smart spending

5 offbeat paths to foreign travel deals

  Agritourism: Work on a farm in return for room and board.
  Volunteer travel: Immerse yourself in a new culture with most expenses paid.
  Home swaps: All the comforts of home at no cost to you.
  Hospitality networks: Share your life experiences with hosts in 125 countries.
  Ambassador programs: Professional and educational exchanges plus travel.


Home swaps
All the comforts of home at no cost to you.
Sample organization:Home Exchange.
Where: More than 100 countries worldwide.

   How it works:
After paying a fee, you can list your home along with thousands of others in more than 100 countries. The site helps facilitate one-to-one home exchanges with people anywhere in the world. While you're in someone else's home, they're in yours. Plenty of contact with your exchange hosts helps eliminate fears of having a stranger in your home.

With no hotel costs to drain your budget, you can stretch your vacation dollars much further. Need a late-night snack? You can just head to the kitchen, not to the (expensive) minibar or (more expensive) hotel restaurant. "(Home exchangers) will often introduce you to the neighbors, so you'll get to meet people in a way that you don't get to if you're in a hotel," says Home Exchange President Ed Kushins. "The neighbors will come over, or they'll invite you over for dinner. And they'll tell you the places to eat that aren't in every tour book."

If you don't have much flexibility on your travel dates, you might have trouble finding an exchange. Because successful Home Exchange users have homes in reasonably desirable locations, you may have a tough time swapping your home in Podunksville for a flat in Paris. And if you're a private person, you may not enjoy the idea of people in your home when you're not there.

$100 for an annual membership; no other fees apply.

   Other notes:
If you've got an ocean-side mansion or Tuscan villa and you'd like exchange with others who have homes as grand as your own, HomeExchangeGold caters to wealthier homeowners.

   Also check:
Homelink: This British-based company offers about 12,000 homes in 72 countries. Annual memberships start at $110.


InterVac: This Swedish-based home exchange company has more than 50 countries represented in its database.

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