Having travelled the world, architect and childrenswear designer Jen Taylor is a recent convert to home swapping. After two wonderful holidays courtesy of Love Home Swap, she vows: “I’ll never go back to the old way of travelling again.”
Jen, 38, husband Hari an architect, 38, and their son Dylan, 4, live in a stylish, south London duplex, which they transformed through Hari’s architectural consultancy Bell Philips.
With its clean lines and quirky touches the couple clearly have a great sense of style and space and before they had Dylan Jen found that their holidays were very different: “We travel a lot and used to seek out fancy but interesting places to visit, not big five star hotels, we’re not into that, but beautiful spaces, independent and boutique hotels. But staying somewhere like that is just not practical with a four year old.”
Aside from the burden of lugging equipment, buggies, toys and other essentials, Jen found that even staying in a safari lodge was impractical: “I didn’t like leaving Dylan in the room, even with a baby monitor, it’s just not that practical or relaxing.”
They left us so much information about what to do, things to see, and even let us use their football tickets to see Barcelona play - it was incredible and like having your own travel consultant
Busy mum Jen now runs her own children’s clothing wear company and last year while ‘surfing for a potential holiday’ she came across www.lovehomeswap.com and her architectural instincts kicked in. “From the eye of an architect, I could see that so many of them were really attractive, amazing homes and who could believe that people were kind enough to let you use them?”
Soon after registering Jen found herself contacted by a couple in Madrid who also had a young children. “They were planning a London trip, part business, part pleasure. By then we’d already planned a trip to Hong Kong where I’m from, so our house was empty anyway.”
The Madrid family loved Jen and Hari’s, duplex which suited their family perfectly and Jen, Hari and Dylan visited the house in Madrid at a later date. “It was amazing,” says Jen. “The house was out of the centre with tons of land, really beautiful on one level and, best of all, Dylan couldn’t believe how much he had to play with or how cool his room was, I hardly had to take anything with me,” says Jen adding: “I even took my mother in law and sister with me, you couldn’t do that in a hotel.”
Jen and Hari managed to meet up with the family from Madrid and have dinner together and she clearly relishes Love Home Swap’s ‘community feel’ as she enjoys Facebook and social media. “You get similar people, many into architecture, design and property and it’s all about having a similar lifestyle.”
On the trip to Madrid, Jen added a five day extension courtesy of a Barcelona couple, both graphic designers listed on www.lovehomeswap.com who went out of their way to make Jen, Hari and Dylan’s holiday: “They left us so much information about what to do, things to see, and even let us use their football tickets to see Barcelona play - it was incredible and like having your own travel consultant. It doesn’t get better than that!”
Exchangers often report similar stories, of museum and gallery memberships made available to visitors.
Like Jen, many like going the extra mile to guarantee visitors to their home an unparalleled experience: “I like making sure that people are happy, it’s a warm, friendly thing to do and it gives me pleasure. Hari, like most men, goes with the flow but as an architect he too appreciates the stylish destinations, with space and insiders’ tips and perks which boost the whole holiday experience.”
A member of the UK's leading parenting site Mumsnet, Jen appreciates the tips and insider info that others in the same situation can give.
Access to some of the globe’s chicest boltholes is great, but staying there for free is even better and allows you to splurge while there or take multiple holidays.
Debbie Wosskow founded the Love Home Swap site after she too found boutique hotels had lost their shine after having children: “Our members save an average of £2,202 per holiday, allowing them to spend more time enjoying themselves and less time worrying about finances,” says Debbie.
Londoner Jen appreciates the testimonials from swappers who’ve stayed in her home: “The Madrid family’s house had amazing views of the entire city yet they appreciated our London skyline!” She’s already in discussion with her next exchange, a property in Rome and intends to carry on exchanging: “It really is the only way to travel.”
For more information on home swapping or to list your property, visit www.LoveHomeSwap.com
Do you home swap? Tell us about your experience in the comments below or tweet us @FemaleFirst_UK