A guest post by Laura Martinez, mother of two and experienced holiday home-swapper, who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her family.
My family and I recently arranged a vacation to San Francisco where we will be staying in a spacious flat in the charming Embarcadero neighborhood. Instead of a hotel or rental options we went the free route and found a home exchange on knok.com. Now, I’m no newbie to home exchange. I first tried it with my boyfriend (now husband), who had been a home exchanger practically all his life. Most people say the first time is the hardest: that wasn´t the case for me. The first time was easy, a no-risk situation because the “strangers” (as I called them) were to stay in my boyfriend’s place while we stayed in their gorgeous flat in Paris, France.
As it turned out, the minute I stepped foot into the stylish Parisian flat of Robert and Agnes I felt like they were old friends. The décor, the smell, and in particular the welcoming note with the couple’s well-thought-out suggestions made my sense of gratitude brighten. This home exchange thing was pretty cool after all!
The flat was just a 15-minute walk from the Eiffel tower and had a lovely market and park nearby. After we unloaded and congratulated ourselves on how amazing it was to be in Paris together and stay in this classic flat we went to our host’s handy list! The first stop of the day was easy to decide: Parisian Bistro! The family-owned bistro in Montmartre was classy and served up a scrumptious menu du jour made with fresh ingredients. The next treasure we found, thanks to our host’s tips, was the oldest Parisian market, Aux Puces. The antique objects were fascinating, and I even picked out some unique souvenirs to bring back. At night we strolled down les Champs-Elysées and each evening when we arrived back chez nous we felt cozy and content.
That first home exchange in Paris was an experience I will never forget! It really made me see the advantages to travelling via sharing homes, and honestly altered my concept of trust and travel all together! Plus, I got to share something with someone I love…and eventually married! We’ve now been on over 12 exchanges together, and travelling as a family has shed light on some of the other great reasons to swap vs. rent! The space, the ability to cook a meal at home, the toys for the kids, the books for the adults, and other unique amenities depending on the home (pool, pool table, big screen TV.… just to name a few!)
Using this way of travel, we’ve gone to places we would’ve never dreamed of had it not been for a spontaneous “knok” from a fellow home exchanging family. Within my home exchange community, when someone gives you a “knok” on your door it means they’re interested in a swap. I love this feature because it makes it easy for me to say yes or no in one second. Since we usually plan a year ahead of time for our big annual family trip, I’ve also discovered a great feature called Autopilot, which automatically finds people who want to come to my destination and sends them a “knok” to let them know I am interested in their home too! This way, I just sit back and let the “knoks” roll!
Family travel lowdown: You can sign up for a free trial with Knok here. Laura has a 4-bedroom apartment in Zamora, Spain, which is available for simultaneous swaps anytime of the year. Check out her profile and send a “knok” if you’d like to visit Zamora on your next family holiday.