See the World for Free With House Swaps?

By Nancy Dunham

Everybody knows that hotel vacations can be costly. But rather than sit home in this bleak economy, some families are turning to house swaps. The system is generally just as it sounds; two families "trade" homes for their vacations. You continue to pay your home's expenses and the other person pays theirs.

"It's popular especially now when people are watching every dollar they spend," says Sara Morrow of Budget Travel Magazine. "People are getting really creative at how to cut costs. When you look at home swaps as [an alternative] to paying $150 a night [for a hotel room] you can see why they're popular."

Although Web sites have sprouted to expedite the process, many wonder if house swapping is a safe, comfortable way to spend vacation. Budget Travel's stories on the topic underscore the best ways to ensure a comfortable, safe experience even if you've never entered into this type of agreement.

"At first, it might seem daunting to some -- especially thinking of the details and the insecurities [many express]," said Morrow. "It has been around for a while, and a lot of users and house swappers are extremely satisfied…[Still], when you are entering into this you should be 100 percent comfortable."

So just how do you satisfy your concerns and enjoy this seemingly low-cost way to explore your vacation destination like a native? Consider these ideas from Morrow and others:

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