Must-Have Apps for Traveling Abroad


It used to be when you went abroad, on a house exchange or cruise, that you had a few time-tested tools of navigating your way around the places you visited. It wasn’t uncommon to have a pocket guide for common phrases, currency exchange rates, and another travel needs. Now that we have smartphones and tablets, everything has gotten a little easier, and that includes travel. Here are some great apps for your next house swapping trip abroad.

Languages: Google Translate (Free on iOs and Android)

Need to say “Where is the hospital?” or “Is this the right train?” on your next Paris house exchange? Communication is no problem with these translation apps. Travel + Leisure declares Google Translate the most comprehensive app, and it’s definitely that. Google Translate is free and features 64 languages for typed and spoken translation. You can even translate with your camera and offline, which saves that valuable data as you participate in a house exchange in areas where data charges are high.

Transit: Moovit (Free on iOS, Android, Windows Store)

There is nothing more I hate than wandering a city clueless about its public transportation system. Google Maps always makes me download a separate transit app for the area or a generic Transit app that may work with the bus or subway, so finally I decided to get an app that could handle everything. That’s Moovit. Moovit is a crowd-sourced transit information app for 55 countries. It informs you on the best routes for public transit, as well as any interruptions you may face. It also lets you see what’s nearby, and shows you points of interest, so you’ll never be bored on your next house swapping adventure.

Currency Exchange: XE Currency (Free on iOS, Android)

XE Currency has been a currency exchange tool for years, first in the form of a website, now in a mobile app. It’s free, and helps you calculate the currency exchange rate for over 180 currencies. The Pro version unlocks a few more features and doesn’t feature advertisements. No need for the currency exchange charts that get outdated within weeks now.

Documents: CamScanner (Free on iOs, Android)

When traveling abroad for any reason, we often need to have important documents with us. We may need medical papers, papers for our animals, and other documents. CamScanner is a good way to take a photo of them and create an easily accessible as a PDF. It’s a free app I’ve used to catalog receipts and other things while traveling or at home, and it’s easy to use.

Hopefully your next house swapping trip will be a little easier thanks to these apps. Just be aware of your surroundings and be sure you don’t app and walk, or you may end up in a fountain or out in the middle of a strange street!

Contact us for more information on house swapping either in the United States or internationally, because we have properties located throughout the world, and want to let you travel the world your own way!





10 Clever Travel Gifts for the Holidays

Finding the perfect gift can be hard, and sometimes it may seem downright impossible. However, if you have a travel lover in your life and need to have a thoughtful gift, you’re in luck as I’ve chosen 10 unique gift ideas for travel fans, or maybe even yourself! As home swapping experts, we know how great travel can be, and what travelers love! Read on and get a few suggestions for your gift list.

Scratch Travel Journal

Perfect for the friend who loves to travel the world, this journal is by Uncommon Goods. It contains a trip planner, checklist, journal pages and more for use. Inside the traveler will find continent maps that feature scratch-offs so travelers can mark off where they’ve been and where they’re going to go on their voyage to a new place.

USB Portable Chargers

Nothing sucks the fun out of a vacation like a phone or tablet out of juice at the airport or in the car. You can minimize the chance of this happening with a portable USB charger. Many of the brands on the market are equipped to handle a number of device types, including Apple and Androids. It’s perfect for anyone who forgets to bring the wall adapter for their charger when on a home exchange.

Custom Instagram Photo Products

Everyone loves taking photos on their home exchange vacations, and many people share their photos on Instagram. Don’t let those photos sit online dormant when you can make them into a great travel gift! How about a custom-printed book featuring your favorite Instagram photos? Print Studio will let you put your photos not only in a book, but also on t-shirt, calendar, and more. You can share your memories of each house swap together.

Personalized Airport Departure Board

It’s time to step it up a notch with a personalized travel gift that will make them smile all year long. Think about your favorite destinations, either places you went together, or places you’ll go on a home exchange soon. You can have them added to a board and include the year of departure. Up to 10 places and dates can fit on the board, and the text recreates the same familiar text of a real departure board. It’s a great way to celebrate all of the home swapping you’ve embarked upon over the years.

GoToob Travel Bottle

This next option will stop the worry of remembering to pack a travel-size bottle of your favorite product in your carry-on. Humangear’s GoToob Travel Bottle has a no-drip valve and are airline-approved, holding 3.o oz of product. Plus they’ve got a sleek design and will make sure you know exactly what product is which since they have a spot for you to write the contents. It’s a good to get your packing all ready for your house swap.

Custom Luggage Tags

If you fly a lot, you may notice that bags at the airport all look alike. Why not minimize the chance a travel lover’s bag getting confused with another traveler’s bag, and offer custom luggage tags? Etsy is a great place for handmade luggage tags you’ll want to take on your next home swapping trip. We’ve linked to one set, but you can get them made of all types of material, with your choice of text, font size, and more.

Packing Accessories

Helping someone get the best packing for their time and energy is a great gift for this year.  Travel Packing Cubes let you organize and pack everything efficiently, so your clothes and belongings aren’t disorderly when you arrive for your house swap. By compartmentalizing your stuff into these or similar packing cubes, you don’t have to dig in the bag through everything just to find one thing, such as a charger or toothbrush. Giving the gift of organization means you give a gift that can last year after year – each time they travel!

