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Pet Friendly Vacations with IVHE


For many of us, our pets are considered a “member of the family” and thus would be included in many offspring functions including a vacation! Many people travel with their pets, with both human and canine or feline enjoying new sights and a new place to hang their hat and leash, albeit temporarily.

A relaxing vacation with your four-legged buddy can be a wonderful experience, as well as pose some challenges. There are restrictions and rules governing travel such as those on airplanes and trains, and regarding overnight accommodations, too. When planning your trip, researching this information far ahead of time is key to a successful pet-friendly trip.  

There are a few additional points to consider before committing to taking Lulu, Buster, Brutus or Casey with you on your next vacation:

Is your pet a seasoned traveler or will all of it (a train voyage, a new house, strange scents and noises) be new to him or her?
Is your pet social and friendly with new people, or not?
Has your pet ever growled at or bitten anyone?
Is your pet old, have a sensitive constitution, or need special medications?
Is your pet happiest and most content in his or her own bed in their own home?

For additional ideas and reading, view this blog on Traveling with Pets.  

Ready to go? There’s still more work to be done. You need to make sure your pet’s vaccinations, licenses and tags are up to date. Check with your veterinarian on all of this. If you are traveling outside of your country, there may be additional rules and regulations to research and get completed before traveling. Make sure you have all of your pet’s paperwork with you when you travel.

Where to stay? The good news is many International Vacation Home Exchange properties are designated by the owners of the properties as “pets considered.” To find out if an IVHE property and its owners are open to pets in the house, click on the “House Rules” box under the photos of the property. Here, you will find any restrictions regarding pets and smoking, and whether or not a property is handicap accessible, suitable for infants, children, the elderly or the infirm.  The “House Rules” box joins other clickable boxes offering the property “Description,” “Location,” “Accommodation,” “Amenities,” and “Activities.”  Each of these areas offers a wealth of information on the property and whether or not it is suitable for your vacation needs.

In a quick browse through properties in England and France, for example, there are several locations marked as “pets considered” including properties #1081 , #0437  and #0986 in England and #0877 , #0552 and #0976 in France.

Remember to take lots of photos! Bon voyage to you and Fido.


Explore the Wilds of Alaska


Why not think about exploring the vast wilderness of Alaska for your next vacation? This family-friendly state has so much to offer explorers of all ages including stunning scenery, crystal waters including the Artic and Pacific Oceans and many fresh-water lakes, and an abundance of wildlife including polar and grizzly bears, moose, caribou, walrus, sheep, whales and bald eagles.
Some quick facts about the 49th state of the United States:
  • It was purchased from the Russian Empire by the U.S. in March of 1867
  • It became the 49th state of the U.S. in January of 1959.
  • Its state motto is “North to the Future,” and its nicknames are "The Last Frontier" or "Land of the Midnight Sun" or "Seward's Icebox"
  • Average daytime summer temperatures range from about 55 to 78 degrees F (13 to 26 degrees C); average daytime winter temperatures are about 5 to 30 degrees F (-15 to -1 degrees C).
  • Not surprisingly, the official State Fish is the King Salmon.
  • The State Sport is Dog Mushing.
  • The State Dog is the Alaskan Malamute
There are several International Vacation Home Exchange www.ivhe.com properties in Alaska to choose from, each with a different style or vibe to suit your mood. 

A cozy cabin in the woods for two (or three) will provide the traveler from the city with a true feeling of rustic, country living. Property #0762  is a unique 2-bedroom cabin that overlooks the water of Tongass Narrows and includes a hot tub!

A mountainside condo might be the perfect getaway for the skiers in the family. This property, #0538,   offers two to three guests resort views and skiing, all while overlooking the Alyeska Resort Mountain

A Bed & Breakfast can be an ideal property for vacationing groups of extended friends and family. This property, #0761, the Black Bear Inn, offers views of the Tongass Narrows. The waterfront B&B has three bedrooms that sleep, respectively, two, two and four people. Each bedroom has a private bath. 

How about vacationing on your own yacht?  Property #0177  is a 40 foot (12 meter) motor yacht that can sleep four to six guests. Think of it as a “floating advanture” that has the ability to meander both salt and fresh waterways for activities such as fishing, crabbing, shrimping, sightseeing, hiking and more.

Be adventurous this year and book an IVHE vacation to Alaska!


Teenagers Love Home Exchange Too!


We would like to thank Julian (age 18) for sharing with us some of his experiences on home exchange, as a teenager.....

