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Traveling abroad for the first time?

Traveling to a foreign country for the first time can be both exhilarating and anxiety inducing: have you considered all the required information, devices, social protocols and social etiquette? How about finances, security and insurance? Much to consider. Here are some tips on how best to navigate traveling abroad.


10 Things You Need to Know About Traveling Abroad for the First Time

DECEMBER 26, 2019

By Megan Grant
Parade

Remember that one time I went to Paris and brought my blowdryer so that I could look #fabulous while strolling down the Champs-Élysées, but forgot that the outlets are different and I couldn’t use it so my hair was a giant ball of frizz for eight days?

Fun times.

There are so many details we forget when traveling abroad—some minor (see: the great hair frizz of 2018) and some much more crucial. If you’re planning on boarding a plane and adventuring to a faraway place, here are 10 things you need to keep in mind about traveling abroad.

10 Things to Know About Traveling Abroad

1. Figure Out How You Can Pay for Things Beforehand
“Uh, I’ll just swipe my card, yeah?” Maybe. But maybe not. Michael Turtle of Time Travel Turtle tells Parade.com, “When you’re in a different country, you may not be able to pay for things in the way that you’re used to. I normally always just tap my credit card at home, but there are quite a few countries where you still need to use your PIN, so make sure you remember it if you’re planning to use your card. There are some countries (particularly in Scandinavia) that are moving to a cashless economy, so they may have no option but to use a card.”

If you plan to use a card, one more word of caution: Fees. Watch out for them. “Your bank may charge quite high fees so look into this in advance and investigate your options,” Turtle advises. “You can normally find a credit card offer that will have zero international transaction fees and I would recommend signing up for one of them if you’re going to be doing a lot of travel. On the other hand, there are still a lot of countries that mainly use cash—even Japan, despite its very modern reputation—so it’s also wise to have a card that will let you make cash withdrawals without a huge fee.”

Cash always works too, but again, there’s one caveat you have to be careful of, according to Turtle: “Bringing your own country’s cash and exchanging it is also a good option, although I rarely do that because you’ll always lose a bit of money on the conversion and I prefer not to travel with a lot of money on me.”

2. Dress Accordingly
You may be a stranger in a completely foreign place, but try not to look like it, okay?

“One of my suggestions would be to try to blend in with the locals. You don’t want to stand out too much by looking like a tourist because not only can this be embarrassing but it can set you up as a target for pickpocketing or theft,” says travel writer Reannon Muth. So, what should we do to avoid this?

“To blend in, I’d suggest wearing muted colors or dark colors and avoid wearing sneakers (especially white ones!),” she explains. “In the US, people wear sneakers all the time, but in Europe and most of the other countries I’ve visited (I’ve been to over 40), people only wear athletic shoes when they’re working out. Sneakers are usually a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist. I’d also recommend wearing clothing that’s somewhat stylish (or at the very least fits well and isn’t overly baggy or wrinkled). In the US, a sports hoodie, yoga pants, and flip flops (athletic leisurewear) is perfectly acceptable attire for wandering around town, but I’ve found that in many other countries, people aren’t as casual with their attire.”

3. Invest in a Pair of Good Noise-Canceling Headphones
Flights are long. Planes are loud. You won’t be able to sleep, read, watch movies, or do anything else with the sound of jet engines numbing your ears. “Good noise-canceling headphones for the flight are a must,” says international speaker Adnan Kukic. He recommends the Sony WH1000MX3.

4. Don’t Assume People Speak English
This one is tough, I know. What the heck else are you supposed to speak? Before you go to another country, though, you should brush up on the basics, at the very least. Muth explains why:

“It can be rude to just walk up to a sales clerk and start speaking English. Even if you’re in a touristy area and are 99.9% positive the person speaks English, it’s still polite to greet them in their own language and then ask them if they speak English. At a minimum, you should take the time to learn how to say ‘hello,’ ‘excuse me,’ ‘please,’ and ‘thank you.’”

