By Faith Teel
Special to Relocation.com
Have you ever dreamed of taking an international  vacation, but then stayed home after you calculated the cost of travel and lodging? Traveling isn’t always necessarily expensive, but the costs of housing often make or break ones decision. If you have “champagne” tastes but a “wine cooler” budget, then a housing or vacation swap might be the perfect option for you. These temporary living situations are growing in popularity where some people are even testing out a new city in someone else’s home in order to determine if moving  is right for them. Here’s our guide on how to swap and get started for an exciting temporary relocation .
In a housing  swap, you use an online service to find someone who lives in a vacation destination that you like. You write to them offering to swap houses for a period of time, so that each of you eliminate or reduce the cost of lodging during your vacations. Some housing swaps come with a car or (in cities) a bicycle or subway pass, but you don’t have to include your vehicle in the swap.
In addition to helping you save the money you would have otherwise spent on a hotel, a housing swap can offer other perks: it may make your vacation seem more intimate, because it allows you to live just like a local. Most private homes are more charming and comfortable than a hotel, and of course, you’ll have access to a full kitchen and other amenities. This means that you could also save money by cooking your own food and washing your own clothes.
Who Can Swap?
Obviously, if you live in a ritzy beachfront house in Los Angeles  or a swanky New York condo , you are going to get more offers to swap than if you live in a quiet suburb, in say Michigan . On the other hand, many swappers are looking for places to be near to relatives, business conferences or specialized hospitals. If you’re not sure what your area has to offer, do a little research and find out why people visit your city right now.
If you live out in the country and life seems too quiet to be interesting to a tourist, remember that what seems dull to you may be a quaint and restful paradise to a busy businessman from the city.
How to Get Started:
The internet offers a wide variety of housing swap services. Many of them charge a membership fee in exchange for the ability to list their house. These websites often offer perks, such as databases search-able by locations or amenities. For example, you could search for a beachfront house, or a house with a hot tub, or a condominium in France.
Paid sites also offer a ratings system, which allows users to give feedback on the swaps that they have already tried. Some sites even offer to referee in the event of a disagreement.
Some classified ad sites (such as Craigslist) offer simple, no-frills listings. These may not offer the same perks as the paid sites, but they are free of charge.
Of course, there are practical considerations with housing swaps. As you plan your swap, keep in mind these simple precautions:
• Get to know your swap mate as well as possible. Exchange photos, phone calls and emails. If possible, meet in person. Keep in mind that if anything seems strange, you can cancel the swap.
• According to popular vacation swap services, theft and vandalism are rare in housing swaps, but it never hurts to take precautions. Put away your most valuable items, and put fragile items out of harm’s way.
• Get the physical address of the residence you’re planning to visit. (Be wary of anyone who refuses to give the address.) Check it out online, using Google Maps or a similar service.
• Check with your insurance company to ensure that the swap is covered. Your swap mates are usually covered as “guests” in home insurance plans  and “permitted drivers” in auto insurance plans , but may guidelines vary, so make sure.
• If possible, be on-site when your swap mates arrive, or have a friend show them around the house. If there are any pets to be cared for during the swap, this should be discussed beforehand.
• Many swap services offer simple contracts which can be signed beforehand, and which cover the most important legal aspects of swapping.
Once you get started with swapping, you’ll be addicted!