Swapping Homes Anybody?


Friday, January 22, 2016

Ziggy the Traveling Piggy

Only touching our home swapping adventures tangentially, I present you Ziggy the traveling piggy- and I tell you why.
Those of you who know me for a while know that I had pigs on the farm and I am fond of them. My son actually wanted them for his first Holy Communion instead of a bike or camera!

In addition, my name is Siggy; as it is derived from the German (Sigrun), it is a soft sound like the English Z.

An Irish friend coined this nickname, now my pen name, because Sigrun was just too difficult to pronounce (for non-German speakers).
Then over the years I was called Biggy, Iggy, sometimes Piggy where I used to draw the line. (Not any more...:)).
Same about Vicki - Don’s, my now husband’s, ex who gave us a lot of grief had that name.  
The worst I was called lately was Soggy in an email, but maybe that was just a typo?

Hope you like the video too: 
It certainly made my day.

One the home swapping front we see some busy traffic, people offering their house or we approaching them. We fixed two , wrote swap agreements, both in Germany.
In addition, we have two on the burner. One in Italy, an area I always wanted to go to near Venice and the other close to Geneva and Lac Leman and the French Alps. The Italians are in touch with another Floridian family who doesn't seem to make up their minds. Now e just told the French that we're waiting for an other offer which was made before them and that we are waiting. 
Did I mention before that home swapping is like dating? Keep them in hands until one comes through!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy New Year - Happy New Swaps!

The old year isn't quite over yet and the new season of Intrepid Home Swapping has already begun.
We had a winner for the free membership, David S., who will put his house in Turkey on the company's registry.

We're after signing two agreements with two German families. Yep, off to the fatherland again. After all it's my home country and we're enjoying it every time. The first exchange will be in Berlin, a maisonette with air condition! An absolute rare gem in Germany. Then we will "take the waters" again in Baden-Baden, a very high -end spa resort, with a casino and thermal baths in the most scenic area in the south west close to the French border. We already arranged to go and visit this summer's exchange partners again in Alsace.

Still not convinced about home swapping.Maybe one of my travelogues will hook you.Here's my latest, Season 5:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Try it out for free!

If you've followed my blog, you know that we are home  swapping enthusiasts. Even more so since hubby retired and we're living on a fixed budget. It makes perfect sense to swap homes to save a big chunk of money on accommodation AND a re rental car.
Season Six is upon us. For weeks I've been perusing the suite we have subscribed to for 5 years and I added another one for more choices. It works on the same basis and we were offered a special deal: a third of the annual premium = $49.
First I thought it was too early to start looking in September, but no, some members had made arrangements already. As soon as Europeans know when they will be on vacation in the following year, they tend to start thinking and booking. (These school holiday weeks vary from state to state in Germany each year.) In France, it's a given that they will want to travel in August. Same with Italy, but I haven't had any luck there yet even getting  the usual number of responses. Some people are just too busy...or lackadaisical?
We have two prospects now where contracts are under way, both to Germany: Berlin and my favorite region in the south west near Baden-Baden, close to the French border.

                                                            (Casino in Baden-Baden)

The new company I signed up with is offering a free membership for a year to test home swapping. That is a value of ca. $129! I'm offering it to people who are seriously interested in this ideal way of traveling.Offer only lasts till the end of this week. Contact me at Hernibs1@comcast.net and you are in business!
Happy Travels!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Planning tips

If you're planning a trip to Alsace, you must not forgot a number of historic towns that put this tourist hot spot on the map: Obernai, Riqueswihr, Kaysersberg, Ribeauville, Guebwiller and Rouffach. They are all beautiful, traditional exciting towns. As we had done a few in the past, hubby insisted to skip the overly touristy stuff this time.But for any first-timer, they are a must.Work out a plan how much you can fit in your scheduled stay. How much eye-candy you can take it. My advice would always be to hit these tourist spots in early May and in the fall. Because of the weather which can become overly hot in the summer and because of the busloads of visitors you will encounter in the summer.


We just subscribed to another home exchange company who made us an offer we couldn't resist: a full year's membership at only $49! Doubling our chances of finding a wonderful swapping partner, this will keep me busy, because their filter system doesn't work either properly. In addition I had to set up our own house description on their site which always takes a few hours. Luckily, I could copy and paste. Anybody who has ever been on an internet dating site will be aware of competitions out there and will want to maximize their chances.
Like every year I'd like to conclude this season with some general tips for home swapping. So here are some additional tips:
For more invaluable tips read my latest travelogue on Season 5. Enough information to make it a successful and enjoyable adventure for you too!
Once you've tried home swapping, you'll want to repeat this great experience. We can't wait to start the selection process for next year.

With home swapping the world is your oyster! Good luck and happy travels!
Siggy Buckley
Season 5

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Home exchange is a unique alternative to mainstream tourism

I thought you might be interested in the underlying ethics and rules of the company we have been working with for 5 years now before I wrap up this blog and turn it into an eBook. It surely is important info about the whole process which will give the undecided some more safety of mind.
I've copied it from their website- without you giving the name of that outfit. Contact me and I will give it to you and it will be in that eBook as well.

Home exchange is a unique alternative to mainstream tourism, and has been for decades.

An ever-growing trend

The recent emergence of a more personalized approach to travel, as well as the worldwide economic slump, have both contributed to the current boom in home swapping. Attention from the press (thank you!) has also done a great deal in promoting the cause of home exchange. It has never been more popular – attracting an ever-growing group of open-minded people – as well as numerous new home exchange websites, often one-man-band operations offering free access to members and boasting staggering numbers of homes around the world.

