Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: House swaps giving families (and their pets) a perfect holiday.
Pet-friendly staycations have been one of the summer’s holiday hits. Increasing numbers of hotels now welcome dogs, and many provide everything from water bowls to dog biscuits at check-in.
But what hotels don’t usually offer are private gardens in which pets can play around – which is where house swaps can help.
Pet-friendly swaps are booming. Houses with gardens are particularly in demand for pet-owners, according to Britain’s Love Home Swap
The idea behind house swapping is simple: you spend your holiday in someone else’s home, while they do the same in yours.
It was the premise behind the 2006 film The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, whose characters swap homes in California and the Cotswolds.
In a real-life home swap, no money changes hands between owners, so both parties effectively get accommodation for free.
Both sides hopefully treat homes as if they were their own, so there’s less chance of damage or bad behaviour.
Some regular home-swap users say they feel more relaxed knowing that guests are in their home, watering the garden and potentially deterring burglars, while they are away.
‘Swaps across the UK have boomed this year, partly because many people wanted extra space and to holiday in their own family bubble,’ says Celia Pronto, boss of Britain’s Love Home Swap, an agency that connects those wanting to trade houses for breaks.
‘Houses with gardens are also in demand for pet-owners and plenty of pet-friendly swaps are already being arranged for next year.’
In most cases, you have to verify your identity and pay a modest annual fee to sign up to a house-swap agency. The costs with lovehomeswap.com start at £96 a year, while charges at rival homelink.org start at £115. Membership of American-based homeexchange.com costs £110, or homebase-hols.com, with a focus on British homes, is from £49.
Summer hit: Kate Winslet and Jack Black in The Holiday. House-swapping was the premise behind the hit 2006 film
Joining a site lets you list your own home, scroll through places to swap with, and get in touch with suitable, house-proud owners to see if your holiday plans might match.
The best advice is to tell your mortgage or insurance company before a swap begins. Agencies’ websites include guides explaining exactly how the process works and give advice on everything from cleaning and key collection to security for personal possessions.
It’s also worth taking time to get to know those you plan to swap with, with phone contact as well as exchanging emails.
Sign up to an agency to discover a range of properties across the country, from coastal homes and country cottages to city-centre apartments.
Popular pet-friendly options in the UK include a stylish, two-bedroom cottage with a big, enclosed garden (and near a very dog-friendly country pub, The Half Moon in Plumpton) in the heart of the East Sussex countryside. The stone- and wood-clad cottage is featured in Love Home Swap’s listings.
‘Homes in the UK can once again be swapped for free stays in Tuscan villas,’ says Neil Simpson. Pictured is a Tuscan landscape
Other dog-friendly options include a four-bedroom, two-bathroom family home on the outskirts of Manchester, where pets can join their owners in the well-planted back garden, or enjoy walks on the nearby Chorlton Ees nature reserve.
The international sections of the main house-swap sites are equally diverse.
Do an overseas swap and pets may have to go to the kennels or cattery. But as the world reopens for travel, homes in the UK can once again be swapped for free stays in Tuscan villas, French gites, or sunny, poolside homes in the Algarve or Florida.