I have always dreamed of living in another country. But- 4 years of college, 3 years of law school, loans/bills and a job behind the anchor desk got in the way. Once I left news full-time and entered the frightening, yet liberating, world of freelancing…I decided to give it a shot. My number one choice was Paris. It is the most beautiful city in the world (in my humble opinion) and I have always been a bit French-obsessed. So- I decided to take off a month, live like a Parisian (yes- red wine, cheese and long walks) and enroll in a French language institute. But- of course, I was on a budget. So- I decided to house-swap and found it an incredibly rewarding experience. So here is how I did it and here are some tips.
1-There are several sites you can pay for, but I chose to go the cheap route- Craigslist.org. I posted my home under the house-swap option and waited for the replies. In the meantime, I also searched for folks who were willing to swap. If, like me, you live in a sought-after-city (Miami, New York, London…) it should be relatively easy to attract would-be-swappers.
2-If you are looking for a European vacation, chose to take your time-off during the summer months. Parisians (Londoners as well) seem to prefer to take off for weeks-at-a-time during the summer. I chose August.
3-Once you find a would-be-swapper exchange pictures and phone numbers and talk about your homes, expectations, number of guests, neighborhood etc… I swapped my 2-bedroom Miami Beach home for a small 1 bedroom apt. in the Bastille area owned by a lovely, young couple who were a bit nervous about our house-swapping experience but were willing to take the plunge.
4-Leave extra keys with a neighbor or friend. I actually got locked out of my borrowed-condo and it cost me 200 euros to break the lock!
5-Leave a note with instructions about appliances. Figuring out how to use a washing machine in Paris IS rocket science.
Here is a great article about house swapping from How Stuff Works.com
If you can’t coordinate your dates with a fellow-swapper another great alternative is finding an apt. I’m using Airbnb.com for my Thanksgiving trip to NYC. Moderately priced hotels in Manhattan cost an average of $300/day during the holidays, but I am paying just $100/night. Recession-friendly travel! I’ll keep you posted on my experiences.