We've found the secret to being able to afford multiple luxury holidays a year

Renting your home to strangers so you can enjoy an extended break – with more spending money than usual – could be a savvy option this year

Catherine and Rod Banner at their ‘inviting’ home in Wandsworth, London, which has proved a popular rental property Credit: Joanna Yee

Catherine and Rod Banner frequently open their modern and inviting Wandsworth home to strangers. Their stylish place, which they have affectionately named Assisi, after the Italian hill town in the province of Perugia, has a sprawling designer kitchen-dining area and floor-to-ceiling windows, with views on to a tropical garden terrace. This summer, it will become a relaxing London retreat for another family – whom they have never met – as the couple jet off to an exotic destination.

Because of the income Catherine and Rod get from letting out their home short-term, they can take around five holidays a year. Recent trips have included one to Gran Canaria, where they travelled off the well-worn tourist trail into the centre of the island, taking in the mountains and open landscape; and to Italy, where they enjoyed Tuscan-style views north-east of Rome with their whole family. They have also travelled to far-flung destinations such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Japan. 

Hordes of enterprising British couples and families like the Banners are jumping on the let-to-holiday trend. Luxury holiday rental service Plum Guide, the company Catherine and Rod use to list their home short-term, has reported a record number of people joining the site in recent months. 

“We think it’s partly driven by people enjoying flexible working, who are able to go away for extended work-holiday hybrid trips for months at a time,” says Graham Foulds, Plum Guide’s chief operating officer. Inflation is also driving families to be more creative when it comes to maximising their holiday budgets. 

In London, the average house makes £300 to £500 per night on Plum Guide, with the length of stay averaging around eight days. That is between £2,400 and £4,000 to put towards a holiday.

Airbnb has seen similar earnings across the board. “UK hosts typically earned more than £6,000 on Airbnb last year, which is around two months’ extra pay for the median UK household,” says Amanda Cupples, Airbnb general manager for northern Europe.

Home swapping, meanwhile, may not make you money, but it allows you to save it. Love Home Swap, a platform where users list their homes for stays in exchange for access to others around the world, has seen a surge in sign-ups, with an 82 per cent increase in new UK members in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period last year. The average member saves £2,000 on a seven-night stay when choosing a home swap over a hotel or B&B.

But what does it really take to be a host? Is it safe? And is it more hassle than it’s worth? Catherine and Rod, along with two other couples, share their experiences here…

‘When my son was six months old, hosting paid for our trip to Spain’

Jane and Simon Eustace, Leyton, east London

Jane Eustace, pictured with son Tommy, prefers to manage the process herself

When Jane Eustace, 40, and her husband, filmmaker Simon, 41, moved into their house in Leyton, east London, in 2018, with work to do on their new property, they turned to Airbnb to bolster their savings. Now, with most of the refurbishment complete, they continue to let the space, using the income to fund their trips away.

Jane, head of brand partnership for an internet company, was the driving force in deciding to let someone else holiday in their space. “I’m a little bit more trusting of the process,” she says. “I’m the one who manages it, and I speak to the people who book with us, so I feel like I get an idea of who the person is. Simon has less information on who is booking, which makes it a little bit more daunting.”

The couple, who have two children, Tommy, three, and Marni, seven months, let their house on Airbnb to visit their Ireland homeland and go on holiday abroad. “We don’t have a lot of valuables, the furniture is a mix of high street and reclaimed, and even though we have spent a lot on the decorating, there are only one or two things we take out when we rent it,” Jane says. 

The hosting requirements are relatively low-maintenance, but she sets stays at a minimum of five nights to reduce turnarounds, and has a cleaner to help when she is not able to do it herself. She also makes sure she is available on the app when guests check in. 

“You end up having a bit of back and forth,” she says, “and I’ve done videos on how to switch things on and off around the house. I make sure our nice wine glasses are out for them to use and leave a bottle of wine, extra linen, fresh towels, and tea and coffee. When my son was six months old, hosting paid for us to go to Tenerife, which was a different holiday for us. We were able to spend quite a bit more on it than we would normally have done on holiday.”

The couple married in Lisbon and their fifth anniversary is coming up. They are hoping to rent out their place again this year and return to Portugal, for the first time  since their wedding.

‘We are able to go on more holidays a year and travel further afield’ 

Catherine and Rod Banner, Wandsworth, south-west London

Catherine and Rod enjoy one of many holidays abroad. courtesy of income from Plum Guide

With their children grown up, Catherine Banner, 61, an interior designer, and her husband Rod, 67, an innovation catalyst, had been toying with selling their family home of 30 years and buying a holiday home abroad. It was Catherine who had the idea of listing it as a holiday let instead. 

“We’ve been to Mallorca twice this year, to explore whether it would be a good place to buy a house,” she says, “and we’ve checked out the Canary Islands too. But we’ve decided to have the flexibility of seeing more of the world, rather than going back to the same place every year. By renting out our house, we are able to keep an investment in London, which is usually a safe financial bet, and it’s easier to manage because you have the infrastructure of your own cleaners and tradespeople.”

Renting out your house can be an emotional experience, however. “I was slightly horrified by the prospect of renting the house out at the beginning,” says Catherine, “but I came round to it and convinced Rod it was a good idea.”

Rod was also reticent initially: “It does slightly test you. But then you get the house back in one piece, and you meet the people staying in it, and you realise that actually it’s almost like having friends over.”

The couple took their first booking with Plum Guide in 2019. Launched in London in 2016, this luxury holiday rental service vets and curates homes in the UK, Europe and the United States, using rigorous 150-point criteria.

The couple’s stylish home has been a big hit on the site, as Catherine’s design background shines in the interiors, which blend sleek modernity with warmth and creative colour. 

Spacious hallways, three immaculate bathrooms and large bedrooms (there are five) make up the upper floors, while downstairs a cosy sitting room is packed with books and board games for rainy days. The kitchen and dining area is the real showstopper, though, with full-height patio doors opening on to a vast terrace and garden.  

When it comes to the hosting, Catherine likes to include personal elements in the service, such as adding fresh-cut flowers or creating breakfast baskets of fresh croissants, coffee and jams.

“I like it to be a little surprise rather than expected,” she says. “I might bake a cake, leave a bottle of wine in the fridge and put nice soaps in the bathrooms. Those personal touches go a long way.”

The pair have also created a house manual. “It talks people through their onboarding process,” says Rod. “We greet the guests if we are in the country, offer them a drink and go around showing them how all the appliances work, from the washing machine to the TV. We probably spend an hour, if not two, with them.”

Costa Rica is the next destination on their list. “We are able to go on more holidays a year and go further afield,” says Catherine. The couple’s own travelling habits have also changed, and they now prefer to use home-letting services over traditional hotels. 

“When you are somebody who rents your house out, as a tenant, you sympathise with the challenges,” says Catherine. “It makes us better guests as well as better hosts. It feels like we are part of a new nomadic community, and it’s very nice.”

‘There are pinch yourself moments and it costs us next to nothing’

David and Alicia Reilly, Basingstoke, Hampshire

As a transatlantic couple, university lecturer David Reilly, 41, and his wife Alicia, 38, a swimming teacher, were used to travelling back and forth to Alicia’s native California to visit family and friends. But as their family grew – they have children Dylan, 11, Samantha, eight, and Jude, four – staying with relatives became more difficult, and they soon realised they would have to find another way to keep their holidays affordable.

“Before we had kids, it was easy,” says David. “We would go over two or three times a year and we always had a place to stay because it was just the two of us.”

With a bigger family there just wasn’t enough space for everyone, and hotels were too expensive and uncomfortable with small children in tow. “Trips ended up being like a jail term,” says David, who later discovered an inventive way to travel.

“We watched The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz, whose character in the movie swaps homes, and I started Googling what sort of places were available in real life.”

The Reillys later listed their three-bedroom Basingstoke home with Love Home Swap, choosing the site because of the free trial, and the fact that you can view the homes before signing up.

Love Home Swap, launched in 2011, is a members-only platform, founded by Debbie Wosskow, who also drew inspiration for her business from watching The Holiday (she saw the movie on a flight home from the Caribbean after a bad hotel stay). On the site, members list a home to swap, while choosing one of three pricing plans.

“We were pleasantly surprised with what was on offer,” says David. “In San Diego, where we often go, there are very good options with swimming pools, beach houses, huge kitchens.”

Another reason why Love Home Swap appealed was the points exchange option, where, rather than swapping like-for-like, you can earn points when another member uses your home and you don’t stay at theirs, then use them to travel at a later date.

Alicia initially had her misgivings about opening her home to strangers – and spending time in theirs. “My first question was, is it safe? What if someone is in our home and they break something or they steal our TV? Or what if we break something in someone’s home?”

Love Home Swap’s insurance convinced her to take the plunge. She also found that having video calls with guests or hosts beforehand helped to build relationships and trust.

“When you have someone else in your home, you feel a bit vulnerable for the very first time but now we know that the benefits far outweigh any costs,” adds David.

He and Alicia have made the most of their American adventures, taking in supercars, seals and sunsets at art market coastal town La Jolla, treating the kids to days out at Disneyland, and enjoying the mountain scenery in Lake Tahoe. For their next adventure, they hope to visit Hawaii for Alicia’s 40th birthday and they also have a trip to Yosemite planned. 

“There are pinch yourself moments in those homes,” says Alicia. “When you’re sitting by a pool having your morning coffee while the kids play and there’s this beautiful view of the mountains, you’re thinking… this cost us next to nothing.” A hotel stay during peak season would cost considerably more. 

“But we’d be 100 per cent priced out of the houses we’ve stayed in had it not been for Love Home Swap,” says Alicia. Renting out their home holds the key.

Would you rent your home out to a stranger if it meant you could go on more holidays? Comment below to join the conversation