Shannon Kildare, Santa Monica My experience: The basic appeal of a home exchange, besides the considerable financial savings, is experiencing the world on a more personal basis. A hotel just can't compete in this regard. Who better than a resident to give the lowdown and highlights of a place? Additionally, they'll likely be happy to provide info, offer guidance, make arrangements, procure tickets, etc., without charging a service fee. We remain in contact with several of those we've exchanged with in the past, updating each other on our travels, suggesting new destinations. Some may be fearful of this concept; admittedly, it's different. We feel a sufficient comfort level with the self-policing system of participants, especially after we've communicated for a while, and have had only good experiences. I suggest playing around as a visitor on Homelink
's website to get a sense of the possibilities. Pictured: Shannon Kildare, third from left, her husband Greg, right, and her parents on a bridge in Bavaria, Germany.