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Bag a luxury holiday home getaway for free with a house swap

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Having difficulty finding a summer break? How to bag a luxury holiday home getaway for free with a house swap

Holidaymakers searching for a summer break have a tough challenge this year. Foreign travel restrictions due to Covid have thrown plans into disarray and UK accommodation is filling up quickly. 

But for those looking for a cheap getaway as Covid restrictions are lifted from tomorrow, a house swap might be just the answer. Such an arrangement allows you to stay at someone else’s home at no cost while over the same time period they stay at yours. 

The concept is built on trust: you look after their home as if it were your own, knowing they are doing the same for yours. 

Saving: Simon and Jane Perkin (pictured) – swapping their home in the Midlands for stays in Bath, Edinburgh and the Brecon Beacons

Saving: Simon and Jane Perkin (pictured) – swapping their home in the Midlands for stays in Bath, Edinburgh and the Brecon Beacons

You do not need to live in a fancy mansion or penthouse to do a house swap. In fact, so many are looking for a change of scenery after months of restrictions, that we are simply happy to be somewhere – anywhere – different. 

A key appeal of swapping homes is that it need not be like-for-like. A humble rural retreat might be just the ticket for someone living in a property close to lots of amenities – and vice versa.

To find a house swap, start by asking family and friends if they would consider a week or two in your home in exchange for the same length of time at theirs. 

If nothing suits, you could consider using a specialist website such as HomeLink UK, Love Home Swap or HomeExchange. 

These charge an annual subscription to share details among thousands of like-minded people looking for a swap. 

No money changes hands. You both agree to use each other’s household energy and internet, as well as a few extras, perhaps such as access to bikes and games. 

It’s more fun than a hotel 

Simon and Jane Perkin have planned four free holidays this year

Simon and Jane Perkin have planned four free holidays this year

Simon and Jane Perkin have planned four free holidays this year – thanks to house swaps. 

They are swapping stays at their four-bedroom house in Warwickshire for holidays in the Brecon Beacons, Peak District, Bath and Edinburgh. 

Simon, Jane and their son Ed have enjoyed house swaps through HomeLink UK for more than a decade. 

Simon, a business and wellbeing consultant, says: ‘It has opened up a wonderful world of luxury holidays and fabulous short city breaks – saving us thousands of pounds. We find it is often more relaxing and fun than staying in an impersonal hotel.’ 

He adds that house swaps have a few hidden benefits. ‘Having someone in your home can help deter burglars, and guests can sometimes help out with watering the garden and even feeding pets,’ he says.

Household buildings and contents insurance should cover for any accidental breakages or damage. 

However, to be extra safe it might be worth considering additional cover using a specialist insurer such as Guardhog, where you typically pay from £1.50 a day to protect against guest damage and public liability.

Caroline Connolly, a director at HomeLink UK, says house swaps are built on friendship and trust, and as such can be a much happier arrangement than paying for accommodation. ‘There is no dreaded Tripadvisor critical customer mentality because both sides want nothing more than to be a good guest,’ she says. 

HomeLink UK has seen twice the number of homeowners signing up this year. The most sought-after destinations include Cornwall, and coastal areas around North Yorkshire, Norfolk and the South of England. 

However, there is also strong demand for a modest change of scenery, which means you do not have to live in a palace to enjoy trading places with a likeminded family. 

Subscription fees for an outfit such as HomeLink, with 8,000 properties on its books, are usually £115 a year. 

This year, HomeLink UK has offered a special discount of a £50 subscription for new members who only want a break in Britain and are happy limiting themselves to a choice from 700 homes. HomeExchange charges $150 a year (£110) and Love Home Swap starts at £96 a year. 

While you do not have to live in a show home to do a swap, it is important to keep it clean, comfortable and welcoming. 

Because of the pandemic, it is essential to clean all work surfaces and make sanitisers available throughout. 

It also helps to be flexible in these challenging times. ‘It has been wonderful to see how understanding people have been over the past few months,’ says Connolly. ‘But because of the pandemic it might be necessary to cancel or rearrange at short notice.’ 

