volunteer travel

Volunteer Travel | FAQ & How to Get Started

When vacation comes to mind, you are probably thinking about laying on a beach, soaking up the sun while sipping on a fruity cocktail. That’s definitely one way to relax and spend your free time, but for some people, working while on vacation is far more rewarding than laying out on the beach. We are not talking about the kind of work that comes from a laptop, but the kind that comes from the heart – a volunteer vacation. 

Volunteer vacations combine your passion for travel and adventure with your desire to give back and help out. Picture yourself in Costa Rica teaching children how to speak English, working on sea turtle conservation in Ecuador or learning the basics of dolphin society in New Zealand. A volunteer vacation is more than just a trip. Think of it as a trip that keeps on giving to you and everyone around you. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but if you are intrigued and would like to learn more about how to get involved in volunteer travel, read on.

To start off, you want to begin researching and planning a volunteer vacation at least three months in advance, if not sooner. Start by looking for organizations that promote your interests. If you are not sure where to begin, check out TransitionsAbroad.com or Idealist.org. These websites can link you to hundreds of organizations that are bound to peak your interests. Once you have found a company with a project that interests you, you should have access to program alumni, and you should not have to pay for program information. You don’t want to send over any form of payment until you have chosen a project and are securing your reservation. Regardless of the organization you choose, you should see a detailed breakdown of how program fees are used; a reputable organization will allocate about 90-100% of those fees towards the various costs of the program. These are not-for-profit programs or should be anyway.

volunteer vacation
Create new memories and build new friendships. Plan a volunteer vacation today. 

Many people ask the question: “Why do I have to pay if I am volunteering?” Great question and the answer is simple. Although you are volunteering your time, you will still need food, shelter, transportation, etc. A majority of the fees for volunteer travel cover meals, accommodations, on-site travel (airfare not included), donations to the various community projects, orientation package, program development, country manager expenses, logistical support, medical emergency evacuation, projects consultants and medical insurance. You are responsible for all your expenses. The costs of any visas and immunizations or other pre-trip medical costs to prepare for your vacation are also your responsibility. Remember that the organizations coordinating these projects are not-for-profit companies. Volunteering is about giving. We give to folks who need it most, and we go to help because the local people lack the resources and finances needed to get the work done.

Once you’ve selected the program of your choice, you can expect to be spending a lot of time working. We say that but for most, it doesn’t really feel like “work”. You’ll have plenty of time to take part in interesting activities selected by your local guides to enjoy during your free time in the afternoons and on weekends. 

You have the ability to make a change somewhere in the world.  As you are working, you’ll experience an immersion into the local culture that you would never receive on a typical vacation. At the same time, those around you will get a taste of your own culture. You will meet new people and develop friendships that may last a lifetime. You will see and do something new, different and worthwhile every day.

To find out some of the best places for volunteer travel, read up on 2019 Best Volunteer Abroad Programs. In the meantime, make sure all your travel documents are up-to-date. Need a copy of your birth certificateVitalChek can help get you the proper documentation you need, quickly and securely. 

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