Over the last few years my family and I have stayed in many different houses through IVHE all across the world from South Africa, Tobago, Jamaica to Mexico and every time has been a blast. Staying at a home through IVHE has added an extra layer of awesome to all of these amazing trips. 

Recently we visited South Africa and our home had a barbecue shack out in our front yard with a fire pit in the middle and benches all around.  While cooking dinner we could see various animals running around just outside the fence like antelope, meerkat and we even had some very friendly warthogs pose with us for some selfies. 

Another great thing about staying at homes through IVHE is being able to socialize with the local people easier.  In South Africa our neighbours invited us over on a couple occasions to feed the bush babies (small monkey like animals) in their back yard which was great!  A couple years ago we went to Mexico and got to try some of the most amazing banana pie from some local near the house.  

While in Mexico we stayed in two different IVHE homes, one was a huge house with a beautiful waterfall and super cool infinity pool, the other was a really comfortable home decorated fully in amazing Mexican fashion, both great for different reasons but great nonetheless.  The first home had long-boards and surfboards decorating the walls and plenty of room for everyone to explore.  The second place had a super relaxed vibe that always made you feel welcome, not to mention the crazy cool turtle mural in the pool.  Both of the houses were in excellent locations as well with one being just down the street from the local party scene and the other being perfectly serene and calming. 

One year we went to Florida and stayed in a home just down the street from the beach and a bunch of really great restaurants.  Every morning was filled with surf lessons followed by an evening of fantastic seafood and chilling out. 

Staying in a home with IVHE always provides great opportunities to try out the local food that hotels don’t always offer.  Also in Mexico we tried avocado ‘everything’ including an amazing avocado soup.  In Jamaica I got to experience true Jamaican jerk chicken and in South Africa I had my very first taste of ostrich jerky.  Overall when it comes to accommodations for travel, nothing beats staying in a home exchange through IVHE. 

History, Beaches and Great Restaurants – St Augustine, Florida


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Certainly Florida is known for its tourist destinations – Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Tampa all immediately come to mind.  But have you heard of or visited Saint Augustine?  
Saint Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565, 42 years prior to the founding of Jamestown and 55 years before that of Plymouth, so in American terms this is ancient!  The Spanish admiral and Florida's first governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés named the settlement "San Agustín", as his ships first sighted land in Florida on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine.  The famous Castillo de San Marcos makes a wonderful tour where you can learn about the Spanish, British and American forces that occupied this northeastern Florida fort over the last several centuries. 
If beaches are for you, then St Augustine is certainly worth visiting.  With over 40 miles of beaches you have a tremendous choice.  The area is also known to be great for beginning surfers.  There are plenty of surf shops and local instructors to get you up on a board to enjoy the waves. 
After a busy day of sightseeing or on the beach, visit the old town of St Augustine.  There are plenty of historical buildings and a great atmosphere for casual shopping or simply strolling through the town.  With over 400 restaurants in the area, you are also spoilt for choice – our recommendation is to enjoy the local seafood. 
We are pleased to share with you a testimonial from Steve #1032 during his recent visit to St Augustine while staying in IVHE Property #0373:
Overall property review:  The house was absolutely amazing (and this is coming from somebody who lives in a rotating house).  Spacious, clean, cozy, with all the amenities, our intergenerational family (Grandparents, my wife & I, and our toddler) had space when we needed it, but could come together to one of 4 dining areas both indoors & outdoors.  The close proximity to the beach meant that we woke up to ocean views every day and when the weather wasn't exactly "beach-like" we could spend time in the jacuzzi & pool on the property.  The house was well appointed and the elevator was a luxurious bonus. :-)
Was the property description accurate?  The property description was accurate.
Was communication good with the owner?  Ashley (the host member), provided us with many helpful tips for exploring beautiful St. Augustine and was very attentive.

Were there any unique local activities not to be missed?  We really enjoyed downtown St. Augustine, the Alligator Farm, and definitely the beach in front of the house!
How was your experience with the IVHE trade coordinating team?  Jacque (the IVHE Trade Coordinator) was great to deal with & put in a lot of time & effort to find properties which we would be interested in.  Communication was prompt & courteous.
Anything else you would like to share? The gated community was well kept and within immediate access to groceries, pharmacy, bank, liquor store, restaurants, & more.
Thank you Steve, glad you and your family had a great time.  To view IVHE homes in Florida simply click here

Keeping Healthy While Travelling


Nothing ruins a vacation faster than being sick.
Many of us can relate and today are happy to make known our own nightmarish stories about waking up in another country with cold sweats, a fever and nausea, praying we could be home in our own bed. A friend of mine was sick the entire four days aboard a luxury train ride in Europe. She’ll tell you that she missed out on some of the most stunning views of the countryside, while (regretfully) memorizing the interior decor of her tiny bathroom.

