Living their life

One of the fun aspects of home swapping can be fully immersing yourself into someone else's life. Where are the best places to go? What are the neighbours like? Where are the car keys?! Everything you would want to know should be put in your home exchange pack - and when you arrive at your destination, you can agree to have a similar guide left for you....

One of the fun aspects of home swapping can be fully immersing yourself into someone else's life. Where are the best places to go? What are the neighbours like? Where are the car keys?!

Everything you would want to know should be put in your home exchange pack - and when you arrive at your destination, you can agree to have a similar guide left for you.

GETTING TO KNOW THE LOCAL AREA

It's common to be in a non-touristy area when you home swap: the whole idea is to go somewhere entirely different, to discover hidden gems, and truly explore a new place.

In your home exchange pack, be sure to include a list of the best restaurants and cafes in town (and slip in a few takeaway leaflets too!), as well as the top attractions nearby. Even if you haven't visited them, it'll be a good idea to include them for a newcomer. After the swap's completed, make sure you ask what people got up to - if they have any suggestions, you'll be able to add them in for the next person.

Leaving a detailed or annotated map is always a good idea - mark on your favourite spots, the child-friendly restaurants, good running or walking routes, traffic hot-spots, and your preferred places to go. Not only is a map essential for a newcomer, but giving it that personal touch will help get your swappers involved straight away.

HELPFUL NEIGHBOURS

Although you may have been speaking to the person you're swapping with for quite a while, it's more than likely that when you do swap, you won't be there yourself. As it's nicer to have a friendly face to show you the rope,, make sure you give details of people who'll be happy to pop in every now and again, and be around in case anything comes up.

Make sure you alert your neighbours as to what's going on: otherwise, they might be quite confused to see different people entering and leaving your house without you being there! They're also going to be the best people to help your guests get settled. So if they're happy to help, see if they can go over on arrival to assist with the key exchange, and make sure everything is in working order.

If not, get in touch with family and friends who live nearby. They don't need to babysit the swappers, but just be a contact number they can call if they're worried about something, or to get an opinion on a certain attraction or restaurant. As well as friends and neighbours, be sure to leave other emergency numbers, such as the local doctors' surgery, a dentist, where the nearest hospital is, and of course details of how you can be accessed!

THE HOME ITSELF

Your home is the most important thing for a swapper to get used to - you want people to feel as comfortable as possible whilst they are in your home, just as you will want to when you're at theirs. In order to do this, lay out ground rules: if people know what they can and can't do with your permission, it'll make living in your home far easier.

Ensure you include the basics: how to set and turn off alarms, how gates and the Wifi works, how the heating or air conditioning works; if you've got a pool, how to use it. Even things that might seem obvious to you might not be as apparent as you think. Better to overstate things than have people staring at a remote for their entire holiday, wondering whether it's for the garage door, television, or lights.

Specify what can and can't be used. Is it ok to eat all the food? What towels and other linen are for anyone's use? If there's something you don't want people touching, say it, or move it elsewhere whilst your home's in use. Things that are important to you, such as maintaining the garden or cleaning the oven after every use, should be included in your guide as well.

Before you leave your home to your exchange partners, ensure the house is in a presentable state, that all the beds are set up with the bedding you want used, that food is either used up, or allowed to be eaten, and that everything is where you would expect it to be. Leave your keys where you've agreed on, work out if and when a Cleaner is going to come over during the stay and get ready to hand over!

USING THE CAR

Obviously lending your car out isn't a necessary part of home exchange, but it does make life easier and cheaper than relying on public transport (unless you're in a city centre), or hiring a car.

If you're going to lend your car out, check with your insurers that this is possible first, and then add a new driver onto your policy. Sometimes you'll have to change your entire policy for this, but this option can be easier, especially if you plan on home swapping a lot.

Make sure your car is in working order before you go, and not verging on losing a bumper, or the exhaust dropping off. Tell anyone who will be borrowing the car its exact details: whether it's automatic or manual, petrol or diesel, and any slight 'quirks' it may have. If you're swapping with someone in America, and you're in the UK, check that a manual car is fine, as they're much more common in Britain than in the States.

Leave a guide to anything that people might require when using the car - point out where the oil is kept, where the car's handbook is, and all relevant paperwork, like insurance and breakdown cover. It's also useful to note down who a preferred mechanic or garage is, just in case!

Really, really want to perfect your next home swap? Check out another guide in our series, HERE!

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