HomeExchange member and ambassador Sharon has been home exchanging with her family for 14 years. After discovering the concept through some teacher colleagues who exchanged homes with friends in the US, they gave it a go themselves and haven't looked back since!

Sharon and her family have been all over with HomeExchange, swapping their home in Cork, Ireland with houses in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. Having completed so many successful exchanges, we asked Sharon about her experiences swapping homes and for her advice on organizing the perfect HomeExchange.

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What is one of your best memories with HomeExchange?

"My favourite memory is probably our holiday to the heart of Tuscany where we stayed at a beautiful, ancient villa surrounded by rolling Tuscan hills and friendly neighbours. Our girls made friends with the neighbouring children and spent the evenings paddling in the pool and playing in the olive trees while we relaxed with the adults or read books in the sunshine. Happy children - happy parents!"

Summer evenings in Tuscany with the kids playing and meeting the neighbors
Summer evenings in Tuscany - playmates, paddling pools, neighbors and now friends

"Another personal favourite memory was our first full day on our New York adventure in Summer 2018. We started the day at 4am on the Metro North train line into Grand Central, and walked through the city at sunrise to Central Park. We attended a Good Morning America Summer Concerts Series featuring Florence and the Machine and were front row for the entire performance. Our girls even met Florence briefly as she left the stage. We moved on from here to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and rounded the day out with a trip to Ellis Island to learn about immigration and the Irish immigrant story. Our girls were delighted to find the statue of Annie Moore on Ellis Island. Annie was the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island on January 1st 1992 having left Ireland from Cobh (near our home in East Cork). We took our girls to visit Annie’s statue in Cobh before letting them loose to find her in Ellis Island on the other side of the Atlantic - my favourite single day of HomeExchange thus far. Magical."

New York, Summer 2018 - culture, history, urban vibes and city life
New York - Summer 2018 - culture, history, urban vibes and city life

Did you have any apprehensions when you first started HomeExchanging? How did you overcome this?

"Absolutely - I’m a natural worrier and it was a huge leap to try to get my head around the idea of ‘strangers’ in our home. I stayed focused on the positives, the opportunity that this presented, the fact that thousands of home exchangers reporting positive experiences couldn’t all be wrong and the fact that homeexchange.com has great live 24/7 support and extra layers of guarantees and protection also helped the nerves!"

Vacation With HomeExchange

What tips and tricks would you give to new HomeExchangers?

"Consider car exchange in addition to home exchange … an additional saving and one which is a huge part of holiday budgets currently with car rental costs spiralling."

"Local knowledge - are there local discounts for theme parks, cultural events, concerts etc that your hosts might be able to help you with? Local knowledge is a powerful thing."

"Agree a reciprocal shop so that the fridge is full on arrival -  we usually plan a reciprocal shop agreeing to a spend /budget eg: €50 and checking if there are specific items that our visitors would like or need at home on arrival. This can be really useful so there’s no rush to the supermarket or for children who are fussy eaters."

"If you are apprehensive about trying out HomeExchange for the first time, a final tip is to exchange within your country first time round as it sometimes feels easier or safer to be just ‘up the road’ instead of in a different country. This develops the first layer of comfort with exchanging."

Kids enjoying their vacation with HomeExchange
New York 2018

What would you say to friends and family who are considering HomeExchange?

"Take the leap of faith - it’s an equal leap. Those exchanging to your home are also concerned about their place and have (or had) all of the same worries you have approaching the initial exchange."

"Communicate, communicate, communicate - there is nothing that can’t be organised with clear and regular communication. We generally do a few FaceTime calls with our hosts to set things up, get to know them a little and iron out provisional details like dates, airports, transfers, house rules etc."

What's it like using HomeExchange with kids?

"Both of our girls completed their first HomeExchange trips at 6 months old and have never looked back. Baby equipment was organised by hosts and support with having nappies, food etc. pre-purchased was a great ease to us travelling with babies. Hopefully they’ll have inherited our sense of wanderlust and adventure! My older son Cian who is now 24 started home exchanging when he was 10 and will hopefully continue to join us on trips from time to time."

Is HomeExchange worth it? What have you gained from using HomeExchange?

"Family time and memories to last a lifetime! Both parents working full-time is challenging at times but our HomeExchange holidays provide us with time out to relax and really enjoy quality time together in homes that are welcoming, spacious, wonderfully located with beautiful decor and surroundings. We can forget the daily routine and focus on each other."

"HomeExchange has also provided opportunities for the children to experience the world within communities instead of apart from them. Our children have grown up with HomeExchange being the norm for travel and it’s given us fabulous opportunities to travel over longer periods during school holidays. We could never have afforded to pay for accommodation on trips like this. HomeExchange is a wonderfully sustainable way to travel with money being invested directly into the communities of both exchange partners instead of to hotel chains."

Fun, family vacation time in Cape Cod, USA
Family time in Cape Cod, USA

Do you have any upcoming travel plans with HomeExchange?

"This summer we have agreed a three week exchange to a village near Toulon in the south west of France where we hope to rest, relax and do some French Riviera and Aix-de-Provence based day trips. In October my husband hopes to complete the Amsterdam marathon and we will exchange for a gorgeous apartment in the beautiful Jordan district of the city (our second visit to this apartment using GuestPoints) for this trip."

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