The Top Sources for Finding Volunteer Travel Abroad and in the U.S.

These companies arrange trips with volunteer activities.

IRC volunteer
Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Volunteer travel abroad and in the United States appeals to many travelers who are looking to give a little something back during their vacations. What started as a grassroots movement back in the 1990s has grown into a full-fledged market segment today with numerous travel companies offering intriguing opportunities for the philanthropic-minded. In fact, the movement has grown so popular that it is now possible to visit just about any corner of the globe and find options to volunteer while there.

 

Just how popular has "voluntourism" become? In a recent edition of the Voice of the Traveler survey by the National Tour Industry a quarter of respondents said they were currently interested in taking a volunteer or service-based vacation. The majority of those individuals fell between the ages of 35 and 54, an age bracket that has disposable income to spend on unique travel opportunities.  

If you've been looking for the right volunteer travel opportunity, we have some suggestions of organizations and travel companies that you might want to connect with. The list below features some of the best resources for travelers who want to do more than just visit a destination. Any one of them can provide great suggestions on where to go and what to do when wanting to give back. 

1) International Volunteer HQ

Over the past decade, International Volunteer HQ has sent more than 90,000 people off on service-based trips to 40+ countries around the world.

The organization routinely has over 200 projects available for volunteers to choose from, making it challenging just to decide where to go. Those projects range from providing care to young and old alike, to building and renovating schools, hospitals, and other facilities.

2) Global Vision International 

U.K.-based Global Vision International not only offers excellent opportunities for volunteer travel across the globe, it provides access to internships that can alter a career path too.

GVI even has projects that are specially designed for travelers under the age of 18, allowing them to learn to give back at a young age. 

3) Love Volunteers

Promising "life changing travel," Love Volunteers focuses on not only offering affordable options for travelers looking to contribute, but staying connected with local communities around the globe too. What makes this organization different is that it takes a grassroots approach to finding places and projects that need assistance, working closely with local people to find the right fit. 

4) Sierra Club Outings

Sierra Club Outings runs environmentally focused volunteer travel trips around the United States and to a wide variety of places across the globe. These adventure escapes combine cultural immersion with active itineraries with a focus on protecting the planet. Destinations range from Africa to the Antarctic, with just about everywhere else in between. 

5) International Volunteer Programs

International Volunteer Programs Association is a consortium of international volunteer programs that have joined together to help promote the opportunities they have to offer. Most of these organizations have projects that run anywhere from just one or two weeks all the way up to six months, allowing travelers to squeeze in a quick escape or take a life-changing alternative.

The variety of options available is quite impressive, with options for just about every interest. 

6) Cross-Cultural Solutions

One of the leading nonprofit organizations in the voluntourism space, Cross Cultural Solutions focus on providing safe, secure opportunities for travelers. While CCS operates in just nine countries, the projects that it works on are meant to be more impactful on both the volunteer and the people that they work with while abroad. With more than 35,000 volunteers placed, the formula seems to be working well. 

7) United Nation's World Volunteer Programme

If you've ever wondered how you can volunteer to help The United Nations in its various projects taking place around the globe, this website will provide you with all of the information you need. It offers insights into what opportunities are available, how to go about volunteering, and how these projects have a direct impact on the people in the countries they are taking part in.

There are volunteer options on five continents available at all times, with some really interesting programs to attach to. 

8) Earthwatch Institute

On a volunteer vacation or trip with the nonprofit Earthwatch Institute, you get the opportunity to visit some truly unique locations and ecosystems around the world and take steps to help protect those places from climate change, deforestation, and a wide variety of other threats. This is one of the best programs for adventure travelers who want to focus specifically on conversation, particularly in developing parts of the world. 

9) Global Volunteers

Over the past 30+ years, Global Volunteers have helped more than 34,000 travelers have a positive impact on 200 local communities on five continents. The organization has found a great deal of success by pairing volunteers with destinations that need their specific skillsets, with projects focused on such things as teaching basic English, improving computer literacy, building homes, and much more.  

10) One World 365

This website is a great resource for those considering a volunteer vacation, but are unsure of what opportunities are available.The site lists more than 10,000 trips, project, and jobs available in over 100 countries for those looking to contribute abroad. Whether you're looking for a volunteer tour, gap year suggestions, or a complete change of lifestyle, One World 365 is a great place to start looking for how you can make a difference. 

Are You A VolunTourist?

Combining a vacation or trip abroad with volunteering on local projects is one way you can immerse yourself in local cultures and make a difference. First, however, you need to ask yourself some serious questions to help decide where and what type of volunteer travel you'd enjoy. What's your passion? Animal conservation? Teaching kids or helping them? Rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricanes or a tsunami? Are you willing to live and work with people whose culture and the outlook is very different than your own? Can you handle living in a tent or shack with an outhouse or do you want to be in a hotel? Visit How To Decide if Voluntourism -- Volunteer Travel -- Is for You.