Faced with the prospect of turning over their home to a family of strangers, people generally react in one of two ways: They embrace it or dismiss it.
Those who don't like the idea cite the risk of hosting inconsiderate or unsavory guests. But those who experience it hail the practice to the high heavens.
There are dozens of home-exchange programs available, but Seniors Home Exchange (www.seniorshomeexchange.com) is one of the most popular conduits for arranging vacations in private homes by those over 50. Although promotional statistics should be considered with skepticism, the exchange's survey figures are impressive: 100 percent of respondents said they would do it again. And 75 percent of them said they were "more than satisfied" with how well it worked.
The Seniors Home Exchange may be a success because negotiations for arrangements are strictly between the parties involved. Communications can be as detailed and as personal as you wish.
Friends of mine living in Narberth said, "We considered several [Web] sites but settled on the seniors site even though it's not as large. The majority of the people are retired, have flexible schedules, and there usually aren't little children involved in the exchange. There were two little ones in our previous exchange, and everything was fine, but I put away a lot of items and prepped the house differently than I will for the next visit."
The advantages of exchanging homes include privacy, comfort and longer vacations. But the biggest benefit that users cite is the savings. Thirty-two percent estimated a savings of more than $2,000; 36 percent, $1,000 to $2,000; and 29 percent, $500 to $1,000.
Based on a scan of the senior site's 2,600 listings, home exchanges are popular across the country and around the world. Delaware and North Dakota were the only two states that did not have listings. And I counted 44 countries.
The descriptions of properties are quite detailed, including amenities and nearby attractions.
Among the California listings were homes in or near San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and its bay area, Laguna Beach, and Monterey. A Monterey home near the ocean and Big Sur offers "a new gourmet kitchen, a large living/dining room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms on the upper level. There is a family room and a 'granny flat' consisting of a small kitchen, a bedroom and a bath on the lower level. Both levels have their own entrances as well as an internal stairs. We have a '01 Lincoln LS and an '03 Kia Rio."
Listings on this well-designed Web site tell which seasons the property is available and for how long. According to the site, 57 percent of the exchanges included the use of a car, and many exchanges include a boat, camper or RV.
Through next month, the organization is charging only $59 for a three-year membership. After that, the cost to register a property will be $79 for three years or $100 for a lifetime membership. (Thirty percent of members who signed up for three years renewed for life.)
Members can add homes to the directory at no extra cost and can make unlimited changes to their listing. The service is limited to Internet access, but aren't many things these days?
With Mother's Day and Father's Day around the bend, perhaps now's the best time to drop hints about how much you always wished you could visit Yankee Stadium and root against your most hated baseball team.
It doesn't have to be that scenario exactly, because there is a baseball tour company that provides packages to suit just about every budget.
For example, a Yankees game against the Chicago White Sox is included in Roadtrip's Hall of Fame Tour from July 28 to Aug. 1. The tour will also include a home Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park (vs. the Pirates), Fenway Park in Boston (vs. the Orioles) and Shea Stadium in Queens, New York (vs. the Nationals), plus a visit to Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Prices begin at $1,875 for a single, $1,395 each for two or three people, and $1,195 for a child under age 14. Included are game tickets, an annual membership package and admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame, luxury coach transportation, and a behind-the-scenes tour of Yankee Stadium.
For reservations, call 1-800-465-1765, or visit www.roadtrips.com for a list of available trips.
Next week: Online Traveler
May 20: Game Traveler
May 27: Hip Trip