When most people swap homes, it’s done so simultaneously. That is, you ‘cross over’ with each other – you stay at theirs and they stay at yours. There are platforms that you can exchange homes, using their website, you eliminate your accommodation bill entirely, enabling you to travel more and stay longer! Of course, if you’ve booked flights on the same day, you and your fellow swappers might not actually meet in person (even though it’s possible that with all the chats you’ve had on Skype and WhatsApp you already feel you know them very well!)
However, the fact that you are swapping your home (which is not a luxury hotel) shouldn’t mean that you need to be completely casual about the way you leave it You are not hosting guests the traditional sense but nevertheless, they will want and expect to be comfortable. So before your guests arrive, try and anticipate their needs – what they hope for and what they have a right to expect when they walk through your door. Invest some time in actions that will make them feel ‘at home’ very quickly. To help you along, we’ve put together a list of things that will go a long way in making sure your swappers are glad they chose you to exchange with!
1 | Clean and tidy your house
We can’t emphasise this one enough. First of all, a few days before you leave, start decluttering. Your guests don’t need (or want) to be surrounded by endless objects just lying around. Your home is not a hotel, but it should be in decent shape for those who stay there! And if decluttering daunts you, try out a few of these tips.
Afterwards, put away anything you own that is costly or of sentimental value – not because it’s going to be stolen but because it might get broken. Next, clean the entire house (especially the kitchen and bathroom). Leave it exactly as you would want to find it. (If this seems too daunting, hire a cleaner – after all, you are saving a small fortune on accommodation costs). Finally, put fresh linens and towels on the beds – your guests might arrive exhausted and want to go straight to sleep.
2 | Provide them with a comprehensive list of things relating to your home
This should include emergency telephone numbers (electrician, plumber, your friend with the spare key), and useful information for appliances (how the dishwasher works, where the fuse box is, the quirky lock on the bathroom door, how to turn off the water at the mains). Things you take for granted (the wifi password, where you keep spare linens and toiletries, what day the rubbish bins are emptied) are all things that will help them in getting settled in and feeling “at home.”
In all probability, there will be no need for them to use the emergency numbers, but it’s always good to be prepared!
3 | Leave a few essentials in the fridge
You don’t have to go out on a huge shop, but if your guests have been travelling for hours (or indeed close to a day, if they’ve crossed an ocean) the chances are that they’re going to be exhausted…and quite possibly hungry. If they arrive at night, the stores will be closed but even if they arrive in the day, probably the last thing they’re going to want to do is go out to pick up basic provisions. So leave a few things in your fridge – bread, butter, milk, juice, eggs..and even some pasta and a pre-prepared sauce. It’s not just a common courtesy but it’s also a way of saying “We know you’ve come a long way – eat first, then settle in!”
4 | Create a “Welcome” pack
This is a good way to give them an idea of what your town or city has to offer. Put in it information about public transport – what time the last bus and train near to you leave, and the name of a taxi company you trust. Add leaflets about local attractions – parks, a local theatre or cinema, swimming pool, etc. Give them ideas for where they can shop in the neighbourhood (the grocery stores, a good bakery, a trusted dry cleaner) and recommend bars and restaurants – they may well not want to cook every night. Finally, if you’re swapping with another young family, leave the number of your babysitter. Every exhausted parent occasionally deserves a night out!
5 | Leave them a gift
Of course this isn’t necessary but it’s an incredibly nice gesture and goes a long way towards showing that you’re happy to be swapping homes. It could be something like a bottle of wine, or a cake that you’ve baked. Or it could be something particular to your culture (a specific kind of food, something local to your area). If you live in a hot climate, and they’ve come from northern Europe in the winter, leave them some suntan lotion and a floppy hat! If you live in Canada and they’ve arrived from a hot Australian summer, leave them a woollen scarf or some thermal gloves.
Be creative – you don’t have to spend a lot, but a gift can mean an awful lot, especially when you’ve put some thought into it. And if you need inspiration, take a look at some of these free, homemade ideas.
Oh – and one last thing – don’t forget to enjoy your holiday!