Everything You Want to Know About Volunteer Vacations

Around the world, Volunteer Vacations are rapidly becoming more popular among travelers who are looking for more meaningful travel trips and truly life-changing experiences. A vacation that will not only take them off the beaten tourist track and allow them to experience exotic places and the local cultures more authentically, but will also give them an opportunity to feel the joy of lending a helping hand.

Read on to find out what Volunteer Vacations are, who is doing it and why, how Volunteer Vacations work and how to choose the right Volunteer Vacation for you.

What is a Volunteer Vacation?

Volunteer Vacations are not a new phenomenon: for decades people have been volunteering their services in distant places through various organisations – think, for example, of the Red Cross, which has co-ordinated international volunteer relief efforts since 1881; Doctors Without Borders, which have sent medical practitioners to remote areas since the 1970s; and Habitat for Humanity, which organises volunteers to build homes in distant places. Another truly American example of volunteers traveling the world is the Peace Corps, a federal government agency with its roots in a challenge issued to students by Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960 to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries.

Over the years, the popularity of this type of travel has surged, notably after catastrophic events such as 911, Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Thailand, as more people want to do more than simply write a cheque – they want to help and participate in a more tangible and hands-on way.

Today Volunteer Vacations are known by different names – volunteer travel, voluntourism, international volunteering, volunteering abroad, service vacations, working vacations and even gap year travel, but it all refers to the same amazing concept: traveling to awesome places to volunteer your services where it is needed most, while having an amazing, life-changing experience.

Who goes on Volunteer Vacations?

Economists estimate that almost 1 billion people volunteer each year. Volunteer Vacations are ideal for these volunteers, as it provides an opportunity to volunteer in an exciting destination, doing work that makes a real impact, while also having an amazing time.

Among travellers too, Volunteer Vacations are more popular than ever. In fact, in its travel predictions for 2019, Booking.com notes that more than half – 54% – of global travelers would consider a volunteering trip, while 68% would participate in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill, followed by international work placements (52%).

Volunteer Vacations are for everyone. It can be a wonderful family vacation, an ideal opportunity for those with more life experience to share their knowledge and skills, and an amazing chance for students to broaden their life perspective and even gain practical experience in their field of interest. It is true that the majority of those going on Volunteer Vacations are young Millennials, predominantly aged 18 to 25 years old. In fact, a WYSE Travel Confederation Millennial Traveller Survey (2014) found that 65% of volunteer travellers were aged 18 to 25.

Whether you are a young and able Millennial exploring your world, a senior with a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience to share or a family reaching out to other cultures, a Volunteer Vacation is a great way to break away from the hum-drum of daily modern life, to see new places, meet new people and contribute to making a positive difference in the world. No wonder it is so popular.

Why choose a Volunteer Vacation?

Many travelers are looking for a more meaningful way to vacation, removed from the traditional travel packages that rushes you from tourist trap to tourist trap and requires a lot of money for overpriced food, drinks and trinkets.

Volunteer Vacations are an alternative way to experience new places, new people and new things while lending a helping hand. It is an opportunity to visit places off the beaten track that few tourists ever see, to interact with the local people and wildlife, and to do good. While working and relaxing, you will have an opportunity to immerse yourself into the local culture in a way that is never possible on a typical vacation, while at the same time the host projects will be able to learn more about your culture. You will meet new people and make friends for life – not only with the locals, but also with other volunteer travelers like yourself. You will learn new skills and gain invaluable working experience while enjoying an unforgettable time.

While volunteering will involve work to be done, there is still plenty of time on a Volunteer Vacation to enjoy some rest and relaxation, to explore the area and to enjoy adventure and leisure activities.

How do Volunteer Vacations work?

As with any other vacation, you will be responsible for all your expenses, including visas and immunizations, pre-trip medical costs and your airline ticket. Volunteer Vacation opportunities often include accommodation and meals for volunteers, which can certainly make your trip more cost-effective.

If you choose a Volunteer Southern Africa Volunteer Vacation Programme, you can also expect expert help in finalising all your arrangement in terms of your traveling, and you will be met by one of our guides at your arrival at the airport who will ensure you arrive safely to your chosen Volunteer Vacation program. One of our Volunteer Southern Africa guides remains with your group at all times and you also have 24-hour emergency support during your stay.

Here is an example of an itinerary during a Volunteer SA 1-week Volunteer Vacation – Living with Big Cats – in one of the most beautiful parts of Africa:

Welcome and orientation

Tuesday – Saturday
7:30AM – 9:00AM – Horse and Elephant Maintenance, Lion Trek or Elephant Walk
9:00AM – 10:00AM – Breakfast
10:00AM – 12:00PM – Morning activity such as animal interaction, farm maintenance, lion training camp, enclosure cleaning etc.
12:30PM – 2:00PM – Lunch
2:00PM – 5:00PM – Afternoon activity including; game drives, mud pool, bush walk, leopard’s cave hike etc.

An excursion chosen by the group.

A day off to enjoy the pool and relax at the venue or to enjoy additional excursions or adventures.

As you can see, there is plenty of free time in the evenings and on the weekends, and local guides and program coordinators will gladly help you in choosing fun activities and adventures for your free time.

Which are the Most Popular Volunteer Vacations?

While you could also volunteer in your own state or country, why not simultaneously travel internationally to experience a new country and culture? Why not also have an unforgettable adventure even as you are volunteering, for example, by working with lions, elephants or rhinos in some of the most magnificent parts of Africa.

It is not surprising then that a study by WYSE Travel Confederation, the world’s leading trade association for the global work and volunteer abroad industry, found that wildlife conservation and education are the volunteer projects of choice. And for these volunteer travelers, South Africa, Ecuador and Mexico are the top three destinations in the world.

How do I choose a Volunteer Vacation?

Based on our more-than-a-decade of experience in providing amazing, impactful volunteer opportunities to more than 9,500 volunteers, of which 850 return again and again, we hand-pick our Volunteer Vacations using these criteria:

  • First and foremost the safety and security of each volunteer;
  • The quality of the facility including comfortable and safe accommodation; meals; Wi-Fi and laundry
  • A full package including airport transfers and 24-hour emergency support
  • The opportunity for living and interacting with the wildlife and locals in one of the most beautiful parts of Africa
  • A range of fun outings, excursions and adventure experiences
  • The opportunity to gain new skills and experience
  • Ethical projects that make a positive impact, so our volunteers can experience the joy of making a real and lasting difference.
    Our team has worked hard with our partners to develop ethical Volunteer Vacation programs that offer a premium experience and allow you to travel safely and experience the best, most beautiful parts of Africa while making memories to last a lifetime.

Simply Click Here and Tell Us When You’d Like to Volunteer and We’ll Find the Best Volunteering Experience Available for You!

Earl Smith