Ireland Home Exchange


 Magical countryside, vibrant big city, dramatic coast:
Northern Ireland has it all
and IVHE homes you’ll love.

Photo source: flickr, Etrusia UK
Northern Ireland is the smallest country in the United Kingdom. You can drive from the Mountains of Mourne in the south to the pounding surf on the North Coast in about 2.5 hours. And marvel at natural beauty all the way. Northern Ireland is a good thing in a small package that holds the promise of a big, exciting holiday. 
Photo source: flickr, Iker Merodio 
Belfast, the country’s capital, is situated in County Antrim, one of six counties comprising Northern Ireland. It has survived three decades of paramilitary conflict and is today a peaceful, vibrant, modern city with lots to see and do.

The Titanic was built here when Belfast was an important shipbuilding centre. The Titanic Belfast museum chronicles the great ship from its birth to its tragic end. 
The Odyssey Entertainment Complex is another spot popular with locals and visitors alike. It has a children’s science center, a laser-tag gaming area, 12 cinemas, and an 8,000 seat arena for various events.
Cultural attractions abound in Belfast with a variety of museums, theatres and galleries, and a grand Opera House. The outstanding Botanic Gardens and Park is a living canvas of seasonal color and is an important venue for concerts and festivals.
Festivals and events are big throughout Northern Ireland, not just in Belfast-- including fairs, sporting events, music festivals (classical, popular and traditional Irish) visual and performing arts, and guided walks. 
The scenic Lakelands region hosts the Fermanagh Walking Festival in October. It may be a bit of a huff and puff up 2,182 foot Cuilcagh Mountain, but it offers spectacular views of the lakes and colorful autumn foliage.

Other autumn events include: The William Kennedy Piping Festival in Armagh in mid-November; the Northern Ireland Festival of Racing the first weekend in November at Lisburn’s Down Royal Racecourse; the Mount Stewart Gardens Festival of Lights in Newtownards, the first three weekends in November.
Along the border of the Republic of Ireland, you can also explore one of the largest geoparks and cave networks in Europe – the Marble Arch Caves. Take a guided underground boat trip and see a natural netherworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding pathways and vaulted chambers. The experience is unforgettable. Both the Caves and the Cuilcagh Mountain Park are jointly recognized as a UNESCO Glopbal Geopark.

Photo source: flickr, Yves Consentino
County Antrim is also home to the stunning North Coast, a place of awesome beauty where the scenic and rugged coastline blends into a landscape of pastoral glens and lush forest parks. This region is known for its spectacular waterfalls, brooding castles and mysterious ruins, but its most outstanding attraction is the world famous Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.


Giant's Causeway is an extraordinary formation of some 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns rising out of the sea. They were created by volcanic activity over 60 million years ago. It is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to rock formations, you will find beautiful unspoiled sandy beaches along the coast.

No visit to Northern Ireland would be complete without a tour of the world’s oldest licensed whiskey (Irish whiskey, of course) distillery – Old Busmills’. The distillery hosts some 120,000 visitors annually and has been distilling spirits in the County Antrim area since 1608.
The International Vacation Home Exchange offers three properties in Northern Island:
Ireland home exchange property 0905: The Lakeland District

A modern comfortable three-bedroom house on Lough Erne close to three villages – Pettigo (3 miles), Belleek (8 miles) and Kesh (8 miles). The villages offer opportunities for fishing, water sports, nature walks, pubs, restaurants, and shopping – especially for the famous parian fine china produced at Belleek Pottery.

In addition to a spacious living room, the house has a sun room, fully equipped kitchen, dining room, office, and en-suite bathrooms in each of the three bedrooms. You have stunning views of the lake (Lough Erne) from the garden and living room. The host of this lovely house will make a car available to guests for no extra credits.

Property #Home exchange 0892 – The North Coast

A cozy four-bedroom bungalow in the town of Portrush -- a short drive from the Giant’s Causeway and only an hour away from Belfast.

You can stroll to one of the many long sandy beaches in the area in just 15 minutes. Many restaurants and first-class golf courses are also nearby. The house has a large south-facing private garden – secure for children to enjoy -- with a secluded patio area and gas grill. It also features a living room with a friendly fireplace, a sun room, and well-equipped kitchen.

Home Swap 894 – Belfast 
This charming three bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood is offered as a direct swap to those over 50 only.
The house features a lovely garden, internet access, wifi, TV and DVD player. It is within a 10-minute drive to both the city centre and the countryside. Shops, restaurants and churches are in easy walking distance.
Visit www.ivhe.com to find out more about the International Vacation Home Exchange and the properties they offer around the world.
For additional information on these lovely homes in Northern Ireland, click the property #s above.

Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima

Shoulder season Home Exchange


Take your IVHE holiday during the 
easy-going shoulder season


Photo source: flickr, nubobo 

Traveling during non-peak times is smart. Things are cheaper. Crowds are smaller. Waiters aren’t as surly. The weather may be changing but its usually pleasant And Autumn or Spring presents nature at her colorful best. It’s a more relaxed time of year that invigorates your enthusiasm for life.

The shoulder season is considered to be the few weeks before or after the peak period. Getaways during this time are customarily taken as “mini-vacations” lasting less than a week. Unless you have kids in school, reconsider shoulder seasons for a “major” vacation of 10 days or more.

