Monday, December 11, 2006

'The Holiday' - you've gotta see this movie!

The movie 'The Holiday' is fantastic!!!! Just released on Friday, you won't find a more uplifting romantic comedy this season.

Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same rhetorical question as Cameron Diaz’s character, Amanda, does, Where do I want to go by myself, depressed, at Christmas?

Amanda exchanges her swank LA house for a rather humble but quaint cottage in the UK countryside. In steps the brother of her swap partner played by Jude Law. Iris, played by Kate Winslet and Jack Black find their way to one another's hearts in LA and love blossoms for everyone.

The movie put a very positive light on home exchanging and I'm hoping more people will begin to consider it when thinking about their travel options. Interestingly, in the movie, as in real world swapping, the two homes couldn't have been less alike. It didn't matter for either Kate or Cameron, though Kate has a great scene where she's jumping and dancing all over her new luxury digs in LA - she's scored this time around big time!

Another fantastic story in the plot that Nancy Meyers cleverly wrote was Kate developing a deep and meaningful relationship with an elderly neighbor played billiantly by Eli Wallach.

However, love by way of home exchange isn't just in the movies, it has happened in real life, read Digsville member Jen H's intimate account of how she found the love of her life while swapping in New Zealand!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home exchange + love = Digsville


Romance and Travel Not Just For Kate and Cameron- Home Exchange Members Tell Their Real Life Versions of “The Holiday”

When movie goers sit down this Christmas season to watch Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in “The Holiday”, they might suspect that the tale of two lovelorn women who swap homes for the Christmas holiday-and in doing so, land themselves in romances with local men-is a sweet, yet hollywood-crafted confection. But for members of, and a growing number of intrepid travelers, finding true love via house swapping is the stuff of real life.House swapping?

No, this isn’t a twist on wife swapping, or some other new fangled swingers club. House swapping (aka home exchange) is an alternative to the traditional house or hotel rental. Instead of paying rent, people use their own property and ‘swap’ their home with another family in their desired destination. Over the last few years, it has developed a cult-like following among vacationers looking for something different in the way of comfort from the Holiday Inn mini bar.

“Fans of house swapping are looking for something more intimate, something that makes them feel like they’re not a tourist, and home exchange does that. You're home, but in a totally new environment” says Helen Bergstein, founder of The Digsville Home Exchange Club (, one of a growing number of vacation sites that cater to people looking to trade room service tabs for a set of house keys. “You feel more comfortable at home, and on some level, that makes it easier to meet people.” Enter Jen H., a 60-year-old former health psychologist who decided on a home exchange vacation to celebrate her retirement. She found a quaint couple with a villa in New Zealand and arranged to swap her townhouse apartment in Suffolk, UK for two weeks during the summer. Unknown to her, she landed within hours of Jack, a home builder who was there touring the local town for a construction project. They missed each other at the airport, but Jack was there to catch her when she stumbled on the observation platform at a local attraction the following day. Jen and Jack “fell’ for each other on the spot, and this year, they’re planning a home exchange vacation for two.Another oft-sighted advantage to house swapping is the location. Hotels are likely to be in segregated, commercial neighborhoods, and the chances of hooking up with locals is diminished by the geography. But a house or apartment is as close as you can get to the natives.

Take Hagit, who traded her apartment in Tel Aviv for a NYC pad on UnionSquare. Hagit didn’t have any plans for romance, but it was love at first sight when her neighbor, a handsome young lawyer by the name of Harold, stopped by to welcome her to the building. But home exchange is not just for retirees, and not just for those looking to meet someone new. The younger set is taking to zip code swapping as a way to cut their travel budget while hanging on to the comforts of a full-fledged vacation home.“I have a beautiful one-bedroom in Manhattan, but the cost of living in the city makes a real vacation prohibitive. When I looked into home exchange, I realized that by using what I already have, I could eliminate my hotel bill and still stay in a great neighborhood,” says Paula, a 28 year old graphic designer who has used over the past two years to travel to such places as far-flung as Barcelona and Tokyo.For the founder of Digsville, the advantages of home swapping, romantic and otherwise, are no surprise. Mrs. Bergstein is herself a lifetime home swapper, and after using other services for a number of years launched in 1999 after finding other services to be impersonal and restrictive. “We wanted to create something that had an intimacy with our clients which reflected the home swapping experience.” To wit, members can connect one-on-one with each other using an internal email program, and listings are rated by former swap partners, a feature that makes what Helen calls a full-fledged “community of review.”“By allowing members to interact with each other from the start, people develop a rapport with their exchange partners” Helen says, “and that leads to further connections in their community. By the time you get to your new digs, you have a group of people ready to make friends with you.”

