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Home swapping for Christmas!
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Home swapping for Christmas!

Lydia Altman
By Lydia Altman - 8 minute read

Our com­mu­ni­ty enjoys thou­sands of home swaps through­out the year, but some mem­bers up the ante by exchang­ing their homes at one of the most mag­i­cal and excit­ing times of the year – Christ­mas! Trav­el­ling to some of the best hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions in the world, these intre­pid trav­el­ers embrace the chance to trade their usu­al fes­tive cel­e­bra­tions for some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent – from Christ­mas Day by the pool through to Box­ing Day in a snowy city, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. We caught up with some of our mem­bers to find out more about their expe­ri­ences of home swap­ping at Christmas. 

Vandy

Vandy cur­rent­ly lives in the UK, but pre-pan­dem­ic she trav­elled to South Africa for Christ­mas – a place that’s incred­i­bly close to her heart.

We home swapped to Johan­nes­burg in Decem­ber 2019, trav­el­ling as a fam­i­ly with my hus­band, my sons and my younger son’s fiancé. We lived in South Africa for many years before mov­ing to the UK, so it was won­der­ful to see every­one in the fam­i­ly just before the lock­downs start­ed, and to intro­duce my son’s fiancé to the coun­try and the cul­ture we love.

Johan­nes­burg is a great place to spend Christ­mas as you have the won­der­ful warm weath­er, wide open spaces to explore, wildlife and real­ly good food. The whole trip was a month long, with 10 days in a home swap. The house was big enough for all of us to have lots of space, and it was a per­fect place to spend Christ­mas. The swim­ming pool was a hit with every­one, and it was won­der­ful to enjoy the warm weath­er where we could spend time outdoors. 

We spent time with fam­i­ly and friends, did lots of coun­try walks, ate out in fab­u­lous restau­rants, and vis­it­ed the botan­i­cal gar­dens to see a pair of nest­ing eagles. One of my favourite mem­o­ries from this trip were the kit­tens! The house cat had pro­duced a lit­ter of kit­tens two days before we arrived, so we had the joy of watch­ing them devel­op and see­ing them start to explore the world.

We love hav­ing Christ­mas with fam­i­ly, so being able to go back to South Africa to spend time with them all makes it a very spe­cial occa­sion. Home swap­ping is much more relaxed than a hotel and more inter­est­ing than a rental. Hav­ing the input of our hosts made our home swap feel much more per­son­al than hotels and rentals, espe­cial­ly at Christ­mas time.”

VANDY MASSEY Johannesburg Love Home Swap

Vandy’s home swap in Johannesburg

Ulla

To have Christ­mas and New Year in anoth­er coun­try and cul­ture is very beau­ti­ful for me and my fam­i­ly. We chose New York City last time we swapped at Christ­mas and it was bril­liant. I love that you are in a pri­vate home rather than in a hotel, because you have a wash­ing machine, you can cook, you have a gar­den or bal­cony and the mon­ey you save is incred­i­ble. It’s very expen­sive to stay in a hotel at Christ­mas, so home swap­ping is a won­der­ful solu­tion for not spend­ing a lot of mon­ey. You can also stay for longer, as there are no extra costs unlike when rent­ing or pay­ing for a hotel. 

The last time we swapped at Christ­mas was in New York. I trav­elled with my two boys who were 18 and 16-years-old at the time. They loved being in a pri­vate flat rather than in a hotel. It was great because we were stay­ing in Man­hat­tan, so we enjoyed all the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and the shop­ping – it was just bril­liant for everything.

We also went to Dur­ban in South Africa and Fort Laud­erdale in the US for Christ­mas swaps. In Dur­ban and Flori­da we swapped our cars, so we could move around. The hosts in South Africa and New York also left us notes about where to go, which Metro sta­tion was near, where the clos­est super­mar­ket was etc. This was very use­ful, espe­cial­ly when cook­ing for Christmas!”

Points Ulla Graziani LHS

One of Ulla’s sons in their NYC apart­ment at Christmas

Stella

Stel­la has pre­vi­ous­ly enjoyed Christ­mas home swaps in Barcelona, Prague and Budapest!

We love doing home swaps and usu­al­ly opt for sum­mer hol­i­days by the sea, but a few years ago we decid­ed that, as our son was a bit old­er, we’d start doing city breaks as well to show him a bit of Europe. We have always found that the week between Christ­mas and New Year is a bit of a dead time’ – the excite­ment of Christ­mas is over and you are just wait­ing for the next big cel­e­bra­tion – so it’s the per­fect time to get away and pro­long that fun.

Swap­ping at Christ­mas is espe­cial­ly nice as the house is usu­al­ly dec­o­rat­ed, so the Christ­mas mag­ic car­ries on. So far we have done three Christ­mas swaps – Barcelona, Prague and Budapest – and loved them all. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, our Berlin Christ­mas swap was can­celled in 2020 for obvi­ous rea­sons, but hope­ful­ly next year! I think the fam­i­ly con­sen­sus is that Prague was the best, pri­mar­i­ly because my hus­band and son got to go ski­ing a short dis­tance from the city. My hus­band used to ski when we lived in Japan and has missed it; for my son it was his first time and he loved it!

I think a week is the per­fect amount of time to spend in a new city; you don’t feel rushed but there is plen­ty of time to vis­it all the main sights and soak up the atmos­phere. Even though we usu­al­ly fly Box­ing Day, the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions are still up and the Christ­mas mar­kets are still going strong so it feels very fes­tive. Noth­ing beats wan­der­ing around on a cold crisp day and stop­ping for a glass of hot wine (adults only – hot choco­late for the young­ster!) and a bit of chim­ney cake. In Prague, we even had a cou­ple of snowy days which just added to the magic. 

Stella Oneill Barcelona Love Home Swap

Stel­la and her hus­band on their Christ­mas swap to Barcelona

Our stand­out mem­o­ries are the Christ­mas tree in Prague Old Town square – every hour there was a light dis­play on the tree, synced with clas­si­cal music – I could watch it all day – plus bars where you had your own beer pump at the table! In Budapest, our son loved ice-skat­ing at one of the many Christ­mas mar­kets and we had a great time try­ing out var­i­ous ruin bars – they’re fas­ci­nat­ing places that are real­ly quirky. We missed out on the ther­mal baths; the first time we tried to go we got too caught up in a muse­um and the sec­ond time, the queues were too long. Nev­er mind, just means we have to go back! Barcelona didn’t feel quite so fes­tive, but the Gau­di trail and the tapas more than made up for that.

Cul­tur­al­ly, it didn’t feel too dif­fer­ent to Christ­mas at home. Each coun­try has its own tra­di­tion­al foods and drinks, but the vibe was the same, just enhanced by the icy weath­er and the pletho­ra of mar­kets. My favourite local tra­di­tion was Caga Tió: a Cata­lan log that poops’ can­dy at Christ­mas! We have San­ta, but in some areas of Spain, they have a log with sweet treats up its butt — who wouldn’t smile at that?!”

If this arti­cle has inspired you to embark on a Christ­mas home swap, then have a read of our Top UK Christ­mas swaps for some inspi­ra­tion. And don’t for­get that we have more than 10,000 stun­ning homes avail­able on our site in 100 coun­tries, so don’t hes­i­tate to give our Cus­tomer Care team a call if you’d like more ideas for your fes­tive get­away! Alter­na­tive­ly, head to our Face­book groups to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with our friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty, and don’t for­get to share your adven­tures with us on our social media chan­nels. Sim­ply use the hash­tag #welove­home­swap to con­nect with us.