You’ll already be off to a good start by making your shoulder-season holiday an IVHE one. You save hundreds of dollars on accommodations by doing a direct or credits-based exchange. Cash doesn’t enter the transaction. Don’t forget: your host may be open to negotiation to lower your credits requirement. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

The key to reaping the most benefits from your shoulder-season home exchange vacation is to be as relaxed as the season and try not to cram your itinerary full. Plan a few must-do activities and must-see sights, but leave some time for unexpected surprises such as free concerts in the park, local events that aren’t in the guide book, colorful market places you might stumble upon, or sidewalk artists at work (chances are you’ll find a piece you love). Ask your host or some of the locals if there is anything going on that might be fun to explore. The unplanned often makes for a memorable vacation. 

Make room in your itinerary for the planned and the to-be-discovered, but also, by all means, time for rest and relaxation. Staying in a private IVHE home can be as relaxing as your own, maybe more so if it has amenities you don’t have, a comfortably-different ambiance, and views that make you go “ahhh.”

Dining out is one of the pleasures of a vacation. But it’s nice to know that your IVHE home has a fully-equipped kitchen where you can whip up a taste of home if the craving gets intense, or a place to experiment with recipes of local specialties.
Another great thing about an IVHE home exchange vacation is you have a host or a special contact person who is more than willing to suggest activities, attractions, restaurants, nightspots, and the best places to pursue a special interest. If you are vacationing in an exotic destination where the language and customs are unfamiliar, your host can provide invaluable helpful tips and advice.

You might strongly consider hiring a private local guide to take you around and provide a bit of educational narrative as you go. Your host probably knows where to find a reliable one. A guide is well worth the little extra cost to save you the stress of navigating uncharted waters or joining an expensive, regimented tour with a gaggle of strange strangers.
Many IVHE home exchange hosts make cars available to their guests with the proper licensing and insurance. If you are not intimidated by traffic or you are in a location where traffic congestion is not an issue, this amenity is one to take advantage of. It can save you a bundle of money over renting a car – money you can use on drive-it-yourself excursion trips and souvenir shopping.

If a car is not available, think about how you will get around at your destination before you leave. Your host may include a free shuttle service from the airport. Your IVHE home swap accommodation may be centrally located, allowing you to walk to many places of interest. It may also be convenient to local public transportation. Subways, trains, trams and buses usually offer day or longer passes that will be much cheaper than using a taxi. If you are going to rent a car, find a rental company that offers free pickup from the airport, which will save you the extra cost of an “airport fee.”

Shoulder-season vacations through the International Vacation Home Exchange are easy-going, indeed. In fact, IVHE holidays are easy-going almost anywhere in the world, year ‘round. If you have ever considered swapping your primary residence, a vacation rental, or your second home for vacation accommodations, find out how our system allows you to do that with flexibility and peace of mind. For more information, visit www.ivhe.com.

Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima

Vacation Home Exchange Property Photos


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 – guest blogger Natalia Robert

As a vacation property owner, you want your message to stand out from the clutter of voices online, as well as to create an oasis that will bring people back to you repeatedly. Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful tips for creating enticing images for your listings, and for creating a welcoming environment that will keep vacationers coming back to you every year!

1. Less is more. A vacation home needs to be a space that a family or couple can customize for themselves in a short amount of time. Anything that personally applies to you, such as personal photos, correspondence, or extra knick-knacks, will only get in the way of a vacationer's experience.

2. Give your space some personality! While you want to clear out personal clutter, you do want to keep decorative touches that maintain a theme throughout your space. For seaside properties, for example, a nautical theme is popular because it accentuates the location that is so desperately sought after by vacationers. Be sure to keep decor light and neutral so as to avoid making it feel dark and somber. For pops of color and contrast, consider accent pieces like pillows or light fixtures in strong colors.

3. Lighting, lighting, lighting. Nobody wants to walk into a vacation home and feel like they've walked into a cave. Accent lights throughout create a sense of warmth and brightness, and are welcoming to guests. Be sure to have lights directed towards corners or any unique architectural features.

4. Show off the best assets. Decorate around the property's best features. Does your property have spectacular views? Make sure all windows and glass doors are clean and well-functioning! Is the kitchen stocked with appliances? Include accessories in the kitchen to encourage cooking family meals.

5. Put yourself in their shoes. When planning out finishing touches for your guests, walk through what a typical day for them might be like. This will also help when filling in details of your listing, as well as when you guide the photographer as to what photos are needed to properly show off all the wonderful amenities.

6. Have fun with it! Don't forget kids and pets. Vacations often involve kids, and lots of families these days enjoy bringing their pet along for a trip. Consider toys and accessories for children or pets! Extra accessories like baby wipes, a rubber ducky for the tub, or a doggy treat can all make a big impact and help to bring those guests straight back to you next year.

7. Invest in photos. Be sure to have an experienced professional do photos for your listing. Listing photos are what grab the attention of potential renters, so be sure to use the slots in your listing wisely! These images will be used repeatedly to book your property, investing a bit of your budget in quality photos will pay for itself almost immediately.

Do you want photos that present your home in the best way, but are not ready to hire a professional photographer? Get your FREE e-book that will give you 5 tips to step up the quality of your interior architectural photos TODAY. Click here.

