An adventurous family-of-six who have lived in 25 different countries in just eight years say they have saved £100,000 and holidayed non-stop for free by swapping their home with stunning chalets and villas across the globe.
Daniel Prince, 46, and his wife, Clair, 46, both originally from Essex, had moved abroad to Singapore for Daniel’s work – but by 2014, he found himself tied constantly to his desk while she juggled four young children at home and they knew they needed a dramatic life change.
Selling their family home and most of their belongings, the couple gambled everything for a nomadic life, swapping their holiday home in Thailand for glamorous properties in locations including America, Canada, Australia and Europe.
While home-schooling their four children, Kaitlyn, now 17, Sophia, 14, and twins Lauren and Samuel, 11, the family ticked off an incredible 80 properties across the globe before settling in France for a few years, including during the pandemic.
Now raring to travel again through house-swapping, Clair said: “Eight years ago, we thought, this can’t be what life is meant to be.
“Daniel was constantly working and I was here, there and everywhere looking after four children.”
She added: “We just thought, life has to be more fun than this. And we have done exactly that – we made life fun.
“We could never have travelled the world like this with such a big family without house swapping, which has saved us so much money and allowed us to travel in a luxurious way without compromise.
“It has been amazing – and it doesn’t need to stop yet.”
Moving to Singapore in 1999 for Daniel’s work in foreign exchange, the couple enjoyed travelling around Asia, before settling down with the kids.
But they found themselves stuck in a frustrating cycle.
Clair said: “The cost of childcare was so expensive that it was cheaper for me to look after the kids.”
She continued: “I was at home with the four kids, trying to keep up with the Joneses, while travelling here, there and everywhere for the kids’ ballet and music and school.
“Meanwhile, Daniel was working 24/7 to get food on the table but we would never see him.”
Holidays were also a rarity because of the cost.
Clair said: “We would need two hotel rooms, which would be £150 a night, plus lunch and dinners every day, which could be £500 a day.
“It just wasn’t affordable.”
Desperate for a change, the couple began looking for a way out and stumbled on lovehomeswap.com.
“It sounded amazing and we immediately thought, should we do this?” she said.
For months, the couple agonised over the decision but decided to take the leap of faith in early 2014.
Selling their Singapore home and most of their belongings left Clair and Daniel their holiday home in Thailand to swap with other travellers.
She said: “We sold pretty much everything we owned so that gave us a bit to live off – and by 2014, we were off.”
Heading to house swaps in the UK first, to visit family and friends, the Princes then headed off to Croatia, Dubai, Thailand and Cambodia before arriving in Australia for Christmas 2014.
“We stopped in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and ended our year of travels in New Zealand for three months, which was incredible.”
“We couldn’t believe how amazing it was – we thought, why isn’t everyone doing this?”
With a steady income of around £1,000 a month they earned by renting out their Thailand home in between house swapping guests, while paying just £120 for their lovehomeswap.com annual membership, Daniel and Clair were able to live humbly.
“When you swap your home, you pay for the electricity in your own home but the rental money we made would offset any bills we accrued,” she said.
She added: “All of the homes were so peaceful and comfortable and we were able to live on a reasonable budget.”
“Some days we would have zero-dollar days, where we wouldn’t spend anything and go explore and take a picnic or find a free activity to do.”
And while they quickly settled into their exciting new life, Clair admitted it took some settling in.
“It took a long time to realise this was our reality,” she said.
“With home-schooling we kept it very flexible, depending on where we were – so for example, when we were in Rome, it was a history lesson wherever we walked.”
“Whereas in New Zealand, we had time to chill outside the house and sit and do schoolwork.”
After a stint in New Zealand, the family upped sticks again to home swap across the United States, starting in San Francisco before going into Seattle, Vancouver, New York and Virginia.
“Of all the places, Croatia was probably our favourite place because it was stunningly beautiful and had such a lovely community feel among the village we stayed in,” she said.
“There were so many moments that blew our minds – like horse riding along the beach in New Zealand or sailing on a yacht out of the port of Marbella or having a picnic at Sydney Opera House on Christmas Eve.”
Heading back to Europe after two years of travelling, to visit the UK and Italy, Daniel and Clair then decided to slow down their travels.
“We had been travelling for two and a half years which was incredible but we wanted our kids to learn another language and the best way to do that is to be completely immersed into it,” she said.
“So we house swapped around France until we were offered to rent one of the properties out and we ended up staying for the next two years.”
She added: “We still did a bit of house-swapping for holidays while we were in France in 2018 – including a ski house swap in the French Alps.
“We borrowed clothes so we only had to hire the ski boots and ski passes.”
While the family only briefly settled, the pandemic elongated their stay by a few years, and Daniel began working as an online consultant, before starting a financial podcast co-hosted by daughter Lauren – Once Bitten! A Bitcoin Podcast.
Now with the borders open again, Daniel and Clair are itching to get back out travelling.
“Daniel is now being invited to speak at conferences for his podcast so he is going to tie in house-swapping with work.
“It’s hard to put a finger on how much we must have saved, but it could well be £100,000 – all we have ever had to pay for is the travel to get to each place,” she said.
She added: “The difference it has made to the kids’ lives is amazing – they have such an incredible outlook on life and acceptance of different people regardless of wherever we are in the world.
“For the twins especially, who were three when we started this, this is the life they have only ever known.
“They are all so independent, adventurous and confident.”
She added: “We’ve probably made it harder for us as parents in the future though, because they all have plans to live in different corners of the world.”
With plans to start home-swapping again, Daniel said: “It’s nearly ten years since we made the decision to go for it, and if we hadn’t, we would never have had the experiences we have had sat in an office or classroom.
“There is no way we could have ever done what we have done without house swapping and I can’t wait to get going again.”
He added: “There is a big world out there with plenty to explore and we would be crazy not to make the most of it while we can.”
Link to the Princes’ blog: www.princesoffthegrid.weebly.com/familytravel
For more information about lovehomeswap.com go here: www.lovehomeswap.com
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