When considering what to do while on vacation, why not put giving back at the top of the list. A new study by Phocuswright and Tourism Cares shows Americans like to spread a little good will while on vacation and love having activities that allow them to give back some of that travel joy.

The new data indicated half of those surveyed have given of their money, time or goods while on a recent vacation. Not only was some kind of giving surprisingly prevalent, the care and support for the communities where the travelers visited was especially important for millennials, families and affluent households.

Among the most interesting – and surprising – findings of the study are these:

Travel is a popular new form of philanthropy

Of 2,551 respondents accessed in the study called “Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler,” 1,405 (55%) indicated that they did some sort of volunteering or giving to a destination they visited for leisure in the last two years.

A deeper look at a set of 507 “givers” found that 64% volunteered, 86% gave money and 78% gave in-kind while on a leisure trip. And they want their travel spending and giving to help the places they visit: 72% found their travel giving to be “important,” or “very” or “extremely” important.

traveling with purpose

And there was a high degree of informal giving – 48% of respondents gave back directly to individuals or families, with others supporting religious, nonprofit, cultural and other organizations.

Millennials are the new Generous Generation

Of the travelers surveyed who are inclined to give while traveling, millennials were far more generous with their time, money and in-kind donations than any other generation – 81% volunteered, 78% donated cash and 83% gave in-kind during their most meaningful trip from the last two years. On average, they volunteer more than double the hours and donate nearly three times the money and 4.5 times the supplies than 55 and older travelers do. A travel company’s “giving” profile is more important in the millennials’ choice of travel suppliers, too: they place much higher value on suppliers’ commitment to community and societal good, as 39% cited commitment to social responsibility is a factor in their selection of a travel provider.

Families who Travel with Children often Want to Give More

Families with children who travel give more of their volunteer time (73%) and in-kind services (82%) than any others. In fact, they give and volunteer more than the average person surveyed. It doesn’t end when the vacation is over, either – upon returning home, 46% keep tabs on the causes they donated to and 34% gave more to the same cause. Additionally, they are passing these values along to their children: 49% of travelers plan to increase their children’s engagement in giving activities and 47% intend to increase discussions about community needs with them, thus passing on the torch to future generations.

volunteer travel plans

The Affluent of All Ages are Powerful Social Travelers 

Those with household incomes of over $100,000 are especially attuned to giving back at home and abroad: 55% felt it is very or extremely important for their spending and giving to help local communities; nearly four in 10 said corporate social responsibility (CSR) factors into their buying decisions. They gave the most during travel and a third gave again after returning home. More than 40% of travelers in the higher $150,000+ income bracket plan to engage their children more in charitable activities over the next two years.

Giving Back while Traveling Creates a More Satisfying Trip  

Giving is greatly rewarding for those who give, and most travelers agree. Of the givers surveyed, 64% expressed very high trip satisfaction directly linked to their charitable activities. This satisfaction factor applies to all age groups. Nearly three quarters of all families said the act of giving created a very positive trip experience, and 80% of millennials are extremely satisfied with their travel-related giving. Like families, millennials are also most likely to take positive actions even after returning home. 54% take an active interest in the causes they gave to and 50% intend to plan more trips around giving.

In fact, a study on happiness released by the Stanford Business School in 2010 indicated that having a higher purpose always boosts the happiness quotient.

“Ultimately, we seek a continuing experience. We thrive on feeling that we matter, and that what we do matters,” the study suggested. “Interestingly, although money does not lead to happiness, giving it away might. In fact, regardless of what they buy, people experience a greater level of happiness when they spend money on others rather than on themselves …”

Non-givers Present a Great Opportunity for Future Philanthropy

The Good Travels survey indicated that nearly half of those surveyed did not make a significant formal or informal donation during recent travel. Primary reasons for not doing so include not associating giving with travel (32%) and traveling purely for enjoyment (17%), yet a quarter said they would be interested in learning more, rising to a third for millennials. If added to those who were “somewhat interested” in learning more, the number goes to 58% overall and nearly 75% among millennials.

“We should certainly honor those who wish to just get away from it all; giving is not for everyone, all the time,” said Rea. “However, we do see a big opportunity to introduce the value of giving during and following a travel experience,” said Mike Rea, CEO of Tourism Cares.

“As a technology and services company that powers the global travel community, we hope this research spurs travel agencies, tour operators and the industry overall to embrace meaningful ways to give back and to serve consumers looking to enhance their travel experience,” added Carolyn Cauceglia, Vice President, Strategic Sales and Account Management for Amadeus North America and a Director of Tourism Cares.

Related Stories:

Spicing up a Vacation with “Voluntourism”

Cruising for a Cause: Happiness Guaranteed


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