Sometimes we all need to take a break from our busy lives and see how we can give back to others. Whether it’s a group in our own community or a cause halfway around the world, it’s an experience that will give back to you ten fold. Travelocity is committed to supporting global tourism through its Travel for Good™ program and has asked Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip to help lay the groundwork for planning a voluntourism trip.
How to Plan a Voluntourism Trip
1. Sit down and identify your goals and expectations
Planning a voluntourism trip needs thoughtful consideration. Take an evaluation of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to do that. Look at your skill set, are you better at hard labor or one-on-one connections? How will your skills help someone else? Make a list of locations you would consider to help narrow down the available opportunities for volunteering. Consider your budget as most trips have a portion of costs you will be expected to cover.
2. Take stock of the time you have available
Each voluntourism trip spans a different length of time. Some are a few days, whereas others can be several months. How much time do you have to give? Can you leave things unattended at home for a lengthy time period or are you better focusing on short volunteer trips? Do you plan on spending your entire trip volunteering or do you want to do a few days while you’re on vacation? It’s important to honestly answer these questions before committing to a cause.
3. Research volunteer opportunities
There are an endless number of volunteer companies out there, so how do you find the right fit? Start with the amount of time you can give, that will help narrow your focus. If you are looking for long term options, consider groups like the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity. For shorter commitments, there are thousands of options, so it’s really about asking the right questions and doing your due diligence. The nonprofit organization Give Kids the World offers volunteers the chance to grant wishes to critically ill children and their families by helping during visits to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Jobs may be as small as greeting the family at the airport or donating character autograph books. These are just a few examples of the volunteer opportunities available for travelers.
4. Ask a lot of questions
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, start asking the important questions. It’s even a good idea to get someone from the organization on the phone. Ask them where the money is going (most companies require a fee to participate in a volunteer trip) and how does the company work with the local community? If the company is being support by the locals, it shows they believe the charitable work is having its desired effect. Ask about how your work will impact the people/animals you are working with? What is the end result they are looking to achieve? Make a list of every question you have and make sure it is answered to your satisfaction.
5. Talk to others
When you are ready to make your final choice, find other people who have worked with the organization. They will be a wealth of information, from what to expect to what to pack. Be sure to ask them if there were any unexpected surprises along the way and what they took away from the experience. If it doesn’t align with your values or expectations, be prepared to find another volunteer trip.
6. Prepare for your voluntourism trip
Depending on your destination, there might be more than just packing your bags. It’s not a bad idea to get travel insurance (if you don’t have it already), get your visas and passport, schedule any medical visits and needed shots (some destinations require additional vaccines). Research the destination and know the basics (are there any travel warnings, safety issues, key phrases if there will be a language barrier, water quality). Be sure to pack the right clothing and footwear for your trip and if you’re bringing any supplies, make space for those in your luggage.
At the end of the day, make sure you are taking the trip for the right reasons and that the organization you’re working with is reputable. Working together, we can all make a positive change when we Travel for Good™.
Travelocity’s Travel for Good™ program aims to inspire travelers to give back in ways big and small throughout their journeys. To learn more about the program, get involved in a local community or start planning your next Travel for Good trip, please visit Travelocity.com/TravelForGood.
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