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In a Nutshell: Lodging expenses are one of the biggest hurdles travelers face when planning a vacation. Hotels or rental homes in popular destinations can cost hundreds of dollars each night and are often located in cramped tourist-trap areas. HomeExchange was designed for the traveler who wants to live like a local and experience the hidden beauty each city holds. For $150 per year, members can set up home exchanges with other members for no additional cost. The newly revamped Balloon Exchange program allows non-reciprocal exchanges where members who host travelers earn points awarded as “balloons” that can be redeemed for stays at any of the 65,000 homes in 150 different countries in its network. A Gold Membership costs $500 per year and gives members access to luxury homes in popular destinations around the world.
Vacations are a wonderful way to relax and decompress from life’s stresses, or expose yourself and your family to new countries and cultures. But as popular areas become more congested, Travelers seek ways to live like a local and not get sucked into tourist traps.
Renting a vacation home can be cheaper than staying at a hotel, but these homes are often located in the same tourism-driven areas and fail to meet the expectations of visitors wanting a local experience. The only way to truly guarantee a localized stay is to choose a property where locals live.
HomeExchange allows its members to do precisely what its name says, exchange homes with travelers with no out-of-pocket costs except for a $150 annual fee. The network currently lists more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries around the world.
The company claims that listing a home in its database takes only a few minutes. Other members can then begin contacting you to request exchanges for a set length of time. Offers can be accepted or declined within HomeExchange’s messaging system.
HomeExchange started as a printed catalog in 1992 but exploded in popularity when its website was centrally featured in the 2006 film “The Holiday,” in which the main characters, portrayed by stars Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet use the service to swap homes and end up finding love on different sides of the globe.
According to Alexandra Origet du Cluzeau, HomeExchange’s Head of Communication, the average traveler can save up to 58% on the total cost of their trip by joining HomeExchange and avoiding the expense of traditional lodging.
A recent addition to the company’s already popular platform is the Balloon Exchange program for non-reciprocal exchanges. With Balloon Exchange, which is free for members, points, or balloons, are earned by hosting travelers in your home. You can later redeem your balloons for stays in homes on the worldwide HomeExchange network.
The recently revamped HomeExchange Gold program lets members access luxury properties around the world, and offers a 24/7 dedicated Gold Exchange Specialist who can be reached by phone, email, or chat to act as a concierge for your trip. The premium service includes the unlimited-exchange perk of a regular membership for a $500 annual fee.
Earn Balloons to Use Toward Non-Reciprocal Exchanges
The HomeExchange platform thrived under its original business model of reciprocal house exchanges between members. Still, the company heard from some users who wanted the flexibility of traveling wherever they desired without having to find someone in that area willing to swap homes with them.
That feedback led to the creation of the Balloon Exchange program. The point-based system — where balloons are used in place of points — awards one balloon every time you host a traveler in your home, regardless of the length of stay. That balloon can then be redeemed to stay in any other home on the network, regardless of how long you stay.
A key point to remember when earning balloons is that hosting a traveler in your home does not require the homeowner to be away. Balloons can be earned by making your entire home available or providing hospitality and hosting someone in your home while you’re there.
“The balloon system creates new ways to use HomeExchange with incredible flexibility,” said Origet du Cluzeau. “I can have you stay at my place, but if I want to go somewhere other than where you live, I can.”
Members who take part in the Balloon Exchange program can still conduct reciprocal exchanges through the HomeExchange network. Balloons never expire as long as the user’s membership remains current.
“This system has given so many more opportunities to our members that they now tend to travel more often,” said Origet du Cluzeau.
HomeExchange Gold Members Access Premium Locations
The HomeExchange Gold program was recently revamped to include listings of luxury residences in popular destinations. Members of the premium program pay a $500 annual fee and can list up to three properties at no additional cost.
Listings can be made visible only to Gold Members or to the entire HomeExchange community. As with the traditional membership, Gold Members can conduct unlimited exchanges with no booking or setup fees. HomeExchange even guarantees an exchange in a member’s first year, or their second year is free.
“The properties available to Gold Members are premium, luxury properties in some of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Origet du Cluzeau. “Many of these homes would cost more than the annual fee just to rent them for one night.”
Gold Members also have access to curated home listings, where they can enter their travel preferences (specific views, a pool, location, etc…) and receive personally curated listings to match those desires.
Later in 2018, HomeExchange is planning to roll out even more benefits to Gold Members, including the addition of a personal assistant with a dedicated line and 24/7 access, increased vetting of new listings to ensure quality standards, and guarantees against possible home damage from houseguests.
See the World For Little More Than it Costs to Stay Home
Few words tend to melt away stress faster than “vacation.” Just the thought of the word puts a weary mind at ease. But a problem many would-be travelers have when planning a vacation is the cost of lodging.
With HomeExchange’s network of more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries, members can negotiate home swaps and eliminate lodging costs from their vacation expenses. By using the Balloon Exchange program, balloons can be earned for hosting travelers in your home and redeemed for stays at any home in the network.
With the savings gained from using HomeExchange, members are able to take more vacations or extend current trips a few extra days to enjoy the local scenery.
Membership is one of the few ways to guarantee you’ll live like a local on your vacation — since you’ll literally be living among the locals.