October 18, 2009

Dos and Don’ts on homestays and houseswaps

In my last article I talked about homestays and houseswap trend that is becoming rather popular among all ages – be it a single traveling, a couple or a family with kids and siblings.

As appealing as it might sound, not many people trust others to stay at their homes. This is not just the territorial situation, it’s a whole concept of someone staying at a place you call home – using your appliances, beds and couches, and hygiene-specific areas such as bathtubs, sinks and toilets. So, to make it easy for you to decide whether you are cut for it at all, here are the Dos and Don’ts of housestays and housewaps.

Dos and Don’ts on Homestays

1. You find an attractive posting

That’s not the end of our search. It all just begins. Try to get as much information about this person/family who is offering a place for swap/stay. In the age of easy access to social networks, connect with them over Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or other social networks that would allow you to see who they are personally and professionally, including their circle of friends and colleagues. Exchanging photos and background info is a big plus. Perhaps you could even chat with them over Skype, SMS or IM.

Pictures and description of the place and people can be deceiving. A scammer would unlikely engage in a long “correspondence” with you.

2. Ask and answer a lot of questions.

Ask them whether they had experience similar to it in the past. You can even ask them for references, and make sure they are legitimate. Call or write to those people, don’t be lazy. Asking a lot of particular questions would tell you if these people are scam (or very close friends who would “testify” anything on behalf of their friends) or not.

3. If you are who lends your house

Organize your place, put away valuables (or rather store it at the place of your relatives or friends you can trust.) Go extra mile and do something special – offer a map of your city, emergency contacts, a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. You’d be surprised the power of “word-of-mouth” advertising, as well as the return you might get in the same attention and care this or next time you stay at someone’s house.

If you want the people to keep your place clean, leave a small cleaning “kit” of sponges, solution, sprays and paper towels and ask nicely to keep the place clean. You’re the one who’s, ultimately, responsible to make your guests feel responsible. Visiting guests would not want to waste their time on shopping cleaning solutions. If it’s easily available for them, your guests would be more open to cooperate with keeping your apartment/house clean and intact.

4. Don't assume that all experiences will be grand.

As in hotels you choose to stay in, the houses might not leave up to your expectations. So, do not over-expect, take it adequately. Rather expect the worst than the best. Keep up your guard at all times.

5. Homestays and swaps are not for everyone.

Some of us are more “adventurous” than the others, so do not go for it if you are completely not cut up for it. Otherwise, your experience would turn to be a disaster because instead of enjoying your visit at someone’s house, you’d end up worrying for your own place for the rest of your trip.

All in all, if you decide to go for it, go with an open mind and be prepared before, during and after the trip to secure your own well-being.

Here is a video by HouseExchange:

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