She’s been around the world in 80 holidays.
Lizzi Seear, 51, claims she’s toured 84 countries over the last six years with her partner, Alun Westoll, 52 — and she’s only paid for airfare.
Seear said she was used to discounted accommodations working for IHG Hotels & Resorts, but after switching jobs, she searched for a new way to vacation on the cheap.
Cue HomeExchange. The website boasts listings around the globe with an annual membership that starts at $175 a year. There are a slew of homes to stay in for no additional cost — the only catch is that you swap your home with the owner of your vacation destination.
“I’ve stayed in some amazing places including a two-week stay in Bali,” Seear told the Sun. “I got to stay in a private two-bed villa in Bali that had its own private pool and a housekeeper who came with breakfast every morning.”
“It was a real pinch-me moment because the whole trip only cost us £400 for the flights,” added Seear, who also revealed she’d traveled to Italy, Spain, Finland, Hungary and Germany.
HomeExchange is an alternative to the popular rental service Airbnb, which has fallen into hot water with NYC officials. The app not only successfully elbowed its way into the housing market and hurt hotels’ earnings, but also has some critics blaming it for contributing to the city’s housing crisis.
In January, new crackdowns targeting the short-term rental site went into effect, barring hosts from renting out an “entire registered dwelling unit” and requiring them to also provide proof of permanent residence as well as diagrams and leases. Failure to comply with the new regulations could cost hosts up to $5,000, with Airbnb fined $1,500 per violation.
Seear said she was hesitant to list her unit on Airbnb, explaining she felt better about HomeExchange because of the “trust” between fellow travelers who are in the “same situation.”
She said she’s accommodated 48 visitors at her home in Ealing, West London, over six years, recalling the first time guests ever stayed there was “the weirdest thing,” despite them being “lovely people.”
During times when she was away for work and wanted to rent out her home in lieu of a swap, the site allowed her to rack up exchange “points” to use at a later date. Now, not only does she travel to tourist hotspots — Barcelona is her favorite — she also tries to visit hidden gems.
“I started looking at Baden-Baden in Germany and thought that the Black Forest looked really beautiful,” she said. “We stayed in a really beautiful home, which was a 10-minute walk from the [town] center and right in the black forest.”
The Vodafone employee encourages people to try out house swapping, reassuring reluctant travelers that it’s “not about the size, or the location” of their home. Just “as long as you have a comfortable bed and clear some space in the wardrobe,” that’s what matters.
“I went to a flat in Bologna, which looked like it hadn’t been dusted for a month,” she divulged. “We kept our stuff inside our suitcases, but we were only 10 minutes outside central Bologna.”
“People need to make the most of what they have,” she added. “Your home doesn’t need to be large or spacious or in London because you never know where people want to stay.”
HomeExchange seems straight out of the iconic 2006 rom-com “The Holiday” — in which Cameron Diaz’s character swaps homes with a British journalist played by Kate Winslet — and manages to find small-town love.
An unlikely pair even shared a similar meet-cute via the HomeExchange website in 2021, when a New York woman switched homes with a Londoner and met her British Prince Charming. But she reported in December she is no longer with the man.
The two women who swapped homes, however, forged a friendship from the experience.
“Neither of us is still with the man we met: Despite grand plans, the stretch of the Atlantic was a greater power than the sizzle of the romantic connection I found,” Lizzie Frainier wrote in the Telegraph. “But somehow my friendship with Camille grew stronger as the months ticked on.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.