House swaps
I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was headed for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie. From Pennsylvania folks are travelin' down to Dixie's sunny shore...

If only those folks in Pennsylvania that Como is crooning about knew the Tennesseeans were coming. For every holiday travelers leaving an empty house behind, there's someone visiting that same town and seeking a place to stay. If both sides played their cards right and swapped homes for the holidays, each could have a free place to stay without crashing on a relative's couch or cringing every time the "War on Christmas" comes up at the dinner table.

There are dozens of home exchange sites out there trying to get travelers those holiday freebies while cutting down on their stress. HomeExchange.com, for example, saw its membership jump from 20,000 back in 2008 to more than 40,000 this year as travelers faced increasing economic uncertainty.

The obvious downside to this approach is that you're letting a stranger into your home for a decent length of time. People skittish about leaving the house in the first place probably aren't the best candidates for this sort of thing. If you're OK with the idea of setting out some spare towels and guest linens while you're gone and giving someone the key for a few days, the perks include access to homes in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and thousands of other properties in more than 100 countries. Plus, according to the folks at HomeExchange, 20% of home swaps include a car swap as well.

While some home-swap sites have a free option for people who aren't posting their own properties, sites such as HomeForSwap and HomeLink can charge $75 to $110 per year. HomeExchange charges $120 a year for listings, but also offers a three-month plan for about $48.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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