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Readers share their home swap stories

My experience: We have done two home swaps, one in Paris, the other in Dublin, Ireland. We are members of HomeLink. In both cases, we swapped with families with children, even though ours are grown, because our house, with a big yard, pool and spa, is so children attractive. Both experiences were perfect. We exchanged cars, local info, friends and family. The small apartment in Paris, on the Left Bank in St.-Germain, was exceptional, even though it's up three flights. The large home in Dublin was in a northern suburb, which was efficiently served by public transportation. We recommend this kind of exchange to everyone.

How much do you think you saved? $6,000 at least

--Carl Christenson, Fountain Valley

My experience: We have had three great experiences using Teacher Home Swap. The first time, we exchanged houses with a family from York, England, for three weeks. They had two children, so being close to Disneyland and other SoCal attractions made Orange a perfect location for them. They also loved and took good care of our Labrador retriever and left our house in perfect condition. As for us, we loved York, and used it as a base to visit Scotland as well as all around Yorkshire.

The second time we got a small cottage in the woods outside the Umbrian hill town of Narni, Italy, for three months. We just hunkered down and worked on the books we were writing four days a week; and explored the area on three-day weekends. The family that owned the cottage decided not to come to the U.S. at that time, so we had a house sitter instead. They have become good friends and we still stay in touch.

The most recent time, we had two weeks at a big French farmhouse in Provence. Again, the owner was unable to come and use our house, but because she lived elsewhere, we didn't see much of her, but she was available if we had questions or problems (none).

How much do you think you saved? Probably thousands, for all three.

--Barbara Tye, Orange

My experience: We have exchanged homes through Homeexchange.com many times, and it has always been wonderful. We have been to the Netherlands; Copenhagen; Scotland; Ottawa; Winter Park, Colo.; Seattle; the San Juan Islands of Washington state; as well as shorter weekend exchanges in Petaluma and San Francisco.

Unless we are within driving distance, we always exchange cars as well, which has saved us quite a bit. Having a home base also makes it feasible to plan mini-trips. In Ottawa, we took three days to visit Montreal and Quebec City; in the Netherlands, we took some time to explore Sweden and Norway. Having to pay for a hotel for only a few days, rather than the whole time, makes the trip far less expensive.

Now that we have a child, we like to look for exchanges with families that also have children. It's great to arrive and have books, toys, bicycles, snow gear, etc., to borrow. Not only have we saved on the accommodations, but we have also saved on "toys" such as bike rental, snowshoes, etc. It is also great to have a washer/dryer, TV, etc. We always come home with a new idea for our house after seeing how other families do things.

We have always returned to a sparkling clean house, and we love not having to eat out all the time. In Europe, it is fun to visit the local grocery stores for food, and to "try on" life in a different country.

How much do you think you saved? Thousands

--Stephanie Anderson, Ventura

My experience: House swapping is what we do. It has given us travel experiences that most of our friends have never considered. Since 1998, we have had 15 exchanges in Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, England and the U.S. During these home exchanges, we have been treated to many attractions that would not have been possible without the help of the local friends and relatives of our exchange hosts. We have had a private tour of the German parliament in Berlin, a tour of Buckingham Palace and Parliament in London. In Salamanca, Spain, we spent several days seeing local sights, including the university where Christopher Columbus studied, and then we were treated to a lovely meal prepared in the home of our host's parents. In Vienna, we were included in opening night of the opera house, an event held annually for local residents.

These events and more hold special memories for us, but the people are what becomes the highlight of each trip. We are pleased to have developed lasting friendships with many lovely people throughout Europe. This we owe to living in the neighborhoods, shopping in their communities and becoming a part of their cities, if only for a few weeks.

Our home has been well cared for. When we return after traveling, we have been treated to a clean and orderly home, usually with a lovely plant or gift and a nice note from our exchange family.

For affordable travel with many added perks we highly recommend home exchanging. We have used Intervac.com as our favorite exchange site. The Internet gives us an opportunity to become acquainted before the exchange.

How much do you think you saved? More than $2,000 per exchange.

--Virginia and Al Zeidman, Indian Wells

My experience: We are doing a house swap in July with a family from Marseille, France. This year is our 20th wedding anniversary, and as avowed Francophiles, we wanted to take our family (three school-aged kids) on a two- or three-week trip to France. A house swap seemed not only the most affordable, but also the most family-friendly way to do the trip. So in the spring, we became members of Homelink.

