Embracing Voluntourism to Plan a Family Vacation That Gives Back

By Angela Tague in Helping Hands

You have it circled on the calendar. The kids are counting down. Your family vacation is coming up quick, and you simply can’t wait to get out of town and enjoy a break from your everyday routine.

To build on that excitement, why not mix up your usual vacation plans with some voluntourism? This trip, consider mixing volunteer hours with tourism (hence, the name). It’s a hot new trend among families to skip the museum tours and amusement park rides so they can instead learn more about the attractions, communities, and people they encounter on vacation.

volunteers painting a house

What Does This Entail?

For example, instead of walking through a zoo and admiring the animals in their enclosures, call ahead and offer to help the staff behind the scenes. Parents can chop fresh fruits for the tortoises and parrots to eat while the kids use a hose to rinse indoor pens and fill water bowls. Not only will the entire family get a unique view of how a zoo works and daily animal care requirements, but they also help keep the facility running smoothly.

That’s voluntourism: learning, helping, and visiting.

Volunteering your time not only helps the local economy and potentially the environment, but your children stand to gain important life skills. It’s a wonderful way to open your mind and see the world from a different perspective. There’s no better time to do this than when you’re already traveling to a new location as a family.

How Can You and Your Family Do This?

An easy first step is to take a peek at your current vacation itinerary. Contact the locations you plan to visit to see if they offer any volunteer tasks. Sometimes these tasks are outside of normal business hours or on days you might not expect, so be ready to juggle your schedule to accommodate these opportunities.

Or reach out to one of these helpful websites that promote and explain voluntourism for more ideas:

  • VolunTourism.org: This is a hub for both travelers and organizations that want to learn more and offer volunteer experiences. There are several resources including blogs, newsletters, a webcast, and research forum to browse.
  • Projects Abroad: Is your family heading overseas for vacation? You can help out in foreign countries between sightseeing tours. Pack some work clothes because you might just end up helping on a farm or building a school.
  • World Ventures: This site lists several family volunteer vacations overseas in developing nations and in the United States. If you’re working on teaching your children about giving back and helping others, check out this site.

Whatever you decide, volunteering is a fabulous way to learn more about historical sites or help out the community you’re visiting. Whether you take a day and help build a house for Habitat for Humanity or offer to walk a few dogs at the local animal shelter, your kindness is appreciated.

Have you ever participated in a family vacation that included volunteer activities? Tell us about your voluntourism experiences on Twitter!

Image sources: Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Voluntourism gives your family a break from their usual routine while teaching valuable lessons. Go beyond being a visitor and help at the places you travel to. No volunteer task is too small to make an impact on a community while teaching your kids about selflessness, humility, and respect.