...And how to use it as a resource for your own family

Jennifer Allen is a special needs mom, disability travel blogger who shares her experience on her blog, Wonders Within Reach. Here, she shares how HomeExchange made traveling for medical care for her son easier.

Travel with HomeExchange

My six-year-old son has Spina bifida. For him, this means he was born with a fatty tumor in his spine that needed to be removed, causing lower limb paralysis and medical complications throughout his body.

We’ve been able to find incredible resources for him to live his best life: a clinic in Cleveland; a surgeon in Delaware; intensive physical therapy in Virginia; spinal stimulation in Florida. Unfortunately, none of these things are near home. Even if insurance will cover the medical end, there’s a huge cost incurred when you spend a month at a time away from home!

Fortunately, right around the time we discovered our first out-of-state specialist we also discovered HomeExchange. Our completed registration earned us enough points to do our first exchange without leveraging our own home. This was good, because I was pretty leery about that idea, at first.

We tried out HomeExchange for the first time for a therapy program in Florida. We stayed in a condo right on the water with sunrise views over the bay, and sunset views over the Gulf. Our insurance did cover this therapy, which means the entire program only costs us in the gas to get there. The house was free, and we ate our meals in.

Since then, we’ve totalled up six weeks of travel time for therapies, and have only paid the yearly HomeExchange membership fee. There are needs that we’re meeting for my son that we wouldn’t be able to without the incredible opportunity of HomeExchange.

Do you know what’s even better than having a budget-friendly way to stay for long-term medical needs? Shifting the entire trip from a medical trip to a vacation. Sure, the bulk of each day on that first trip was spent in therapy, but after therapy we hit the beach, or a local museum, or an all-abilities playground. The kids did their online schoolwork on the deck with a view of the water. When we went to Cleveland, we even added on the weekend in our HomeExchange, so we could use the time there to explore.

They don’t remember any of our medical trips as, “that time mom pulled us out of school for another treatment program.” Instead, they remember the time they drove a boat in Florida, the month we got to go to the beach after school each day, and the time we went maple syruping outside of Cleveland. I love that what could’ve been negative is shifted to a positive memory.

Because of HomeExchange, we’re receiving treatments and going on vacations that we wouldn’t be able to afford - all in one shot!


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A Few Tips to Help You Get Started

1. Start with a one-sided stay.

If you’re nervous about sharing your home, like I was, get yourself registered and start with a points exchange, to see what it looks like from the other side.
I can guarantee that will be enough of a tease for you to want to try it both ways.

2. Always Keep HomeExchange in Mind.

Stop thinking of HomeExchange as something you do for vacation, and consider it as a way to afford travels that you might skip otherwise. Think about those programs that you know would really benefit your kids, or that conference you’ve always wanted to be able to do. HomeExchange has over 450,000 homes in 187 countries - the chances are high that you’re going to be able to find a good option!

3. Stock up on points.

If you’re like me, you can’t always swap out your home when you’re away… because someone is left in it! Dad often stays home to work, while the rest of us travel for medical needs. Instead of only thinking of your home as leverage for when you’re looking for an exchange, remember to post it as available when you’re at grandma’s over the holidays, or when you’re on that beach trip with your sister. Use those points for when you’re traveling and can’t offer your home.

Don’t let accommodations stop you from doing the things your family needs! This is a great way to start meeting needs in a way that you can afford.

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