We met with a prospective family from Toulouse that was visiting Southern California. They came to our house for an afternoon visit. They had more than 20 house swap experiences and shared their insights with us. We might exchange with them in the future, but they want to go elsewhere in 2009 rather than returning to California. Our enthusiasm rose after we met them, and soon after we found our match. Marseille is well-situated for day trips throughout the south of France, and the house we chose has a pool for the kids.

We've signed exchange agreements with our swap family, procured our air tickets, and are starting work on a book about how our house "works" to help our visitors feel at home.

How much do you think you saved? Projected savings: $4,000 plus.

--Leslie Goldenberg, Woodland Hills

My experience: My husband and I were traveling in Ireland, staying in a bed-and-breakfast in Killarney. During breakfast, we noticed a family with three teenage daughters. To cut it short, before breakfast was over we had talked with this Swiss family, and after finding out where each of us lived (we on the beach in Southern Cal and they in the Bernese Alps), we discussed exchanging homes for a month the next summer.

We did this for 12 years, staying in different homes for a month all over Switzerland and making friends of all the previous exchangers. We are such good friends that now we just come and visit each other, share in children's weddings, births, etc. It was one of the most rewarding (and cost-effective) things we schoolteachers ever did. Oh, yes, we also exchanged cars (and a few years even a cat) and there were no major problems in all those years.

How much do you think you saved? 12 years of a month of hotel and car bill plus being able to cook in our own home.

--Maureen Redfield, San Clemente

My experience: We signed up our small flat in San Francisco with HomeExchange.com in March. It is a second home for us (our regular abode being in Santa Ana) and hence available for non-simultaneous exchanges. Since then, we have had eight guest couples visit there, and we have stayed at three of their lovely homes in Nottingham and Bristol, England, and in Sedona, Ariz., with visits pending for ourselves or our kids in Barcelona, Spain; San Diego; Florida; Nicaragua; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Rome. We are negotiating now for exchanges with people in Paris and Bologna, Venice and Florence in Italy.

We are fortunate in that our flat is in a popular and expensive travel destination. About half the people contacted us first. This is working for us. We enjoy the element of surprise it adds to our travel plans and experience and we love being able to live like the natives at our travel destinations. It's great to have a kitchen and not have to eat all our meals out. We have also made some new friends.

How much do you think you saved? At least $4,000 in lodging and food for 2008 travel.

--Sandra Ortiz, Santa Ana

My experience: I have exchanged three times. The first, in London, was not so good. The home was being renovated. There was no closet in the bedroom, just a clothes rack. No bedside tables, just a lamp on the floor. Even the living quarters were not comfortable, being sparsely furnished. There was no door on the cellar; consequently, there was a musty odor. The second was in Marseille, France, and that was much better comfortable, etc. The third was in Dublin, again comfortable. Both the Marseille and Dublin homes were far from the downtown area, so it took some time to get there by public transport. None of the homes was equal to mine, which is large and comfortably and beautifully furnished. Because of the first experience, I always make sure there are lots of photos of the home interior. In future, I will also make sure I am in the center of town, or a short bus ride to the center, etc., if that is my aim. Unless I am touring I really don't want to use a car, because I have to drive so much in Los Angeles.

How much do you think you saved? Can't be sure, but several hundred dollars.

--Ann Radow, Woodland Hills

My experience: We have done 15 house exchanges. The second one had some glitches, so we contacted our first exchangers in England, who had done an amazing 23 exchanges, and asked them for advice. Ever since then it has been smooth sailing.

How much do you think you saved? Tens of thousands.

--Pat Heim, Pacific Palisades

My experience: We have done about a dozen home exchanges over the years. We started when our son was young, because it was a good way to save money as well as to experience the flavor of a country. We started doing exchanges in Britain and then ventured into non-English-speaking countries: Belgium, Denmark, Italy and France. Our favorites: In Brittany (France), our exchange was on an aber, an inland ocean stream. The sunsets were spectacular and the food and scenery amazing. We loved Padua, Italy, shopping in an open market every day for fresh vegetables, cheese and bread. In September, our exchange was in London, near Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, a lovely pied-à-terre. Our most important lesson has been that the standard of living here in the U.S. is excessive. Garbage disposals, microwaves, many, many television channels, dishwashers -- they don't compare to the experience of spending time amid a historic European town or city. One thing we do try to do is to combine the exchange with staying at a nicer hotel or cruise. That way we feel pampered for a part of the trip.