Natalia Robert's Bio:
As a San Diego based architectural photography business, serving both local and international clientele, founder and lead photographer Natalia Robert brings her background as an architectural designer forward to produce luxurious images that create a sense of warmth and culture. Natalia has lived and worked in three continents and her work can be seen in venues such as AirBnB, San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyle, TEDxSanDiego events, countless small business websites and family home walls. Today, her furry co-pilot, Daisy, inspires a daily sense of wanderlust while serving as a reminder of how valuable it is to maintain a sense of HOME.

Mexico home exchange


THE DAY OF THE DEAD:
A Lively Time for an IVHE home exchange
Holiday in Mexico
Photo source: flickr, Kevin
On the heels of Halloween, November 1 and 2, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), a tradition that originated with the indigenous people in Pre-Colombian times and later adapted to the Christian All Saint’s Day.  The frivolity of  Halloween is still there but with the added dimension of reverence for the dead. On Dia de los Muertos, the return of their spirits is welcomed. It is believed that a veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is the thinnest on Muerto nights. Death as something spooky or an event to be feared is mocked with decorations depicting playful skeletons in all walks of life (er, former life that is) -- young and old, cowboys and office clerks, mothers and babies, dancers and musicians, you name it. Skull themes are everywhere. Even skull shaped candy for the kids. 
The festivities include colorful street parades with brass bands, mariachis and fireworks. Some towns stage comparsas, theatrical performances representing the return of the dead. The whole thing is a party to die for.

Photo source: flickr, Alex Pearson
While there is a lot going on during Muertos, the main stage is the local cemetery. Families erect elaborate memorial altars at the graves of their dearly departed, filling it with flowers, candles, decorations, and the deceased’s favorite food and drink. They cheerfully gather at the altars with candlelight vigils, mariachi music, shared bottles of tequila and picnics on the cemetery grounds.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos are ideal times to visit Mexico. It is off season. Tourist traffic is down, the weather is mild, and you will be catching Mexico’s biggest fiesta of the year. It is also a great time to consider visiting inland cities. Non-coastal Mexico will amaze you. 
The International Vacation Home Exchange offers properties in two inland locations – the beautiful colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende in east/central Mexico and Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

Photo source: flickr, Andrew Gould
Oaxaca offers a treasure of historic colonial-era buildings and monuments, as well as native Zapotec and Mixtec cultures and archeological sites. A city of some 270,000, Oaxaca is filled with fantastic museums, colorful handicrafts, beautiful baroque churches, inexpensive markets and elegant five-star restaurants.

Monte Alban, a world Heritage Site six miles west of Qaxaca, is not to be missed. This is one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica and was the socio-political and economic center of the Zapotec empire for almost a thousand years

Property #0444 --
Cozy three-bedroom house
Your home in Oaxaca is a charming country house in a quiet wooded setting, yet it is only 15 minutes from the city’s main plaza. It has three bedrooms that can comfortably sleep five, a big kitchen, spacious living room, plus two terraces and a large garden.

San Miguel de Allende is another stunning colonial city with well preserved neoclassical and baroque style buildings.  These enchanting structures from the 17th and 18th Centuries are studies in color, texture and design.  No wonder an artists’ colony took root here in the late 30’s. Two world-class art schools were later
Photo source: flickr, Jluguang Want
established by foreign artists --  Instituto Allende and the Escuela de Bellas Artes. Artists and writers from Mexico and the world, as well as tourists and retirees, are still drawn to the city.

There are some 140,000 residents in the metro area. The actual town of San Miguel counts about 80,000. Of these, 10-15 % is ex-pat retirees, mostly from the United States.

Property #0418:
two bedroom home near the central plaza
This lovely hideaway is located just a few short blocks from the central plaza, "the Jardin," and within walking minutes from the Warren Hardy Language School, the San Juan de Dios Public Market, the Belles Artes, Angela Peralta Theater, the Instituto and Parke Juarez. 
It has an outdoor living room (sala) by the garden, and an inside living room with a 13-foot ceiling and walls of bookcases. The master bedroom on the second floor has a luxurious en-suite bathroom with a dressing room and lots of closet space. The home is architect-designed and furnished with an eclectic selection from some of San Miguel's leading interior designers. It is equipped with high-speed internet, cable television, and all the modern amenities you expect, yet it continues to radiate the warmth and charm of Colonial Mexico

Property #0462 –
Four-bedroom luxury home exchange
This four-bedroom, four-bath home is open and airy with unobstructed views of the city, a lake and the Sierra Madre Mountains. Each room has its own carved cantera fireplace and a full bath. A fully-equipped kitchen and spacious living room are on the first level, as well as an outdoor sala and barbeque grill. The master bedroom and bath and a second bedroom with a trundle bed are on this level. On the second level, you can walk out from either of two large bedrooms onto a terrace where you will find a secret garden and a stairway leading to the third level. There is a relaxing sitting area and a thriving herb garden on the third-level terrace.

A housekeeper is available three times a week or more if desired. A cook can also be arranged and payment made directly to him. A 2007 car is also available for your use with no extra credits required.

Click the property #’s above to find out more about these casa exchanges in Mexico. To find out more about the International Vacation Home Exchange that brings these, and hundred of other properties around the world, to you, visit www.ivhe.com.

