Scott and Erica Magdalein spent 2020 traveling safely and affordably by using HomeExchange, a home swap website that offers unlimited free accommodations with membership. Scott and Erica and their three homeschooled children— ages 9, 7 and 2— saved nearly $12,000 on accommodations in 2020.

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The Jacksonville, Florida family of five spent 45 nights traveling through the US in 2020, only spending $150 on accommodations in total. They chronicled some of their adventures on their YouTube channel, sharing their budget-and-kid-friendly vacations.

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How they saved $12,000 and traveled on a budget

In 2020, the Magdalein family saved $12,000 on vacation accommodations, spending time in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Utah, and Montana. More than 45 nights of vacation cost them just $150— the cost of HomeExchange's yearly membership.

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An average HomeExchange member stays in exchanges for 14 nights a year, but with Scott and Erica's usage, every night of vacation cost them just over $3 in accommodations.

Here's the breakdown of how much they saved in each 2020 vacation destination.

HomeExchange and Airbnb price comparison per destination on similar dates

The homes they stayed in ranged from an oceanfront penthouse to a ski chalet to a cozy ranch with mountain views.

In addition to saving $12,000 on accommodations, the family saved money on just about every other aspect of travel by using HomeExchange: transportation, meals, a house sitter, and entertainment for the kids.

Living in real homes helped the family save money on renting or buying necessary kid equipment, since the homes were already packed with all they needed. Most HomeExchange homes provide entertainment for kids, including a swimming pool, swingset, trampoline, games, toys, books and more.

When they have stayed in Airbnb rentals, Erica said she struggles with how bare bones the homes are— "it's just a mattress and a couch," she said. HomeExchange has all the touches of home: spices, dishes, toys, bikes, and the other amenities that make the vacation relaxing.

How they adapted their travel habits to COVID-19

How this family safely, affordably 'traveled like we're wealthy' for just $3 a night
Photo taken during their exchange in Niagara Falls in January 2020

Of course, traveling during 2020 was different than any other year, with a new set of challenges. The family found it easiest to HomeExchange within the United States, and often within their home state of Florida. Staying within driving distance and in private homes all to themselves helped them feel safe and secure as they vacationed.

HomeExchange's COVID-19 guarantees, flexible cancellation policy, and private homes ensure it's a safe way to vacation during a global pandemic.

Since Scott works remotely and the kids are homeschooled, the Magdaleins were as flexible as ever as they planned their vacations. The kids were thrilled to be able to get out of the house and explore somewhere new, even if it was only a few hours from home. "Any new place we go, the kids get pumped," Erica said. "They don't mind people staying in their room, and they get excited to clean their room for them."

With HomeExchange, you can enjoy the comfort of a house or apartment just for you and your loved ones. There are no common areas to share, and no risk of meeting a stranger as soon as you leave your room like in a hotel. You'll spend your vacations in real, authentic and warm homes with fewer guests per month than other accommodation options.

Why HomeExchange is the best way to travel for their family

In their two years of HomeExchanging (read about their first year here) Scott and Erica have found that HomeExchange is the best way to travel the world on a budget.

HomeExchange has no competition, according to Erica, "There's nothing like HomeExchange as far as comfort and hospitality, and feeling like I'm leaving my house but I'm going to another place that feels like home," she said. "You can't replace that with Airbnb or a hotel."

Home swapping lets this self-proclaimed middle class family, living in an 1800-square-foot home, to see the world without breaking the bank. "We're not wealthy people, but we travel like we're wealthy," Scott said. "We're only able to do that because we can stay places for free."

The Magdalein family has hosted other home exchangers as well, and had nothing but good experiences opening their home. "We've never had any issues with anybody at our house messing with anything that has made us upset that they were here," Scott said.

Hosting has the benefit of having trusted travelers take care of your home while you're away, too. "It gives you peace of mind knowing that your house isn’t sitting empty for three months at a time and you have no idea what’s going on," Erica said. "Knowing that someone is there and taking great care of your place is one of the reasons we love it.”

The family's travels will only continue in 2021. As of February, they had already vacationed for 14 nights with HomeExchange, including a romantic week in Mexico, all for the $150 annual HomeExchange fee.

How to get started with HomeExchange

The principle of home exchanging is simple: swap your home with someone else and enjoy the wonders of each other's city! For example, you can stay at Scott and Erica's home in Jacksonville and their family will come to your home for the week and explore your city.

HomeExchange also has a points exchange system, offering even more flexibility to members and facilitating non-reciprocal exchanges. For example, Scott and Erica give you GuestPoints to stay in your home, and you use those points to stay in the Bahamas for a week. Learn more about GuestPoints here.

Signing up for HomeExchange is free, so you can start communicating with members as you organize your next vacation. You are only required to pay the annual membership fee of $150 when you're ready to finalize your first exchange. Once you pay this membership fee, you can enjoy unlimited exchanges for the entire year! You'll also be supported 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and covered in the event of unforeseen events with our guarantees.

The HomeExchange community has more than 450,000 homes in 187 countries and is looking forward to welcoming you. Sign up and start organizing your next vacation with HomeExchange.

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