Alternative Spring Break Ideas for Students

Volunteer Your Time Over Spring Break Vacation

Happy volunteers lifting wooden frame together at park
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The phrase "alternative spring break" (ASB) usually means volunteering for spring break, a very rewarding way to spend your time off beyond the wet t-shirt competitions and beach and bar scene of Cancun. Here's the who, what, when and how you'll need to know to plan your own alternative spring break.

College students can seek an alternative spring break with sun and sand while volunteering in Central American conservation and home building projects with i-to-i. Closer to home, United Way is sponsoring alternative spring break for volunteers in the US, and non-profit housebuilder Habitat for Humanity consistently sees a swell of students turning up to pound nails year after year. ​Projects Abroad is now offering short-term volunteering abroad opportunities specifically designed for one-week spring break trips.

And you can build your own alternative spring break ideas, too, like rebuilding national park trails or finding the perfect volunteer match near you. Check out a few alternative spring break ideas for volunteering this year:

United Way Alternative Spring Break

After MTV's inaugural collaboration with United Way's "Storm Corps" in 2006 to send students to the US's Gulf Coast on an alternative spring break, the program successfully rolled south each year since to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike.

United Way also offers an alternative spring break week elsewhere in the US -- ASB volunteers will work in conjunction with local partners to address issues in urban America, like helping to build affordable housing and improving the quality of child care centers. Get the details on how to volunteer on volunteering with United Way for an alternative spring break.

Break Away Alternative Spring Break

Break Away is a good resource on your own campus -- if your college has a chapter, you'll have access to a Break Away database of over 350 non-profit organizations listing volunteer opportunities with details like sample work projects and housing options. 

Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break Work

Non-profit housebuilder Habitat For Humanity reports that more than 250,000 high school and college students have lined up to swing hammers over spring break through Habitat's Collegiate Challenge alternative spring break program since the program was launched in the 1980s.

Alternative Spring Break Volunteer Vacations With i-to-i

With i-to-i volunteer vacations specifically tailored to an alternative spring break, you can conserve a lake in Guatemala or build homes for Honduran families; if you want sun-splashed sand, spend time on a Costa Rican beach, working with sea turtles. Through volunteering with a good student travel outfit like i-to-i, where volunteering goes hand-in-hand with travel, you'll see a piece of the planet without having to do much of the planning.

Volunteering Abroad for One Week Spring Breaks

Volunteering abroad is a fantastic, life-altering experience: the travel, the opportunity to help someone else, the new knowledge about you and your place in the world are invaluable results. Volunteering abroad for a longer period is a big commitment, though, and the planning and research can seem daunting. Here's a solution: try it out by volunteering abroad for spring break.

Volunteer in America's Wilderness

Feel like giving something back to the wild areas that you love? The American Hiking Society has the dream volunteer trip for you -- American Hiking's Volunteer Vacations, where you can rake, shovel, trim, lop, and chop hundreds of trail miles. Trips are far fewer in spring than summer and some trips fill quickly, but you can also get inspired by hotter months' work down the road.

A List of Volunteer Opportunity Resources for Students

We've compiled a constantly changing master list of volunteering opportunities that can easily work for students over spring break -- check it out for new ideas you might not have otherwise thought of (An important note: Do your own research before you send anyone money as a down payment).

Find Volunteer Work Matches

Still haven't found what you're looking for? Try Volunteer Match, a service which allows you to enter your zip and see what kind of volunteer opportunities exist near you. You might also want to check out this list of "voluntourism" resources.

"Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it." -- Eudora Welty