Blogsmith:  Mike DiPrima

Home swaps Down Under


Photo source: flickr, Rex Boggs

Australia’s Gold Coast City:
Queensland with a Midas touch

The Gold Coast of Queensland is Camelot by the sea, attracting millions of tourists annually from all over the world. They come for the sunny climate, amazing surfing beaches, major theme parks, world-class shopping, luxurious spas, championship golf courses, award-winning restaurants, and lively nightlife. If that’s not enough, festivals and events happen almost every month of the year, showcasing sporting and cultural events of every description.

With over 37 miles of beach and four impressive point breaks, Gold Coast offers some of the best, most consistent waves in Australia. No wonder it is home to a suburb called Surfers Paradise. If you’ve never surfed before, you can get expert instruction here or in neighboring Burleigh Heads.

After riding the waves, take a short ride westward and explore the World-Heritage-listed national parks of the Gold Coast hinterland. Especially notable for its natural beauty is Lamington National Park, 28 miles to the southwest. Awesome mountain views, waterfalls, crystal-clear pools, caves, rainforests, varied wildlife, towering forests -- they all make for a tranquil commune with nature and some of the best bushwalking in Queensland.

For the culture-centric, the Arts Centre Gold Coast is the premier venue for visual and performing arts. It features an art gallery exhibiting local and international works including painting, sculpture and new media.
The things to do and see on the Gold Coast are many. For all the available experiences, click here: http://www.visitgoldcoast.com

Waterfront living is a sought-after feature of Gold Coast real estate. There are over 550 miles (890 km) of constructed residential waterfront land within the city. Most canals are extensions to the Nerang River. All of your International Vacation Home Exchange property choices on Gold Coast are either on or near the ocean or picturesque canals and waterways.
Home exchange Property # 0970 -- Four bedroom boathouse on Main Riverfront location

This Boathouse is on the northern foreshore of the Nerang River, right in the centre of the Gold Coast. Public transportation is one minute away, giving you easy access to the theme parks, surf beaches, shopping and dining. The home is completely renovated and features a new kitchen, three porcelain-tiled bathrooms (two en suite) an outdoor hot tub, and an elevated deck overlooking the Main River.

Home swap #0279 – Two-bedroom apartment on the Nerang River

Located on the river waterfront with a view of the mountains in the hinterland, this apartment is just out of the center of Surfer’s Paradise and less than a five minute walk to the beach. A deep balcony runs the length of the apartment and is open to every room. There is a shared swimming pool, a BBQ area and mooring space for four boats. The kitchen is fully equipped, and the master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom.

Home swap Property # 0923 -- Four bedroom house on Runaway Bay canal

Runaway Bay is a northern Gold Coast suburb with a reputation for great fishing. Your home here is on a colorful canal with fishing right outside your door. The master bedroom upstairs has an en-suite bathroom and a balcony overlooking the pool and canal. There is a second bedroom upstairs, and two downstairs. The main living area, dining room and fully equipped kitchen are downstairs facing the canal and pool.


Home exchange # 0868 -- Two bedroom apartment near the beach
Another Runaway Bay jewel, this cozy apartment is in easy walking distance to the water, a shopping centre, and a boardwalk and bike path leading to Surfer’s Paradise. Convenient bus service is right outside the door, or you can use the host’s car for just two extra credits. The apartment has all modern conveniences, plus a lovely courtyard with barbecue grill.

Home Swap Property #0276

This quiet, elegant apartment in the sky is in Pivotal Point, a new residential resort complex overlooking the Gold Coast Harbour and the Pacific Ocean. It offers incredible views from large picture windows and three spacious balconies where you can entertain or just relax and watch the pulse of the city and the harbour below. The apartment features luxury furniture, high ceilings, a fully-equipped gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, home-entertainment equipment galore, and secure carpark and elevator access. There is a gymnasium on the ground floor along with a heated pool, playground area, spa, sauna and entertainment deck.

For additional photos and information on any of these exciting accommodations in Gold Coast, click the home exchange properties above.

If you own a vacation rental or second home and are not a member of the International Vacation Home Exchange, find out about the unique ways you can take advantage of holiday retreats around the world. Visit us at International Vacation Home Exchange IVHE.com

Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima

Was that Home Exchange or House Swap?



You say Vacation, I say Holiday.

Summer vacations are here, why not have a bit of fun in your travels and live like a local? 

We all have out ways of saying things, the following is a bit of fun on ‘speaking the same language for vacations and Holiday. 

Ring … Ring …  Ring…

Cecil:  Hello.
           
Jeb:      Hello there. I read your message about doing a home exchange – my log cabin in the mountains of Georgia for your place in Hampstead – is that right?

Cecil:    Correct, sir.  I saw your listing on the IVHE.com (International Vacation Home Exchange) web site and the exchange coordinator arranged for us to communicate.  

Jeb:      Great, we’ve wanted to do a direct vacation swap someplace where they speak English.  Do you mind if I ask you a few questions first?

Cecil:    Not at all. And I’ll have a few for you.

Jeb:      Okay, you say your place is a flat in Hampstead – a flat what?

Cecil:    A guess you would call it an apartment.

Jeb:      Oh, a flat apartment?  No stairs?

Cecil:    It’s a split level.

Jeb:      So, it’s not flat?  Kinda step-uppy?

Cecil:    I suppose. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Jeb:      Let ‘er rip.

