Home exchange stories, Intervac, Travel

Disneyland Paris

As parents of two little princesses, we had been dreaming of going to Disneyland for some time.

As we live in Europe, Disneyland Paris, formerly known as Eurodisney, was our choice.Sleeping beauty castle in Disneyland Paris

The problem was the budget for it: Disney tickets alone are not cheap, looking for a Disneyland hotel or even a Paris hotel booking is a nightmare and then there were also the plane tickets.

We live on an island (Madeira Island, Portugal), so avoiding airfare costs was not an option. Fortunately, we found reasonable prices with the low-cost airline Transavia that flies directly to Paris from Madeira, but also from around 40 other locations in Europe.

Disneyland Accommodation

The accommodation problem was the easiest for us to solve. I think most people start planning their Disneyland trip by analyzing Disneyland Paris packages. But not us 🙂 Were we going to look for Disneyland hotel deals? No! We had been Intervac members for many years and knew home exchange was the way to go. We just had to decide exactly where we wanted to exchange to and start sending out offers.

The decision was eventually for the area around Place de la Nation. This was the best for us because using the RER-A train we could get to Disneyland Resort Paris in about 30 minutes.

We could use the same train line or the subway to get to the tourist attractions of Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe in 15 to 30 minutes.

RER-A train map - how to get to Disneyland Paris

So that was the area we did a home exchange too. And that came with the added benefit of being in a residential area. We had several small supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants around our exchange apartment and even a very nice playground right out our door.

Doing a home exchange was a brilliant solution: it allowed us to stay in Paris for 2 full weeks and to go to Disneyland for 6 days. On the other days we explored Paris at the leisurely pace you take when you are on holidays with kids.

Disneyland Tickets and Passes

But let me get back to the Disneyland Paris tickets. If you are considering going to Disneyland Paris for 3 days or more, I highly recommend that you buy their Annual Pass (Passeport Annuel). It might seem an overkill to buy an annual pass to visit for 3, 4, 5 or 6 days, but it actually pays up if you do the math. Check out all the information on the official site Disneyland Paris http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/annual-passports/ and please note that the names and conditions for the passes changed on March 29, 2017.

Our Annual Passports were our Disneyland Paris cheap ticketsThese passes all need to be bought inside Disneyland itself. You can get a 10% discount if you have a sponsor (an Annual Passport holder). You can get all the information on this on the DLP Guide website http://www.dlpguide.com/planning/booking/annual-passports/ We also used their forum MagicForum to find a sponsor http://www.magicforum.eu/

After getting to Disneyland here is how we got our passes: we bought 1-day tickets at the gate, went to the Bureau Passeport Annuel, met our sponsors there and got our Annual Passes with the discount. The price for the 1-day tickets was fully refunded. The full process took us about 1 hour, but it was totally worth it: we went back in the Summer 2017 and used the same passes again 🙂

After getting in, we got our Disney Paris map (which includes the two parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios) and the programme for the shows and parades. They are both essential but the programme is the only one you can check online in PDF format (it changes weekly) http://download.disneylandparis.com/Disneyland-Paris_Shows-and-Parades.pdf.

The map can only be checked online in an interactive version (you won’t be able to print the Disneyland map if that is what you had in mind…).

A great addition to the map is the mobile app. Of course, you will need to have a tablet or smartphone with you (and Internet connection). Disneyland Paris mapWe used the app a lot to check the wait time for attractions and decide where to go next http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/mobile-app/

The wait time shown at the entrance of the attractions and on the app seemed to be accurate and that was quite useful.

I have some more tips if you are visiting Disneyland Paris with kids.

Disneyland Shows and Parades Tips

  • Do all the shows in the Walt Disney Studio parkMickey and the Magician in the  Animagique Theater was our favourite, but the Moteurs… Action! car stunt show was also great. Disney Junior Live on Stage is geared towards young kids but it was a bit more challenging because our kids don’t speak English or French. Art of Disney Animation, in turn, was geared towards the adults and we loved it!
  • Disney Stars on Parade in the main park is the new parade that started in March 2017. It is a must see and happens only once throughout the day, so ensure you take note of the time. Great views are available anywhere along the parade route, and additionally from the Main Street USA railroad station. In both cases, you should steak out your spot about 15 minutes prior to the start of the parade for unobstructed views, but any more than this is usually unnecessary.
  • Disney Illuminations is a multimedia nighttime show, featuring fireworks, water effects music and video. Great for both the kids and the adults! It uses Sleeping Beauty’s castle as its projection screen, so is best viewed as straight on as possible. To claim a perfect spot for this, you will need to try at least one hour in advance of the show during high-season. Please note that anywhere on Main Street will provide a good view. Simply check if you can see the whole castle.   

