Allene Rose, Studio City
My experience: We have done about a dozen home exchanges over the years. We started when our son was young, because it was a good way to save money as well as to experience the flavor of a country. We started doing exchanges in Britain and then ventured into non-English-speaking countries: Belgium, Denmark, Italy and France. Our favorites: In Brittany (France), our exchange was on an aber, an inland ocean stream. The sunsets were spectacular and the food and scenery amazing. We loved Padua, Italy, shopping in an open market every day for fresh vegetables, cheese and bread. In September, our exchange was in London, near Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, a lovely pied-à-terre.
Our most important lesson has been that the standard of living here in the U.S. is excessive. Garbage disposals, microwaves, many, many television channels, dishwashers -- they don't compare to the experience of spending time amid a historic European town or city. One thing we do try to do is to combine the exchange with staying at a nicer hotel or cruise. That way we feel pampered for a part of the trip.
How much do you think you saved? Never thought about it; the experience was more important.
Pictured: A photo of the house in Brittany, France Rose stayed in.