In some cases, more-than friends.

To interview Helen Bergstein or any of the Digsville members, call Helen directly at:(551) 655-2536 cell (201) 864-7455 (office)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Should I ask for references?

For years I advised that of course you should ask for references before engaging in a home exchange. This was a flat out easy answer when dealing with the often asked question of choosing an exchange partner and the dreaded 'stranger' in my home fear. Did I follow this advice myself. Heck no. I had many common sense tools at my disposal that Digsville member and experienced (30 time swapper!) home exchanger Nikki from NYC pointed out on Sept. 21 in her lively and practical blog.

Offering that fake security is exactly why almost every home exchange club website or article suggests that new exchangers obtain references. The concept that someone "objective" will vouch for the stranger who will soon be invading the new exchanger's home is meant to remove the doubts that most people feel when trying home exchange. I don't believe in taking short-cuts to comfort. It's much better to ask a lot of questions, get as many pictures as your swap partners will send and use the other tools at your disposal to make sure the exchangers are decent folks.

But people are told that references are the only thing keeping the wolf from the keys to their front door. To reassure people considering exchanging with me, I direct them to They are the only home exchange site I know of that lets members leave publicly-visible feedback on past exchange partners. Every person with whom I have exchanged through Digsville left me the highest feedback marks and backed up their feedback with detailed comments.

Offering my references before I am asked, and choosing objective ones such as those left on an exchange club website by other members, helps put my potential swap partners at ease. It also spares me the information that one of them might have asked me for references if I had not volunteered them. In my experience, people who have asked me for references have been too tense about home exchange for my comfort level. Experienced exchangers never asked me for references before I began offering them.

Read Nikki's entire blog

View Nikki's Digsville homelisting and five star U-Rate (member feedback rating).

Well, no more taking short cuts on advice here! We've made changes in our FAQ's and Tips sections of the website. Big THANK YOU to Nikki for setting us straight on this matter!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Are you a bunch of hams? Want to be on TV....

The Discovery Travel Channel is doing a series on home exchange & they have asked Digsville to find them the TWO FAMILIES for the first show filming this summer. Families chosen will receive a $1500 cash PLUS a professionally documented tape of your vacation!

Here is what they're looking for:

- Fun families with kids (toddlers or teens)
- Must be swapping this summer (July or Aug)
- Must swap your primary home
- First time swappers preferred, but will consider experienced exchangers.
- You must live in the USA, London or Paris (or outlying areas)

Remember, families chosen will receive a $1500 cash PLUS a professionally documented tape of your vacation!

Let us know if you have what it takes and we'll find your PERFECT match!

Send in your video tape to the casting director today!!

Contact Helen Bergstein for more info

Friday, May 26, 2006

#1 Best Place to Live.... according to Kiplinger's

When Kipliner's wrote their report of the 50 Best Places to Live in the USA they traveled to the cities that bubbled to the top of the list - why? How else to savor the real flavor of anywhere than to speak with the locals.
Everyone's looking for a great quality of life for their families, along with good home values and a reasonable cost of living.
Nashville, Tennessee was voted the #1 top city to live in America according to this survey.
Why not try a home exchange with someone in Nashville and see for yourself what everyone's talking about.

Our newest Digsville members describe all the best music joints for your listening and dancing pleaseure. That's good living! :)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Home Exchange: Cheaper than Ever (and cool cars)

United is celebrating springtime by offering customers special low-fare tickets today through April 21, 2006, for travel to favorite U.S. destinations. Special fares are also available for international destinations through April 24, 2006.

Digsville Home Exchange Club member – Chicago, Illinois, USA
Sample fares to U.S. destinations on United are each way, based on required roundtrip purchase by April 21, 2006. U.S. and Canada fares below are valid for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between April 24, 2006, and June 7, 2006:

Domestic Fares
-- $94 - Austin, Texas - Chicago
-- $149 - Boston - San Francisco
-- $39 - Las Vegas - Los Angeles
-- $169 - New York City - Los Angeles
-- $99 - Portland, Ore. - San Francisco
-- $114 - San Diego - Denver
-- $154 - Seattle - Washington, D.C.
-- $124 - Washington, D.C. – Denver

Digsville Home Exchange Club member – Tokyo, Japan – bring your international license!Sample international fares on United are each way, based on required roundtrip purchase by April 24, 2006. International fares are valid for travel on select off-peak days and travel periods vary by destination.

