Hotel Alternatives

Vacationing families are trying a new alternative to staying in a hotel: house swapping. Kelli Grant, Sr. Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, explains.

The idea behind house swapping is simple; you stay in someone else's home while they vacation in yours. "The advantage, of course, is that you're not paying for lodging in your destination city," says Grant. "Most people also say that you're getting a more authentic feel."

Most swapping happens in marketplaces, but before you find a suitable swap-mate, it's important to figure out where you want to go. "If you live in a big city like New York or a popular tourist destination, you can pretty much go anywhere," says Grant. If you live in a more rural area or a less known part of the country, it is still possible to swap. Just be flexible and open minded.

Of course, any homeowner worries about the safety of their belongings. The fear is heightened when your house guest is a total stranger. To alleviate some of these fears, Grant suggests getting to know the person you're swapping with. "Ask a lot of questions - you might even want to ask for some references," says Grant. Before your swap-mate moves in, though, be sure to lock up any valuables like documents or jewelry. In the end, though, use common sense. If your potential swap-mate makes you uneasy, don't go through with the swap.

It's also a good idea to have a friend or family member deliver the key to your house guest. Ask this person to check in with your swap-mate throughout the week to make sure your guest is comfortable, but also to ensure your home is still safe.

If you're afraid your ideal destination isn't available, don't fret; popular places, like Hawaii or Paris, are often ideal areas to swap homes. "The people there are interested in having the swaps," says Grant.

For more information on house swapping, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.

By Erin Petrun

Featured