Volunteer Vacations for Families: 4 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Trip

By Sher Warkentin in Helping Hands

There are many ways you can turn your family vacation into a volunteer opportunity. When you're traveling with kids, the first question to ask when booking volunteer vacations is whether or not it's kid-friendly. Several factors to consider are the traveling logistics, the accommodations provided, and, of course, the actual expectations from volunteers.

Should You Work with a Volunteer Organization?

Working with a volunteer organization is an excellent way to ensure that you find the best option for your family and make the experience as stress-free as possible. Nonprofit volunteer organizations can help you find a project that's the right destination, length, and skill-set fit for your family. Many of these international organizations work with local organizations to find or create plans to meet the specific needs of the community so that you can actually make a difference. These groups also screen potential volunteers, which ensures you'll match with a program that's the right fit for your family's abilities.

Volunteering through an organization can also make the planning process more manageable. From paperwork and immunizations to accommodations and travel, a volunteer organization will help to guide you through all of the preparations you'll need to complete before your trip. An organization can also give you guidance on local practices, as well as activities you can engage in during your downtime.

When choosing an organization to work with, look for a nonprofit. For these organizations, the primary focus is volunteering, not the vacation, so your work will not be in vain. It's also important to find an organization that's partnered with a local group or has permanent staff at the destination who are versed in local laws and customs. This will help to ensure your family's safety and well-being.

Choose volunteer projects that are age-appropriate for kids.

How Difficult Will Traveling Be?

Many volunteer opportunities abroad are in remote locations. Traveling with kids can be a challenge, especially if you need to pack extra gear or if it takes a long time to get there. If your family doesn't travel lightly, or if a long haul feels overwhelming, you should consider volunteer vacations in more populated areas, where direct travel is readily available.

Of course, you don't have to travel halfway across the globe to volunteer. There are some vacation destinations within the United States with volunteer opportunities. This can make planning easier since you avoid the need for passports, dealing with customs, and other concerns that come with traveling abroad.

If you do travel abroad, here are some things you'll want to research:

  • Culture and language: Spend some time as a family learning more about the culture and history of your destination. If you're working with an organization, they'll likely pair you with an interpreter if necessary, but it doesn't hurt to learn a few conversational words to help you get by.
  • Food: Meals abroad can be especially tricky if you have kids who are picky eaters. You'll want to find out if provided meals will feature options that every member of your family will eat.
  • Climate: Before you reach your destination, you'll want to make sure you're properly outfitted for rain, humidity, mosquitoes, or whatever is expected at your destination.

A volunteer organization can make prepping for your trip much easier.

What Will Be Expected of You?

One of the most important things to consider when planning for family volunteer vacations is the project itself. There are a variety of activities you could be involved in on a volunteer vacation, including:

  • Building construction and renovation
  • Care and feeding of animals
  • Beach cleanups
  • Bird surveying
  • Farming

As a family, you will likely have different interests and varying skill sets, so it's important to understand what tasks you'll be doing while volunteering. You'll need to find out if the activities are age appropriate and something your kids will be excited about doing. It won't be an educational or memorable experience if your family is complaining the whole time. If you're working with a volunteer organization, they can provide you with details and specifics about the project. It can also be a good idea to seek out volunteers who have already engaged in the same project and get some firsthand knowledge of their experience.

You'll also want to find out more about what your downtime will look like and what you can do with your family. While you can expect to spend most of your time volunteering, there will also be some time to explore the local community, especially on weekends and evenings.

Instead of playing on the beach spend your vacation cleaning it.

Will Your Work Make a Difference?

Not all volunteer vacations are the same. Choosing the right organization and project can go a long way toward making an impactful contribution. Do take time to research the needs of the local community in which you plan to volunteer and how the organization or project meets those needs. Learn how the organization uses your vacation fees and how much of it goes directly to the project. You might also want to find out how long the group has been partnering with the local community and if it has sustainable plans for future aid.

A family vacation can help your family bond and expose your kids to different cultures and new experiences. It can also be an excellent opportunity to teach them the importance of giving back. Volunteer vacations offer the perfect way to turn your time off into lessons your kids will carry for the rest of their lives. The key to a successful experience is doing some research and choosing a project that's the right fit for your family.

Has your family taken a volunteer vacation? Share your experience with us by tagging @toms_of_maine on Instagram!

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Why It's Good

Volunteering and spending quality time with your family both have incredible benefits. Volunteer vacations can combine these in one by using your time off to give back and make family memories that will last a lifetime.