How to travel the world for free this summer – if you are a home owner

As a transatlantic couple, college professor David Reilly, 41, and his wife Alicia, 38, a swimming teacher, were used to traveling to Alicia’s native California to visit family and friends. But as the family grew — they have children Dylan, 11, Samantha, eight, and Jude, four — staying with relatives became more difficult, and they soon realized they would have to find another way to keep their vacation affordable.

“Before we had kids, it was easy,” says David. “We would go two or three times a year and we always had a place to stay because it was just the two of us.”

With a larger family, there wasn’t enough room for everyone, and the hotels were too expensive and uncomfortable with small children in tow. “The trips ended up being like a prison sentence,” says David, who later discovered an inventive way to travel.

“We watched the holiday starring Cameron Diaz, whose character in the movie moves house, and I started to Google what kind of places were available in real life.”

The Reillys later listed their three-bedroom house in Basingstoke with Love Home Swap, choosing the site because of the free trial and the fact that you can view the homes before signing up.

Love Home Swap, launched in 2011, is a members-only platform founded by Debbie Wosskow, who was also inspired for her business by watching The Holiday (she saw the film on a flight home from the Caribbean after a bad hotel stay. ). On the site, members list a home to trade, while choosing one of three pricing plans.

“We were pleasantly surprised by what was on offer,” says David. “In San Diego, where we usually go, there are really good options with pools, beach houses, huge kitchens.”

Another reason Love Home Swap appealed was the point swap option, where instead of swapping toe-to-toe, you can earn points when another member uses your home and you don’t stay in theirs, so use them to travel at a later date.

Alicia initially had her doubts about opening her home to strangers – and spending time in theirs. “My first question was, is it safe? What if someone is at our house and breaks something or steals our TV? Or if we break something in someone’s house?”

Love Home Swap’s insurance convinced her to take a chance. She also found that making video calls with guests or hosts in advance helped to build relationships and trust.

“When you have someone else in your house, you feel a little vulnerable for the first time, but now we know the benefits far outweigh the costs,” adds David.

He and Alicia made the most of their American adventures, enjoying supercars, seals and sunsets in the art market coastal town of La Jolla, gifting the kids on days at Disneyland and enjoying the mountain scenery of Lake Tahoe. For their next adventure, they hope to visit Hawaii for Alicia’s 40th birthday and are also planning a trip to Yosemite.

“There are times for pinching in these houses,” says Alicia. “When you’re sitting by a pool having your breakfast while the kids play and there’s this beautiful view of the mountains, you’re thinking… it cost us next to nothing.” A hotel stay during peak season would cost considerably more.

“But we would be 100 percent the price of the homes we stayed in if it weren’t for the Love Home Swap,” says Alicia. Renting your home is the key.

Would you rent your house to a stranger if it meant you could spend more vacations? Comment below to join the conversation

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