Cape Town - The romantic comedy "The Holiday" is a favourite amongst most travellers.
But many of us don't think exchanging a cottage in the British countryside for a villa in Beverly Hills is quite as easy (or possible) as it looks in the movies.
Well, it is. And if you don't believe us, you're missing out.
In 2015 alone, on one home exchange site, 65 000 members made over 130 000 home swaps across more than 150 countries.
Yeah, it's pretty big. And pretty easy too.
Here are 5 Good, sane reasons to make home exchange part of your travel plans this year:
1. It saves money - without taking away from the experience
For family holiday, which would you prefer: a typical all-in-one hotel room or family home with a separate bedroom for each kid, a fully equipped kitchen, a cozy living room, and bicycles in the garage for family rides?
Exchanging homes makes it possible to fit a full family into a full house, says HomeExchange.com. For a single and affordable annual fee on their site, members of home-exchange networks can occupy whole homes, usually as many times as can be arranged.
2. It's taking over the world!
The exchange concept – one long considered a special privilege of a lucky and happy few – has now become mainstream. Well-established in North America and Europe, the idea of exchanging homes has taken root in China, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa,yet it has boomed in Australia and New Zealand.
In SA alone, there are 285 homes listed on HomeExchange.com, This means the owners of these residencies can get free accommodation, similar to what they're used to in South Africa, anywhere abroad, whenever they can arrange it.
3. You don't have to own a mansion to be listed
Anything someone can sleep in can be listed: boats, RVs, tree houses, primary and second homes, beach cabins, condos, mountain chalets, penthouses, houseboats, pagodas, and chateaux. Even a house on the beach in SA that's called the Sandcastle and really looks like one!
4. It's Tax-Free
Since there are no financial transactions between exchange partners, they are exempt from accommodation and tourism taxes. When you settle into your exchange partner's home, you do so as an invited guest, not a paying customer. Instead of two homes sitting empty while their owners/renters are away, someone waters your plants while you take care of his swimming pool.
5. An Ecosystem Based on Trust and Friendliness
Through verified profiles and secure messaging systems, exchange partners get to know each other well enough to use first names. As no money changes hands and both parties are equally hosts and guests, the relationship is balanced and free of customer-client concerns. Your future exchange partners are the lifelong friends you have yet to meet.
BONUS REASON - You won't find a better 'local's perspective'