5. Check Your Phone Plan
During my frizz-filled trip to Paris, I made another startling discovery: Apparently, the phone towers in Las Vegas don’t reach to France. Who knew?

You might be able to use your phone overseas. You might also be charged an arm and a leg for it. “Most plans will charge exorbitant fees to use your phone overseas,” explains Turtle, “although some do have good deals about international roaming, so it’s worth investigating whether your provider does. For most people, though, you’re not going to want to have long conversations or text message conversations on your phone while you’re away.”

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives for staying in touch with people—when you have WiFi, that is. “I find it’s quite easy to avoid doing that if you just make calls with something like Skype or WhatsApp when you have WiFi at your hotel,” Turtle says. “The problem is data. We have become so accustomed to using our phone to look at maps, search for public transport timetables, check opening hours, and find reviews of restaurants, that you may be lost (literally) without data on your phone. So, in this case, I recommend buying a local SIM card that has enough data for your stay.”

It’s always good to err on the side of safety, though. “… you shouldn’t assume that you’ll always be able to get an internet connection while you’re traveling,” continues Turtle. “Perhaps the hotel WiFi is dodgy or you can’t get a data signal on your phone. I always make sure to download maps for offline viewing on my phone and I screenshot any directions or public transport timetables that I need. I also take photos of signs at train stations or ferry ports that I might need later on. We are so used to knowing that any information we need is right at our fingertips at home, but that’s not always the case when we’re traveling so it’s better to be prepared.”

6. Take a Nap ASAP
Jet lag is brutal. Your body has its own internal clock, and when it’s disrupted, weird things can happen. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can go beyond sleepiness and even affect your mood and concentration and give you, ahem, stomach issues. No thanks.

Thankfully, there’s a little trick. “As soon as you land in your abroad destination, take a nap, even if for just a few hours,” advises Kukic. “It helps greatly to adjust to the different time zone.”

7. Respect Mother Nature and All Her Creatures
While on an exciting trip, we understandably want to do things we’d never do at home. But there’s a reason to pause and think before you take part in typical touristy activities: It might be to the detriment of a living creature.

“Never ride an elephant (or support animal tourism)!” says Dani West, elephant advocate for Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants. “Interested in getting up close and personal with our majestic wildlife? Support and visit sanctuaries around the world … but do your research! Never ride, bathe, or pay to see them in zoos or circuses.”

Have all the fun you want on your trip, but still be mindful of how your activities impact others.

8. Remember That You Might Not Be in a Service-Based Country
“… the US is unique in that we’re a ‘service industry country,’” Muth tells Parade.com. “In nearly every other country I’ve visited, this isn’t true. Americans’ version of ‘good customer service’ doesn’t exist. Shopkeepers may not greet you when you walk into a store and waiters might not come and refill your water glass. They aren’t being rude; that’s just the norm in their countries. You’ll often find that you’ll have to hunt down a salesperson or waiter in order to purchase something or put in an order.”

Muth explains that this extends to ordering food at a restaurant. You might not get as much special attention as you would in the US: “Similarly, when you order in a restaurant, it’s customary in most countries that you don’t ask for substitutes with your meal. You order what’s on the menu and that’s it (no ‘dressing on the side’ requests or ‘Can you add almond milk instead of regular milk?’). This really isn’t done unless you have an allergy and it’s actually considered rude. It’s a quick way to earn a reputation for being a ‘demanding crazy American.’ Obviously, you can ask for substitutes if you really need to. But I’d just try to keep it to a minimum. If you have to change the entire order to fit your tastebuds, you might be better off ordering something else.”

