Vacationing in a
home away from home
Karl Costabel spent a month in London attending
the 1989 Wimbledon tennis championships and his lodgings didn't cost
him a dime.
No, he wasn't a top-seeded tennis star or even remotely
related to the royal family. Costabel found unbelievably prime accommodations
in the heart of the action by swapping homes with the bloke who
"That guy was only too happy to get the hell
out of Dodge," Costabel recalls. "It was literally on
the street that leads up to the entrance to the club and the line
to get in went right past his front door. You don't want to be around
when Wimbledon's going on; the traffic's terrible, people are everywhere.
It's a good time to be gone."
While the lucky Londoner soaked up the sun at Costabel's
Hawaii digs, the military newspaper publisher was watching Boris
Becker defeat Stefan Edberg in straight sets, with all the comforts
of somebody else's home.
They made their loft connection through HomeLink International,
one of the oldest and largest home swapping services. Costabel had
been a HomeLink swapper for 10 years prior to his Wimbledon trip.
Now he's the U.S. representative for the international network that
claims 12,000 members in its database.
Home-swapping is the ridiculously logical, unbelievably
frugal way to see the world, and one that the commission-driven
travel industry doesn't want you to know about.
My home is your home
The concept is simple. You live in South Beach and want to
ski Vail in January. A freezing Coloradoan wouldn't mind a midwinter
break on the beach, so together you agree to trade places, and quite
commonly vehicles, for a specified period.
In addition to HomeLink,
travelers can check out Intervac,
Homes Unlimited. All four provide and maintain online databases
of thousands of home offerings for nominal annual membership fees
of $30 to $70.
HomeLink and Intervac also retain representatives
around the world who serve as points of contact in their home country.
Intervac offers both home and transport switching. Dedicated sailors
can hook up at Yacht
Swappers save big-time on the costliest aspect of
travel: lodging. Two weeks at a ski-on, ski-off chalet in Vail would
start at $3,500. Add a rental car at $400 and you've just been snowed
for nearly four grand. Similarly, the same two weeks in a beachfront
bungalow in South Beach, plus a car, will easily run you $2,500.
But home swappers pay exactly zero for the roof and
How much has Costabel saved on his dozen exchanges
over the years? "It would be a lot of money in my case because
I used to stay in nice hotels," he admits. "I was at least
a Hyatt guy. You're looking at a couple hundred a night, minimum."
In one year alone, he exchanged for a month each in
London, Paris and the south of France. His savings? You do the math.