Feel Good About Vacationing

So, how are those summer vacation plans coming?

If things aren’t looking so good for you to get away from home this year, it’s probably not because you don’t have the time. According to a survey by Harris Interactive Inc. the American worker left an average of 9.2 days of vacation unused in 2012. That’s up from 6.2 unused days in 2011.

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More likely, you keep pushing a vacation to the back burner because you just don’t have the money. After all, a vacation can be very expensive. These days, you’ll spend thousands for a family trip to Disney World—plus airfare if you don’t happen to live in Orlando.

Of course, there are any number of ways to cut the cost of a vacation, but could you get that cost down as low as $150 per adult? You just might be able to pull it off if you change your expectations a bit and adopt a new kind of vacation attitude.

Volunteer vacations are not new, but they’ve received more attention since Americans are no longer flushed with a lot of discretionary income.

For the cost of getting there, and a reasonable amount to cover the cost of your food—like $150 to $300 for a week—you throw your sleeping bag in the car, drive to a nearby park, and for as little as $150, spend a week in the wilderness rebuilding trails with other nature-lovers.

Don’t know where to look? Go to VolunteerMatch.org, which has an impressive database of opportunities and groups that have been vetted to make sure they comply with U.S. tax and charity laws.

The site lists not just the well-heeled agencies, but also small organizations that are doing really interesting, innovative work but might not have the funds to advertise.

Doug Cutchins, author of Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others, notes in an interview with Forbes Magazine the changing demographics for those taking volunteer vacations:

“The stereotype [for volunteer vacations] used to be people right out of college or people who were retired. But we’re seeing a lot of mid-career people. This is a way for people to go on vacation and also feel really good about it.”

Working in a national park is one of the cheapest and most rewarding volunteer vacations you can find, according to Cutchins. He recommends trips organized by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Colorado Trail Foundation and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation in Montana, among others.

Families see the money-saving and stress-reducing benefits of going on this type of vacation.

If you can’t afford a trip this year, save up for next year. Although most trips within the United States are on the cheaper side, those wishing to go abroad may need more time to save, as the trips tend to range anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 and up.

This year, volunteer. It’ll do you and others, a lot of good!

Question: Have you experienced a volunteer vacation, or have plans to try it? Tell us about it here

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4 replies
  1. Debbie Sue says:

    I think we are very much an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to vacations. Since my family was a single income family vacations had to be supplemented with at home get aways. One of my favourite is photo safaris. We go out with digital cameras and we have explored tidal pools, our small town downtown, and walking trails. We download them and try and stump each other with some photos or we’ve done Sci. Fi. challenges, looking to transform normal into fantastic. In two weeks my son and I are going to a Fan Expo. for the mother of all photo ops. This Saturday we are going to an owl and raptor rescue shelter for their open house. It is near a bird habitat/marsh where we will be for a hike after learning about the bird and seeing a raptor released. We have gone fossil hunting and rock hounding. Vacations don’t need to be all or nothing. Get creative. just my thoughts, Deb.

  2. proud2bacheapskate says:

    Sorry, but at my age I’d rather take a vacation from home. I can’t sleep on the ground anymore. We do take vacations, but we save our money and cut corners with any deals we can find. I’m not going into debt for a temporary pleasure.

    • Shondell Odegaard says:

      I didn’t see where Mary said we should stay home. It sounds like you would travel to someplace new or maybe see a place you been to before in a different light. I also am very thankful for the memories of the family vacations we have taken. It helps me ward off depression when I recall seeing my children in awe of a towering Saguaro Cactus or a Yellowstone Bison walking by the car. It isn’t a temporary pleasure for me.

  3. Anita B says:

    My family and I spent 6 months in South Africa where I ended up being campus mom and taught ESL for students at a seminary in South Africa. My ex taught a bunch of theological courses. It was the best 6 months of my life! We had to raise money to get there and feed ourselves, but we stayed for free and all the expenses I spent on the campus were paid for. We also had a car that was completely paid for-all expenses.


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