You can have the trip of your dreams and GuestToGuest can help!
By Cathy H. Burroughs, International Travel Writer and Adventure Blogger
Barcelona! Provence! Tuscany! For three months for pence on the Euro – how is this possible!?
I have always wanted to travel the world but as a self-employed consultant and freelance writer, it always seemed just out of reach. So it was something of an epiphany to come across a referral for the international home exchange program by an LA-based architect I was covering for a story. He and his wife had been trading homes for years and just loved it. With his endorsement we began to search the web for highly-regarded exchange sites and came across GuestToGuest, finding their high marks and adaptable GuestPoints system compelling. With the points system, we found we could jump right in and begin exchanging almost immediately.
That, and the strong numbers of participants from Western Europe and France, together with the site’s highly responsive team and after hours SOS emergency staff made us feel secure and comfortable with this choice. Additionally, we found we didn’t have to come out of pocket financially and the site offered certification, as well as a security deposit and modest insurance options from which they took a nominal and very fair commission. Furthermore, GuestToGuest was in a growth spurt and had recently purchased Home Exchange, the largest site of its kind in the world. All of this boded well for our first international exchange adventure.
Planning in earnest for what would become one of the best trips of our lives, we spent nights combing the site to prepare for our three-month tour beginning in Barcelona, Spain, and then on to the South of France and Italy. This was to be a dream itinerary!
As we traveled and a few hiccups came up from the road, GuestToGuest made good on its promises, assigning their wonderful member support team – essentially available 24/ 7 – to navigate us through to resolution.
It was a good thing we allowed just about half a year as it took nearly this much time to learn the ropes and nuances of the site – and we’re still learning. Some prospective home exchanges came to us. Those are the first lucky offers that cannot and should not be refused except for obvious reasons. These early offers shaped the foundation of our trip. Others came as a result of tweaking the filters, mastering the art of the reverse search, translation at the hit of a button and generating 100’s or more letters themed “Why you should really consider our artistic lakefront home in Atlanta, GA near Stone Mountain in the heart of the Southern US even though it’s not currently on your radar.” These investigations often went late into the night remembering many of our recipients were six hours ahead.
Ultimately this lengthy prep held us in good stead as did our on-going effort to continually tweak our destinations as we went. In the end, we generated 75% of our stays as free home exchanges and we also had use of their car for 2 ½ weeks which was a godsend and allowed us to partake in thrilling road trips. We absolutely could have made this number 80-90% free exchanges if for some inevitable obstacles and a particularly virulent mid-trip flu.
While figuring out the site, the customer service team was an invaluable ally. “Planning” a home exchange trip is not like “planning” a regular trip. It has a kind of life of its own and we needed to allow it to unfold on its own terms, especially one as lengthy and ambitious as ours. We began by choosing a rough pass dream itinerary (Southern France and Tuscany, Italy) and our route kind of came into focus as we went. Even well into the summer, we were still drafting notes to other GuestToGuest members, tweaking our trip sequence as are plans remained in some degree of flux for the duration. That is one of the joys and advantages of GuestToGuest. The super flexible GuestPoint system continued to allow us spontaneity, keeping possibilities and last minute changes open to us for the duration.