Cecil:    You say its two and a half bath?  Sorry, but what is a “half bath”?

Jeb:      The third bathroom doesn’t have a bath.

Cecil:    So, it’s a lavatory without a tub or a shower?

Jeb:      Yeah, that, but there is a sink and a commode.

Cecil:    Right. Indoors, I presume?

Jeb:      You betcha.  We upgraded last fall.

Cecil:  Did someone fall in your lavatory?  Oh, dear.

Jeb:      No, we put in indoor plumbing when the leaves started to turn.

Cecil:  Oh, I see.  Last autumn.

Jeb:      Yep. Say, do you have one of those spray things next to the toilet?

Cecil:    If you mean a bidet, yes we do, in the master bedroom ensuite.

Jeb:      Ellie May, my cousin Buella’s girl, warned us about them. She got turbo charged in all the wrong places when she used one at a fancy hotel in Vegas.

Cecil:    It is quite safe, sir. We’ll leave a diagram and instructions on how to use it.

Jeb:      Great. So, okay, your not-so-flat apartment is located on High Street? How high is it?

Cecil:    That would be the main street in town, and it’s not high at all.       

Jeb:      Then why do you call it … never mind. 

Cecil:    Shall we talk about your kitchen?

Jeb:      Okee dokee.

Cecil:    What kind of cooker do you have?

Jeb:      My old lady most of the time, but she doesn’t come with the house.

Cecil:    I mean the appliance – gas?  Electric?  Wood burning?

Jeb:      Yes.

Cecil:    And in the bedroom, do you have a wardrobe?

Jeb:      I do. Mostly denim pants and flannel shirts. Why?

Cecil:  Your underwear is denim?  Never mind, where do you keep your, er, wardrobe?

Jeb:      In a chifferobe, big ol’ cedar one. Makes your pants smell real good.

Cecil:  I’m sure.

Jeb:      Okay, my turn.  Are you close to a subway?

Cecil:    Yes, actually.  You can catch one right across the street.

Jeb:      Great.  I love their sandwiches.

Cecil:    I mean there is a tube station across the street. You won’t need a car to get around.

Jeb:      Wouldn’t want one.  You guys still drive on the left, huh?

Cecil:    You’re right.  You wouldn’t want one. Does your car have a spare tyre under your bonnet just in case?

Jeb:      No, my spare tire is over my belt buckle.   My old lady wears a bonnet when she works in the garden, but there’s nothing under it … wait a minute, did I say that?

Cecil:    Oh, lovely. You have a garden?

Jeb:      Sure do.  We grow eggplant, zucchini, and rutabagas.

Cecil:    Are those flowers? They sound exotic.

Jeb:      Ha, ha. You’re funny.

Cecil:    We’re looking for a quiet country retreat where we can watch the sun go down over woodlands and be awakened by the cock’s crow.

Jeb:      Will roosters do?

Cecil:    Quite. And what are you really looking for?

Jeb:      A few days in a big foreign city. We want to do and see things we can’t do or see at home.

Cecil:    You’ll find endless possibilities here.

Jeb:                 So, what do you think? Your not-so-flat flat sounds good to me.  Does our little country cabin work for you?

Cecil:    Yes, I think so.  I’ll confirm the exchange on IVHE (www.ivhe.com), this sounds like fun. 

Jeb:      Sounds good. You sure do talk funny, but I like you.

Ready to experience something new and save thousands of dollars, euros, pounds or yen in the process, try home exchange and travel the world.  InternationalVacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) members save an average of $2,650 for every 7 nights of vacations. 


New to the concept of home exchange or house swap, visit www.ivhe.com and download a free Home Exchange Guide to learn many hints and tips.  

Home exchange to do list



Did I turn off the coffee maker?
Photo source: flickr, Dar'ya Sipyeykina
Your long-awaited vacation time is drawing closer. You’ve booked your International Vacation Home Exchange property and personally chatted with the owner about the home and the best ways to enjoy the destination. You’ve outlined your itinerary for each day, made reservations at restaurants, ordered tickets for shows and performances, and booked escorted tours. Everything is planned to make the most of your time, and you absolutely, positively cannot wait to get there. Before you rush out the door, check your going-away to-do list one last time.

If you are venturing out on a credits trade – a non-simultaneous exchange – then your home will be left unattended. There are, of course, a myriad of things to tend to before you lock the door behind you. Checklists are helpful, but your own situation and how long you will be away should dictate what to put on it; nevertheless, here are a few key words and phrases as reminders:
  • Mail
  • Voice mail
  • Bill payments
  • Indoor plants
  • Garbage/rubbish
  • Lawn maintenance
  • Pool maintenance
  • Doors, windows and locks
  • Alarm company
  • Car care (if leaving it home)
  • Pet sitter
  • Air conditioner setting
  • Lighting timers
  • Cut off gas stove and shut off water lines
  • Unplug computer and any appliance subject to power-surge damage
  • Clean out the fridge and dry perishables bin
  • Wash dishes and coffee pot
  • Give a set of keys to someone who will be checking on your house – this person should also be given a copy of your basic travel plans and itinerary, and the land-line telephone number at your IVHE home in case of emergency.

