Why not consider a home exchange as an alternative way to explore the UK on a budget? It's a great option to enjoy a cheap UK holiday and works particularly well for families.
As Liz Walsh, from Topdogdays explains, the main advantage is that a trip to the UK can cost you no more than your travel arrangements and general living expenses. Liz and her family have undertaken 12 exchanges in the past 5 years, and they swap not only their home but cars, bikes, toys, outdoor equipment and even a boat on one occasion!
You can arrange to take care of pets, (optional), and can give each other the low down on best places to visit, shop and eat out. We've put together a few simple steps to help you achieve a successful UK home exchange.
1. Always join a reputable home exchange organisation. Whilst there is never a fail safe guarantee, people who've joined a paid membership programme, (usually around £100 a year), have already made a level of commitment to home exchanging. Two of the more established Home Exchange Programmes are run by Intervac and Homelink.
2. Try to arrange your first exchange with a family experienced in home exchange. You can then follow their lead and be re-assured by taking up references from others who have stayed there.
3. Draw up an exchange contract before making any firm travel arrangements. Be up front about household bills, what is and isn't included in the exchange & ensuring car insurance is in place.
4. Agree to book your travel arrangements on the same day/time. As a courtesy, pass confirmation emails from airlines etc to your host family. Often you will find you will overlap at airports with opportunities to meet up, exchange keys and reduce airport transfer costs.
5. Trust your instincts. Initially there's a lot to discuss with a potential host family and you'll quickly pick up if this is going to work for you.
6. Be upfront if you have any concerns. If you decide this one isn't for you, let the other family know quickly and before there is any financial outlay on either side.
7. Home insurance. This can be a tricky area so ensure you are clear where you stand with your policy.
8. Leave a simple meal. Welcome your exchange family to your home with a simple meal including a local delicacy plus plenty of information about your area.
9. Trust and Courtesy. The most fundamental principle to understand is that a successful home exchange is based on trust so please treat your host family's home as you would your own, as long as this means with care and consideration! Home exchange is one of the best family decisions we have ever made and a great way to see the UK on a budget.