9 Easy Ways to Volunteer on a Family Vacation

Want to combine your family vacation with a volunteer experience? It easier than you may think, thanks to companies that connect travelers with experiences that don't take an enormous amount of time or effort but can still have a big impact. Whatever your favorite cause, you'll likely find a way to give back while you're having fun.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Pack for a Purpose

    If you don't want to give up your vacation time but have some extra room in your luggage, you can still make a difference by packing items that can be used by local schools and clinics in your destination. Pack for a Purpose works with over 480 hotels and tour companies in over 60 countries. Each destination provides a list of specific items, so you always know that you’re bringing something that can be used. Simply bring your items to a designated drop point at your hotel, or arrange for a pick-up.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Sandals Foundation

    Families who stay at Beaches Resorts or Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts in the Caribbean can spend a couple of hours at a local school teaching children to read and write in English. It's a low-commitment gig that pays a huge dividend: Your family brings books and school supplies and then works with kids in community schools.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Fathom

    Love cruising with your kids? From Carnival Cruise Lines comes Fathom, a groundbreaking impact tourism brand lets you combine a family cruise with opportunites to volunteer in cultural and environmental initiatives in destinations such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba. And make no mistake: You still get to have a fun cruise, too.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Give Kids the World

    Heading to Orlando? Consider spending a half a day volunteering at Give Kids The World Village, a non-profit resort that provides theme park vacations for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Volunteer opportunities for adults and kids 12 and up include scooping ice cream, helping with pony rides, and running a merry-go-round.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Best Friends Animal Society

    In Utah, at the nation's largest no-kill animal sanctuary, kids from age 6 can work with their parents tending to homeless dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, and more. A fun kids camp provides a place to drop off children when parents want a more intensive volunteer experience.

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    Volunteer Opportunities on a Family Vacation
    ••• Visit.org

    This online marketplace offers a smorgasbord of impactful hands-on travel tours and workshops through hundreds of nonprofit organizations in several dozen countries. The focus is on short (half-day to one-day), affordable experiences that give back to local communities. 

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    Family Volunteer Opportunities at Animal Sanctuaries
    ••• Farm Sanctuary

    At three bucolic animal sanctuaries (located in New York and California) family volunteers 12 and up can work a six-hour shift to help these farms care for animals rescued from cruelty. Farm chores might include barn cleaning, gardening, fence repair, painting, and raking. 

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    Volunteer Vacation Opportunities in Mexico
    ••• Solmar Foundation

    Families staying at one of the Solmar Hotels & Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, can contribute to the local community by making a donation to the Solmar Foundation at checkout or participating in the "Bring a Thing" program. The foundation suggests inexpensive items such as coloring books, stickers, and school supplies that are badly needed by schools, orphanages, and other charity organizations. You can drop your gift off at the hotel office.

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    Volunteer Opportunities for Families
    ••• Projects Abroad

    Families with kids age 4 and up can spend as little as one week volunteering on ongoing projects in two dozen countries around the world. Projects Abroad will work with families to help personalize projects to accommodate family goals and topics of interest.

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    Looking for more ideas? This informational website helps travelers locate opportunities for giving back in Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and soon the United States.

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    Want a longer, more in-depth experience? This site has a huge database of volunteering programs around the world and a nifty search filter that lets you find opportunities in the destination of your choice for families (search for programs suitable for kids under age 15). Interest areas include wildlife conservation, women's empowerment, community development, and more.