If you are doing a direct swap – a simultaneous exchange – then your home will be occupied by a guest who will be your host in his/her home. Obviously, you will need to coordinate the time and place for key-exchanges and property orientation. If you cannot be there, then a property manager, caretaker, friend or relative should be appointed to handle the meet-and-greet and walk-through orientation. This should include a briefing on anything in the home that needs operating instructions. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to operate your TV remote.

Planning for emergencies and your guests’ safety and convenience should be as detailed as your travel and activities planning.

Emergency Contacts and Procedures
Most hosts leave emergency information in an easily accessible loose-leaf or three-ring binder. It should contain names and numbers of who to contact and procedures to follow in case of an emergency. Whoever conducts your guest orientation should point this out and review certain items with your guest.
  • Fire, police or ambulance (911 emergency number in the US)
  • Poison Control
  • Nearest Hospital
  • Nearest drug store/chemist/pharmacy
  • Nearest shop for eyeglass replacement
  • Utility company emergency numbers
  • Locations of fire extinguishers, fire escapes, water shut-off valves, fuse box or circuit-breakers.
  • How to reach you if necessary – telephone numbers, contacts. Leave a copy of your itinerary. Alternatively, the numbers for property managers, caretakers, friends or relatives who can help if needed.
  • Nearby veterinarians and animal hospitals for guests bringing pets
Helpful Information
Any helpful information you can provide your guest will be appreciated. If you were the guest, what would you add to this list?
  • Public transportation routes, stops and fares.
  • Taxi cab or car-service telephone numbers or web addresses
  • Local tourist guides, directories and web-site addresses for tourist information
  • Your recommendations for restaurants, cafes, bars and nightspots
  • Operating instructions for TV remotes, home-entertainment devices, office equipment, kitchen equipment, gas grills, air conditioning thermostats, or anything in the home that requires more than flipping the on/off switch. 
Check lists and to-do lists are all about peace of mind and giving yourself or a fellow IVHE guest a wonderful, safe vacation experience. Of course there are other travel check lists regarding your personal health, travel and financial documents, insurance, passports, credit cards, travelers checks, etc., but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog.
If you are not a member of the International Vacation Home Exchange and would like to find out more about it, visit us at www.ivhe.com .

Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima



Cape Cod Home Exchange



Cape Cod: A Summer IVHE Place By The Sea



Photo source: flickr, NASA 

Cape Cod juts out into the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. State of Massachusetts like a muscle-flexing arm. Given its heritage of tough pioneers, sea captains, whaling ships, and steadfast lighthouses, a matcho metaphor is quite appropriate. But then along came songstress Patti Page in 1957 with her hit “Old Cape Cod” to soften the edges with romance. She sang of “sand dunes and salty air, and quaint little villages here and there.” She crooned softly about “the taste of a lobster stew served by a window with an ocean view,” and of wanting to forever stay after “watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay.” Tourists have been drawn to the Cape during the summer months for years, but Patti spurred it as never before. 

Vacation homes are all over the cape from Provincetown on the northeastern end to the southwest corner at Falmouth and the island of Martha’s Vineyard. From Falmouth to Provincetown is a driving distance of only 65 miles, but if you stopped at each of the 15 towns along the way (not including the small villages within each) and took in their historic places, parks, beaches, antique shops, galleries, museums and seafood restaurants, it would take you days.

Summer events are another reason to visit the Cape. The annual Pops by the Sea concert featuring the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra on the Hyannis Village Green is the Cape’s largest cultural event. The proceeds from ticket sales support The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. The 2014 concert will be held August 10. For details and ticket information, click: www.artsfoundation.org/pops-by-the-sea.

There are three IVHE vacation home swap opportunities on the cape: one on the upper cape near Falmouth, one on the lower cape at Brewster, and one on Martha’s Vineyard Island near Edgartown.
Falmouth/Waquoit


Waquoit is Falmouth’s smallest village. Much of the area is open waters, marshes, barrier beaches, sand dunes, pine and oak forests, and sand plain grasslands, giving visitors a glimpse of Cape Cod before development. The visitor center at the Waquoit Bay Estuarine Research Reserve is a living laboratory in the state park system and an ideal spot to start an exploration of the natural Cape Cod.

Your home exchange in Waquoit i surrounded on three sides by conservation land and has views of the Moonakis River. But civilization is a clam’s-shell throw away. The home offers easy access to the attractions, restaurants, cafes, ice-cream parlors, and shopping of both Falmouth and Mashpee. 
It has three bedrooms, three en-suites, a half bath, and can comfortably sleep eight people. Stainless, granite and soapstone highlight the fully-equipped gourmet kitchen. There is a breakfast room with early morning sun, and a dining room with an expandable table that will seat up to ten. For outdoor entertaining and dining, you have a 60-foot deck with outdoor grill and comfortable casual furniture.

Brewster


Brewster is an historic town on Cape Cod’s bay side. It has over 325 acres of beach and marshlands and several ponds over 10 acres in size. More than a third of Brewster’s land is devoted to conservation, open space, recreation and watershed protection. The drinking water is pure, the golf on two championship courses is beautifully challenging, and the outdoor recreation activities at Nickerson State Park range from trail biking, to camping to freshwater swimming, fishing and boating. Historic Route 6A, the old “King’s Highway,” runs through Brewster and is lined with art galleries, craft shops, and antique stores just made for browsing.