And while we’re on the topic of food…

9. Be Prepared to Change Your Eating Habits and Meal Schedule
“Eating and drinking can be very different in another country and it’s important to be prepared for things to not be the way you would normally expect,” says Turtle. “In Spain, for instance, dinner is always eaten very late so you may often not find restaurants open at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But I’ve also been caught out in smaller towns in Europe where they’ll stop serving dinner at 9 p.m. In countries like Morocco or Malaysia, you’ll rarely find alcohol served with meals for religious reasons, so don’t expect you can have a glass of wine with dinner. And in Japan, you may come across the restaurants where you have to order all your courses from a vending machine at the entrance before you sit down.”

Tipping also varies from country to country and culture to culture. “In North America, it’s expected to leave a considerable tip for every meal, while most places in Europe just expect a small token of a couple of euros, while many Asian countries find a tip to be rude and you shouldn’t leave anything,” adds Turtle.

10. Stay Aware of How Much Space You’re Taking Up
“Unless you grew up in a crowded city like New York, you may not be accustomed to maneuvering through cramped subway cars or crowded marketplaces, but in many other countries, space is more limited than it is in North America and locals are experts at taking up as little space as possible,” says Muth.

“This also applies to your voice—talk quietly in public. Although it’ll differ depending on where in the world you’re traveling to, I find that in most of Europe and many places in Asia, people speak quietly and remain more reserved when talking to strangers,” continues Muth. “This is partly cultural but also because people in, say, Tokyo, are used to moving among thousands of people every day and are conscientious about not disturbing people around them by speaking too loudly.”

Traveling abroad is exhilarating and eye-opening. Just do your due diligence before you go and always be mindful of your behavior.

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Travel inspiration for the new year

New year, new travel adventures. Looking for a unique destination and fresh adventure can be a challenge. You can always take a volunteer vacation which will immerse you in a community and culture completely new to you. Or you could travel to a destination you had preconceptions about only to be amazed by discovering an untapped world of wonder. Here are a few suggestions from travel writers that may pique your interest. 


See Ya There! Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020

DECEMBER 17, 2019
By Jessica Sager
Parade

If you made a New Year’s resolution to travel more in 2020, get packing! From stateside locales to foreign lands that haven’t gotten much tourism yet, we’ve asked the experts where the best places to travel in 2020 are—and some of these options will surprise you. Whether or not you have a passport or wanderlust beyond our own borders, we’ve got a place for you.

Here Are 10 Places That Travel Influencers Recommend Visiting in 2020:

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

The Traveling Newlyweds can’t get enough of Hilton Head Island, S.C., whether for a vacation or a staycation. It’s just a 45-minute drive from Savannah, Ga., and about two hours from Charleston, but has all the trappings of a tropical getaway—white sand beaches, warm temperatures, 12 miles of breathtaking coastline, 50 miles of scenic trails, 250 restaurants and numerous award-winning resorts. There are a ton of family-owned eateries and businesses and a lot of live music and dining by the water. It’s also largely dog-friendly!

Pakistan

Michael Gerber and Lora Pope of Explore With Lora both recommended Pakistan for upcoming adventures thanks to its amazing nature and mountains—and its lack of crowds from other tourists, unlike nearby India and Nepal. You’ll need a visa to go, but Pope says it’s worth it. “Most people think that Pakistan is an extremely dangerous country that you cannot visit, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. “I spent a month there in August and it completely changed my views on the country. The hospitality in Pakistan is world-class. The locals are genuinely so happy to have you there and will go out of their way to make sure you have an amazing time.”

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic is an underrated gem. Dangerous Business travel blogger Amanda Williams notes that while the Faroe Islands aren’t nearly as famous as its neighbors Iceland and Norway, its landscapes rivals both of them—without the crowds. “Getting to the Faroes is easier than many people realize (you can catch direct flights from several European cities),” Williams says, “and the infrastructure is on-par with any other destination in Scandinavia. The islands are easy to get around with a rental car, there’s tons of great hiking and the nature is pretty mind-blowing.”

