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How to Craft an Altruistic Vacation

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Discover how to add deeper value to your travels by thoughtfully infusing altruistic acts into the journey.

Pinterest photo of how to craft an alturistic vacation

While volunteer tourism is a fantastic option for many, others want to do good while maintaining autonomy over their trip. If this is you, we’ve crafted ways for you to have an amazing vacation that’s both catered to your family’s preferences, and filled with opportunities to support the communities you’ll be visiting.

Engaging in this altruistic tourism not only benefits those you’ll be helping, but infuses your adventure with enhanced value, family bonding and personal expansion. And, this enhancement allows you to feel joyful and accomplished at the end of your travels, instead of depressed about going home - a feature we reformed-post-vacation-depressives greatly appreciate. To ensure your do-gooder vacation is filled with all this goodness, do the following…

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Contact non-profits in the area to see what they need.

Two women holding hands in an act of kindness while on a volunteer trip

To discover what type of support you can offer a particular area, and what supplies or funds you’ll need to bring, reach out to non-profits in that region to see if they can offer guidance about the community’s biggest needs. For example, when we went to Cuba we discovered they were seriously lacking in feminine hygiene products and toilet paper.

In addition to helping you figure out what they need, these non-profits can also offer insight into how to get support to the people or organizations in need. You may even be able to set up a temporary partnership with them.

Fundraise before you go.

Lemonade stand to fundraise for an alturistic vacation

Once you have an idea of the type of assistance you want to offer the community you’re visiting, you can determine how much money you’ll need to support your endeavors. You can then reach out to friends and family, tell them about your project, and ask if they want to contribute. To get the kids involved, host a garage sale, set up a lemonade stand, sell items on eBay, or do anything else that can pull in some cash.

Bring a suitcase with a variety of second hand clothes and diapers.

A child with a blue handkercheif on his head and sitting with his mother

Children's clothes and diapers are often major needs in the lower income sections of townships. Because of this, we’ll often bring a suitcase with diapers and various sizes of kiddo clothing to destinations that have residents in need.

Your translator (see below), or the organizations you’ve been in contact with, can provide info on the best way to appropriately distribute these goods.

If needed, hire a translator.

A child on a man's shoulders talking to a tour guide and translator on a historic street in Havana, Cuba

If you’ll be traveling to an area that speaks a language you’re not fluent in, it can be wise to hire a translator, which often comes in the form of a personal tour guide. Language barriers can be a concern when you’re trying to offer someone or something support. Having a local by your side that can explain your purpose and clear up miscommunication can erase this concern. And as we mentioned above, this translator can likely connect you with those that could benefit from your support, in addition to providing much-needed navigation assistance.

Talk with your kids about what you’re doing, and why - then get them involved.

A young boy in a teal shirt being held by his blonde mother in a meadow in Ojai, California

Many kids are resistant to altruistic activities because they can’t easily see how it benefits them, which is developmentally appropriate. But often, when they begin engaging in these activities they feel good, as almost every human experiences joy when helping others. To encourage your kids to take the first step into do-gooding, have a family meeting about how and why you want to help.

To support you in this undertaking, ask the org you’ve been in contact with to send photos, stories, or anything else they’re able to provide that can help your kids make a more tangible connection to why you want them to help these people, animals, or natural habitat. Kids relate to stories and pictures more than our verbal reasoning, so do yourself a solid by coming to this meeting with the tools that can urge your toughest audience to join your cause.

Discover the stories of the people you’re supporting.

A group of children sitting in a window in Africa

Enhanced value, understanding and empathy will be infused into your altruistic acts by asking the people you are meeting questions about their dreams and hardships. You don’t want to push too hard, or make them feel uncomfortable, but by showing that you’re genuinely interested, you can often make meaningful connections and allow people to feel heard. And if they give permission, you can share their photos and stories with others who might be able to offer aid. But even if the stories are just between the individual and your family, this sharing will undoubtedly deepen your experience.

Chronicle the experience.

Paints, paper and brushes used to paint images from a volunteer tourism trip

Be sure this special journey lives on in your memory by capturing the images, feelings, stories and more that you encounter on the trip. You can do this with photos, journals, poetry, sketching, painting, or any other creative medium that makes inspiration dance through your mind. When you return home, it can be fun to have a night where your family shares what they created, and reminisces on their favorite, most challenging, and most thought-provoking moments from the trip.

Have regular check-ins with your kids.

A mother talking to her son on a street in New York City

Witnessing circumstances that are vastly different from their own can be jarring for kids, and might bring up questions. Make sure they get to express and explore their reactions to what you encounter on the trip by regularly asking them how they’re feeling and what they’re curious about. This daily check-in can ensure they’re not stifling emotions, queries or misconceptions you can support them through.

If you’re planning an altruistic family adventure, we’d love to hear your plans and help you work through any questions. Feel free to email us at to connect.

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