Property #0356: - Brewster

Your vacation property in Brewster is a spacious three- bedroom condo in Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club. You have golf, tennis, biking, indoor and outdoor pools, a private beach, and a kid’s camp for ages 4-12. Plus restaurants and bars from elegant to casual..

Private balconies highlight the spacious master and second bedrooms. A private den offers a third sleeping area with a full-size sleeper couch. The den opens up onto the deck overlooking the woods and the golf course. The living room and dining room also open up to the deck where comfortable patio furniture and an electric grill invite outdoor entertaining and relaxation.

Martha’s Vineyard/Edgartown/Katama


Martha’s Vineyard is an island about seven miles south of the southern coast of Cape Cod.. It is accessible only by air, and by ferry service departing from Falmouth and several other cities on the Cape. You can also catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard from Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and New York City.
The largest town on the island is Edgartown, which rose to prominence in the 19th Century as a whaling center. Today it’s not whale blubber that keeps it going, but tourism and the draw of historical attractions and beautiful beaches.

Katama, a quiet neighborhood close to downtown Edgartown, boasts an open-ocean beach that runs the entire length of the southern end of Martha’s Vineyard. The waves on South Beach at Katama can roll up on the shore with a murmur or pound it with a roar. To people with summer homes here, it’s relaxing music to their ears.


Home Exchange Property #0754: – Martha’s Vineyard/Edgartown/Katama

Your Martha’s Vineyard retreat sits on a wooded lot about half way between Edgartown and Katama Beach. It features an open living and dining areas, exposed ceilings and a wall of glass windows. Two sets of French doors open from the living area to a large front deck. The sunny south-side-facing back also has a large deck with outdoor furniture. The four bedrooms have all the amenities for a cozy family stay. The gourmet kitchen is fully equipped and features a breakfast bar, a prep island and stainless appliances.
Click the property numbers to find out more about these delightful Cape Cod homes.

If you own a second home or vacation rental, consider becoming a member of the International Vacation Home Exchange, which features a system of home exchanges based on direct swaps, or on credits that can be applied to properties around the world without coordinated exchanges. Visit www.ivhe.com for details.

Belgium Home Exchange



Plan a beautiful holiday in Belgium with International
Vacation Home Exchange 

Photo source: flickr, Eddy Van 3000
When the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) went looking for a place to base their main institutions, Belgium was a natural choice. It stands at a historical crossroads of Europe, it has managed to be a peaceful, harmonious place despite linguistic and cultural diversity, and it represents the best of old and new Europe.
Belgians speak Dutch in the north and French in the South. Brussels, the capital, is officially bi-lingual but French is more common even though Brussels lies in the Dutch-speaking region. And Belgians along the eastern border with Germany speak, you guessed it, German.

For the visitor, Belgium is all about sociable people regardless of their mother tongue, plus waffles, chocolates, Brussels sprouts, diamonds, flowers, lace, beer, impressive architecture and art works of the Flemish masters.

BRUSSELS/BRUXELLES
There are about 1 million people living in 19 distinctive neighborhoods in the metro area of Brussels (Bruxelles). The most important tourist destination is the central square known as the Grand Place in the city’s Old Town. It is surrounded by splendid Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV style buildings, notably the Guildhalls, the Town Hall and the Breadhouse. The Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Summer is festival time in Brussels/Bruxelles. One of the most spectacular events is the Brussels Flower Carpet that happens every two years. Almost 20,000 square feet of the Grand Place Main Square is covered in flowers laid out in intricate designs that took months to plan. With hundreds of volunteers, the construction process takes less than a day. The result is a stunning display of brightly colored flowers, mostly begonias, depicting a theme. This is the year for the Flower Carpet. Don’t miss it. The viewing is free -- August 14-17.

Linked in with the Flower Carpet is the Brussels Summer Festival – August 8-17. It is the most important cultural event in the city and features musical performances at three venues – Place des Palais, Place du Musee, and Monts des Arts. There is something for every musical taste – classical, rock, world music, jazz, electro, hip hop, folk, reggae, and others. For ticket information and performance schedules, click www.bsf.be/en

Your International Vacation Home Exchange apartment in Brussels is chic, contemporary and convenient. It is located in the very center of the city exactly between Old Town and the ultra-modern European Quarter. The market square is a 20-minute walk away. The city’s
efficient metro has a station less than a hundred yards from the apartment entrance, giving you access to many of the city’s 80 museums, beautiful parks, trendy restaurants and lively bars. The metro can also take you to the main railroad station for connections to the rest of Belgium and all of Europe.


Property # 0194 -- Two bedroom high rise apartment in the heart of Brussels

GHENT

Your other IVHE choice in Belgium lies 35 miles away in Ghent, the fourth largest city in the country and, some say, the most beautiful. The city center boasts the largest pedestrian-only area in Belgium. Peacefully strolling through here gives you a the feeling of being in a museum of early Flemish architecture




Property # 0776: Four bedroom apartment in the Ghent city center

An interesting highlight in the city center is the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, considered to be one of Northern Europe art’s masterpieces and one of the world’s treasures.
Also awe inspiring is the Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen Castle). It was first built in 1180, abandoned in the 14th Century, and renovated and restored in the late 19th. Visitors today can travel through it and climb on top. It is still partly surrounded by a moat. Various torture devices, and a guillotine, (historically used in Ghent) are displayed in a museum in the Castle.
Photo Source: flickr, Jennifer Mei
Citadelpark is the main park in central Ghent. In addition to lovely flower beds and exotic trees, the park also feature a music kiosk, an open air theater, statues, a convention center, a velodrome, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Flemish Art (Southern Netherlands) is the main focus with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens, and many other masters
    