A few simple ground rules should also be set to avoid any confusion or problems occurring. 

When agreeing a house swap, you should sign a contract laying out rules and a clear understanding of what to do in the event of a problem, such as a last-minute change of dates or if something valuable is accidentally broken. You might also like to exchange references through a house swap agency.

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Orange warning in place for five counties on west coast

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Violent storm force 11 winds are expected off the west coast as Storm Barra approaches on Tuesday morning.

Met Éireann has upgraded its marine weather warning to red, the highest category, on Irish coastal waters from Galway Bay to Bantry Bay from 3am on Tuesday morning to 11pm tomorrow night.

A status orange warning is in place on land for the counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am on Tuesday morning until the same time on Wednesday morning.

Counties included in orange warning could see damaging gusts of up to 130km/h which will head to high waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge.

The rest of the country will be under a status yellow warning for the same period with the possibility of localised flooding.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack told Newstalk Breakfast that the storm system is developing rapidly over the Atlantic at present and will hit Ireland’s western seaboard on Tuesday with strong gale force winds which will quickly extend across the country.

There will be heavy rain turning to sleet and snow on higher ground, she warned.

Met Éireann will meet with gardaí, local authorities and emergency services this morning to update the progress of the storm and provide advice on what precautionary measures should be taken.

“It will be a pretty horrid day,” added Ms Cusack who advised against cycling.

The high winds and heavy rain will continue throughout Wednesday but they will have moved on by Thursday.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, senior meteorologist Liz Walsh warned that trees could be knocked down during the high winds. She also advised that outdoor street furniture should be taken in or tied down and cautioned that Christmas decorations could be damaged.

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Coronavirus rules for driving tests spark complaints

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Claims of rude testers, of not being allowed to cough and having to drive with windows open due to Covid-19 were among the complaints received from people who failed driving tests recently.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees driving tests nationally, released a sample of the 1,505 complaints received since the start of last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

New figures show the driving test centre in Cork had the highest pass rate with 75 per cent of people passing, while the lowest was Charlestown in Dublin with a 42 per cent pass rate.

One person complained he had told his tester he had asthma and might need to cough because he had recently changed inhalers, causing irritation to his throat.

“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage, the test would be over immediately. This was difficult to control while under exam pressure and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress and pressure,” the individual complained.

Another individual complained their tester said if their face mask slipped “a little bit from my nose” while driving, the test would be ended.

“I’m in shock how he treated me that day,” said the complainant.

Another learner driver who failed said their car was hot and “very uncomfortable” because the tester said the hot air de-misters had to be kept on to prevent the windows fogging up because the back windows had to be kept open due to Covid-19.

One complainant said the tester seemed to have prejudged the test when they spotted a small stain on the driver’s seat as the car was supposed to be “spotless”.

‘Anxious’

“The tester was clearly taking it too far. I was complying with all Covid precautions as I had just Hoovered and sanitised the car and it was simply a mark on the seat.”

There were general complaints beyond Covid-19 issues. One person complained about feeling “anxious” because the tester was “sitting there shaking his head”.

Another said their tester repeatedly shook his head and sighed several times, and then made notes on the score sheet, which was “extremely off-putting and really unfair”.

Another driver said the tester was “extremely condescending and patronising” and mocked their answer to a signpost theory question about an “unguarded cliff edge”.

“We don’t drive along cliff edges in this country,” the tester was quoted as saying.

The RSA has been dealing with a backlog of driving tests due to the pandemic.

The centres with the next highest pass rates were Clifden (71 per cent), Killester in Dublin (70 per cent), Birr, Co Offaly (70 per cent) and Cavan (69 per cent).

The test centres with the next lowest pass rates were Dublin’s Churchtown, since closed (44 per cent), Nenagh, Co Tipperary (44 per cent) and Mulhuddart (45 per cent) and Raheny (46 per cent), both in Dublin.


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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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