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Vacation on the House

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By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) - Imagine staying in Paris, London or Rome for free! Need a car to get around and explore the sights? That could be free, too. There's a way to travel where the lodging and transportation doesn't cost you a dime.

In this recession, people are skipping travel altogether. But forget about a staycation -- try the alternative: home swaps or exchanges. It's nothing new, but, with this economy, you can bet traveling for free is in again.

Connie Young has fabulous memories of vacation destinations she, her husband, Paul, and the rest of her slopes-loving family traveled to domestically and abroad. "We've stayed in Washington state; Stow, Vermont; Bamf British Columbia, Whistler twice, Utah twice."

And the hill-side beauty in Washington state and the 6,000 square foot mini-mansion in Utah were all free! The Boca Raton family has stayed at choice destinations for free saving over the years.

How did they do it? The Youngs are part of a growing number of people in this downward economy who swap homes instead of paying for hotels.

Web sites, like HomeExchange.com, allow travelers to advertise their homes, usually in desirable destinations, and then exchange them with someone else living in a place they'd like to visit. Usually, the parties agree on a time of year desirable to both.

No money is ever exchanged. The Youngs advertise their Boca home as a perfect South Florida getaway complete with gourmet kitchen, pool, and, of course, a neighborhood close to the beach.

But home exchangers are not only swapping homes. They also throw in their personal vehicles into the mix -- lodging and transportation at a choice destination for free!

They use Paul's miles from business travel, so the airfare is even free. "It's kind of become a hobby for our family. We find our home exchange, with the points we gain, we travel for free. We just pay for food and entertainment."

The couple says they've never had anything broken or missing, and, while some people may have a tough time with a stranger staying in their home, "Once you understand and get to know you are exchanging with, they really become friends," said Connie. "It's like having a friend over."

HomeExchange.com charges $100 for a yearly membership which allows you to advertise your home in the service. They also provide insurance should items be stolen or destroyed.

As far as making an exchange, homeowners usually feel each other out through e-mail while taking a look at pictures of the home and then do the exchange.

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