After living in France and seeing how my friends would take a month off every summer I’ve always wanted to do the same and take an extended summer vacation. Like for 3-4 weeks. But usually by the time I realize I should plan something I look up accommodations and airline tickets and prices are sky-high and everything is booked. That happened to me two years in a row so last year I decided to book my summer vacation in December. I like to plan things a few months in advance so the idea of planning 6-9 months out was a bummer but as a result we were able to plan a really cool trip on a budget.
First we had to figure out where to go. I had noticed the cheap direct flights on Norwegian Air to Scandinavia and thought that might be an option. (They have direct flights from Oakland from $300-$600!) We also considered the Mediterranean, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. I did a bunch of research but didn’t buy anything.
I also wanted to figure out the best way to save on our housing since a hotel can get expensive for a month. My friend does home swaps all the time so she explained the whole process to me and I decided to sign up for a website(I had to pay for a membership.) Almost immediately I got all these offers of possible house swaps. From everywhere to France, Spain, Italy and Mexico, and remote places I hadn’t even heard of. We also got an invitation to a beautiful modern house in Norway in the middle of the fjords. I fell in love with the house and when I double checked the airfare I realized the tickets were $500 roundtrip. That made our decision for us. In the end we were able to cover everything for our family of four for $2000. Of course there are more expenses for traveling but the main expenses of flights and lodging we were able to get a good deal on.
We are planning on taking a real vacation for 7-10 days in a different part of Europe and then the rest of the time we will be working remotely and keep business hours at the home in Norway. When you are in Europe but still working US work hours it is actually a really nice schedule. You wake up and spend the day doing whatever you want (sight-seeing, hiking, etc) then, about 4pm everyone in the US comes online. So you work from 4pm-12pm to be available for emails etc., then go to sleep. It’s a pretty great schedule for hanging out with family.
Friends ask if we feel weird having people staying in our home. The nice thing is we’ve exchanged a lot of emails with the family and have even been following each other on Instagram so you get to know people a little before you actually swap homes. Also, we have friends and neighbors that can check in while we are gone so it doesn’t feel so anonymous.
Would you ever do a house swap? I’d love to hear about your experience if you’ve done it before. Also, we are in the throes of vacation planning. Do you have any must-sees or must-do’s in Norway? We are going to be staying in the north in Alesund but plan on renting a car and getting around the country a bit including doing some hiking and camping.