How much do you think you saved? Never thought about it; the experience was more important.

--Allene Rose, Studio City

My experience: We've been swapping our house for about five years. During that time we have done six swaps and have had only wonderful experiences.

Most times our house has been returned to us in better condition than we left it. The homes we went to were in great locations, and the swaps saved us thousands of dollars in accommodation costs. We have exchanged four times in Europe and twice in Canada through Homelink.org, 16 weeks in all.

The first time you swap is a giant leap of faith. I wouldn't recommend swapping for people who are very skeptical about others. Many of our friends can't believe we open up our house to complete strangers, but we point out that we are equally strangers in their homes and we leave them just as we found them. Why shouldn't they?

After six swaps, we have the details, such as exchange of keys and information, down to a fine art. We are off on our seventh swap in May, which will be our first within the United States. We can thoroughly recommend house swapping.

How much do you think you saved? At least $12,000.

--Sheila Smith, West Hills

My experience: My wife and I have done two house exchanges using Intervac.com to make the contacts and coordinate the details. One was three weeks in Sweden, near Stockholm, and one was three weeks in southern France.

1) We find this an excellent way to spend time in a foreign country: It is much less expensive than staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, using public transportation.

2) We get a better understanding of the location because we are living in a local community, meeting locals, shopping in local stores, and generally being more integrated into the local environment.

3) We enjoyed staying in the exchange house and traveling from there for local sightseeing, getting acquainted with the local region.

In Sweden, we took overnight trips along the coast, spent many days visiting Stockholm, and took the train to Denmark. In France, we took numerous day trips to the local cities as well as a long weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain. For these trips, we either drove the host's car or used the excellent European rail system.

In both cases we kept in touch via e-mail, after the initial contact through Intervac. We both included our cars in the exchanges. Both times our house was in perfectly good condition when we returned.

How much do you think you saved? About $200 a day.

--Ted Wootton, Claremont

My experience: I got the idea after watching the movie "The Holiday."

I Googled home exchange and found www.homeforexchange.com. I wanted to take my kids to Europe in the summer of 2008 on a single mom's budget, and the home exchange program made it possible.

The process is simple with no hassles.

Our first family in Nice, France, had left gifts for us upon arrival. Our second house was in Milan, Italy. At the last minute, they had a death in the family and could not come to L.A., but they allowed us to stay in their house anyway while they were at another relative's home. Our third house, in Rome, was so fantastic I was in awe. We were steps from Piazza di Spagna in a 2-million euro apartment.

Our house is a beautiful, large home in a nice residential area. I locked up all the alcohol, left no food in the fridge, only water. We don't have anything of great value like artwork or jewelry in the house and I doubt people were going to come all the way from Europe to steal my furniture.

My friends are hesitant about these arrangements because they don't like having strangers in their house. They tell me they don't like strangers sleeping in their bed and I tell them, "Then why do you sleep in a hotel?"

The best part of being in a house in Europe was that my teenage son likes to eat and food was so expensive at restaurants with small portions that I made meals at home, which we enjoyed. I had a great time shopping at the local market while they experienced how others live. Also having unlimited Internet without having to pay for it was a luxury.

I have a maid that comes to my house regularly, and I arranged for her to come before and after each guest.

In return, they also had made similar arrangements, so we did not have to clean up after ourselves. We walked into a clean house with clean sheets, bedding, towels.

So when you asked how much did you save consider this:

Single mom and two kids. Three beds. Nonsmoking. Safe area. Full kitchen to cook your meals, fridge to store your milk, make a sandwich or a salad. Internet access. A phone to use with calling cards and no hassle. And an easy number for people to call you at.

All three houses arranged to have somebody meet us at the train station.

Not to mention I didn't have to tip hotel housekeeping.

What more can you ask for?

I will still pay for a hotel for short trips, but for more than three nights, I would do a home exchange.

--Nadya Donikian, Northridge

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.

--Shannon Kildare, Santa Monica

My experience: My wife and I live in Manhattan Beach and have a vacation home in Palm Desert and another one in Yosemite National Park.

We exchanged our Yosemite home with a couple that live in Pebble Beach on 17 Mile Drive. Being golfers, we were in heaven. Interestingly, our exchange included taking care of their dog Shadow, and we enjoyed Shadow as much as we enjoyed the golf. We also exchanged our Palm Desert home with a family from Cork, Ireland, for the entire month of July. The temperature was well into the triple digits, so their sons spent the entire time in the pool. Similarly in Cork, we experienced a heat wave with the temperature skyrocketing well into the 70s. We had dinner with their good friends/neighbors while we were there and also exchanged cars with them, which enabled us to see the countryside at our leisure.

We exchanged both our Yosemite and Palm Desert homes over several years with a couple who live in Paris. As a result of these exchanges, we have become good friends, and have them over for dinner when they're "passing through" Los Angeles. Interestingly, we toured Normandy with them several years ago, and to see and experience France with them was amazing. They also introduced us to their friends in southern France who, in turn, had us to their home for dinner. Again what a great way to experience a country. This summer, we have an exchange planned with a family in St. Andrews, Scotland. Golf, anyone?

How much do you think you saved? Over the years, we've saved thousands of dollars.

--John Peterson, Manhattan Beach

My experience: We had a great experience. We traded our house at the beach for a vacation home in Yosemite. We stayed four nights and the couple, who actually live in the L.A. area, spent four nights at our house with their grandchildren. They took very good care of our house and left us a gift for our return.

We had a wonderful time at their vacation home in Yosemite. We were able to meet them before the swap took place.

How much do you think you saved? $1,000.

--Maria Moore, Hermosa Beach

My experience: My kids and I have done two house swaps; both were amazing experiences. The first was to Scotland, where we stayed in a home in Dumfries for 3 1/2 weeks. We traveled extensively around the southern part of Scotland, visited the Isle of Arran and went up to the Highlands (Loch Ness), where I had the best ginger scones I have ever tasted. The car was included in this exchange, as well as a pony, five chickens and two cats. We had to count the chickens each night to make sure the foxes hadn't gotten any of them. We had tea with the neighbors and just enjoyed the feeling of familiarity and being a local.

Our second exchange was to Mühlacker, Germany, last summer, where we stayed almost three weeks. We drove to Bavaria and eastern France and took the train (Deutsche Bahn) to Zurich, Switzerland, and Berlin. The neighbors weren't as friendly as those in Scotland, but we got to know the people at the local bakery and got eggs from the farmer in town. The wonderful thing about house swaps is that we got the chance to stay in one location, become familiar with the area and the people as well as save a lot of money. And I got to figure out how to deal with different kinds of washers and dryers, throw unused food into a compost pile, feed chickens, deal with not having a microwave, etc.

Both families with whom we exchanged also had a great time. Our home was in good shape when we returned. Exchanges are not for those people who are extremely possessive about their "stuff." Also, a good deal of time has to be spent up front making arrangements and getting to know the other family so that things go smoothly and you feel confident that your home will be well taken care of.

How much do you think you saved? $3,000.

--Cheryl Seagren, Long Beach

My experience: We have swapped our home many times, starting in the '60s. We were Bay Area residents, so a lot of people wanted to swap with us. We have swapped all over, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Africa, Australia (three times) and many other places. We always had a great time and nothing ever went wrong. We used to do it by mail. Of course, it's e-mail now. We had books. It's all online now. We went all over in their cars and they in ours. We swapped from a month in Europe to six months each time in Australia. We have done a week in the United States several times. We have never had a cup broken or taken. I left my jewelry, etc., and some people left lovely china and silverware, which we packed away. We loved it each time and are still in touch with our swappers. So, I think it is a great idea. We have enjoyed it every time and no problems, even in those far off days when we had to write to people and send photos.

How much do you think you saved? A great deal, thousands of dollars.

--Doreen Chesson, Palm Springs

My experience: We "moved" to France for two weeks and would do it again. Our family of four exchanged homes with a family of five in France. Overall, it was an excellent experience. We live in Malibu and our exchange was a home in Ste.-Maxime, France.

We used HomeExchange.com to find the family. We looked for a home that would accommodate our two girls and my mother, who would be traveling with us. We also wanted to be close to Cannes, France. E-mailing at least 10 families, I received two potential swaps. Once we figured out the dates, we narrowed it down to one family.

We agreed on the dates to exchange. We agreed on exchanging cars (our Acura MDX for their Land Rover) and also if any pets would be around (we had our cat, Patches). We discussed signing a contract but it never happened. There is a great deal of trust that has to happen between each family. Although a generalization, the Europeans seem much more comfortable with this than most Americans. They mentioned they would pick us up at the train station and drive us to their home, take us through the mechanics of working the house and then hand over the keys to both their lovely home and almost brand new car.