There are no guarantees that you won’t pick up germs from that overly-friendly ticket agent at the airport, but there are some things you can do before you leave and while on vacation that can help you remain in good health.

Get all your ducks in a row before you travel:

  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment and if necessary, get any boosters, shots and immunizations completed as well as up-to-date prescriptions on your regular medications. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great site for travelers.  The CDC recommends that travelers receive updated vaccines before every trip. These vaccines may include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and a yearly flu shot. Not sure what you might need? The CDC website has a drop-down menu where you select your country of destination, and a checklist of special conditions such if you are traveling with children, have a chronic disease, are immune-compromised, pregnant, etc. 
  • Double-check your health insurance coverage while traveling. Call your provider and ask specifics about what processes take place if you get sick in your destination country. Make sure you are traveling with copies of your insurance card, claim forms, doctors’ prescriptions, and plenty of your medications, taking into account possible extended travel.  Those travelers from the U.S. who are normally covered by Medicare, here’s some bad news: you are not covered by Medicare abroad.  The Social Security Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside of the United States.  Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or a travel agent for information about foreign medical care coverage with private Medicare supplement plans.
  • Pack smart remembering items such as  your prescription medications, over the counter pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, motion-sickness aides (candied ginger works in our family), anti-itch medication (for bug bites), anti-bacterial soap and wipes, a small tube of antibacterial gel, adhesive bandages, sunscreen, and insect repellent, to name a few.


While on vacation, the following are some ideas for remaining healthy for your entire trip:

  • Wash your hands frequently in hot, soapy water. If water is not available, wipe your hands with a moist towelette or use an anti-bacterial gel.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. If anything looks suspicious, spoiled or poorly refrigerated, skip it.
  • Drink plenty of bottled water and make sure you take your prescription medications on time.
  • Don’t touch any animals.
  • Wear gloves in crowded areas where you need to grab handrails, door handles and the like.
  • Get moderate exercise such as walking.

Dream Vacation for Young Families


Turn the dream of a vacation into reality - a guide for young families

Imagine yourself on vacation in Costa Rica, sipping coffee on the veranda with your spouse, while your children play in the surf nearby.  Sound realistically and financially impossible and totally out of your reach? For many families with young children, renting a hotel room or house right on a beach is an impossible dream, not to mention overwhelming in terms of logistics. Traveling with kids takes so much effort and planning.  But with home exchange becoming more and more popular, families can make it happen with minimum planning and even less financial output.

Turning the dream of a vacation into reality

The concept of a vacation home exchange is very simple.  Exchange your home for someone else’s home.  Enjoy vacation with free lodging.  Sounds easy when you are a couple with no children to think about.  But what about when you do have young children?   Young children are messy, young children get upset about people “touching” their toys.”  Young children are loud!  In short, young children can be a liability.  

All of these fears can be put to rest.  When exchanging your home for someone else’s home, families with young children are exchanging with other young families so they are able to relate to each other and understand one another.  Both homes have toys and both homes have child proofed areas.  If something gets broken (which is unlikely) the family staying in the home pays for the damage.  A common practice is to put breakable or valuable items out of reach.  Everything is discussed with the other family beforehand. 

What are the benefits of home exchange for young families? 

  First, the obvious - savings.   Families can save literally thousands of dollars when not paying for lodging, no matter what part of the world they holiday.  And the savings doesn’t just stop with lodging. When you have your own kitchen, you cook in your kitchen, resulting in more savings.  These savings leave more money for things such as car rentals, tours and activities.

  Save time on packing.  Packing toys for children are the bane of every parent’s existence.  With home exchange, there is a host of new toys for children to play with.

  Children love it.  Who’s house are they in?  Where did the family go?  There are endless imagination possibilities and young children love that there are toys, games and various other things for them to play with.

  Feeling a part of the community.  In a house, you are part of the neighborhood and truly experience the vacation as a local. In short, you feel at home.

If you are a family and certain places in the world seem out of reach, consider home exchange.  The savings and opportunities can turn your vacation dream into reality.

Originally from Chicago, Melissa Downham is a portrait photographer with Z. Noelle Photography and a travel blogger at www.theroamingfamily.com.  She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two children.

Pied-à-terre for you!


