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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! Venturing to some of the best holiday destinations in the world, these intrepid travellers 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's home swap in South Africa

 

 

Ulla 

 Avid home swapper Ulla has swapped her home to spend Christmas in a number of places, including New York, Florida and Durban! 

“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!” 

 

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 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.   

 

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