As we approach 2014, many of you have already started planning your vacations for the new year. We hope that if you havent given home exchange a try that 2014 will be the year! Our blog Knoleskine offers travel inspiration, ideas for unforgettable destinations, and tons of tips on how to get the most out of your swapcation!

In todays post we are happy to share with you a guest post from a seasoned home swapper, Sandra! Below she provides a list of items to consider when you first join Knok, and are trying to decide what home is the perfect match for your next family vacation:

1. Size, it matters.

If you are planning a getaway for you, your partner and three children and currently live in a three bedroom/three bathroom house, you would want to book a stay in a home of similar size and composition. Even for a short stay, occupying a two bedroom condominium with one bathroom will be stressful on everyone.

2. Layouts that dont let you down.

The layout of the home is an important factor to consider for families with young children and older members. A single level home may be more ideal due to the danger and inconvenience of stairs. As well, if your family has several adults/couples, a home designed with multiple 'pods' for extra privacy may better suit your needs.

3. Child-Proofing (Included)

If you plan to book a stay in a home where the homeowner does not have young children, you will want to ensure that the property (both inside and outside) is child-proofed. Are there stair gates provided and is the outdoor pool surrounded by a fence with a locked gate?

4. Décor Dos and Donts

Check to see if the homes décor is 'child friendly'. If the home has high-end décor, artwork and furnishings that includes a white sofa, you may not be comfortable staying there with your two year old child.

5. On-site Amenities and Attractions Nearby

A home may be less equipped and more remote and thus isolated from attractions, shops and nightlife. Check out the map and description of the home before making your decision. On the other hand, some homes offer unexpected amenities and real "local tourism" that might please the little ones more than your predictable tourist attractions.

We hope you've found Sandras list helpful for planning your first home swap of the new year! Read more about why a home exchange brings with it more meaningful travel in Sandras previous guest post and start planning your first swapcation!

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This guest post was brought to you by Sandra Pearson, a home exchange expert and world traveler who shares her love of both with wit and charm on her blog.  

Sandra is also the former owner and manager of a guest house in Toronto, Canada, and the author of 'Home Exchanging: Your Guide to Enjoying Free Vacation Accommodations'. She gives expert advice on how to leverage your home and stay for free on your next vacation.