Newfoundland

Want to go Ireland without actually going across the pond? Try Newfoundland, Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate recommends, noting that the Canadian province boasts similar craggy cliffs, picturesque seaside villages and friendly locals with lilting accents who tell stories and welcome you as one of your own. “But the best part is that Newfoundland feels a thousand times less tourist-ed than Ireland,” she says. “When traveling in Newfoundland, you’ll be welcomed warmly by everyone you meet.”

In terms of specific activities and excursions, McCulley recommends seafood cooked on the beach in Twillingate, a treasure hunt for art installations during the Bonavista Biennale, and, for the adventurous, she says, “You can become an honorary Newfoundlander by getting “screeched in” in a bizarre province-wide ceremony involving alcohol and kissing a codfish.”

Bonus? McCulley adds, “Newfoundland is an Instagram fan’s paradise, from the brightly painted homes of Jelly Bean Row in St. John’s to the unusual geologic makeup of Gros Morne National Park to the fishing village of Trinity that looks plucked from a storybook.”

Thailand

While all of Thailand is lovely, Veronika Primm of Travel Geekery loves one particular island the most: Koh Phangan. “It’s a tiny paradise island near Koh Samui, which got famous thanks to its regular Full Moon parties,” Primm told us. “The island is so much more than that, though. It’s a unique spiritual base for many, with yoga and mindfulness courses and retreats in abundance. It’s a place where Thai people still outnumber tourists. It’s lush, it’s green and has miles of gorgeous beaches.” One thing to note, Primm says, is that Koh Phangan isn’t accessible by car or plane, so you’ll need a ferry to get there—but it’s well worth the trip!

Myanmar

Becca Siegel and Dan C. Gold of Half Half Travel told us that Myanmar is the hottest destination for 2020—possibly literally also—for its affordability, safety and natural beauty. “Before going there, travelers should know that some parts of Myanmar get very hot, especially the tourism hot spot of Bagan,” the pair told us. “It can feel 100 degrees Fahrenheit most days between 9 and 3 p.m., so all of your sightseeing should be done at sunrise and at sunset. The middle of the day is for chilling out by a pool at your hotel!”

Boise, Idaho

You weren’t expecting that one, were you? Travel vlogger Jessica Hirsch of Cheatdayeats recommends Boise, Idaho, for 2020—especially if you’re a foodie and love carbs.

“With a focus on potatoes, they have a restaurant dedicated to friends and a large focus on sustainability and farm-to-table. There’ a major emphasis on where your food comes from and they’re majority passionate about food waste,” Hirsch says. “This concept also applies to their beverage scene with mile markers to inform visitors on how far the brewery is located from where you’re enjoying a drink. There are many beautiful parks and outdoor activities to work off thee food to make it a very active trip as well. Also, for a fresh air and for views of the beautiful state, we recommend the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic for a full hot-air balloon ride.”

Emily Mandagie of The Mandagies agrees, adding, “Downtown Boise also has incredible locally sourced restaurants, breweries, and even its own wine country (Snake River Valley AVA). One of our favorite restaurants is Diablo & Sons Saloon, which is a tastefully wild-west themed bar with clever drinks and delicious tacos.”

Japan

Because the Olympics are coming to Tokyo in 2020, so will travelers. Cat Lin of For Two Plz tells us, “The Japan Tourism Board, along with smaller regional- and city-level tourism boards, are incentivizing travelers to visit before and after the Olympic periods with cheap travel deals. Those who’ve had Japan on their bucket list, 2020 is a good year to make that dream trip happen. From a cost-saving perspective, don’t restrict yourself to just the Tokyo area. There is more to see, do, and explore when you expand your radar to nearby cities like Hakone and Nikki.”

Amanda O’Brien of The Boutique Adventurer recommends Kanazawa in particular, which is about a 2.5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. “Kanazawa has all you want from areas like Kyoto without all the tourists, from samurai houses to geisha villages to dressing up in a kimono to stunning modern museum dedicated to DT Suzuki, who brought Zen Buddhism to the world,” she says. “It is also home to Japan’s third most beautiful garden, Kenrokuen, and the production of gold leaf.” Kanazawa is also just a 30 minute train ride from the Kaga thermal spa region and its Nadatera Temple and incredible art.

