11 Bedroom Home in Tuscany

How can you go on a fantastic summer vacation and stay within a budget? With the recession impacting every area of our lives, we are all looking for ways to economize without giving up lifestyle.  I found a great way to go on a fabulous foreign vacation and pay just a fraction of the cost.

I recently had dinner with a friend whose company builds timeshares in beautiful and exotic locales.  He was talking about their target market, namely Boomers seeking vacations that connect with multiple generations:  kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents.  For this, a family can pay up to $50,000 for a one to two week time period scheduled annually.

“What about home exchange,” I asked him.

“Oh, I’ve heard about that, how does it work?”

For those of you who don’t know this service, it is a very cost-effective way to temporarily trade your home with someone anywhere in the world.  You register with a website and pay about $10 per month to have your home registered for exchange.  You have access to more than 35,000 listings all around the world.  Of course, you make your property sound gorgeous and desirable when you list it, providing pictures of your home when it had just been landscaped and was clean and sparkly.  This gives you access to some incredible homes in a chosen summer, Christmas, Winter or any season location.  We chose Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Athens and Sydney for our first try.  I know this doesn’t sound like a list of places with much in common!  But we are being extremely flexible since we will pay only for airfare.

View from a Villa on the Greek Island of Paros

And oh, how beautiful are some of the homes!  A 16th century castle in Northern England; a seven-room apartment in Paris; a drug lord’s mansion in Costa Rica (just kidding, but it looked like it could be owned by someone selling questionable substances).  Like Christmas, you send out emails from your own home page to places that pique your interest.  Then, you wait!  Most we have received are from nice families telling us they already have their plans/exchanges complete for the summer.  But we also received several intriguing responses.

There are a few drawbacks.  First, you can’t be obsessive about your house.  I wouldn’t leave any priceless art on the walls.  And any electronics, you might find them nonfunctional when you return, if you leave them available.  But with these few caveats, you have the world at your fingertips!

A few ways this may not work:  1) Your house is not very attractive; 2) You don’t live in a desirable location; or    3) You don’t want strangers staying in your house.

Villa in Vence, France

I am thrilled about the possibilities and we are currently waiting to confirm our location for summer vacation with our grown children and their girlfriends.  Still, I am wondering if this service has impacted the fractional/timeshare world?  Post your comments or email me about your multi-generational vacations.  I am anxious to hear stories about home exchange or other creative ways of vacationing these days!


All pictures are actual listings at


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