HomeExchanger Elena, who has been traveling with HomeExchange for more than 20 years with her family, decided to embark on a three-month journey across the United States and take on the challenge of completing 20 home exchanges back-to-back during this past summer. Let's dive into the idea behind this exciting project!

"These past few years have been really hard on us all, right? Hard core travelers like us suddenly had to stop in whatever country they were in for a while. For us, it was Martinique. We had planned to stay 6 months and ended up staying a year and a half! Stuck because of Covid! Ok… I know what you are thinking… there are worse places in the world than this one BUT our children live in the USA so that meant not seeing them for a very long time. The following year was still not the best to gather. We still had to wait."

How the idea for this trip was born

"One morning, this past January, I was daydreaming, looking at the map of the USA and I said to my husband: how about we prepare a road trip to go visit all 3 of our children? In the past, we would gather with our kids somewhere in the world, find an exchange for everyone’s vacations. But, this time would be different, we would go to them. I knew if we were to do this, we would plan it using exclusively HomeExchange, no hotel, no camping, no Airbnb. I insisted that Brent would be 100% onboard because of course, this was going to be A LOT of work to organize. I am the planner, Brent usually knows where we are going at the last minute, when it is time to pack!"

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HomeExchange Members house in the background, lake, forest
Elena and Brent, 2023

"I was thinking really fast when I suggested this road trip. We have three homes in total which has allowed us to accumulate a good number of GuestPoints over the years. After a few minutes of thinking about it, my husband said yes! He is onboard for the road trip. I guess my European born mindset did not allow me to realize what distances we were really talking about. I was used to traveling from Northern France to Southern Italy as a child so I am thinking, what the heck! No big deal, right? I started to look at the map. We have one child in Kentucky, one in New York, and one … in Seattle!"

Elena's strategy for a roadtrip

"Each child would pick a place to go to, not too far from their house so we would spend time not only with them in their environment but also away for a “local” vacation.
Our daughter who lives in Kentucky picked Mammoth Cave National Park KY, our second child who lives in New York picked Finger Lakes NY, and with our oldest, we’d stay just in Seattle."

"I started with the first stop and used the same strategy for the entire trip:

  • Look for a place with the number of bedrooms needed. I tend to be quite flexible with my searches and don’t need much so I usually send many requests in one go.
  • If I do not get any “maybes”, I increase the radius of our research, a few miles away from where we want to be.
  • Then for the next stop, I would concentrate first on driving distances: my husband and I take turns on the road, 2 hours of driving then switch (whether we are tired or not does not matter, we switch anyway). We concentrated on destinations that were 6 to 8 hours drive max.
  • I then crisscrossed with points of interest to define the next stop and then started our search again."
roadtrip map of USA
The cities of Elena and Brent's children

"We did not set the entire “tour of the USA'' from the start. We had just 3 stops, our 3 children. The rest, we would work from one stop to another, defining the next destination each time we secured one etc, etc. I had a few places in mind such as Cluster State park in SD because I dream of seeing buffaloes in the wild and of course, Yellowstone. Those we would organize a little in advance since they were a priority. The rest, we would manage. One would be harsh: New York! Famously known by HomeExchange members for being the most requested destination in the world, therefore hard to get. It took us a lot of radius changes and a lot of patience but we found it, a few minutes from our son’s house, yes!"

"After securing the exchanges to see our first 2 children on the East coast, we contacted some friends from Canada and offered to meet with them close to the border. They picked the place and we found the exchange. That is exchange number 4. Now time to cross from East to West, one at the time, asking around about where we should stop and why and continuing our ant work."

Discover our homes

"Finally, all the exchanges are approved all the way to Seattle! Yes! BUT … that is when we realized it would take us 2 MONTHS TO GET TO SEATTLE! Of course, we would be taking our time, often stopping for a week or more. But now we have to come back, that is when self-doubt kicked in. That’s when I realized this is NOT northern France to southern Italy at all! As of today, I still do not know the total number of miles. I actually do not want to know until the end because I am worried it would just add to our stress level."

car suv
Elena and Brent's car for the USA roadtrip

"Oh my… we cannot take another 2 months to come back. Should we take a train? And ship the car? There is one train that goes from Vancouver, Canada to Chicago. Looks great! No, no… no room unless we are in separate parts of the train, bunk beds with strangers for days, not for us. Ok… we have to come back the same way. And the ant work starts again from Seattle toward Santa Fe (where friends moved to not long ago). A little faster though, 2 nights in Oregon, 2 nights in Utah, 2 nights in Colorado, one-week in Santa Fe, 2 nights in Oklahoma, 2 nights in Arkansas, 2 nights in Alabama then home. One month to come back. Never just a one night stop, we need to rest and at least take one day to see the area."

Finalizing the exchanges

"The first home exchange of our trip was finalized January 29th, the last one in Arkansas, May 2. Since then, 2 have been canceled (out of the 20 back-to-back home exchanges). The HomeExchange team and their guarantees helps out a lot whenever this happens. Of course, in our case, the probability increases with the number of exchanges. It is stressful whenever it happens but there is always a solution, even if it means going to a rental that HomeExchange will cover for up to 120$ a night (maximum 2 weeks per stay)."

"Departure is in 3 days!
Total exchanges : 20 (12 second houses)

  • Exchange number 7 still on hold: canceled and replaced with an Airbnb as of now
  • 16 exchanges with GuestsPoints (one hospitality)
  • 2 reciprocal non simultaneous exchanges (We will not welcome anyone from this trip to any of our houses during this time. Our places will be both rented, securing our finances along the way)"
car suv assembling

Last step: Packing

"The car is packed. “Pack light”: that was the main recommendation from Road trip Facebook groups members. One wrote: “pack, then remove 75%. Then you are ready!” "

"We will find a real kitchen everywhere we go, this is one of the perks of exchanging homes: a real kitchen each time. We are bringing an ice chest in between houses (to travel with leftovers), a juicer, a crockpot, a portable camping mini gas stove to ensure we eat healthily during the 3 months on the road (and avoiding spending too much money eating out)."

"Ready… set… Go!"

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