Ghent has many fine restaurants, cafes, bars, bakeries and confectionerys, but an interesting note – it also has the world's largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capital. Official promotion of meatless meals at least once a week began as a campaign to instill healthier eating habits and reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by meat production. It caught on, and vegetarian eating options sprung up all over town.
Your house in Ghent has high ceilings and a charming apartment feel. Originally built around 1908, it was completely refurbished and updated a few years ago. It is located on the street where former Prime Minister Wilfriend Martens had his private home when he was of member of the Beglium Parliament (1985-1996). You can walk to the many shops and services nearby. Old Town is about 10 minutes away. Or take a convenient tram. It makes a stop on the block and gives you public transporation access to just about anywhere in the city.

Find out more about these two wonderful home exchange places in Belgium by clicking the property numbers above. If you are not a member of the International Vacation Home Exchange – and you own a second home or vacation rental property – joining IVHE can put your property to use in ways that will give you a world of personal vacation options. Click www.ivhe.com for details.

Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima

Home Exchange in Italy, Umbria


Discover the essence of Italy,

 In the hills of Umbria

Unlike all the other regions of Italy, landlocked Umbria has no coastline or common border with another country. Central Umbria is roughly 110 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west, and about the same distance from the Adriatic to the east. While the fabled cities of the Amalfi Coast, Venice, Portofino and other seaside charmers draw the most tourists, the modern and historic cities of Umbria are relatively low-key with a quieter charm all their own and, for many, represent the essence of a holiday in Italy.
Roman, medieval and renaissance landmarks abound in practically every city in Umbria. Assisi, birthplace of Saints Francis and Gabriel, is a standout. The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a World Heritage Site since 2000, is regarded as one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Italy. In addition, the range and quality of artwork housed there – including frescoes and other works by Giotto, Cimabue, Simone, Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti – makes it uniquely important in Italian art history.
Each town in the region has a claim to fame of some sort Norcia, the hometown of St. Benedict, is renown for its hams, sausages and black truffles. Spoleto is the site of the Festival dei Due Mondi, an important three-week cultural event held in late June/early July featuring music, theater and dance performances by artists from around the world. The hilltop town of Montefalco, and the valley below, is all about olive groves, vineyards, and delicious Sagrantino, Passito and Secco wines.
The tratorrias, restaurants and pizzerias throughout Umbria are phenomenal with the widest selection in Perugia, the regional capital. You can learn to prepare Umbrian specialties and sharpen your culinary skills with cooking lessons at the prestigious Peruygia Cordon Bleu Academy.
Right in the middle of the food, wine, history, and natural beauty of Umbria is the town of Todi, perched on a two-crested hill overlooking the east bank of the Tiber River. Todi has many historical castles, fortresses and ancient churches, but what makes it really special are the three International Vacation Home Exchange properties located here. For your inland Italian holiday, you can choose from an Umbrian villa, a boutique hotel, or an historic 17th Century mansion.
Home exchange #0839: – Beautful four bedroom villa in the Umbrian hills 

You enter this dramatic villa through a large arched brick porch where you can also dine al fresco. The lounge, with a big open fireplace, and the spacious kitchen are on the ground floor. The bedrooms, bathrooms, and a lovely glazed sun room are on the first floor. There is a pool and patio area with a large brick barbecue grill at the rear of the house. The crafts shops, antique stores, restaurants and attractions of Todi are just five km away.

Home Swap #0841 – Boutique hotel in the brian wine country.
Nestled in green rolling hills and surrounded by vineyards, Villa Sobreano is the quintessential Umbrian country house. Built in the 1800s, but renovated with every modern convenience, the villa is divided into four double rooms and two suites, each with its own private bath and sitting room. There is a lovely garden with a swimming pool and barbecue facilities for relaxing in the warm Italian sun. 

The lower section of the villa gives you access to a long gallery that houses ancient oak barrels used for storing and aging wine. The gallery leads to wine cellars beneath the villa where you can taste the wines produced on the Villa Sobrano estate.
A breakfast with homemade baked goods and sweets is offered daily. Savoury dishes are available on request. Delicious options for dining out are available in Todi, seven km away.
Property #0845 -- Seven-bedroom historical Villa Broglino

Villa Broglino is a 17th Century mansion that belonged in the same family until 1900. It has been carefully restored, preserving its original architecture and charm The kitchen is fully-equipped. There is TV, internet and Wi-Fi connections. The grounds of the Villa resemble a large park and slope down to an shady olive grove. A wonderful swimming pool and solarium complete the relaxation picture. The restaurants, shops, and historical sights of Todi are a five-minute drive away.


If you own a second home or a vacation-rental property anywhere in the world, the International Vacation Home Exchange can help you maximize its usage, plus give you a world of home exchange choices for your own vacation, through a home-swap system based on credits rather than simultaneous trade exchanges. Find out more about it, and what membership can mean to you, at www.ivhe.com.
For members wanting more details on these “molta bella” properties in Umbria, Italy, click on the property numbers above.


Blogsmith: Mike DiPrima

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