International Fares
-- $624 - Atlanta - Sydney
-- $360 - Boston - Seoul
-- $227 - New York City - London
-- $336 - New York City -Tokyo
-- $397 - Portland, Ore. - Amsterdam
-- $379 - San Diego - Brussels
-- $425 - Seattle - Bangkok
-- $423 - Seattle – Zurich

Book online at and earn bonus miles, or call United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED1 (1-800-864-8331).

With these prices, no hotel bills and a free car swap (like the beaut above) -- there's no reason in the world not to go!


Monday, April 10, 2006

$1,000 and Sense by Home Exchange

Americans spend about $2,250 per vacation, and about a third charge it. New York Times columnist, M.J. Dunleavey, has some suggestions for losing the credit card hangover:

Price it out Don't blow your budget before you pack--spend 30 minutes online (or with a travel agent) to research ticket prices, entrance fees etc.

Know thyself Are you a souvenir hound? Do you need to hit every museum? What about day care? Build your passions and needs into your overall budget.

Make a schedule Let's say you're planning a vacation starting the second week in August. That gives you three and a half months, or 17 weeks, to save before you need to spend a dime on reservations (assuming you make them two weeks in advance).

Divide your estimated travel budget by 17 weeks to arrive at the figure you'd need to save per week. A $2,500 goal would require that you set aside about $147 a week, which may seem unlikely - but it's not impossible. If you already have $500 in savings, you only need to save $117 per week.

Ms. Dunleavey then suggests easy ways to save money: cut home internet service for 3 months; put all your $5 bills in a jar; don't buy any more new clothes, etc.

Digsville Home Exchange Club member -
What she never considers, however, is the enormous savings enjoyed by people who travel by home exchange.

If you figure your savings on accommodation alone (forget car rental and restaurant tabs) at a low-end $80/night hotel, you're looking at over $1,000 for a two-week stay.

Works for me! :-)


Friday, April 07, 2006

Home Exchange in Hip, Enlightened Homer

Digsville Home Exchange Club member - Kenai Peninsula - the jewel of Alaska - Homer and Seward
Homer, Alaska, has been making a lot of lists:
  • America's Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine (April 2006 issue)
  • The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America
  • Outside Magazine's Top 10 Dream Towns
  • Men's Journal's 50 Best Places to Live
  • 50 Fabulous Place to Retire in America by Arthur & Mary Griffith
The Kenai Peninsula is considered the jewel of Alaska for its many attractions like Homer and Seward, where world-famous salmon and halibut fishing, clamming, whale-watching, sea life viewing and hiking are a few of the summer activities. This area offers coastal and mountain views, berry-picking, boating on lakes as well as off the coast.

In Homer itself, where people are diverse and locals say look the of the place has a wow factor, walk Bishop's Beach or do some kayaking, drop by the Old Inlet Bookshop, visit the Pratt Museum and the Farmer’s Market. Hiking's good across the bay and on the Homestead Trail, and be prepared to gorge yourself on fresh seafood.

I'm ready to cast my vote, and I haven't even been there yet!


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Arthur Frommer Recommends Home Exchange

Well, not in so many words - but an Arizona Daily Star Budget Travel article called Advice by Arthur Frommer: Cheap hotels harder to find in once-inexpensive Sin City, says:

Sad as it is to report, the accommodations of Las Vegas are getting costlier by the minute.
The reason is that budget hotels are being replaced by expensive high-rise luxury towers, leading to the ghastly situation that $400-a-night suites might become standard offering by the end of this year.

Of course, you can always stay miles away from the action, in some place called something like Joe's Town (which boasts its own RV park!), but then you'd immediately lose (1) your mind; and (2) your savings in car rental costs.

Digsville Home Exchange Club member - Las Vegas, Nevada, United StatesOr you could swap.

For free.

No hotel bills at all.

Save on meals, too.

Stay longer. (Stay sane)

Lose every shirt you've ever bought.

Have fun! :-)


Monday, April 03, 2006

Gassing Up for Home Exchange

There's a site you might want to bookmark when you're thinking of your next vacation locale - it's GasBuddyCom.

