Give And Take: How To Give Back When Taking Your Next Vacation

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Family vacations always involve a lot of taking. We take plane trips and tons of pictures. We take excursions and take in all the sights.

Taking a family vacation to an interesting destination is exciting, but it's often more rewarding when we give back as well. As my mother always said, "It's better to give than receive."

Traveling with a purpose adds meaning to trips, provides opportunities for personal development, and offers new perspectives and real-life insights about the world around us. Many families would like to help others when they travel, but don't have the time or money to take a separate vacation focused exclusively on volunteer travel. Doing good while on vacation is easy, you just have to know where to look. Our family has made giving back an integral part of many of our vacations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and these unique experiences have often been one of the most memorable parts of our trips.

Giving back on your next family vacation requires a little pre-trip planning, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Just bring along a backpack of school supplies or take some extra clothes in your suitcase when you go on a cruise or travel to a resort location. There are schools and orphanages that desperately need your help in many locations throughout the world. Just make sure to check out the customs laws for the countries you will be visiting to see what is permissible to bring. Detailed information on country customs requirements is available on the U.S. State Department website.

Numerous resorts and cruise ports in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America are located near schools, orphanages and other community organizations that urgently need in-kind donations of school supplies, books, clothing, shoes, and other personal items. Some resorts, such as Casa de Campo, Barceló Punta Cana and the Sun Village Resorts in the Dominican Republic, have established formal volunteer and in-kind donation programs to support organizations in their areas. Still others have established U.S. non-profit funds to support their local communities, such as the Old Road Fund at Curtain Bluff in Antigua. At many resorts, informed concierges may help you achieve your goals. If you are vacationing at a resort and would like to make a difference while in the area, see the related article on helping others on resort vacations for detailed tips and suggestions.

Cruise vacations are some of the easiest vacations to combine with giving back, as independent shore excursions can often make a stop at a school or orphanage along the way. In some ports such as Cozumel, a number of attractions and beach clubs serve as convenient drop-off points for donations of school supplies for local charities. In other locations, a few organizations will come to the cruise port to pick up items. In Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, the interest in social responsibility and giving back has become so significant that local tour operators have added pages on their websites to provide detailed information on giving back to local schools and other organizations. See our article on helping others on cruise vacations for tips on combining cruise vacations with giving back to others.

If you are going on vacation to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America and would like to make a difference, take a look at the country links on the right-hand sidebar of this article to locate just a few of the many organizations that can use your help. Through our research, the Family Travel Network has located schools, orphanages, charities and organizations that welcome in-kind donations to assist in their endeavors. A number of these organizations have been visited. In many cases, we have relied on the information provided by volunteers, directors, and other individuals involved with these groups and we do not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. We encourage you to use the information you find here as a starting point for doing your own independent research on these organizations and determining which, if any, you would like to help on your travels.

Helping Others on Resort Vacations

Helping Others on Cruise Vacations

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Helping Others on Resort Vacations

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