The Kii Peninsula is also a great spot, Retha Charette of The Roaming Nanny says. “It’s off the beaten path and holds all the ancient beauty one can think of about Japan—home to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage the Kii Mountains stretch out towards the horizon ending at the ocean,” she told us. “Temples dot the mountainsides with plenty of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) to stay in!”

Slovenia

Slovenia has a little something for everyone—and you can brag to all your BFFs that you found it first. Foodies should hurry to explore the many culinary gems found across the 24 distinct gastronomic regions, and there is a lot to do in Slovenia all year long.

Jonathan Look, Jr., of Life Part 2 tells us, “Bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slovenia stands on its own, but is influenced by all of these rich cultures. Alpine landscapes, charming cities and hospitable people are in abundance. The food and wine, which is largely unknown outside the region, is truly world-class. There is even a small coastline with beaches and scrumptious seafood.”

Travelers will love the Festival of Kurentovanje, one of the oldest celebrations of Carnival in Europe. Featuring parades of costumed monsters and characters, Kurentovanje is recognized on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. In the summer, visitors can enjoy 14 wine regions, including the world’s oldest active grapevine (over 450 years old!) in Maribor.

Lake Bled is great for scenic paddle-boating in fall. In winter, Slovenia is decked out for the Christmas season. Postojna Cave transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with festive decorations and more than 2,100 colorful lights for its annual Christmas experience, a live performance featuring 16 biblical nativity scenes reenacted by more than 150 performers along the cave’s one-of-a-kind railway system. Additionally, avid skiers will delight at the fabulous slopes of the Julian Alps, particularly the eighteen different slopes at Kranjska Gora, a frequent host of international slalom competitions.

Alaska

Grab a coat and hit up Alaska! So many influencers sang the praises of the state: Louise Sattler loves Girdwood for its charming shops and cafes—and spectacular views of the Northern Lights.

Visitors can also enjoy Glacier Bay National Park to see the 200-year-old sheets of ice breaking away from the faces of glaciers before they melt away. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve can only be reached by plane or boat, with many air connections from Juneau, Skagway or Haines via commuter air taxi service. Visitors can take the Glacier Bay Day Boat Tour for views of snow-capped mountains, tidewater glaciers, whales, sea lions, rare birds, coastal bears, eagles and more—plus close-up views of the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers that cruise ships can’t match. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, whale watching and authentic Alaskan experiences at the local Tribal House with hand-carved Totem Poles—each one telling a “story.” Glacier Bay Lodge is the only commercial overnight accommodation in the park, Glacier Bay Lodge offers 48 rustic rooms nestled among Sitka spruce trees on the shores of Bartlett Cove, with the National Park Visitors Center on the second floor lobby, or Bartlett Cove Campground, which features bear-resistant food caches, firewood and a warming hut.

Julie Leventhal recommends the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, Alaska’s first via ferrata climbing route with endless activities from helicopter-accessed fat tire mountain biking to world-class salmon fishing.

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Make Sure Your Luggage Arrives The Same Time You Do

Few things put a damper on a trip like lost luggage. If you are taking a volunteer vacation, a family trip to Disneyland or a Mediterranean cruise, lost clothes, toiletries, medications and electronics can drastically impact plans and enjoyment. Aimee Robinson, writing for Express Newspapers shares some tips that will help your bags arrive at your destination at the same time you do.


Luggage: One simple passenger mistake makes lost luggage more likely – do you do this?

Missing luggage is a traveller’s worst nightmare. However, it seems there are some passenger mistakes that make this unfortunate scenario more likely. Are you guilty of doing this on your travels?

By AIMEE ROBINSON

Lost luggage is a nightmare for many travellers. While often this means passengers are left without their baggage for days at a time, causing chaos for holiday plans, a worst-case scenario can see their bags lost forever. It turns out that while airport and airline staff are sometimes at fault for this, there is also a chance that one simple mistake by passengers can be the reason their luggage goes missing.

The problem can arise long before passengers even get to the airport.

luggage

One travel expert revealed the small oversight, which they said is often why bags don’t make it onto the right aircraft.

On a post in Reddit, the expert explained: “Not a secret, just common sense; the reason some bags miss their flight or get misrouted is because passengers don’t remove old tags.

“It confuses handlers as well as the conveyor belt scanners. I see it happen all the time.”

Bag tags are used by airline carriers to route luggage to its final destination.

A small tag is usually attached to the tag with a barcode and number, meanwhile, the passenger is given a stub with a matching barcode.

It is vital passenger’s keep this tag safe, it will come in extremely useful should the bag go missing.

Additionally, some airports still require the passenger to maintain their baggage tag stub as proof before being reunited with their luggage.

However, once a journey is completed it is advised customers strip their luggage of their used tag so as not to confuse future flights and risk losing their luggage for good.

While baggage handers are frequently told to double-check the dates on luggage tags, the fast-paced nature of the job means sometimes mistakes can be made.

In fact, the latest baggage report from SITA revealed that 22.7 million bags were lost or temporarily mislaid globally.

According to SITA, there are several common reasons why luggage goes missing such as ticketing errors, bag switches, airport or customs restrictions, failure to load the bag or security issues.

Luckily, a baggage handler also shared his top tips on how passengers can keep their luggage safe,

He said these tips are simply “common sense”.

In order to ensure your bags stay together, even if they aren’t with you, the airport worker suggests making sure all of your bags are the same.

He says: “Get the same bag, same colour same everything.

“If you’re lucky they will stay together and come off the truck together, not only because the handlers will place them together because they look the same, but they stack better when they are the same size.”

The baggage handlers also went on to offer a word of warning when it comes to packing.

“If your bag is over 55lbs, it’s gonna have a bad time.

“How annoyed do you get lifting your own bag into the back of the car, imagine having to do that 200 times, it gets frustrating and tiresome, and sometimes we just throw with very little care because they are too heavy to do carefully.”

Other handy hacks include ensuring you have a sturdy bag-complete with a re-enforced handle and strong exterior, and filling out the attached name card that comes with many suitcases.

Of course, there are some situations when lost luggage simply can’t be helped.

An expert from Staysure, a travel insurance provider, spoke to Express.co.uk to offer advice on what to do if passengers find themselves in this situation.

Julian Kearney, CEO of Staysure, says the best thing to do is “keep hold of any airline or any other ticket that confirms your travel arrangements”.

He added: “In most instances, luggage is reported missing whilst under the supervision of airlines and there is nothing that travellers can do to prevent their luggage going missing whilst in their care.

“In the unfortunate event of this happening, Staysure customers are advised to notify their airline straight away and register the loss by completing any necessary paperwork.

“This will be required in support of any claim made under their Staysure Travel Insurance Policy.”

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Your Best Bet For Safe Travel Destinations 2020

Safety is always paramount when considering a travel destination. There is a lot of turmoil in the world and minimizing exposure to violence, crime and public unrest – especially when travelling with children and loved ones – is very important. To help in trip planning, Lonely Planet has released its list of safe destinations.


The safest countries in the world for travel in 2020, according to a new report

The Nordic nations of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are some of the safest countries in the world to visit, according to a new report from security specialists at International SOS.

The organisation released its 11th annual Travel Risk Map, an interactive map which predicts the safest and most dangerous places to travel in 2020, as well as the biggest issues travellers will face. Countries were ranked in different risk categories: insignificant, low, medium, high and extreme.

The Nordic nations were grouped in ‘insignificant’, along with Switzerland, Greenland and Slovenia. The US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and most of Europe were rated as having a “low” level of travel risk, in addition to Argentina, Japan, China and Namibia.

According to International SOS, criteria was based on “the current threat posed to travellers by political violence, social unrest, as well as violent and petty crime.” Other factors include transportation infrastructure, industrial relations, the effectiveness of security and emergency services and susceptibility to natural disasters.

Those ranked as having a “medium” risk level include Russia, India, South Africa, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia.

Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro. Corcovado mountain with statue of Christ the Redeemer, urban areas of Botafogo, Flamengo and Centro, Sugarloaf mountain.

The International SOS report ranked Brazil as “medium” risk ©microgen/Getty Images

The report considers Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan to be “extreme” risk countries due to ongoing conflicts, while Mexico has a mixed rating. The states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are considered “high” risk, while the rest of the country is deemed “moderate”. India, Egypt and Madagascar also have mixed ratings.

For the full report, see here. If you have any health or security concerns about a country you’re planning to visit, it’s always best to check your government’s travel advisory reports.

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Family Volunteer Vacations for Lifetime Memories and Impact

For many people, family vacations create the longest lasting, happiest memories that are carried and shared for a lifetime. A family volunteer vacation has the added element of a new country, community and culture and changing personal outlooks as families give back while receiving a profound, eye-opening experience. Here is a fantastic article in a recent edition of Chesapeake Family Life


Volunteer Vacations that Give Back

November 1, 2019

Taking a family vacation can be a great way for families to relax and reconnect. But what if your family wants a more meaningful experience than the annual trip to the beach or a theme park? Enter volunteer vacations, a popular alternative to the traditional vacation that allows families to give back while also getting away.

Volunteer vacations have been on the rise for the past decade, and volunteer tourism or “voluntourism” is now an almost 200-billion dollar industry. It’s a trend that continues to grow as more families search for ways to make a concrete impact on the world around them.

“I think more people are seeking this kind of vacation because they have a personal desire to connect with a cause they support,” says Kimberly Haley-Coleman, Executive Director of Globe Aware, a nonprofit organization that pairs families with volunteer vacation experiences. “We are living in such a digital world that it can be hard for kids to gain perspective on the world around them, and parents want to give their children the experience of making a difference in a direct way.”

Many organizations, like Globe Aware, Discover Corps, and Together for Good, are helping plan vacations that directly impact a community in need. Globe Aware’s popular Cambodia trips have families build wheelchairs for land mine victims, while its Guatemala trips focus on a local mountain community where families help improve housing and plant vegetable gardens for single mothers.

Though many volunteer vacations focus on global experiences, travelers can also make a difference closer to home, like the trips offered by the American Hiking Society during which participants repair trails at national parks.

Volunteer vacations also take the hassle out of planning, as trips are completely planned by the organization and almost always include housing, food and real-time training. “A volunteer vacation takes the legwork out of planning and it’s a great way to vacation while doing good and working toward a common goal,” says Libby Wile, Senior Director of Programs at the American Hiking Society.

While volunteer vacations are aimed at making a difference for others, the experience is just as impactful for those doing the work. “When a family experiences this type of vacation, the effects can be felt long after the trip is over,” says Haley-Coleman. “It can give kids a sense of appreciation for what really matters, and it can be empowering for them to know that they’ve truly made a difference.“

Read on for five volunteer vacations that offer a variety of experiences from exotic travel to far-off locales, to one-day Caribbean opportunities, to nature-based trips closer to home.

Globe Aware
For almost twenty years, Globe Aware has been connecting families with volunteer opportunities around the world. With 20 international locations, Globe Aware offers a variety of experiences for families who want to make a difference. Travel to Thailand and work with endangered elephants or help rebuild in hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico. Globe Aware’s planned trips last one week and include food, accommodations, medical insurance and bilingual translators. Additionally, Globe Aware also offers customized experiences that can be added on to existing vacations.
globeaware.org

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