General Disneyland Tips

  • Meeting Snow White at the Princess Pavillion in Disneyland ParisKids dressing up seem to get lots more attention from Disney characters. Also if your girl is dressed up as Snow White your party won’t have to queue for the Snow White ride, the group can get in through the exit (or sometimes through the Fast Pass entry). Just speak to the Cast members at the exit and they will promptly let you know how to get in. The same goes for Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and other characters. Another advantage of having your kids dressed up is that they have a good excuse not to buy them the overpriced (but beautiful!) costumes at the Disney stores throughout the park.
  • Queues for the Disneyland Railroad are significantly longer at the entry gates (Main Street USA) than at other stations. If you just want to ride it for the grand tour of the park get on at the Frontierland or Fantasyland stations which even include seating areas (although limited).
  • Use the FastPass for the attractions that allow it and have longer queues like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and Ratatouille: The Adventure. You can only have one FASTPASS® ticket at a time per person. Another ticket can only be obtained once the previous one has been used or 2 hours after the previous one.
  • When visiting with small children, always take advantage of the Baby Swap service on rides for which children are too small. This will allow one of the adults to queue, while the other adult waits with the child, and can then enter through the exit or Fastpass queue as soon as the first rider leaves.
  • It is often quicker to meet Mickey Mouse at the Toon Studio (in the Studio Park Backlot) than at his home in the main park. Queues for other characters near Mickey at the Toon Studio are often even shorter. Also, if you are not up to queuing you always take a picture from a distance in no time!
  • Contrary to popular belief, you are welcome to take outside food or drink into the park, and eat there.
    Gazebo at the entrance of Disneyland ParisThe security check will not confiscate outside food and drink. Simply make sure you don’t take alcohol, or drinks in glass bottles. Sandwiches, snacks, drinks can be brought into the park and eaten. Restrictions would only apply to anyone taking up a lot of space in the park for an extended period of time. Our favourites were the pre-prepared salads from the supermarket: there is quite a variety and having the salads at hand meant no queuing for lunch.
    Our favourite area for eating was right at the entrance, both to the left and right you have a green area with several seats with shade and some even with a beautiful gazebo.

What to do while waiting in line in Disneyland?

And trust me, there will be waiting in line… Here are some ideas:

–          Decide where to go next using the app or the map

–          Talk: discuss how things were made or planned, ask the kids trivia questions about the Disney movies or shows they have watched

–           Look: notice things around you together; the details, colours, look for hidden Mickeys

–           Take pictures

–           Games

  1.        I Spy, with my little eye
  2.        Simon says – clap your hands, touch your nose, count to 10, stick out your tongue, stand on your tippy toes
  3.        Animal Charades
  4.        The Alphabet Game – find objects around you (eg clothing and signs) from A-Z.
  5.        Character Alphabet  – list characters from A-Z (villains, princesses, cartoons, etc.)
  6.        Botticelli – take on the persona of a well-known person, give other players the initials. Players ask yes/no questions.
  7.        Sweet and sour – wave at a stranger and see who waves back
  8.        Peruse the Shoes – Count all the shoes they see while waiting in line. How many people have on black shoes, open-toed shoes, gym shoes? Without socks? How many have laces? How many have velcro ties?
  9.        Walk the Line – You need a floor with either lines or stripes. Players have to keep both feet either on or off the lines.  3 chances to misstep before eliminating contestants. Winner gets to be line leader the next time.

Disneyland Attractions Tips

Finally here are some specific attraction tips:

Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux

Our girls found it a bit frightening due to the loud noise and effects.

