Feel Good Vacation Does You and Others a Lot of Good

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. for Glassdoor, American workers, on average, take only half of their earned vacation time.

Photo Credit: REI.com

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.

REI Adventures has teamed with Conservation Volunteers International Program—a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to conserving iconic wilderness areas and cultural sites around the world—to bring our members these exciting new volunteer vacations.

These sites (a simple Google search will turn up dozens more) list not just the well-heeled agencies and higher-priced opportunities, 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.

Volunteer vacations do you and others a lot of good!

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1 reply
  1. Mary says:

    Nice thoughts, Mary. For the record, trail work is hard, hard work! My daughter did it for 5 summers, which is how I know. If you are young and in excellent physical condition, it still might be rewarding. At any rate, the take-home here is that there are endless possibilities in terms of types of volunteer work, and that is something work pursuing.


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