Volunteer vacation is really a very cool idea, whether you are alone or with a group/family. Instead of just hanging at the beach, you build your vacation around a volunteer opportunity. That doesn’t have to mean forgoing France for a week dishing ham slices at a soup kitchen (although I can tell you this can be very rewarding and darn interesting as well).
But someone asked: “I wanted to take a Volunteer Vacation but was aghast to find out that I actually have to pay for it. Why?”
A lot of people think that volunteering to do something (for the benefit of some charity) would get them a free vacation in exchange. I had the same thought myself when I first heard the term.
But some of these things are extremely cheap, and that the rewards of doing them are great, the experiences you remember most and get the most out of are more often ones in which you are actively accomplishing something versus passively sunbathing.
Some of the volunteer vacations are from whale expeditions to Habitat for Humanity, so you can just read the article for them. I’m looking at the American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations, which are fairly cheap and look like fun.
The truth is that volunteer vacations will cost you around $1,000, if you go for one week. The cost is for your room and board, project fees, medical insurance and travel within the country where you will be volunteering. It may vary and your sponsoring organization should give you a run down of how they will be using your money.
Not all of these are necessarily financial deals, however. You generally have to pay something, and the more specialized the trip, the more you’ll pay. The whale trip for instance is about $2000 per person for a week. You really gotta love your whales to pay that much.
Whether you go cheap or are willing to pay, though, the point is that doing something different, something that involves your mind and body and maybe has you working closely with family members in an unfamiliar setting, that’s a vacation you’ll remember. You may never want to go back to a “regular” vacation again.
The good thing about Volunteer Vacations, apart from the fact that (1) you will be helping and making a big difference to the lives of several people (like volunteering for After Hurricane Katrina) and (2) you will be immersed in different challenges, is that it is tax deductible.