Volunteer Your Way to a Vacation

Children cart dirt and debris away during a co...

Volunteer Vacation

As someone who loves to travel and lives on a budget, I am always seeking out travel deals and cheaper ways to see the world.  I also am a big advocate of volunteering.  I not only spend time volunteering in my own city, but love to volunteer in other parts of the world as well.

In 2009 I went on a mission trip to Croatia and where I also taught English.  I taught English in Barcelona and Japan as well.  It is about time I went on another volunteer vacation, commonly referred to as voluntourism.

Why combine work with a vacation?

Volunteer Vacations Are Typically Cheaper

When you look a taking a budget vacation, one way to do this is by volunteering.  Yes, there is a program cost involved, but it is still going to be (generally) cheaper than if you paid for all of your accommodations and meals on your own.  A 2 week volunteer vacation can cost as little as $600 and that includes your room and 3 meals a day.

Many companies will throw in a few cultural classes or experiences on top of that or even travel insurance. These trips are typically geared towards students who are on a a budget.  However, many adults participate in these types of trips in order to experience the culture and save some money.

Volunteer Vacations are Tax Deductible

You can also save money on your end of year taxes.  Volunteer vacations are tax deductible, which can also be a cost savings.

I am not a tax advisor, so please don’t quote me as one. However, volunteer vacations can be considered a charitable deduction, which IS a allowable deduction on your income tax.

Some people take the time to set up some fundraising for the trip since it is for a worthy cause.

Voluntourism is Rewarding and Provides Cultural Immersion

One of the biggest appeals to a volunteer vacation is the intrinsic rewards you get from helping out a village, city or region in need.  Whether you are helping clean up after a natural disaster or cooking for orphans, at the end of the day you get a feeling of satisfaction.

Not only is volunteering rewarding, but provides real cultural immersion.  Since most volunteer organizations have you stay with a family, you get a true sense of what day to day life is like in that city.  The family can share some insider information about the city and the country that you probably wound not get on a mainstream vacation.  Learning another language is another added benefit if you choose to communicate with the family and locals.

Working side by side with other volunteers and local members gives you a sense of community. GlobalVolunteers.org calls it “Travel that Feeds the Soul.”

Several Websites for Volunteering Vacations

  • uVolunteer.org
  • i-to-i.com
  • crossculturalsolutions.org
  • globalvolunteers.org
  • GoAbroad.com/volunteer-abroad
  • BUNAC.org
  • WorldEndeavor.com
  • GeoVisions.org

Volunteering while on vacation is not the best choice for everyone since you will be working at least part of the time.  Ask yourself is a volunteer vacation right for you?  If it is, have a good time and get the most out your vacation.

Share your volunteer vacation experiences by commenting below.

10 Responses to Volunteer Your Way to a Vacation

  1. Wow this is a great idea Julie.I plan on the future to do a lot of travelling and what better way than volunteering making your travel experience a more pleasurable one.

    Danny September 5, 2011 at 1:38 pm Reply
    • Thanks! Yes, I already found a trip I think I may go on next year sometime in Ecuador! :)

      Julie September 5, 2011 at 3:04 pm Reply
  2. I like this place after reading your article and may be plane for next trip to there..

    Rajasthan Tours September 8, 2011 at 12:42 am Reply
  3. What a nice way to behave – help other people and then see the world at the same time. Thanks for telling.

    Laan Penge September 17, 2011 at 3:23 am Reply
  4. What a great way to travel and give something back! My teenager wants to travel abroad, particularly to Japan and this may be the best way for him to experience another culture and do something worthwhile at the same time. It makes me feel better to know that he could stay with a family, as opposed to by himself, because he is still quite young. Thank you for the list of volunteer websites as well, I am on my way to visit them. I will bookmark your blog, great job!

    Monica September 23, 2011 at 10:20 am Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by – volunteering sure can be a great way to travel and see the culture.

      Julie September 23, 2011 at 9:43 pm Reply
  5. Volunteering is a great way to see the world and travel, be careful when traveling though. Your safety is the most important thing when traveling, always stay aware and well informed when traveling. Stay safe!

    Mat @ Bay Limo October 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm Reply
  6. Volunteering is great way to get some experiences, however it could be much more cheaper, as you are going there to work as well. My suggestion is that the organizer or the host company should pay you everything – air tickets, accommodation and food for your work there. But I like it anyway! :)

    Julo, Travel via Croatia March 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm Reply
  7. The problem with some of these websites is the cost of registering in the first place. I suppose admin etc must be paid for but anyone who is looking to volunteer abroad is probably not in a position to pay the fees with no guarantee of a placement.

    Paramount Magazine April 5, 2012 at 7:28 am Reply
  8. There’s been a lot of mixed messages about the pros and cons about “voluntourism” and I thank you for putting out a positive message about it. As long as it is mutually beneficial for both the volunteer and the beneficiary, I really think it’s a great way to travel and truly experience the culture. I agree a bit with Julo that paying huge admin fees does not seem fair as you are already giving your time and energy. But there are some low-cost options and for the real local experiences, often those NGOs aren’t in a position to fully sponsor a volunteer yet they are the NGOs in the most need of capacity development. Research is key of course in sourcing a worthy cause who needs your expertise, at a reasonable cost.

    Overland Travel Adventures July 10, 2012 at 5:57 am Reply

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