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Ideas For Meaningful Volunteer Vacations To Take In 2024

Try your hand at lending a hand on your next holiday!

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Are you a woman who loves to travel? Do you enjoy exchanging travel-related tips and tricks? Then please consider joining our closed Facebook group for women who love travel, The Ethel On-The-Go, today!

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It was March 2010 — spring break — two glorious weeks off from the hectic schedule of a boarding school teacher. Yet when a volunteer was suddenly needed to co-chaperone a trip to Georgia, it seemed like a good compromise — one week to relax and one week dedicated to Habitat for Humanity. Helping build a family’s first home turned out to be an honor and a privilege — a truly rewarding experience.

“Voluncations” have become a popular way to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. If you’re ready for an adventure in a place you’ve never been, combined with helping others in a meaningful way, it could be the right next trip for you. With a bit of research and planning, you can make your next vacation a volunteering one!


International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ)

Mature volunteers and retirees, well-experienced explorers or first-time travelers can make a real difference on volunteer projects by sharing life experience, wisdom and skills that are valuable to a local community. IVHQ offers programs in more than 50 destinations across Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, North America, Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Pacific that help create “positive transformation through regenerative travel.” Teach or support construction projects or join NGO initiatives or wildlife conservation projects. Programs start at $20 per day, which includes accommodations, everything organized for you and many homestay and private room options.

Discover Corps

Discover Corps promises volunteers a “high-end handcrafted journey across the most unique destinations the world has to offer,” including meaningful service travel to Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the U.S. Comfortable, safe and fun experiences are customized for all kinds of travelers including “active older adults.”

Volunteer Forever

The idea behind Volunteer Forever was to create “a comprehensive online resource that helps people all over the world find and fund their best volunteer, intern and teach abroad experiences.” It’s an info-rich first stop for those looking to embark on a volunteer travel. Their “Traveler Styles” tab shares opportunities for seniors and retirees.


While I gained many insights about myself and life in general during those seven days down south, the trip wasn’t without hiccups (albeit minor ones). Here are a few things I wish I’d done differently:

• Spoken in detail to other experienced chaperones for helpful tips beforehand.

• Asked about the accommodations — an air mattress would have been a game changer.

• Spoken up. I was often quietly frustrated by having nothing to do on the worksite. A well-run organization is careful not to waste volunteers’ time.

Also, check out HostelWorld, which offers important reminders and safety tips for your journey, including:

• How to choose a volunteer activity suitable for you. Ask yourself: What are your skills, how much time do you have and what are your goals?

• Finding a reputable organization. From placement companies (good for volunteering packages with travel to developing countries) to an organization that connects you directly with local not-for-profits, to making contact yourself, know where your money is going!

• Checking the requirements for volunteering with children. A rule of thumb is the stricter the requirements, the more likely the organization is responsible and ethical.

• Avoiding exploitative animal sanctuaries. These opportunities don’t typically require special skills or long commitments. Be cautious of organizations that encourage anything not veterinary, research or conservation-related. Volunteer programs should be led by skilled professionals like veterinarians and biologists.

• Projects that actually support the community’s needs with sustainable and lasting effects long after volunteers have left. Time may run out, leaving projects unfinished. Find projects run and managed by the local community as part of continuous, sustainable work.

• Connecting with past volunteers to vet and learn more about an organization.

• Match the time you have with the work you’ll be doing. Longer trips aren’t necessarily of greater value. Which tasks would be the most beneficial and appropriate to the community?

• Think about what’s needed, not what you want, and how your relevant skills best support the need.

• Be respectful and considerate as you enter a new culture and environment.

And check out The Ethel On-The-Go, our private Facebook group where you’ll find all kinds of posts about travel and women!

Have you ever taken a volunteer vacation? Or would you want to? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle