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Voluntourism: How to give back on the go

Volunteer in the classroom

As the world continues to navigate through the global pandemic, areas that depend on tourism are being hit hard. With worldwide travel projected to drop by at least 50 percent in 2020, travelers are turning their attention to planning trips in 2021 and beyond. At the same time, people are keenly aware that tourism drives the economy for many of the destinations they have in mind. As a result, we’re seeing an upsurge in making giving back part of the plans.

Giving back while traveling isn’t new. In fact, there’s an official name for it – voluntourism. The term covers a range of volunteer activities aimed at enabling visitors to contribute to the local community as part of their vacation travel. In exchange for having a positive impact, tourists gain an authentic, memorable experience.

As the trend continues to grow in popularity, we recommend doing your due diligence to make sure the cause and the organization are on the up-and-up before signing on to volunteer when you’re vacationing. There are plenty of options to give back in meaningful and fulfilling ways, but, unfortunately, there are also situations and scams to avoid.

A previous blog outlined five ways for individuals, groups, and companies to make a difference during their travels. In this post, let’s dive deeper into how we help our clients find the right voluntourism opportunities – both for them and the communities they visit.

Finding the right opportunity

People pick up garbage on the beach

Volunteering – or giving of your time or

skills – is one way to give back – and often the first thing that people think of when they begin to plan how they can contribute. But the reality is, there are many different ways to make a positive impact. Finding the right fit depends on examining your goals and exploring your options.

Start by outlining what you’re hoping to accomplish – and how you envision the experience. Ask yourself:

What would I like to get from the experience?

By getting specific about what you want to achieve, it’s easier to find experiences to match. Do you want to donate your time and talents to a local charitable organization? Are you looking for a one-day experience or something more immersive? Are you looking for real-life interactions with the locals that take you off the beaten path?

Your answers to questions like these are essential to finding the right match. Even when you make your objectives more specific, there will still be a wide range of opportunities available to fulfill your goals.

How do I know my efforts are truly helping the community?

Answering this question can be tricky when you’re not familiar with a region and its local needs. Don’t try to answer this question on your own. Tap into reputable resources, including the Cruise Dreams team, that understand the region and have established connections and programs you can participate in. One example is a non-profit organization called Hope Floats that connects cruise travelers with local volunteer opportunities with organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Humane Society at different ports of call.

Man doing construction

What opportunities are out there?

There are all kinds of options to give back as you travel, especially if you broaden the definition and think outside-the-box.

· Give your time and talents. Spending time helping at a shelter, supporting a disaster relief effort, or visiting an orphanage, can be fulfilling. And, if you have specialized skills, such as medical, construction, or teaching, you may be able to find more specific opportunities.

· Pack up and give. An easy way to give back is to include needed items to donate as you pack your suitcase. An organization called Packing with Purpose provides lists of items needed in different locations around the world, ranging from notepads and books to medical supplies like stethoscopes and band-aids. The organization then coordinates with resorts and hotels to collect and distribute the items.

· Donate to a worthy cause. Making a monetary donation is sometimes the most direct way to make an impact. But do your research. We recommend making a post-trip practice of donating to a reputable organization to address a need you encountered during your visit. If you want to make it more personalized, explore the microloan options to assist an entrepreneur or farmer through an organization like Kiva.

· Shop local. Just by traveling, you’re making a positive impact on the local economies of the places you visit. Build on that by making sure to visit family-owned restaurants and shops, and purchase hand-made souvenirs from local craftspeople whenever you can.

At Cruise Dreams, we’re honored to help our clients find opportunities to give back as they travel. Turn to our experts to tap into our partnerships around the world as you plan your next individual, group, or incentive trip. Call us at (877) 999-4533 or email us at

Waves to you and smooth sailings ahead!

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