Maureen Redfield, San Clemente
My experience: My husband and I were traveling in Ireland, staying in a bed-and-breakfast in Killarney. During breakfast, we noticed a family with three teenage daughters. To cut it short, before breakfast was over we had talked with this Swiss family, and after finding out where each of us lived (we on the beach in Southern Cal and they in the Bernese Alps), we discussed exchanging homes for a month the next summer.
We did this for 12 years, staying in different homes for a month all over Switzerland and making friends of all the previous exchangers. We are such good friends that now we just come and visit each other, share in children's weddings, births, etc. It was one of the most rewarding (and cost-effective) things we schoolteachers ever did. Oh, yes, we also exchanged cars (and for a few years even a cat) and there were no major problems in all those years.
How much do you think you saved? 12 years of vacation hotel and car costs plus saving money by being able to cook in our own home.
Pictured: Maureen Redfield and her husband Bob.