The first time I came across this concept, I was looking at the community bulletin board at the Madeline Island Yacht Club. There was a note card pinned to the board that read "want to trade two weeks aboard our yacht in the Canary Islands for a two-week stay at a Madeline Island cabin".
The whole thing sounded very appealing! Attached to the note card was a photo of a forty-something foot sailboat, anchored at a nice-looking marina in an area that was obviously tropical. There was a list of amenities aboard the boat (full galley, fore and aft cabins with queen beds, head with shower, onboard refrigeration and generator, television and the like) plus a list of area attractions in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The catch would be that you'd have to get yourself to the Islands, either by ferry or charter aircraft. And the boat owner wanted to swap for a stay at a two or three-bedroom log home on Lake Superior, with full kitchen and bath facilities.
At the time, I had no cabin to offer for such a swap. My family was living aboard a thirty-foot power boat at the Madeline Island Marina, not exactly what these people had in mind. Still, the idea of two weeks aboard a luxurious sailboat in the Canary Islands seemed delightful.
That was about twelve years ago. Today, there is a growing number of resources available for adventurers who seek to swap vacation homes or condominiums. One of these is Trading Places International, a California company that specializes in vacation home swaps.
Broker Allen Hemphill in Rancho Bernardo, California, has devoted a portion of his great-looking website to vacation home exchanging. His article on vacation swaps, in PDF format, is well-worth reading.
Of course, there are lots of time-share communities that arrange vacation swaps as well. Choosing one of those probably involves less creativity and imagination than swapping your cabin for a sailboat!
If you have successfully arranged a vacation swap of your summer home, cabin or cottage, write and let me know. I'd be interested in assembling a resource directory of property swap options for second home owners.