Autopia- Disneyland ParisAutopia

The official minimum height to drive is 1.32 m, but smaller kids can control the wheel, as long as an adult controls the speed pedal. Long queues, but our girls loved it!

Big Thunder Mountain

Our girls loved this roller coaster and wanted to ride again! The adults also enjoyed it.

Crush’s Coaster

The vehicles spin during the main roller coaster section and it is lots of fun for kids and adults. Even our 4-year old loved it. The wait was quite big, but there is a specific app you can use on the waiting line(wi-fi and instructions available on-site).

Orbitron – Machines Volantes

Not that much fun… a basic ride and quite a long wait.

Plage des Pirates

There is a maximum height to play of 1.40 m, but that is not strictly enforced. Our girls both had fun here while the parents had a bit of a rest (the oldest one was a bit over 1,40m).         

Pirates of the CaribbeanPlage des Pirates at Disneyland Paris

Visitors may get slightly splashed from two small flumes… loads of fun in spite of the “scary” theme with lots of skeletons. We all loved this one!

Princess Pavillion

This always had the longest waits (usually 90 to 120 minutes). We eventually got in when the line was “only” 45 minutes long. The queue is all inside the pavilion, so no rain or too much sun issues. The thing is that in the end, you basically take a picture with one of 2 princesses (you have information on which ones at the entrance). The princess does talk to you a bit, but when you don’t speak English or French that is not of much use. Still, our girls loved meeting Snow White and finding out she has a very high pitched voice! However, we had a much smaller queue to take pictures outside with Jasmine & Aladdin and with Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty).Meeting Princess Aurora at Disneyland Paris

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith

This features an intense launch and three inversions. Even so, our 8-year old girl liked it because of the music and decorations.

Space Mountain: Mission 2 / Hyperspace Mountain

This features a very intense launch and many inversions. Our 8-year old girl hated it, she found it really scary. This one is definitely geared at those looking for a thrill.

Star Tours at Disneyland ParisStar Tours

Very good motion-simulated flight guided by C3PO. A must if you are a Star Wars fan… but very worthwhile even if you are not. And you get to wear 3D glasses while waiting at your boarding gate 🙂

Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop

Our girls loved this drop attraction. A bit of wait, but having a Toy Story related theme helped.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Our girls hated this drop attraction. It was definitely too scary for them. The toy soldiers one is more kid-friendly.

 

 

This is part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.

Home exchange stories, Intervac

Intervac Ambassadors

We are always looking for experienced members interested in helping us spread the word about Intervac and home-exchange. If you are an experienced Intervac member and would like to help us spread the word about Intervac and home exchange, we invite you to become an ambassador. You can read all about it and apply here.

Currently, our ambassadors are:

 

Belgium Belgium – BE01020

Phil Marcisz

In 2013 our family decided to go for a richer and more adventurous holiday experience. We had heard about exchanging houses but had the impression that it was something ‘to good to be true’. But … we took the step and joined Intervac. A couple of months later we made our first exchange in Gent. Short but very sweet … and during that exchange we got in touch with a Swedish family for a second exchange. We were amazed that things went so smooth and enjoyed the talks with the other families. We ended up doing 3 exchanges in our first year. Now (after more than 10 successful exchanges) we can say that we are really ‘hooked’. When we think about ‘vacation’ we think about exchanging houses through Intervac.

But it’s more than planning a vacation. It’s about meeting (new) people, experiencing their local life and enjoying a warm feeling of trust. After more than 10 exchanges we still are amazed about the generosity of most exchangers. Sharing is fun and makes a holiday much richer. Every exchange (far or close) is a new adventure for our family. Over the past year we encouraged several people to give it a try. Some did … and really liked it for the right reasons. For us, exchanging houses is more than a cheap(er) holiday and that’s the positive message we try to give to people.

Italy Italia – IT1005642

Laura Dossena

Laura Dossena

I am a 40 something freelance translator who absolutely loves traveling, see places, try new things. A few years ago, in 2008, I read about this “strange” thing called home exchange and I thought “It’s too good to be true!”. I spoke about it with my husband and let’s just say he was easily convinced. I know that’s not always the case in a couple, so… I am very lucky!