The word pied-à-terre has a certain mystique, sophistication and charm to it, like the promise of a hidden gem of a bookstore that one finds down a tiny cobblestone street in Paris. It’s unexpected, it’s foreign, and it’s certainly cool. The word is French, literally translated to “foot to the ground.”
The dictionary defines it properly as a secondary place of residence, usually in a city, used for part-time or occasional use. Wouldn’t we all love our own pied-à-terre in Paris or London, New York or Montreal, Rome or Stockholm – the list is endless.

But wait, with a membership in the International Vacation Home Exchange, it’s possible. With a direct exchange or use of points, living in a pied-à-terre, albeit temporarily, could become a reality.

The literal translation of the word, “foot to the ground,” can mean different things to different people. To this writer, the meaning seems to evoke a sense of excitement and exploration of a new city. The convenience of your own pied-à-terre in the city means your own feet can be off and walking along those city streets in no time at all.  Imagine the fun of exploring a new city any time of the day. With the ease and serviceability of a pied-à-terre, a quick change of clothes and shoes can take you from tourist, to jogger, to shopping, to cocktails and dinner.

Here’s a look at several pied-à-terre properties, or city apartments, featured on the International Vacation Home Exchange.  One of them may be your next vacation exchange!

Paris, France - #0061  What could be more romantic than a studio for two in the city of Paris?  This apartment is located within a five minute walk of Montmarte and Sacre Coeur and just a few blocks from two Metro stops.

New York, New York - #0638    Housed in an 1885 historic building, this one-bedroom pied-à-terre is located in the heart of Manhattan across from Carnegie Hall and near  theaters, museums and Lincoln Center. 


Rome, Italy - #1089  This stunning two-bedroom apartment is located near the “Quirinale,” the President’s House and is 100 meters (109 yards) from Trevi Fountain in the center of Rome.

Venice, Italy - #0008   Touring “the City of Canals” is a dream from this two-bedroom property located just a five minute walk from the Grand Canal. The neighborhood is perfect for strolling, sightseeing, shopping and dining.


Traveling Alone Tips



Traveling alone doesn't automatically translate into the word “lonely.”  Traveling by yourself can be a wonderful experience! Think of the advantages: you can do whatever you want, whatever time you want, and ditch any and all of it if you are not in the mood. You can sleep late or rise early, eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. You can spend the entire day at the beach or the entire day in a museum. The choice is yours and yours alone!

Many people travel alone for a variety of reasons and love it. Whether you are single in life already, or leaving behind a spouse and family for a few blissful days, here are a few things to think about while planning and enjoying your trip al la solo.

Try not to look like a “tourist.”  If you look lost, out of place and confused (and are desperately looking at a map) you are an easy mark for the unsavory. An elementary way to overcome this is to be prepared.  Know exactly where you are going the moment your plane touches ground. Prior to your trip, make sure your transportation to your International Vacation Home Exchange Property www.ivhe.com  is set in stone. Being stuck in an airport, train or bus station late at night and not having a ride to your hotel or exchange property can put you in a vulnerable situation.

Sign up for a group activity such as a walking tour. This will automatically put you in the company of like-minded individuals. Seek out another single person or similarly-aged couple, or mother and daughter traveling together and start with coffee together at a café after the walking tour. Who knows what you may have in common?

Meeting other tourists is easy with the use of Social Media. You can find friends and friends of friends traveling in the same area using Facebook. Or try www.MeetUp.com.  It’s a site dedicated to letting folks organize their own groups or to find a group being organized in your area. Meet up with a group and presto! New friends.

If you are far from home, find out where the expat hangout is at your new destination. There could be a club or café where expats from your country tend to congregate.

Dining out solo doesn’t need to be stressful or intimidating. Start small by eating in a café at lunch. Choose a busy place so you won’t feel in the spotlight. At some establishments, those eating by themselves tend to eat at the bar section of a restaurant. The design of this area is amenable to starting conversations with your neighbors.

Most important, stay sharp and smart, be safe (no cash machine use at night) and have fun!


Meet the IVHE.com Team - Jacque Tongko


Get to know a little more about each of the International Vacation Home Exchange team.  In this post we have a fun interview with Jacque Tongko in Member Services.

Tell us a little about yourself? 
Suzie, Jacque, Milina and Larry

I love to be surrounded by people that make me happy. I try to meet people who are positive, love what life brings, and love to laugh as it changes my whole world. I also love travelling because it brings happiness! I get the chance to go to places that I never thought could exist. And more than anything else, I love my family and friends!

What exactly do you do with IVHE.com?
With IVHE.com, I execute different roles every day. I am responsible for membership promotions and sales.  I manage member accounts and ensure they are up to date.  I provide great welcome services to new members and provide valuable advice to existing and potential members to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience.