At x we do things differently

Pioneers of home exchange since 1953, we are an international association based in Brussels, with 27 multi-lingual representatives around the world offering advice and local support to our members. X is the original network of active and reliable exchangers in the world. Our goal is to continue to defend the original values of home exchange: trust, mutual respect and support, open-mindedness and genuine interest in other cultures.

Request an interview or meet home exchangers in your region. This was news even to me!

Having them outline their business policy, I need to point out that for over a year we have been annoyed about their website.Major changes were made, resulting in time consuming screw-ups which haven't been fixed yet. Why fix something in the first place that hasn't been broken? Since hubby has a fairly good insight into building major websites and internet systems, we're put off by the ineffective way this company has been handling these glitches. Not that they don't offer personalized help about every mistake and question I have. Still, it is a time-consuming enterprise to start looking for exchange partners. I had to experience this in spring for our 2015 exchanges.And now that I have already started to look again for 2016 it is no better. Their filter systems do not work.
Let's say you're looking for house exchangers in Great Britain with no children who are non-smokers and have no pets, their  suggestions (site) will still give a big number of smokers or pet owners among them. If you're looking for  a specific area, it is not as easily accessible as it used to be. Based on an alphabetic system before, you now get houses and members all over the country you're interested in.Again a waste of time.
In spite of several complaints, nothing much changed. Extraordinary for such a big company that operates world-wide to be so under serviced in the technological department. To give us an extra 4 months membership, for us, is not the solution. As we say in German: We had the money to begin with!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Farewell to Villa Villekulla (Kunterbunt)

Did you read Pippi Longstocking when you grew up? Pippi Longstocking was the protagonist of a series of children's books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. A tomboy living with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, in a colorful villa, Vill Villekulla, was my hero as little girl. Ah, yes, and she had a horse living with her in it.
Because of the multi-colored decorations and wallpapers in our swapped home in the Alsace, my friend who visited us called it "Villa Kunterbunt" - meant in the most endearing way. We loved it and its decor.
It was time to pack and make arrangements for our return trip. Readers of this blog may remember that we often have to pay for a rental car to go to the house we are swapping. There we often pick up the home owner's car and have it at our disposal. 
The same happened this year. We had to go and pick up a rental car. Since that was not possible (due to their Terms & Conditions) in Strasbourg, it was a longer way to Stuttgart from where we flew back. The next day, having closed up the house,  we drove back to the airport and returned the rental.
It seems a bit of a nuisance to do the distance  (90min) twice, but it's the only possible way of getting back to the airport.
Our exchange family was lucky . They had a family member to collect them when they arrived (in Frankfort). At least I had helping to clean the house. It was a heart-felt good-bye with the 89 year old "Oma", grandmother' of our exchange family. She had looked after us and welcomed us in a very endearing way.
Maybe we'll see each other again.Maybe indeed as we have heard since form our exchange partners that they are interested in repeating this stay.
So we spent the last night in an airport hotel in comfort instead of getting on the road at an ungodly hour. Transatlantic flights depart around 9.30 -10.00 most of the time. With the drive to the airport or 90 min plus an extra 2 hours necessary for check-in we prefer to arrive at the airport the night before.
The inconvenience of stripping beds and cleaning a whole house is just too much for me to bear on an early morning. So you see: planning and organization is the name of the game of a successful home swap. More tips to follow in the upcoming eBook: Insider Tips for Successful Home Swaps.

                                                   (spacious terrace on garage roof top)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wrapping it up...

All good things must come to an end! The three weeks we spent in France went by so quickly...Isn't that always the case when you're having fun?
With 5 seasons under our belt now, I'm quite confidant to recommend this type of travel. It is a safe and inexpensive way to explore countries you always wanted to go. Planning it well, however, and in advance is necessary when you aim for 2 or more exchanges.
Let me sum up what seems to be vital:
- Choose  a reliable, well established home swapping agency online. You can compare prices and what they offer- also what type of clientele they have. Send me a message and I will reveal who we have been booking with.  (I just don't want to promote that company here for all to see as they refused to promote my blog. I think that is a fair quid pro quo..?)
- Prepare you online profile well in advance. The pictures of your house are the most important ingredient. If they allow you to put up 20 pics, do so. I hate to look at possible homes who only reveal glimpses into a couple of rooms. Those who have no photos up don't seem to be too engaged and serious about it.
- Our online agency shows the response rate of individual members. I never bother to send an inquiry to those whose response rate is low. Who would you rather expect an answer from? The ones who reply 98% of the time or those who only bother 14% for whatever reason. Maybe they are highly eligible properties in supreme locations where everybody would like to vacation and they are inundated by offers. Even then they could apply the short cut answer: NO THANK YOU.
-You will also see the professions of your potential exchange partners on this online site. I like to take that as an indicator of what to expect. A lot of members have their own webpage now where they provide even more information about their properties and suggest  sights in their surrounding areas.
- There are agencies for seniors only. This means you're only dealing with couples, not families with children. Maybe that will take some of your trepidation about the safety of your home. At the same time, they are likely to have smaller homes. Like we have now with the result that we are of no interest to some families with three or more children any longer. Last year we still could accommodate them.This year we had to send our regrets. You will also find that seniors are interested in longer stays because they don't have to go back to work or school  anymore.
- Start your search early! Germans for example will start planning as soon the new travel brochures are out and as soon as they know when their children will be on holidays. That varies each year from state to state within Germany. French families are likely to search an exchange in August as their offspring is off then. October-November seems to be a good time frame for your inquiries. Closer to Xmas people are busy with the holidays. Again in January, I find members are susceptible to offers. Especially us inquiring from Florida when our European counterparts  are still in the throes of Jack Frost!