Home exchange turned out to be true indeed, and even better than I imagined. I have been trying to convey a small part of the awesomeness that is home exchange writing about it in my blog, but I have to admit it’s really difficult.

So when I read on Intervac newsletter about the ambassador initiative, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be honored and proud to share and spread the home exchange word as an Intervac ambassador, because I think there’s really no better way to travel, to know people and culture, to be citizens of the world, and ultimately to understand that we are really the same, from Sweden to Italy, from Paris to Vancouver to Modesto (CA). In this moment in history, I think no lesson is more important than that.

Portugal Portugal – PT021

Alfredo Magalhães

Alfredo Magalhães Family

We are a couple who likes to travel, to know new places, new people and new ways of living. That’s why we enjoy staying in a city or region for several days. We think that the Intervac is the ideal organization for this purpose. Sometimes my children join us. But they are working now and they don’t have much time to travel, while we’re retired and can do what we like and whenever we like.

When we have the opportunity we always talk about this way of travelling, exchanging homes, and we show its advantages. But there are still many people who don’t feel confident with this kind of exchange. We intend to go on spreading and promoting this way of travelling and demystifying the false dangers which people are afraid of.

India India – INOC0501

Hiren Goradia

Hiren Goradia Family

Hello! We are a family from India who love travelling and have been doing so since 25 years. My parents also accompany us on most of our trips. I am a Civil Engineer whereas my wife is a travel consultant. We live in Mumbai and the home in Pune is our beloved second home which we have since 30 years. We just love home exchanges as we meet wonderful people (on most occasions), explore the area at leisure and being vegetarian, get to prepare and eat our own food! Most of our exchange partners become our friends and we continue keeping in touch even after the exchange. Try out the Intervac way of seeing the world – mail me or call me anytime and I would be delighted to assist with any queries you may have!!

France France – FR110198

Michèle Grangé-Martins

Michèle Grangé-Martins

Je suis adhérente depuis 1990, lorsque l’on faisait les échanges avec le catalogue et les courriers, à cette époque j’ai échangé ma maison à Villandry en Touraine (37) une dizaine de fois. Ensuite, j’ai adopté un garçon Brésilien et je me suis consacrée à une autre aventure. Nous avons repris les échanges depuis l’année dernière et j’aimerai en faire davantage mais mon compagnon travaille encore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cette année, nous avons fait un échange avec des bretons que nous avons accueillis autour d un déjeuner très agréable pour pouvoir échanger et ensuite nous sommes partis chez eux en Bretagne. Récemment, nous avons accueilli des espagnols en échange non simultané dans notre logement disponible pendant 2 semaines et nous partirons en juillet en Galice. Enfin, nous terminerons l’été avec un échange pour Amsterdam. J’aime cette formule où nous rencontrons des personnes variées, respectueuses de nos lieux et où nous pouvons multiplier à l’infini les possibilités de visites et de nouvelles opportunités; je parle anglais et comprend l’espagnol, j’aime partager mes expériences dans de nombreux domaines afin d’offrir à chacun des rencontres inoubliables en les agrémentant avec nos excellences personnelles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ainsi, les échanges deviennent incroyablement vivants, intéressants et passionnants.


I am a member since 1990, when Intervac was with the paper catalog and postal mail, at that time I exchanged my house of Villandry, in Touraine (37) ten times. Then I adopted a Brazilian boy and I spent another adventure. We are now exchanging our home again since last year and I’d like to make more exchanges but my partner is still working!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This year, we made an exchange with a Breton family that we have received in our home and we shared together a very pleasant lunch in order to exchange and then we left home in Brittany. Recently, we hosted Spanish members for a non-simultaneous exchange in our accommodation available for 2 weeks and we will go next July in Galicia. Finally, we will finish the summer with an exchange in Amsterdam. I like this formula where we meet friendly people and various places and for which we can multiply indefinitely sightseeing and get new opportunities; I speak English and understand Spanish, I like to share my experiences in many areas in order to offer everyone an unforgettable encounters adorning them with our personal excellence !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! Thus, the exchanges become incredibly alive, interesting and exciting.

