Travelers can considerably reduce vacation expenses by trying out a home exchange. Trade your home or apartment with someone else at your destination: you stay at their home, and they stay at yours. Not only can you cut out the hotel bill, you can save money by eating in. Here’s how it works: Join one of the various home-exchange programs by placing an ad similar to a real estate listing. Give details about your home and your vacation plans, such as your destination, travel dates and how many you are traveling with, then interested members will call you directly.
Consider the following points before you sign up:
- How old is the home exchange company? Don’t experiment with start-up companies, which may not be as reputable.
- How many clients do they have? The more satisfied customers, the better.
- Find references. Ask to speak with someone who has previously used the home you’re interested in.
- How safe is the surrounding area? Call the local police department to ask about crime rates.
- How secure is the home itself?. Find out if there’s an alarm system, and ask the owners if they’ve had break-ins. .
- Where is the home located? Find out if it’s near any places of interest for out-of-town travelers, and the distance to hospitals, food stores and local transportation. ..BL.-
- Protect your valuables. Lock up or store precious items. Leave a bureau and some shelves open for guests to use. You can also draw up a rental contract that covers theft or damage to your property. In general, however, most homeowner’s policies cover such damages. If you’re worried about the upkeep of your home, ask for a housekeeping fee.
Intervac U.S. (800-756-HOME), the oldest (since 1953) and largest home exchange company, charges $78 per listing in its book, which is published five times a year. (Place a photo for an additional $15.) Intervac is available in 30 countries, including France, Great Britain, South Africa and the Caribbean.
HomeLink (formerly Vacation Exchange Club, 800-638-3841) offers a similar service for $88 a year, plus $18 for photo placements. The listings are also on the Web at www.swapnow.com. Nonmembers can glance at the Web listings, though contact information isn’t accessible. HomeLink has 15,000 listings a year and offers the service internationally.
One drawback: Such rentals are inflexible. Once you agree to an exchange, you must stick to the terms. Since these firms are not monitored by a professional organization, check with the Better Business Bureau.
New Area Codes For The Caribbean
Many Caribbean islands have recently replaced, or are now replacing, the 809 area code with an individual country code.
Location New Area Code Date
Bermuda 441 9/30/96
St. Lucia 758 1/1/97
Barbados 246 1/15/97
Puerto Rico 787 1/31/97
Antigua/Barbuda 268 3/31/97
Bahamas 242 3/31/97
St. Kitts/Nevis 869 3/31/97
Montserrat 664 6/1/97
Cyman Islands 345 8/31/97
Anguilla 264 9/30/97
Jamaica 876 11/1/97
Trinidad & Tobago 868 5/31/98
Turks & Caicos 649 6/30/98
U.S. Virgin Islands 340 6/30/98
British Virgin Islands 284 9/30/98
Dominica 767 9/30/98
Grenada 473 10/31/98
St. Vincent/Grenadies 784 TBA