I needed to find a more affordable way for my family to travel, given there are 5 of us and it gets very expensive, particularly when visiting Europe. Back in 2007 whilst doing some research on the matter I came across a website called www.homeexchange.com and decided to join, in order to find out more. I listed our home in Melbourne, Australia and began looking at listings in the UK & Europe for us to use. After a few months of emailing prospective home exchange families with no luck, we came across a family (The Jones) in Corsham, Wiltshire who also happened to have a holiday home in Bujeleuf, France. This sounded perfect! We emailed back and forth for a few months & got to know each other quite well. We set up a non-simultaneous exchange for July, 2008 & eventually the big day arrived!
We spent the first fabulous week in London doing the sights, then caught a train to Corsham and were offered our exchange family’s car, (a 7 seater) for the next 6 weeks; what a saving! We drove to Plymouth & stayed for a few days at a B&B, then Newlyn (near Penzance) in Cornwell staying at another B&B, then back to the Jones’ family home in Corsham. We spent one day with the Jones family, who showed us the ropes at their home then they departed for their French home for a three week stay whilst we stayed in their Corsham home (a modern 3 storey home). We used their home as a base and travelled far and wide, seeing many wonderful places; Oxfordshire, Stratford Upon Avon, Bourton on the Water, York, Bristol & Windsor and many more. We then drove to Devon and boarded the ferry bound for Calais, France. It was the worst weather, making the channel crossing horrendous. My three girls and I spent the whole time lying on the floor, feeling deathly ill, as did many other passengers. My husband, of course, was not affected, but then he is known for having a stomach like a billy goat.
Having survived the trip, we drove off the ferry in high spirits, singing “Frere Jacques” and navigated our way to the Jones’ French home in Bujeleuf. There we were greeted with open arms, fed home cooked meals, introduced to their French friends, taken to visit a preserved wartime town called Oradour-sur-Glane, played village bocci in the park & toured the local markets. We enjoyed a lovely few days experiencing real French village life and didn’t want to leave, but eventually drove on to Paris enjoying the sights there and visiting Disneyland. Our crossing back to the UK was not by ferry (thank god) but on the train, which took a quick 20 minutes. We arrived back at Corsham, dropped off the car at the Jones and caught the train back to Heathrow airport for our trip home.
For the Jones’ exchange side of the trip, they came to stay at our home in Melbourne, in late December 2008 & spent New Years Eve with us at our holiday home in Robertsons Beach. They stayed at our home in Melbourne for a few weeks & also had a few days at my brother’s home on the Mornington Peninsula at Mt Martha, with full use of our car. They had a fabulous time & we have stayed in touch regularly via email. In 2010, the Jones came again & stayed with us for a few weeks, but this time as friends! Five years later we travelled to the UK & Europe again & organised to spend a week with the Jones’ in Corsham, but this time they had taken on the management of a hotel and we stayed there. It was a wonderful taste of local living, meeting and mixing with their regular clientele. We have remained friends & are looking forward to having them stay again in 2018.
We have done other home exchanges to Brisbane, Sydney & Tasmania and they have all been wonderful experiences & saved us plenty in accommodation costs and hire car fees. The homes we have stayed in have been spacious and allowed us to live as locals. When we arrived home our house was always left spic and span, making the whole experience very positive. I would recommend home exchange to anyone wanting ( and needing) to save money on their family trip. My one tip would be to choose exchange parties that have had positive reviews on their listing from previous exchanges.
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