France France – FR010240

Luc & Claudie JEANMASSON

Luc & Claudie Jeanmasson

Nous sommes deux enseignants, bientôt en retraite, et nous sommes inscrits à Intervac depuis 1989 et avons réalisé plus de quarante échanges en France, Europe (une dizaine de pays différents), aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. Actuellement nous habitons en Auvergne, mais dès l’an prochain nous serons en Bretagne, non loin de Paimpol. Cette expérience d’ambassadeurs nous tente parce que nous sommes ravis de partager notre enthousiasme pour les échanges et d’aider de nouveaux adhérents.

Notre premier échange était au pays basque en 1989 et depuis nous avons vu évoluer Intervac, matériellement (du papier à l’informatique) et aussi dans l’esprit, du fait de  l’augmentation du nombre d’inscrits. Aussi, ce qui nous intéresse dans le rôle d’ambassadeur, c’est de perpétuer le caractère associatif d’Intervac, et d’affirmer sa spécificité par rapport à d’autres sites d’échange. Nous avons souvent été sollicités par ces organismes sans jamais céder à la tentation du changement, caprice généré par la société marchande : adhérent, oui, client, non. Enfin, passionnés par la découverte d’autres cultures, notre première motivation est d’abord faire découvrir, comprendre et partager celle de notre pays, de notre région (sans chauvinisme aucun : il y a toujours là où l’on vit des trésors humains ou naturels surprenants). Echanger, voyager : humanisme et ouverture d’esprit.


We are both teachers, retired soon, and we are Intervac members since 1989: more than forty exchanges in France, Europe (ten countries), the United States and Canada. Currently we live in Auvergne, but next year we will be in Brittany, close to Paimpol. This experience of ambassadors tempts us because we love to share our enthusiasm for home exchange and help new members.

Our first exchange was in the French Basque country in 1989 and since we have seen evolve Intervac materially (from paper catalogue to Internet website) and also in the spirit, because of the increased number of its members. Also, our motivation in the role of ambassador is to perpetuate the associative nature of Intervac, and to affirm its specificity compared to other homeexchange websites. We have often been solicited by these websites without ever yielding to the temptation of change, whim generated by the market society: member, yes, customer, no. Finally, passionate about discovering other cultures, our primary motivation is first to make discover, understand and share our, our country and our region (without any chauvinism: there is always where you live human or natural surprising treasures). Switching, travel: humanism and openness.

Canada Canada – CA1259

Gilles & Monique Pelletier

Je suis membre actif depuis l’an 2000. Nous avons toujours été ravis de nos expériences : du côté culturel et humain. Nous sommes restés en contact avec plusieurs des amis que nous nous sommes faits lors de ces échanges. Nous sommes devenus Ambassadeurs d’abord pour pouvoir partager les expériences que nous avons vécues, ma femme et moi ; ensuite pour aider les futurs membres qui auraient besoin de conseils pour manœuvrer dans ce beau concept qu’est Intervac. Je suis enseignant retraité qui a bien apprécié effectuer des échanges de maisons. Je crois maintenant pouvoir aider et répondre aux questions des Canadiens qui aimeraient se joindre à notre concept. Peut-être aussi effacer les peurs qu’ont certains à « prêter » leurs biens.


We have been active members since 2000 and have always been delighted with our experiences, both on the cultural, and human side. We remain in contact with many of the friends we have made during these exchanges. We became Ambassadors, my wife and I, to share our experiences and to help future members with advice for getting around in this beautiful concept that is Intervac. I am a retired teacher and I especially wish to help and answer questions from Canadians who would like to learn more about the concept of home exchange. Perhaps I can also to erase the fears that some have of “lending” their property.

 

Our ambassadors’ stories are part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.

Home exchange stories, Intervac

Budget holidays in Switzerland

Our family holidays this year made me feel special, lucky (and smart!). In the end, I felt we had achieved something quite against the odds. We were an average Portuguese family who spent 9 days on vacation in Switzerland. Not usually an option.

If there’s one thing you learn quickly as a tourist in Switzerland is that everything is very expensive, and it is not a currency problem. The Swiss Franc and the Euro are almost equivalent. Prices in Switzerland are so expensive that, despite high wages, Swiss who live near the border cross to Germany on weekends to shop because the prices are much cheaper.