Travel Books

Giving travel inspiration is always a good choice, especially in the form of a beautifully illustrated book or travel memoir. Wild is an upcoming movie that features the tale of Cheryl Strayed, who hikes the 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, and is a bestselling book that will probably be under many trees this Christmas! If you’d rather go for a coffee table book, you can give a gift that will last all year long with an option like Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Tripswhich features pictorials of 500 scenic drives around the world. It’s by National Geographic and offers gorgeous photos they’ll want to look at again and again.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Riding on a train or plane, or any type of public transportation, sometimes you need to escape into your own thoughts. Here’s why a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones comes in. Some, like this Bose pair, even integrate with your smartphone, helping you take calls as well. The recipient of these or similar headphones will be able to listen to the music without disturbing other travelers, and slip into a world of their own sound. Plus they’re way less likely to get tangled than Apple headphones.

Travel Tea and Coffee Tumblers

It doesn’t matter where you go, a good drink should always be at hand. Whether it’s coffee or tea, a solid travel tumbler is just the thing to start off your days. Try a large 14 oz or big thermal mug that can keep drinks nice and hot until the end, or pt for something to help you get the perfect cup of loose tea, even while on vacation! A glass option lets you not worry about plastic and is easy to wash in the dishwasher. You can even get options that reflect the recipients interest, such as nature or books, with custom-designed tumblers. Maybe even decide to give a picture of the two of you together on a mug. Think it through and you’ll find a great one.

Please visit The Vacation Exchange Network’s site to join our home swap network, to learn more about how home exchanges work, or see all of our properties at great destinations all over the world. You can also follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!






11 Free and Cheap Souvenir Ideas for Your Child’s Next Vacation

One of the most fun aspects of going on a vacation for children is the ability to get souvenirs. Whether it’s a shell plucked from the sand of a beach, or a ticket stub from a favorite theme park, children like to collect souvenirs as a reminder of a favorite trip. If you’ve ever been to a gift shop while on vacation, you know prices can be steep, particularly in popular tourist destinations. However, you can get free and cheap souvenirs for your children (and maybe even yourself!) on your next house swap vacation. Read below to find out your best options!

Photo used under Creative Commons from Source

Photo used under Creative Commons from Source

Stamped Pennies

Many theme parks, such as Disney Parks, have stamped penny machines. These machines take a common penny, and for the typical price of $.50 to $1.25, will flatten, elongate, and stamp a penny with a random image. Did you know that you can find these machines all over the United States? Next time you decide to take a vacation with a home exchange, look for a penny stamping machine. Websites like will provide you with a list by state and country of penny machines, so you can visit one or several machines on your trip. Once home, you and your child can arrange the pennies in a frame, and maybe include a note about where you got each penny. If going overseas, having a few pieces of the local currency is always a good way to get a souvenir as well.

Pins and Buttons

I like to collect a pin from every place I travel, whether it be a theme park, zoo, museum, or just a new city. I display my pins on a lanyard on my walls, where they’re a patchwork of memories of fun vacations. Encouraging your children to opt for a small souvenir, such as a pin, saves room in your suitcase (and avoids you having to pay pesky overages!), and lets you stretch the souvenir budget. Most pins range between $3.99 to $8.99 in price, and some locations will have a variety of designs, so you can choose your favorite. Next time you visit a place on a house exchange, consider purchasing a pin so you can remember your trip to Dallas, Texas or Venice, Italy, or wherever you may end up! Once home, you can display them on a lanyard, or try putting them in a piece of cork board. If you frame the cork, you have an attractive display of souvenirs that are cheap, fun, and small, yet eyecatching! Your visitors will comment on the clever display and ask you questions about where you’ve been – it’s a perfect conversation piece for adults, and fun for kids.

Photo used under Creative Commons Source

Photo used under Creative Commons Source


Magnets are another option for a cheap souvenir while on a house swap. Some travelers love to cover their fridge’s surface with magnets for every place they’ve been, while others like to just buy a few as they travel. Whatever your “style,” you can rest assured you will find a magnet for any place you travel, if there’s a gift shop handy! For your kids, you can issue little challenges when collecting magnets, such as “for this trip, collect magnets that feature animal” or “choose a magnet for your favorite stop on the vacation.” You can also get a dry erase board with a magnetic surface, hang it up, and display all of your magnets there.

Brochures, Pamphlets, and Menus

Souvenirs don’t have to be expensive. Are you visiting a number of good local restaurants and attractions? Why not just collect the brochures and various other “ephemera” to bind up in a scrapbook? You can collect them for your child, and then when you get home, you can make a scrapbook together. Let them decorate the pages with stickers, photos, and drawings illustrating your vacation, and write about why they liked each place. It’s a personalized souvenir that didn’t cost you anything, except maybe the materials such as crayons, etc. Your next home exchange with The Vacation Exchange will probably provide plenty of options for this souvenir type!

Fill Up a DIY Passport

Why can’t kids have a “passport” of their own? There are multiple printable versions online for your child to use on your next home exchange. You can take the example of this crafty mother and make your own. Sit and browse with your child online, looking for things to do, places to visit, and restaurants to visit on your trip. Then fill in the journal with each “thing” and let your child illustrate the “passport” throughout. If you want, you can even purchase inexpensive stickers to give to your child for each destination. As you visit each place listed in the book, they get to collect a sticker. At the end of the trip, they’ve checked off the places, added their drawings, and have a sticker to commemorate the events. This version of a souvenir is a much more personal option than a gaudy gift shop stuffed animal or plastic toy, and also won’t take up room in the suitcase.

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