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Volunteer Travel Hot Spots

Take a voluncation and get in on this feel-good travel trend

Volunteer travel isn't a new term. Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) began in 1995, and the Peace Corps Voluncation Power!Voluncation Power!and UK Volunteer Service Overseas have been coordinating volunteers for decades. But business leaders like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are giving traction to a trend that's good for everyone.

 

And it's not only the rich and powerful taking these vacations. Pricing out a volunteer vacation can be surprisingly cheap - especially if you share a home with a host family.

Travelocity recently surveyed 1,017 people and found 17.7% had previously combined their vacation with volunteering. Last year CheapTickets partnered with United Way to create an online tool that matches domestic volunteer listings with travel options.

If beach lounging bores you and cruising is something only the newly wed and nearly dead do, voluncationing may be for you. Anyone can write a check, but a volunteer vacation gives you an opportunity to work off your stress instead of drowning it in a vat of tequila.

If you're considering a volunteer vacation, do your research. Charlotte Hindle, author of Volunteer: A Traveler's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World, advices you to consider the ethical implications of volunteer travel. Just because you want to volunteer doesn't make it good for everyone.

"Make sure you're not taking a job from a local person," she says. "People see volunteering with rose-tinted glasses and think [they're] going to really contribute. That's not necessarily the case."

Considering a voluncation? Check out these spots:

Santa Ana, Ecuador: If you've dreamed of exploring the Amazon, UVolunteer offers 2 to 12 week programs that assist Santa Ana residents with tasks from introducing managerial systems, reforestation to construction. Fees range from $705 to $2,105, depending on the length of stay and does not include airfare.

Dominican Republic: Habitat for Humanity has built more than 225,000 houses around the world. In the Dominica Republic you can help build hurricane-worthy homes. Work during the week and take the weekends to experience the local culture. A 1-week stay costs $1,170 and does not include airfare.

Dharamsala, India: Cross-Cultural Solutions matches volunteers' professional skills with locally run organizations to contribute to education and childcare efforts. You'll be asked to commit to a minimum of 3 weeks, but you can stay as long as 12 weeks. Your first 3 weeks will cost $2,885, which does not include airfare. For each additional week, add $297.

Have you ever taken a volunteer vacation? Would you take one?

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