A vacation like ours was is possible for tourists on a budget but you will do lots of Internet searching and planning. And you will need at least some of the tricks I want to share with you, so you can also feel special, lucky and smart on your next vacation.

The top 5 items that your travel budget will go for (without any special order) are:

  1. Travel to Your Destination
  2. Local transportation
  3. Food
  4. Tickets to tourist attractions and shows
  5. Accommodation

Travel to Your Destination

To find an economical way to travel to your destination try using one of the sites that group information from the airline’s own sites. Personally, I like Skyscanner and Google Flights.

Be flexible with your departure and return dates (and times!). This helps you to find the best budget options as there seems to be no logic in the price scheme. Sometimes a longer trip will actually save you money! In the case of our recent vacation in Switzerland, our return flight to Portugal went through Milan giving us a 25% reduction in our overall price. For our family of 4 that was serious savings.

Local transportation

Local transportation is the factor that most benefits from really good planning. Everywhere you go the local transportation has its own rules and special prices. There are always alternatives, but with very different costs and it is not always easy to see which is the best transportation option at the first glance. Added to all that is the uncertainty – you never know for sure how long you will want to stay at each attraction and missing a connection can be expensive.

In the case of Switzerland, we decided to do our traveling always by train. Swiss trains are very reliable. In all the time that we were there, we only saw 2 delayed trains. On the first occasion, the train was 3 minutes late (which in Portugal wouldn’t even be considered a delay), and it was announced in the train station panels. On the second occasion, on our way to Italy, the train had to wait twice for trains coming from Italy that were late… This made us reach the destination in Italy a full 7 minutes late… quite out of the norm for Swiss trains!

But, Swiss trains are not cheap. A simple trip can cost 5 or 6 times more than we would expect to pay for the same distance in Portugal. The value is that quality, timeliness, tranquility, silence, and cleanliness of the toilets are guaranteed, even in second class. Some trains even have special carriages for families with a small playground on the second floor … our kids loved that! Parents find it especially easy to miss the Swiss trains, in spite of their price.

Some trains even have special carriages for families with a small playground on the second floor ... our kids loved that!

Tips for Train Travel in Switzerland

  • Round-trip tickets are valid for 24 hours. One-way tickets are only valid for 2 hours.
  • In Switzerland, certain train tickets include the bus service on your destination. That is worth checking in advance.
  • The good news is: Children under 6 years ride for free!
  • If you are traveling with young people between 6 and 15, you can buy an annual pass called “Junior Karte ” for just CHF 30 (Yes, an annual pass for under 30€!). This pass is valid as long as the youngsters are accompanied by an adult.
  • And if you are traveling with 3 or more children in the 6-15 age group, you only need to buy 2 passes. After that, your accompanied children can ride for free.

As you might expect the options for adults are not as easy. There is an annual pass called the “Halbtax ” which costs CHF 185 (around 160€). With this pass, adults pay 1/2 price for all tickets. The problem is that for a 9-day vacation the price is too high. We would have had to carry out trips costing more than 320€ per adult…Supersaver tickets are available for the following month and can be bought in advance through the train company (SBB) website or their app. Supersaver tickets are often a good option as the discounts can be as much as 50%.

Food

In Switzerland, a perfectly normal meal in a perfectly normal restaurant costs what we in Portugal would expect to pay per person for a wedding party. On our holiday, we opted for healthy meals (salads and juices) which we bought in the supermarket and ate in one of the many parks, (preferably next to a playground…). Yet, even that cost the equivalent of a meal in a normal restaurant meal in Portugal …

We also cooked and ate many meals at home, in “our” garden… more about that later!

Tickets for Attractions and Shows

Plenty of fun to be had even in the valley

Your family knows which sorts of attractions make memories on your trips. For the most part, we crossed museums and cable cars off the attractions menu because of the price. In Switzerland, there are breathtaking views and plenty of fun to be had even in the valley.

The Rhine runs along the border between Switzerland and Germany and we decided one thing we could not do without was a boat ride! We got a good deal on a RailAway offer and did the boat trip from Stein am Rhein to Schaffhausen. By going downstream, the trip takes 1h15 instead of 2h05, and is still done at a leisurely pace.

