The Kindness of Strangers
The downside is that people you've never met are going to have the run of your house -- and you won't be there to supervise. "It's a huge trust issue, but since both sides are taking the gamble, it's a little more reassuring," says Tracy Shackelford, of Williamsburg, Virginia. She swapped a house with a family in the Netherlands so her sons, Bas, 5, and Finn, 4, could spend time with her husband's Dutch family. Like most of the home swappers we spoke with, Shackelford says there were no serious drawbacks.
Suzanne Brogger, of Santa Monica, California, also had a positive experience. A couple of summers ago she and her husband, Greg, and their then 2-year-old son, Ethan, swapped in Spain, spending two weeks each in Barcelona and Mallorca. Both homes were equipped with baby gear, and one family even contacted local friends: "These folks had us over for paella and wine. It was a lovely gesture," she says. Meanwhile, the rapport the Broggers developed with the homeowners in advance of the trip eased any concerns about what was going on back in Santa Monica, where two different families each spent two weeks.