Debi, a HomeExchanger from California, has enjoyed a dozen home exchanges. But one that is especially memorable to her was her first home exchange, when she took a trip to London, England three years ago. Debi answered our questions about home swapping in London.
Debi, what was it that attracted you to this exchange opportunity?
We had never been to England, and London was on our list of places we wanted to visit. This was our first home exchange and we were a little nervous about it, but everything went smoothly. We thought their home looked like a good fit for us, and they were located not too far from London (they were in West Wimbledon).
What was your interaction like with your home exchange hosts?
We didn't meet our hosts in person, but we had communicated with them a number of times prior to our trip. They helped us arrange transportation between the airport and their home by referring us to a car service which was really helpful. They also gave us information on local restaurants, markets and on taking the train into the city (London). They left the house key for us in a hidden spot outside their house, so we were able to let ourselves in on arrival, which made it easy.
What did you see or do during your exchange?
We saw most of the sites in London. We also spent some time in their little town, going to the local park and eating at a great local restaurant. We had breakfast most mornings at our favorite little local bar. We also ventured out to see some of the outlying sites, like the Hampton Court Palace.
What is your favorite memory from your exchange?
One of my favorite memories was just sitting in the kitchen in the mornings having my tea, looking outside at the greenery and the birds. Of course London was everything we could have hoped for. One of the things I most enjoyed doing was going to a show (An American in Paris). We loved the outdoor markets as well. The Buckingham Palace tour was really enjoyable.
Did you encounter any unexpected cultural differences during your travels?
Yes. Breakfast in England is nothing like breakfast in the US. We hadn't realized bars in England are where you can go to get something to eat, not to just drink like in the US.
What tips and tricks would you give to other HomeExchange guests?
Try to be very specific when communicating with your host. Make sure you leave their home the way you found it or better. It's nice to leave a little thank you gift (flowers, a plant, a bottle of wine) along with a thank you card. It's also nice to let your hosts know when you've arrived at their house and again when you depart.
How would you describe HomeExchange to your family and friends?
HomeExchange is a great way to travel! It's economical, but even better than the money you save on accommodations, you get the opportunity to stay in a local home in a local neighborhood.