In Schaffhausen, we visited the Munot, a round fortress that dates from 1564. It can be reached by stairs and has a covered footbridge across the moat. The views from the top are great and admission is free.

Returning from Schaffhausen by train we stopped over at Schloss Laufen where you can see the Rhinefall, it is the largest waterfall in Europe (in terms of water flow). You can see the waterfall for free from the landing point of the boat trips to the center of the falls. Taking boat trips or viewing the falls from other points will cost money.

Also not to be missed is the journey by train through the Alps to Italy on the Bernina Express. This train trip from Chur to Tirano is in itself UNESCO World Heritage and takes you through bridges and historic tunnels, reaching over 2000 meters above sea level. Right by the train you see mountains (up to 4,000 meters high), with snow even in July, glaciers and beautiful lakes.

Money Saving Bernina Express Trick

Super trick for the Bernina Express

Buy your tickets as if you are starting your trip in Freiburg (Germany) with Deutsche Bahn. This is quite a bit cheaper than booking your tickets through the Swiss railways… 29€ instead of about 80€ per person. Then, you board the train halfway through the trip. I learned this from an online blog and can confirm it works.

Special Events

We were lucky enough to be able to go to the “Züri Fäscht” in the city of Zürich, a festival that takes place every three years. Everything seemed to be happening at the same time and throughout the city – fairground, bars and restaurants with music of all kinds, air show, circus shows, sports, diving, and more! We opted for a peaceful (and free!) ride on a solar power boat in the “ Zürichsee” (Lake Zurich), also one of the festival’s attractions.

If you are interested in visiting Zürich during “Züri Fäscht ” the next one is July 5-7 2019!

Accommodation

None of the previous tricks makes me nearly as happy as my accommodation trick. During my family’s nine days in Switzerland, we spent eight nights on a home-exchange holiday with Intervac. We also spent one night in a hotel in Chur, just before boarding the Bernina Express at 8:32 in the morning.

Breakfast at home in our garden

During our home exchange, we lived in a fantastic house in Winterthur. It had 4 floors, garden, swing, toys, and books for the girls and everything else a family needs in a home. Staying “at home” provided some unexpected opportunities for fun, such as catching large snails for a snail “race”!

So, for eight nights of accommodation, we paid only the annual cost to be a member of Intervac. Of course, we also provided our exchange partners with good conditions for a fantastic vacation at our home in Madeira.

The last night, the one we spent in the hotel in Chur? Oh, that cost us €157 – which was more than double the cost of our annual Intervac membership! But, this is Switzerland. Our €157 entitled the four of us to one room, with 2 single beds and a bunk bed, on the 3rd floor of the hotel. The price included electricity and internet (essential!) but there was no elevator, no private bathroom… And there was a notice in the common bathroom to let us know: “broken shower – use the 2nd floor “. They suggested we each paid €5 to rent a towel.

We did miss our home exchange house on that last night in Switzerland. We missed the space. We missed the comfort. But most of all we missed feeling at home.

 

 

This is part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.

History, Home exchange stories, Intervac

Third generation exchangers

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Beltman the Founder to Beltman the Grandson

We owe a lot to our organisers who have long been a devoted part of Intervac, Roel and Willemien Eissen among them. They have been responsible for excellent membership development in the Netherlands since 1978. Recently Roel, writing about our history, said:

You can read on our Faces of Intervac page, in 1953, there began formal contact between the Dutch National Teachers Union (NOV) and the Swiss Teachers Union (SLV). At various Congress-Meetings, Mr. Gerrit Beltman for the Netherlands (NL) and Mr. Lehmann for Switzerland, go to know each other well and privately started to make home-exchange holidays.

This idea of home-exchange worked so well, they extended and developed it further to benefit the members of their Unions. Many successful holidays later this is the seed that has developed into our worldwide Intervac organisation.

All this has struck my mind again, after I had not thought about our history it for some time. However, it suddenly hit my attention when I had a pleasant telephone-conversation some weeks ago with one of our NL-members. The lady just told me, that her husband is a grandson of Mr. Beltman.

Home Exchange – A Family Way of Life

Not only has home exchange really enriched our lives with many nice contacts and stories of holidays, friendships, but I am also very pleased to know that the name Beltman is still enthusiastically being used inside Intervac.

