Monique Kaptein, a special needs mom, educator and travel blogger, shares her experience traveling as trio of Dutch girls using HomeExchange to travel with her two daughters, Emma and Tessa, both diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Her blog DutchGirlsSeetheWorld is a go-to website for family, multi-generational, and 50+ couple travel.

Want to live like a local outside your own backyard? Then try the HomeExchange and, like us, have access to live authentically in one of over 230,000 homes in over 130 countries around the world.

Geoff has been a member of HomeExchange for over ten years and I joined four years ago. This program is great because it allows us to “swap” houses with another family either for a simultaneous or non-simultaneous vacation in exchange for GuestPoints (GP).

It sounds much more confusing than it is. For example, three years ago Geoff and I spent a week in an authentic Tuscan farmhouse (we loved it!) owned by Alyce. However, she wanted to use her holiday time later in the year, so we used some of our GPs to book her farmhouse for the dates we wanted, and Alyce used the GPs she received from us to travel elsewhere when it suited her best. On this same trip to Italy, Geoff and I had a reciprocal exchange with Duilia, a warm and welcoming host. When Geoff and I spent a week at their beautiful contemporary condominium in downtown Florence, they vacationed in his cottage in Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada therefore no GPs were required.

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How do you earn or save Guest Points? There is an easy online formula to calculate how much each home is worth taking into consideration the location, square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, amenities etc. You can earn Guest Points if you are staying at a home that charges fewer Guest Points than your own residence, or perhaps allow a family to stay at your home when you are visiting friends or family etc.

Let’s share up front that a $220 annual membership fee exists to join. But if you don’t make a suitable exchange the first year, the second year is free. There are no cancellation fees and they provide extra coverage if a host cancels. As I write this article, I am currently participating in a terrific HomeExchange in Tours, France after spending 9 days in downtown Paris, where we were hosted by Michel. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Michel and his wife were unable to participate in the simultaneous exchange to travel and stay at Geoff’s home in Ontario for 9 days. Since there wasn’t enough time to find another suitable host to accommodate the 4 of us in downtown Paris, HomeExchange stepped up and provided Michel with the necessary GPs for our stay, meaning we didn’t have to use any of our saved GPs because that wasn't the original vacation plan.

Close relationships are formed within the HomeExchange community between hosts and guests. This personal connection makes travelling with my daughters, Emma (21) and Tessa (19), who both have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety, much more relaxing as I can easily ensure the home suits their needs.

Additionally, I love that our hosts provide a warm welcome leaving local wine, ciders and/or candies for the kids along with very detailed notes about the best restaurants, parks, and attractions to visit. I like to bring some maple syrup as a thank you since my hometown, Elmira, Ontario, is known nationwide for its Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

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Why do I love HomeExchange?

  1. It allows me to spend time living authentically as a resident in homes, shopping at local grocery stores and patisseries, eating at small local restaurants off the beaten path, visiting nearby parks, chatting with neighbours etc.
  1. I can personally select the homes I am interested in based on location, amenities, time frames, etc. that best suit our family’s needs. For example, Tessa enjoys a soothing tub at night so I can ensure that a bathtub is present at each location by filtering homes by amenity.
  1. Sometimes Geoff and I travel as a 50+ couple, other times as a family of 4 with Emma and Tessa, and currently with my ex-husband, Rudi, as an extended family of 5. Based on the number of people and time frame we can personalize our needs with a variety of living quarters, bathrooms etc.
  1. Staying in a home provides a fully equipped kitchen which means we can make as many meals at home during our vacation as needed depending on time, budget, travelling family members etc. Breakfasts at home are a great way to start the day during a home exchange.
  1. Travelling with Emma and Tessa, who both have anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is much easier in a homey atmosphere. It is important that the girls have their own separate space and bedroom to unwind so we can continue established routines as much as possible.
  1. Extras: all of the advantages of home may include bicycles, trampolines, swimming pools, WiFi, internet, video games, Netflix etc. Did I mention laundry?! Especially when we are travelling with the girls 🙂 We all love animals and I especially have enjoyed taking care of friendly felines, especially Sarah’s trio in Maui. Emma, in particular, enjoyed feeding the hens in Aix-Au-Provence this summer, so much so that we will have to explore owning our own chicken coop at home.
  1. Many times our home exchange incorporated a car swap as well. During our present holiday, we are using vehicles from our hosts for 4 of the 5 weeks which is a considerable cost-saving measure. Also, some of the families from our reciprocal exchange have children so it has been great driving a minivan in Tours, France with 5 adults and lots of luggage! But be sure to check in with your insurance company.

Overall, I love the fact that I can walk out the door and explore a neighbourhood whether it is to walk downtown Paris and pick up fresh breakfast croissants from a patisserie, collect eggs from the farmhouse down the lane in Tuscany or enjoy an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean from a terrace in Hana, Maui.


By the way, if you decide you would like to join HomeExchange please use my contact information so I can receive 250 referral GuestPoints and so can you! It doesn’t affect to your membership fee, it just gives you a head start to that first vacation.

Monique HomeID #1529470 and I can be your sponsor, code:monique–02141

But a visit to the Muskoka Area in Ontario is always terrific,particularly during the summer months on Georgian Bay or to see the fall colours, so I will share Geoff’s HomeID # 1492509 and he can also sponsor you as well, like he did for me :) code: geoffrey-3ce1a

Some of our favourite home exchanges:

  1. Hana, Maui - HomeID #1789562
  2. Tuscany, Italy - HomeID # 1517119
  3. Florence, Italy - HomeID # 914997
  4. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada - HomeID #1454173

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