We loved it. We had to explore more than staying at a hotel or rental home because there is no concierge or broker. We had to buy groceries daily and buy petrol and also manage the beaches (being close to St.-Tropez, it was a busy time with traffic and seasonal visitors). The only mishap we had was while we were parked in town, their car was keyed. We called to let them know and they chalked it up to their license plates being from the north, but I felt it might have been because we parked too close to the car next to us, cut someone off by accident or the fact that we were Americans. We offered to pay for the damage, but they refused. When they came to visit, they used our car and must have plugged in their DVD player with their converter because our car's electrical was blown out. We told them not to worry about it, as the rest of the trade was truly wonderful. I am sure it was a comparable fix. They were very accommodating and were gracious in handling what could've been a bigger problem.

One our favorite parts of this exchange was coming home to find how they had stocked our refrigerator. We found amazing cheeses, bread and fresh veggies from a farmers market and chocolate, plus wonderful wines.

It truly is a treasure to discover the way others live and treat other people. Home exchange is the closest way to experience another culture without actually moving there. We plan to "move" again this summer!

How much do you think you saved? $7,000 to $10,000 at least.

--Lisa Sewell, Malibu

My experience: Last summer, my family of four swapped with a family from London for 18 days. They had 16-year-old identical twin boys. We have 13-year-old fraternal twin boys. We also swapped cars and GPS systems. We drove a mini-Cooper, and they used our Acura.

A wonderful experience. No complaints. Only stayed in a B&B one night in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and we really appreciated having the space (especially with teenage boys.)

I'm sold and wonder why the whole world isn't doing this.

How much do you think you saved? $4,500 or so.

--Dona Mitoma, La Cañada

My experience: We have been using HomeExchange.com for many years now and have exchanged homes at least 30 times. And apart from one exchange, which was not too terrible, all our swaps have resulted in pleasant memories.

We have exchanged homes in the U.S., New Zealand, Sweden, France, Germany, Finland, South Africa, Hungary, Denmark, the Netherlands and elsewhere. It is impossible to rate them as each was unique and all added to our well-being.

When we first started, our three boys were still of school age, and we were restricted to holidays within the school terms, but then as they left for university we were free to travel where and when we wanted. In general terms, exchanging homes means that rather than putting up at, and with, impersonal and often indifferent hotel rooms, one can enjoy living in a home comparable or better than one's own. And while making good friends and very substantial savings.

How much do you think you saved? Tens of thousand of pounds sterling.

--William Owens, Edinburgh, Scotland

My experience: My wife, Katherine, and I recently completed a house exchange with a couple in Paris, Claude and Domi. They stayed in our house in August 2007 while we tracked mountain gorillas in Uganda on our vacation. We were supposed to take our end of the exchange last Christmas and New Year's, but had to pass when the dollar tanked. When a business trip took me through Paris in late October, we asked them if we could complete the exchange then. Fortunately, the dates partly overlapped with a school holiday (she is a teacher and he is a librarian). They said that they would take a short vacation while we were there and that we could stay with them on the days they had to be in town for work.

Their apartment is relatively small and has only one bathroom, but it is in one of the best parts of town, in the heart of the Latin Quarter only a couple of blocks from the Rue Mouffetard, a narrow, historic street lined with stores and stalls selling the most amazing array of artery-clogging foods I have ever seen.

It worked out great. For five nights, we had their apartment to ourselves and for five nights we amicably managed to share the one bathroom and stay out of each other's way as much as possible. They were terrific hosts. One night, their 30th anniversary, they invited another couple over for dinner. It was the night of the U.S. presidential election so we had a lively and very friendly discussion about the election and about the U.S. in general. (The French love us again!) The next night, after the election, we celebrated with another couple. Those two nights, plus hanging out with Claude and Domi for several days, gave us taste of Parisian life you don't usually get when you are just visiting, staying in hotels, etc. It was a much more intimate and authentic experience than we would have had if we had stayed in a hotel.