If you are interested in exchanging with our now-famous first-family in the Netherlands, here is a link to their listing.

This is part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.

Home exchange stories, Intervac

First Home Exchange for Second Generation Members

Intervac’s national representative in Spain got this wonderful testimony:

I’m the second-generation of Intervac members in my family and I see how things have changed. In the past, my parents received a lot of letters from foreign families with brochures from foreign places and, at most, two or three pictures of the house.

Now, I see that my parents were very ahead of their time!

Today, I am the one exchanging my house to travel with my own family. This will be our first exchange and we are looking forward to it with great enthusiasm. My parents never had a problem during thier nearly 30 years of exchange. I hope to have the same luck with my exchange to Britain.

I am sure our member’s parents must be very pleased with that compliment too. It is true that there are very few complaints and there is no more comfortable way to see the world with your family.

Kids love home exchange. It is exciting for them to stay in someone else’s home, to play with different toys and explore a new neighborhood. Parents love home exchange with children – there’s lots of room and plenty for them to do.

In fact, kids love it so much that when they grow up and have kids of their own, many continue the home exchange tradition. They want to offer their own children the chance to make warm travel memories and foreign friends of their own.

Come on, give Intervac a try today. You know you want to.

 

This is part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.

Home exchange stories

The Best Way To Discover The World With Kids

2017-06-03-best-way-discover-with-kids
Still having second thoughts about home swapping? This is what our members have to say:

Homeexchange is the best way to discover the world with kids. The only problem is that once we start, we can no longer stop… ‘Mom, who are we lending our house to this Summer?’

Sandra Bouguet (FR100852)

Home exchange stories

How about a non-simultaneous exchange?

I started doing home exchanges for my holidays in 2005. I love any kind of home exchange and now that my family has grown and I home exchange with kids… even more so! It is great to feel at home when we’re traveling with our kids.

Enjoying our own balcony in our last exchange

 

Sleeping in late on our last home exchange

The problem is that, when you have school-aged kids, you need to stick to school holiday dates. And finding an exchange partner can become a bit more difficult. That is what got me doing non-simultaneous exchanges more often. A non-simultaneous exchange is simply an exchange in which the dates do not overlap.

Actually, my first exchange back in 2005 was a non-simultaneous one: I went to New York for the 4th of July and the New York couple I exchanged with only came to my apartment in Madeira Island in August. The problem for me, back then, was that it meant that when the New York couple came, I had to temporarily move to my parents-in-law’s home… If you have a second home, like I do now, it is even easier!

I have just completed my 6th non-simultaneous exchange. My exchange partner, Rosemary, came in October 2014 to Madeira, and my family and I visited Torquay, in the English Riviera in August 2015.

 

In Torquay’s harbor, with our exchange home showing in the backdrop

This way, we both got good weather, Rosemary got a better price for her off-season flight tickets and we got to go during the school holidays… All in all, it was simpler to get to the perfect dates for both exchanging parties.

 

We had a beautiful balcony to enjoy… day & night!

Apart from the dates, the other great advantage of non-simultaneous exchanges is that it is easier to get to meet your exchange partners which a great way of cultivating international friendships. We love to make new friends while we’re busy seeing the world and enjoying the benefits of home exchange!

This time, we had the pleasure to meet Rosemary and her friend Jennifer both in Madeira and in Torquay. We are reaching our 20th exchange, but Rosemary is an even more experienced exchanger than we are. So, we talked about past exchanges, about each other’s country and about life in general.

 

Meeting our exchange partners was great

We even got to watch a video of an English TV show that aired in 2011 that featured an exchange to Rosemary’s house. The program focused on how home exchange can allow your holiday budget to be as low as £50 for a family of three… If you are curious, you can watch it too here.

To sum up, if your holiday dates don’t match the ones of your exchange partner, consider doing a non-simultaneous exchange. If you have to, consider (temporarily) moving to your parents-in-law’s! But do not miss out on all the great non-simultaneous home exchange opportunities Intervac has to offer you!

 

This is part of the Intervac Home exchange stories series. Do you have a story yourself? We would love to hear about it! Tell us your story.