What makes you smile while working with IVHE.com?
There are a lot of events that make me smile while working with IVHE, there are three that stand out the most. First, knowing that I am part of this exclusive home exchange community that treats me like a family, second whenever I get compliments from satisfied property owners and guests, and third is the thought of having the opportunity to travel the world for less!

Are there any properties or destinations that you keep dreaming about?
Yes, first on the list is Paris - specifically in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Pres.  I would love to know how it feels to live like a Parisian.  I’m also dreaming about New York.  We have a member property that is perfect to explore New York as it’s in the center of Greenwich Village in Manhattan... And oh, I am also dreaming of this free spirit and travel to Greece. But I have to say, I am saving Italy for my life partner.  I believe Italy is the most fascinating country in the world and it is just so right to share it with your one great love! 

Name your favourite activity outside of family and work.
There are many pastimes I enjoy.  Some that come to mind include: having a movie marathon or simply leaving my windows open to catch a spring breeze and listen to birds singing. I love to sit outside a favourite café talking with friends.  Nowadays, I’m also doing 90-minute yoga sessions, which are great!

Any comments or advice for our members to get the best trades possible?
To get the best trades possible, start planning well in advance to get your dream holiday home. Also when visiting a place for exchange, it would be good to book it during low season especially those highly sought after vacation destinations. However, should you wish to go to places during peak times, remember to visit IVHE’s Prime Time which gives you immediate availability that is exclusively for IVHE members, and then start packing your travel bags! 


Common Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Your Home


In today’s rushed and technical world, a picture tells a story much faster than a beautifully-written paragraph.  That’s why when it comes time for you to photograph your home for the International Vacation Home Exchange, you’ll be ready with these six tips.
Is your property not quite ready for its close up? Then refer to the “Perfect Preparation of Your Home for Guests” to get your home ship-shape.  
Not every homeowner is a professional photographer. So for the rest of us, our everyday photos of the dogs and kids are perfectly suitable to share with loved ones and post to our Facebook page. However, when you are taking photos of your home, there are a few steps and tricks to consider before you begin.
Get your camera ready! Avoid blurry, unfocused, too dark or overly light photos. Take a few test shots and make sure your camera is on the correct setting for interior or exterior shots. Blurry images are frustrating to the viewer. They will want to skip past these images (and your property). If you have a tripod, use it.  Too dark or too light images are also annoying to the viewer. When necessary, turn on all the lights and adjust the windows shades or curtains. Along the same vein, don’t shoot into an overly bright area. Everything in front of the blinding light will be dark or barely visible (see picture below). This is especially noticeable when trying to capture a room that precedes a balcony or terrace.  The sunlight from the outside will overwhelm the interior shot.  And don’t forget to remove the “time stamp” on your camera if you have one.

Don’t accidentally find yourself or your shadow in the photo! You’d be surprised how many photos capture the photographer’s camera, hands, face and even body!  Watch out for the most common reflectors such as mirrors, windows, countertops, sliding glass doors and French doors.  To avoid taking your own image, move a little to the left or right of the reflective surface.  And avoid taking a photo of your shadow in sunny exterior shots.  Be mindful of other not-so-common shiny items such as glass-faced clocks, televisions, computer screens, framed art, metallic lamp bases, and metal objects such as appliances, large and small.  A blurred image of yourself in a stainless steel lamp may look like a ghost online! 
Seeing the flash in photos.  The shiny items in Tip #2 will all reflect a flash. If you are not comfortable using flash photography, then make sure you have plenty of bright natural light.
Remove super-personal stuff from your rooms.  Yes, you’ve already decluttered your rooms, but look again before you start photographing. Items that have your full name on them such as certificates and diplomas should be removed. Valuable items such as displays of coins, stamps, guns, even jewelry should be removed.  Personal items such as large family portraits, trophies and license plates should not be in photographs.
Beware of hidden (or not so hidden) objects that will permanently date your photos. Before photographing any room, remove items that will “date” your photos such as wall calendars, clocks, holiday decorations, sports logos, etc.  You want your photographs to be clear of these items as well as attractive to the home exchange client any time of year.
Not taking a photo of the exterior of your property. The exterior shot consummates the whole story of your property, so remember to include it in your portfolio of pictures.

It just takes a little planning to capture your home exchange property in a picture-perfect setting.  For more tips on taking the right photographs view this blog.    Looking for additional hints and tips on home exchange - get a Free Home Exchange Guide.  

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