Perhaps now more than ever, travel is not merely just about destinations but is about experiences.

Modern travellers are constantly seeking new and novel ways to immerse themselves in different cultures, lifestyles and indeed, lives. And this makes perfect sense, the essence of travel is to step into another’s shoes, if only for a short while, and to see the world through their eyes. Right?

Well this desire for a deeper, more authentic experience has given birth to a unique and novel trend in travel: Fly and Swap Vacations.

Fly and Swap Vacations are an innovative way to travel where adventurers swap lives with other travellers. Imagine living in a quaint cottage in the Scottish Highlands or a chic apartment in downtown Tokyo, all while someone else is enjoying your squalid bedsit back in Birmingham.

It’s an exchange of worlds, an opportunity to truly live someone else’s life for a brief period and in this post we are going to take a closer look at just what a fly and swap vacation is.

A person looking out over the blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco
Studying the market for a good swap deal!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Our GREATEST Travel Secrets…

Pop your email here & get the original Broke Backpacker Bible for FREE.

    So, What Is A Fly and Swap Vacation?

    A Fly and Swap Vacation is a mutual exchange of homes, (and sometimes cars, pets and more…) between two parties for a holiday. It’s as simple as it sounds while also being as exciting as it gets. Rather than simply booking a weekend hotel in Rome, you find a local to swap homes with for a few days.

    For instance, a family from Florida might swap their beachside home with a couple living in a rustic villa in Tuscany. Or a single traveller from New York exchanges their trendy studio apartment with someone living in a traditional Ryokan in Japan. The possibilities are as varied as the people participating in them.

    rooftop pool at a condominium house in vitoria, brasil
    Traded my home sweet home for this Brazilian rooftop retreat.

    While this concept is novel and niche, it is definitely on the rise and as of 2024, the popularity of Fly and Swap Vacations has skyrocketed. In fact some recent statistics show that more than 20% of travellers are considering or have already participated in a home swap.

    The concept is particularly appealing to those seeking a slower-paced travel experience that builds an authentic and personal bond with the destination.

    Why Take a Fly and Swap Vacation?

    The main allure of Fly and Swap vacations lies in their novelty. It’s a fresh take on travel (and travellers love freshness), offering a chance to live like a local in a completely different environment.

    You literally step inside a real home in your favourite travel destination and get to borrow as much of the host’s life as they agree to lend you. This could include looking after their dog, driving their car, using their gym membership card or visiting all of their favourite bars and parks.

    A large English house in the countryside
    Swapping homes like a real estate mogul!
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Now, at one stage Airbnb kind of offered a semblance of an “authentic” experience (albeit one you had to pay for) as the first few generations of listings were actual homes that you could rent for a few days.

    But a decade or so on, the sad truth is that most modern Airbnbs are made-to-market, soulless cells, slowly sucking the life out of their host cities.

    Another significant advantage is of course the cost. By swapping homes, travellers could “shave vacation costs without scrimping“, allowing them to allocate more of their hard earned hard saved travel budget to experiences, exploration and maybe even the odd souvenir!

    Limitations of Fly and Swap Holidays

    Ok so there are some pretty stark limitations with the concept of fly and swap holiday. Perhaps the single biggest challenge of Fly and Swap Vacations is finding a suitable match to swap with. It requires a good bit of effort and a fat dose of well timed luck to find someone whose home, location, and schedule align with yours.

    And let’s be blunt, pretty much everybody wants to visit Paris, New York and Barcelona but fewer are interested in spending their vacation in Bumfuck Nowhere. So, unless you are blessed enough (and wealthy enough) to live in a sought after travel location, you may struggle to ever set up a swap.

    danielle hitchhiking with a trolley full of backpacks hoping to be picked up
    We’ll find a ‘five-star-on-a-budget’ kinda place… right?
    Photo: @danielle_wyatt

    Websites like HomeExchange, Love Home Swap, and Holiday Swap are popular platforms that facilitate these exchanges. If you are interested in this innovative way to travel for free why not take a look and see what is out there?

    Finally, in practice you can’t ever really swap lives with someone can you? Even if you move into their house for a few weeks, sleep in their bed (maybe even with their spouse….) and frequent their favourite haunts, there are still some pretty serious life-swap limitations. 

    For example you can’t just swap jobs can you now? If you are a fishmonger from Hastings doing a fly and swap with a Brain Surgeon from Austin, then it’s best not to even attempt this. Rest assured your regulars down at the market don’t want some unqualified Texan who can barely tell his bass from his basa slicing up their Friday night dinner as it were an amygdala.

    The Future of the SIM Card is HERE!
    mockup of a person holding a smartphone in white background with Holafly logo

    A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

    An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

    Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and ditch the plastic.

    Grab an eSIM!

    Fly and Swap Marriage Vacations

    A more racy and quite distinct take on this concept is the Fly and Swap Marriage Vacation, where couples go on holiday and pretty much swap partners.

    Oh la la. It’s crucial to clarify that this underground practice is entirely separate from the traditional home swapping concept although the interchangeable use of the term “fly and swap” is confusing.

    Two pairs of legs crossed over relaxing on a blanket watching the sunset at the beach
    Nahh, we won’t swap!
    Photo: @Lauramcblonde

    Rest assured, participating in a home exchange does not imply any obligation to shag somebody’s spouse, or to look on as somebody else satisfies yours in ways you never even thought possible. The term ‘swap’ in this context, only refers to the accommodation.
    Apparently this phenomena has soared in popularity since the COVID pandemic (maybe spouses felt that being holed up together for 18 months of lockdown was quite enough intimacy for one decade?) and as such, we may return and write about this topic at a later time. For now though, we are keeping this post wholesome, family friendly and PG rated!

    Get Insured For Your Travels

    Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I recommend getting comprehensive travel insurance for any trip abroad. Be wise my friend. Be wise!

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

    Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

    Final Thoughts on Holiday Swapping

    Right let’s summarise shall we?

    Fly and Swap Vacations are fast reshaping the landscape of travel by offering cost-effective, authentic, and novel ways to explore the world. Whether it’s living in a new city or relaxing in a countryside villa,  these vacations open the door to fresh authentic experiences that traditional tourism simply can’t offer.

    If you’re seeking an adventure that goes beyond the ordinary, then go ahead and consider a Fly and Swap Vacation for your next journey. Remember, the world is vast and full of incredible living experiences – why not swap and see more of it?

    exploring an abandoned house near the sea in Mauritius
    At least we scored these ocean views…
    Photo: @_as_earth_to_sky

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!