Let's Share Homes, Boats, RVs - Even Meals

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By Mia Taylor

If you've seen the movie "The Holiday," you're familiar with home swapping and how much more interesting and affordable it can make a vacation. In Hollywood's version, the experience includes glamorous homes, unexpected and unique interactions with local people and businesses, even a dashing love interest. In Debbie Wosskow's real-life version, only the handsome leading is missing.

"You genuinely have experiences that money can't buy -- authentic, local, different experiences -- when you're staying in a neighborhood at someone's home or in a community, instead of in a hotel," says Wosskow, founder of the world's largest home exchange club, Love Home Swap. "I stayed in a spectacular one-bedroom warehouse apartment in a residential neighborhood of Sydney that was loaded with beautiful art. It was the kind of place I would have never normally set foot in ... and the owners gave me a guide to the neighborhood, including the best Pilates studio and local farmers market."

Established in 2011, Love Home Swap allows members of all backgrounds to swap homes -- to date, more than 63,000 properties in 160 countries, reporting an average 33,000 swaps each year. There is no cost to swap via Love Home Swap, just a fee to be a member of the site -- ranging from about $179 to $628, depending on the level of membership.

"There is a huge cost savings if you're going to swap a home rather then pay for hotel accommodations," Wosskow says. "So, yes, it's about cost, but it's also about life swapping. It's about putting yourself in someone else's skin and walking around in it." It's also just one example of the booming sharing economy and its increasing influence on travel and how people vacation.

Shared Boats and RVs

While Airbnb is the most well known in this burgeoning industry, the sharing economy has grown to include everything from swapping or sharing boats and yachts on vacation to private jets, recreational vehicles and bicycles. The website Get My Boat, for instance, provides access to privately owned boats in more than 135 countries and 3,000 locations. Accessing boats can cost as little as $40 an hour -- or be glamorous and expensive, including the opportunity to sail aboard the yacht from the 007 movie "The World is Not Enough."

Not to worry if you don't know how to sail a boat or captain a yacht - the site's offerings are for all experience levels. There are boat-chartering opportunities available, as well as bare-bones rentals for those who want to do it all themselves. "We wanted it to be an open platform. We wanted to bring boating to the masses. And we rent everything from paddle boats to mega yachts. It really does cover a lot," spokesman Bryan Petro says.

RVShare says the average family's RV will sit unused for approximately 90 percent of the year. "What the traveler gains from peer-to-peer RV rentals is options," co-founder Joel Clark says. "If they were to go to CruiseAmerica, there's hundreds of the exact same type of vehicles. Through RVShare you're working with private owners, and for many of them this RV is their second home, which means it comes with all the options and amenities that they have taken great pride in installing."​

Unique Experiences

Maxwell Luthy, director of trends and insights at trendwatching.com, other sharing websites disrupting the travel economy include Eatwith.com and VizEat (global communities that allow participants to enjoy authentic and intimate dining experiences in people's homes and Onefinestay (luxury accommodations) and Hovelstay (the anti-luxury marketplace -- offering everything from a hammock in Costa Rica to apartments in Hong Kong).

Luthy counts four primary drivers behind the remarkable blossoming: our urge to connect as human beings, the financial value sharing provides, the ability to answer travelers' increased concern with sustainability and being less wasteful, and to deliver on the search for unique experiences. "Traveling is all about the experience," Luthy says. "So in an era of abundance, you need to have the unique experience. And these sharing opportunities allow for that."
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