We spent most but not all of our time in Paris. On our last weekend, Claude lent us his car and a somewhat strange GPS with an English accent and we drove 4 1/2 hours to Mont-St-Michel, a small island just off Normandy covered by a spectacular medieval abbey and town. We also visited the town of Bayeux, which is famous for a 70-meter-long tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England, and the D-Day landing beaches at Normandy. After a harrowing Sunday night drive through Paris with our weird GPS ordering me to turn down streets that didn't exist, we got back to Claude and Domi's without a scratch on the car or on us.

It was the best Parisian vacation we have ever had.

How much do you think you saved? $2,500 to $3,000.

--Don Mankin, Venice

My experience: We have done several home and car exchanges. Our experiences have always been extremely positive. We are retired and own a nice home with a pool in Palm Desert. We arrange our exchanges through Intervac.com. We spent two months in the Netherlands, five weeks in France, one month in Sweden, three weeks in Paris, and two weeks in Whistler, Canada. The flat in Paris was considerably smaller than our home in Palm Desert, but we knew that going in and were more than willing to have a smaller place in exchange for being in the heart of Paris. The other homes were all comparable to our home. The homes in Sweden and the Netherlands included car exchanges, which allowed us to see other parts of Europe at huge savings. We recommend home exchanges to all our friends and could never afford the trips we've taken if we had to pay for lodging and car rentals. Because we've had fully equipped kitchens, we've saved money by shopping in the local markets, preparing our own meals, and even packing wonderful picnics for our many day trips. Plus we never feel like tourists and have met some wonderful locals in the neighborhoods we've stayed in.

How much do you think you saved? More than $40,000 for 160 days/nights, including lodging, car and not having to eat out all the time.

--Nancy McIntosh, Palm Desert

My experience: Our family of five has had five awesome home exchanges. With the exception of New Zealand, where we only spent 2 1/2 weeks, all our exchanges have been for a month or more. We have stayed in Poissy, France (half an hour west of Paris by train), Hong Kong (Stanley Market area) that came with a maid, Marbella, Spain, and Raiatea, Tahiti.

We have been able to get to know our swap mates well and have developed some incredible friendships. One daughter of the French family spent the entire next summer with us. We highly, highly recommend home exchanging as an affordable vacation experience, especially for families. You can cook most of your meals rather than expensive dining out. I love to cook, so it's a thrill to visit the foreign markets and create memorable meals. For instance, 2 plus pounds of freshly caught sashimi-grade tuna for around $10. Turned it into poisson cru, a Tahitian delicacy.

With a central base, we were able to take many day trips as well as a few overnight trips around our host country, as well as neighboring countries. (Gibraltar; Tangiers; Morocco; Bangkok, Thailand; Bora-Bora; the glaciers of Mt. Cook in New Zealand; the Alhambra in Spain, etc.)

While in France, my youngest son got a nasty virus that lasted six days. If we'd been on a typical one- to two-week vacation stuck in a hotel, it would have ruined the trip.

Use of cars, laundry equipment, bicycles, etc., make it even more affordable.

With the extended stays we've had, we really were able to get a feel for the country that I don't think we would have experienced in A shorter hotel stay.

Ooh, I'm getting a case of travel lust.

How much do you think you saved? Thousands and thousands!

--Patti Glover, Moorpark

My experience: I have been swapping homes for more than five years and it has been great. My partner and I are retired cyclists and usually stay for six weeks when we travel. Our hosts often have their relatives meet us to show us around the village where we stay, and there are rarely any tourists, which is what we want. The locals are very accommodating and have us shop where they do, which is quite economical. Most of our experiences are very favorable and we would highly recommend exchanging.

How much do you think you saved? A fortune! Our only expenses were airfare and local food purchases.

--Joan Autry, La Palma

My experience: Last summer, my wife and I did our first of our home in Los Feliz. We swapped with a family for their apartment in the Montmartre neighborhood in Paris. The experience was simply fantastic, and we couldn't have been more pleased.

My sister came along with us and we were all amazed at how different it was to stay in a home instead of a hotel. From the minute you step foot through the front door you almost feel like a Parisian. There's not that "I'm the odd-looking tourist passing through" feeling that's always hovering around during other trips. We really felt at home. Their home wasn't luxurious, but it was comfortable.

Since they have far longer vacations then we do they used our place as bookends to their Western states road trip, which meant that we returned to Los Feliz for a few days but had to vacate again as they stopped in to finish their holiday. That was a bit odd but certainly not odd enough to stop us from doing future swaps.

How much do you think you saved? $2,400.

--Fred Oey, Los Feliz
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