Meet Domini Hedderman and her family

November 28, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Meet WSE Members

The Hedderman Family

Tell me a little about your family and who you travel with.

We are the Heddermans. I’m Domini, the mom and most often the chief travel planner. I’m img_2146also the primary home educator of our children and a writer. My husband is Kevin. He owns his own real estate business, so that’s how we have the flexibility to travel long-term. Our oldest child is Andy, who is 15. He is growing up fast—in fact, next year he plans a year away on his own through a Rotary Exchange. Brenny, 14, is our second-born son. He is a problem-solver, peace-maker, and fisherman. Laura is our third at age 11. She is a creative soul who loves to sing, act, and bake. And Addy is our 6-year-old who is all softness and soul.


Do you travel full time? How do you educate your children?

No, we don’t travel full-time as we still have homes and a business in the United States. We take long trips, usually several months at a time. The last one was five weeks in Europe using two house swaps. Ever since we started traveling four years ago, we have home-schooled our children. I suppose we could call it “worldschooling” now, although we don’t travel full-time.


What are your main reasons for house swapping?

House swapping has opened our eyes to a whole new way to travel. We love that we are able to stay in family homes that have everything we need. In all three of the swaps we’ve done so far, the families have helped us figure out what to do and where to go with a multitude of brochures and tour pamphlets. One woman even acted as our tour guide, since our swap was non-simultaneous and she was just living at her mom’s house down the street while we were in her home. That close personal connection is something you just don’t get when you stay in a hotel or random rental house.


How long have you been exchanging homes? How many swaps have you done? Where have you been? img_2078

We joined a home swap website a couple of years ago. Although we had received many, MANY tantalizing emails from people all over the world requesting to swap with our house near the gulf coast of Florida, we didn’t feel ready to take someone up on the offer until May 2016, when we exchanged with a family in Quebec City, Canada. After that, we arranged two more swaps on our trip to Europe—two weeks in the Loire Valley with a car, and one week in Paris. So far: three swaps! And can’t wait to plan the next one!


Have you swapped anything other than houses eg cars, Rv’s. boats? 

We swapped our vehicle with the French family from the Loire Valley. That was extremely convenient, as we stepped off our overnight flight to Paris, and waiting for us in the valet parking right outside of the airport was an extremely comfortable car to drive to the family’s house three hours away.


Tell me about your favourite house exchange ever?

That’s a difficult question, as each of the three got us to a new place that we loved visiting. Quebec City was convenient since it was only a 10-hour drive away from our house in Pennsylvania. Also, Quebec was like getting a slice of Europe despite not having to take a 10-hour flight! The Loire Valley house was beautiful, peaceful and so accessible to all the chateaux and wine country the Valley had to offer. We had such fun tooling around the peaceful country roads, European-style, and then going back to the family’s house to swim in the pool, grill some food and drink inexpensive (but delicious) French wine! And Paris… well, who can argue with a week in Paris? From our house, we were able to walk to the metro and ride all around the city. And, best of all, we remained friends with the owner of the house and still email back and forth to this day.


How far in advance do you organise your travels? 

It depends. I’m not one to set things up a year in advance, but I wouldn’t wait until the last minute, necessarily, on a big trip, either. I would say I typically set the big things up a few months in advance and then iron out the details a couple weeks before.


How much money do you estimate you have saved on travel accommodation by exchanging vacation homes?

So far, I’d guess we received about $4,000-5,000 in accommodation value.


What would you say to other people considering this type of travel accommodation?  Tell me your best swap tip?

I would tell other people to give it a shot, at least once, even if you’re nervous about it. Our best swap tip would be keep an open mind about destination, as there are so many places in the world that are worth visiting.


What do you worry about, if anything,  while arranging a swap? How would you put potential swappers minds at ease who are anxious about letting strangers stay in their home?img_0412

While I haven’t worried too much while arranging a swap, I understand that some people may be afraid of what might happen: that other people could trash your house or that you might end up in a home that’s dirty or uncomfortable for you. In our experience, the types of people who swap homes are great folks. They care about seeing the world but also about maintaining a comfortable, interesting home. This profile doesn’t fit with someone who would be disrespectful of other people’s property. Besides, the swappers are vetted to a certain extent by the exchange website and other people’s experiences. You can read the reviews of people who have stayed in their homes, as well as have plenty of time before the swap occurs to chat with the people via email or even Facetiming/Skyping to get a good feeling before you make the swap.


Some people say they like to swap homes rather than stay in a hotel as it feels more like a ‘home from home’ experience – Does it really?  Can you really make someone else’s home feel like your own?  How do you achieve this?

It definitely feels more like a home than a hotel, because it is one! All the cooking things you’ll need are there, including things that are expensive to buy when you only need a little for your vacation, like oils and spices. These homes also have comfortable bedding, toys, books, movies, music, computer, phone, laundry equipment, sometimes even bikes! We don’t bring very much of our own things, other than our clothes, work, books, and schoolwork, but, after many years of traveling, we’re pretty well able to fit in just about anywhere.


What one thing do you travel with that you couldn’t do without, even when staying in someone else’s home? 

img_2026Sometimes we’ll take our knives, but lately we’ve even left those at home and just dealt with what was there (and usually what is there is every bit as good as what we would have in our own home). The calibre of a home swap home is typically much better than the average vacation rental home because the owners live there permanently. There’s a distinct difference in the attention they can give it when they live there full-time. So many of the things we’ve missed while staying in vacation rental homes are simply just there for our use in the home swap homes.


Tell me what you do in preparation for your swapper staying in your home?  Do you clear a wardrobe for their clothes?  Put your valuables away for safe keeping?  Do you worry about other people staying your own home?

So far, we’ve only swapped our second home in SW Florida, which we already rent to a snowbird couple for two months every winter, so we already keep this home pretty neutral. We do plan to offer our home in Pennsylvania for swap. In that case, we have a locking filing cabinet in the office, anyway, since we travel so much. I would definitely clear some spaces for their clothes, although I’m not sure anyone expects that, unless they were staying long-term.


So, where to next?  Any more swaps planned?

Not yet, but I’m getting itchy and would love to plan a few more. I’d like to swap 1-2 weeks this spring or summer to Canada or New England, or maybe even out west. I’d also be interested in planning a long-term swap with a family in South America as we’re considering putting our kids in a school down there for a year or so in the next couple of years. Since we’ll want to visit our son on his exchange in Sweden, a swap there in the spring of 2017 would be great! And we are always open to SE Asia, New Zealand, Australia, or Europe, but maybe not for a little while longer.


Facebook Page: