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Volunteering Vacation Time

Tips for Planning a Volunteer Vacation

How can you make a difference? It's easy - by donating your time while visiting a destination in need of your help. It's been dubbed "voluntourism," and it's sweeping the nation.

"Imagine the face of a lion cub looking up at you waiting to be fed at a reserve in South Africa"

According to the Travel Industry Association, 25 percent of travelers say they're currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation.

Whether its students spending spring break in a third world country, or families traveling just one state over, there are options and opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life to make a difference. With this increased interest in voluntourism, it's important that travelers know how to pick the right volunteer opportunity for them.

Before jumping into helping others, help yourself by asking the following questions recommended by i-to-i, a meaningful travel provider:

  • How long has the volunteer organization been around?

  • Is the staff knowledgeable and able to help you select a suitable trip?

  • Do they provide pre-departure advice about visas, inoculations and insurance requirements?

  • Will you have an orientation once you land at your destination?

  • Do they have support people in the country for daily questions?

  • What emergency measures are in place should anything unforeseen happen to a volunteer?

  • Does the fee include food, accommodations and airport pickup?

  • Can you speak to past volunteers?

  • Can a friend or partner come with you? If so, are there discounts?

Given proper planning, volunteer travel can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Imagine the face of a lion cub looking up at you waiting to be fed at a reserve in South Africa. Picture being in the heart of a small Indian community making a difference in the lives of its children, or preserving fragile, yet spectacular ecosystems in the Galapagos Islands.

Volunteer vacationer Alan Rousham spent time with children on four i-to-i volunteer trips in Santiniketan, India.

"My volunteer experience put me back into the stream of life, and I thoroughly enjoyed contributing what little I could to the people of Santiniketan," he said. "Volunteering overseas was brilliant and rewarding."

To learn more or plan your own volunteer vacation, check out one of the following websites: