Vacation at home
Our Guarantee Seal

Checklist - How to Organize a Home Exchange

Maximize the Potential of this Culturally-Enriching and Economic Travel Based on Trust Between Two Families…

Basically home exchange can be just that - trading of cars and residences with other Intervac subscribers for an agreed period of time.

But - it also can be a lot more – as one participant describes it: “...home exchange is an act of international trust and cooperation at the individual and family level that one has to experience to really understand. For me it is important to move the exchange beyond a “free accommodation and car” arrangement to a “cultural experience” by careful preparation for receiving your exchange guests in your home community - including meeting friends and others with common bonds - e.g. professional or ethnic.”

All exchangers should be able to find a happy balance between the two exchange scenarios described above.

Home exchange vacations do require work on your part to find a suitable match and to be successful. It works best for those with flexibility, a spirit of adventure and willingness to try new experiences. Home exchange enables you to experience international destinations from a unique perspective which cannot be replicated in any other way - you feel much more like a local resident instead of a tourist.

A high degree of trust and integrity among Intervac members is what made this world-wide organization successful for the past 50 do conduct yourself in a professional manner as you are representing Canada internationally...and the vacations of another Intervac family depend on your actions.

Over the years, home exchangers have accumulated a wealth of experience which we would like to share with you in these pages under five topics: Prepare, Select, Initiate Contacts, Close the Deal and Exchange Etiquette.

Prepare A compelling information "kit" on your family and your region...

Your online listing should accurately reflect your offer and your region. You’re putting yourself in a global shop window. Within your listing you can upload up to 20 photos in 4 groupings and provide Internet links to your region's tourist information. Try to see your region through the eyes of a visitor - so museums, famous spots, hikes, car day trips, natural beauty, local specialties, etc. are all part of your region’s attractions. Or you can create a descriptive Word document which you can email top showcase the attractions of your region to potential international visitors. Once your visitors arrive, they can also use your regional overview to plan their local trips.

Your Intervac listing should introduce your family and your region to the potential exchangers. Provide a friendly, interesting and informative introduction in your first email. Keep your language simple and clear as most likely English is your reader's second language. Be clear on the dates of the potential exchange, and if you are offering a car exchange – and always include your Intervac membership number.

Select - Potential destinations and compatible offers...

Get to work when you are activated on our online system. Some members said, “…but no one ever contacted us?” Be the initiator and get the “ball rolling”. Search what is available online and decide what countries you may want to visit and during what time period. Our online system has advanced search tools to enable you to find that proverbial “needle in the haystack”. Our online matchmaking tools include Enhanced Search, Match-Alert, My Favourites, Hot List, Google Maps which locate properties geographically plus several types of exchange transactions.

Focus on about a dozen of the most appealing choices which come closest to your desires in terms of the three most important factors in an exchange: Location (Country and Region), Dates of Availability and Home/Family/Car. To save you time, you can keep track of your top choices using our system feature called My Favourites.  

Initiate Contacts With potential exchangers based on compatibility of offers...

Now is the time to contact those families whose offers you found most appealing. Initially - use e-mail to test their interest in your proposal. Start your communications with your Intervac membership number, country and nearest large city – and the key points of your offer. Ideally all members should at least acknowledge emails received even if not intending to explore the proposal. ... but the reality is to not expect a reply to every one of your proposals - so your first email could conclude: "...if you do not respond within [five to ten] days, we will assume that you have no interest in our proposal."

Email your "information package" to families who express an interest in further discussions. Also, be flexible about places you get invited to visit. Flexibility and the spirit of adventure may cause you to visit more interesting places that are “off-the-beaten” path and not frequented by typical tourists.

Continue the “shopping” phase (other members will likely be contacting you about your offer as well until you find a “workable” exchange. But please reply to all inquiries as a matter of courtesy and etiquette. The process of finding an exchange can be a lot of fun - it's like a treasure hunt in which everyone is able to find their own treasure!

Close the Deal - A nd keep your word...

Keep up the dialogue (via e-mail - and perhaps a phone call or two) with your most compatible counter-party. Explore your mutual expectations to avoid any misunderstandings later. If necessary, a phone call to a reference (a neighbour or a close family friend) will often be enough to reassure you. If/when both parties agree verbally to proceed, be sure to confirm your mutual agreement in writing by having it signed by both exchangers immediately using fax. Intervac provides a suggested agreement form. Stipulate if you do not receive your counter-party’s signed acceptance within 5 to 10 days then you will feel free to pursue other arrangements. Use e-mail/fax to speed up the closing process. Do not finalize your travel arrangements until both parties have a mutually signed letter of agreement.

When both parties have signed your mutual agreement, then you have “closed” the deal – and now is the time to finalize your travel arrangements – such as purchasing your airline tickets.

After having arranged an exchange you may receive offers that may sound more interesting. Intervac is founded on trust – so KEEP YOUR PROMISE as you would expect your guests to keep theirs. Both parties’ vacations depend on both sides keeping their word. There is always next year and some exchangers are “booked up” for several years.

Exchange Etiquette - To make this easy and fun for everyone...

Reply to all inquiries - positively or negatively.

Confirm mutual commitment to exchange in writing and once you commit to an exchange do keep your promise - as you would expect counter-parties to do the same.

Insurance: confirm that your household insurance covers house guests as most insurance companies prefer guests to an empty house. Make sure both car insurances cover “guest drivers” during the exchange.

Size of Your Party: be specific on this item at the beginning. It is not acceptable to show up with more people than originally agreed.

Household Utility Bills: typically continue to be paid by the owners to keep it simple - also you may mutually agree to allow each other up to say, $25 in long-distance calls during the exchange.

Cancellation of a home exchange is only acceptable in cases of real crises. If you have a family crisis, perhaps you can find yourself an alternative local accommodation for yourselves while your guests stay in your house.

In any case, contact your guests and the Intervac organizers of the two countries so that perhaps an alternate exchange or a hospitality exchange could be found at the last moment.

Intervac retains the right to refuse listings from those who do not adhere to the above etiquette guidelines.

Exchange Etiquette - Get ready for your guests....

Your Local Contact: a friend or relative should be available to hand-over your keys, show how your appliances work and in general ensure that your guests can contact someone if they need help. Perhaps your contact can meet your guests on their arrival at the airport.

Keys Exchange: your local contact can handle this.

Insurance Check: household and auto - if car exchange is included. Home insurers are usually pleased to have your  property occupied when you are away.

Clean house, fresh bed sheets, basic food available, full tank of gas – it’s amazing how much deferred household maintenance gets done prior to an exchange!

Let the neighbors know and list important phone numbers for the guests.

Local maps, books, tourist pamphlets, continue your newspaper subscription.

Arrange to meet someone locally who belongs to your guest's profession or ethnic group.

Exchange Etiquette - How do you want to find your house....

Leave the house exactly as you found it: clean, replace all items used.

Follow up with a thank you email sharing your insights and experiences with your hosts.

  Enjoy Your Home-Exchange Holiday!

  JOIN Intervac so you can vacation at home... anywhere in the world.