in a location such as downtown Paris. You mostly get them farther out or in the suburbs.

Just remember ANYWHERE can be interesting if you haven't been there.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 09:38 AM
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My Italian exchange has just cancelled because someone's sister has cancer. Fortunately, I followed my usual procedure of not buying tickets until the other side purchases. I do have my outbound ticket but not my return one. I will work on the intermediate bits of the trip and search for a different exchange in August.

The people did offer me an extended home hospitality stay if they could not come. Of course, it would be totally awkward to be in the midst of a family tragedy and I would not do an extended hospitality stay in those circumstances. So, it was better for me to just start over with someone else who, hopefully, will be a serious person who will stand by his home exchange commitment.

The websites all want people to think that home exchange is easy. It isn't easy as the people you are dealing with may not be 100% sure. I once went to Scandinavia needing major reconstructive shoulder surgery. The need for the surgery became apparent about 10 days before the trip. I just took the trip and had the surgery after. Cancellation was not an option at that point as I would have been "sticking" two home exchange families with major financial disaster if I did that. So, I went on with the trip. It wasn't the best of circumstances, but there really was no other option.

Insofar as the Venice people, perhaps another year--or never.
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Old Mar 5th, 2014, 12:37 PM
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I do think that at the root of all the home exchange commitments (coupled with promises of "never" cancelling) and then cancellations is the high cost of overseas airfares. Lots of people are committing without realizing how high summer airfares are. Then they get hit with them and change their minds--sometimes cooking up "creative" excuses to cover up the fact that the real concern is financial. I do think the Italian family's excuse was genuine, but too many prospective exchangers are very self centered and do not consider the needs of their exchangers--which are not to be held as long as possible while they really make up their minds.

Fortunately, I have never had an exchange cancel after airfares were purchased because I do not purchase my ticket until the other side has their tickets.

I am afraid the cancellation problem will only get worse as airfares go higher and higher. I only buy one ticket, but for a family of 4, the airfare itself can amount to over $5,000 in the high season.

I never give firm commitments for international home exchanges more than a year in advance because I have never had one done farther ahead than that actually end an in an exchange. I will talk to people, of course, but no firm commitments until 1 year prior. I may have to rethink the 1 year commitment as even those are ending in cancellations. Of course, since I live in North America, exchanges within North America have a much shorter lead time for me.

I had this same mess with a cancellation last year, but this year has just been one cancellation after another. Except for the Italians the excuses were all of the "we changed our minds" variety--which is unacceptable. You think it through before you commit and not the reverse.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 05:37 AM
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Some tweeks to my home exchange trip: I am still going to Krakow & Warsaw first. Then there's a 5 night stay in Belarus (3 days Brest, 2 days Minsk). My focus there will be on the villages where my maternal grandmother's family lived. I have a guide arranged for the first 3 days--a major expense, but necessary if I want to see the well off the beaten track places. Then I go to Istanbul until the end of July.

Unfortunately, I still do not have a deal in August and the end of the trip is still open. I am thinking of flying to Athens for a few days to see the Parthenon and the new museum, as I've never been to Athens if I do not get another exchange.
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Old Apr 9th, 2014, 09:42 AM
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lauren, very interesting, thank you
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Old Apr 13th, 2014, 08:21 PM
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Ok, the trip is now as follows: Krakow (home hospitality), Warsaw (home exchange), Brest (3 nights hotel), Minsk (3 nights hotel), Istanbul (home exchange) and Stockholm (home exchange).

All the flights are booked within Europe and the only major transportation not booked is my flight home. I will leave the listings up on the home exchange sites for 2-3 weeks before wrapping up the trip and tying it with a bow. I still have to arrange a RT flight within Turkey to Izmir (the access point for Ephesus). That's next--together with hotel bookings there. I will arrange transport from the airport to the hotel because I do not want the responsibility for a car in Turkey. If you saw the way they drive there, believe me, you wouldn't want to drive either.
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