Travelers' Aid: Volunteer Vacations (10/26/2001)
There are many different types of volunteer vacations out there. There are both foreign and domestic vacations, ranging from archaeology digs to building houses or health clinics in rural areas to maintaining trails in national parks. Keep in mind, though, that just because it's a volunteer experience, that it's going to be any less expensive than a regular trip. A typical volunteer trip can cost thousands of dollars for just 1-3 weeks. Groups need to cover administrative costs and raise funds for their causes. So, while some are cheap, others are more expensive.
A groups called Cross-Cultural Solutions, for example, will take you to Africa, Asia, or South America, where you can teach English to the locals. The typical trip is about three weeks. They start at around $1750...and that's NOT including airfare.
In the less expensive category, you can spend a week with the Sierra Club, restoring our country's wilderness, for about $225-500. Again, transportation to the worksite is not provided, but they take good care of you once you're there.
To find out what's available out there, take a look at a great article in the latest Consumer Reports Travel Letter. It includes important questions you should ask yourself before you choose a trip: level of skill required, level of activity on the trip, what's provided and what's NOT provided, &c. If you don't want to spend a week lifting heavy objects, don't sign up to build houses. If you need luxury accommodations, you're not going to find them in the Honduran mountains.
The best website for finding a volunteer travel opportunity belongs to the International Volunteer Programs Association. Their URL is http://volunteerinternational.org/.
If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or, you can snail-mail them in. The address is The Savvy Traveler, in care of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.
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