Digsville Home Exchange member - Moab, Utah, United StatesToday, for instance, Salt Lake City has the lowest gas prices today at 2.210/gallon -- Miami Beach, on the other hand, has got a Shell station on Fifth Street that's charging 3.04 a gallon.

If you plan on exploring the area you're in (with a 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle or otherwise), and you'd rather not put a considerable amount of your home exchange vacation budget straight into the tank, a little research on gas prices can make a big difference.

Thanks, Gas Buddy!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Vieux-Montreal: a European home exchange close to home

Here's an excerpt of interest to all you lovers out there:

Q. My wife and I were married in France and would like to celebrate our 50th anniversary in a French environment. Can you recommend some places to visit?

A. In the Canadian province of Quebec, "Old Montreal looks like old Paris, with cobblestone streets [and] horse-drawn carriages..." says Yves Gentil, of Destination Quebec (, the province's tourism office.

Digsville Home Exchange Club member - Montreal, Quebec, CanadaOld Montreal dates to the 17th century and has a number of Parisian exports, such as Notre-Dame Basilica and the Bateau-Mouche, which cruises the St. Lawrence River. The area's streets are lined with outdoor cafes, French bistros (try Chez L'epicier) and innumerable boutiques.

For culture, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features such impressionist stars as Monet and Renoir, and the Pointe-a-Calliere tracks the city's francophile history. And no Parisian, er, Canadian vacation is complete without stinky cheese from Yannick Fromagerie D'Exception, bread from Premiere Moisson boulangerie and wine from the government-run SAQ liquor stores. Then go to your favorite romantic restaurant (with your bottle!) or hike up Mont-Royal for a picnic in the park with a view.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Alabama in my Underwear

One of the top tourist attractions in the state of Alabama is a a 40,000 square foot department store--where you can buy anything from a great pair of running shoes for about $25 or designer pair of shoes for $30 or $40 to magician’s swords (whether it goes into a box or goes down somebody’s throat, not real sure), an African drum, and even a 10-foot long Swiss Alps Ricola horn.

Welcome to the last stop for lost luggage: the Unclaimed Baggage Center of Scottsboro, Alabama, where complete strangers can buy your stuff, everything from lost artwork to lost underwear.

Digsville Home Exchange member - Southern Plantation - Tuscaloosa, AlabamaTake time to enjoy a truly electic rural neighborhood, typical for the south. This gorgeous old southern plantation, furnished with southern antiques and heirlooms, is 10 miles from Moundville State Park, an archaeological site for mound-building Native Americans dating from 900 A.D. to 1500 A.D. There's a large lake for skiing and boating 10 miles away, although you may not want to leave the home's 22 acres of 100 year old hardwoods where a stroll along its nature trails can have you siting deer, fox, owls, terrapins, eagles and other woodland animals.

(kind of takes the sting out of losing your shorts, eh?)


Monday, March 27, 2006

See Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival by home exchange

This year's National Cherry Blossom Festival runs to April 9th, and the two week event marks the start of the District of Columbia's peak tourism season with the 3,000 flowering cherry trees around the Potomac River Tidal Basin the central attraction.

In case you haven't been for a while, Washington has a lot of new attractions: the Spy Museum; the Native American Museum, the World War II monument. And many other historical and cultural icons worth another visit: the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial; all the free Smithsonian Museums; the Holocaust Museum; the FDR Memorial (great at night); and dozens of other attractions including the Capitol and the White House.

Note: lots of things are free and almost everything is accessible by the Metro.

Relax after a long day of sightseeing in your comfy red brick home exchange home in the city just steps from the subway.

Official Tourism site for Washington, D.C.
article source

Friday, March 24, 2006

Home Exchange - Jamaica style

Digsville Home Exchange Club member - Villa in Negril Jamaica, on the sea
With Air Jamaica reliability and on-time performance trends at top industry levels, plus a well-publicized Sandals scandal regarding negligent service at the pricey resort, there's just been no better time to travel by home exchange to Negril.

Look at this gorgeous villa which comes with a domestic helper, gardner and a caretaker who is also a cook. Not only that, but guests have membership privileges to the sports & fitness complex at Swept Away Resort, which includes a gym, tennis clay and hard courts, daily yoga class, racquet ball and squash. There's swimming at the villa and Idle Awhile Resort beach.

Can't do much better than a free swap for paradise!

Air Jamaica article source
Sandals article source