‘Tis the season of giving and in travel that often means adding a dash of “voluntourism” into a holiday vacation.
The growing trend of volunteer vacations attracts 1.6 million participants each year and gives travelers the opportunity to experience destinations in a different, more immersive, and often more satisfying way. Whether for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks, several popular destinations offer a “voluntourism” angle to consider for am more enriching travel experience.
“We’ve seen the trend of travelers visiting communities to volunteer reach an all-time high,” said Taylor L. Cole, APR, travel expert for Hotels.com. “But consumers don’t necessarily have to travel far or plan a separate trip around philanthropic activities to make a difference – you can find a way to give back your time in just about any community you find yourself during the holidays.”
Tips for travelers seeking to volunteer during their vacation:
Bring gently used shoes, clothes or toys to donate to a local shelter during your trip. Or donate your carry-on clothes instead of packing them to take back home.
Collect your toiletries from recent hotel stays and donate to area shelters
Regardless of destination, visit the local mall and pick up some gifts for the hotel staff, cab driver, orphanage, or community shelter
Voluntouring in Las Vegas, Nevada
Travelers can indulge in endless activities in Las Vegas – one of the most-searched destinations for Americans during the holiday season – including volunteer opportunities. Visitors can volunteer a day or for just a few hours via one of the many programs and services offered by The Shade Tree, a shelter for women, children and their pets. If time is limited, guests can pick a toy or gift from the holiday wish list and seek one of their many drop-off centers through December 19th.
Where to stay: The newly renovated SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, is one of the latest and hippest properties to open in the city and is conveniently located on the Strip, near many local attractions. The SLS is an all-encompassing resort and casino with more than 1,600 guest rooms, fabulous dining options and unparalleled nightlife offerings.
Voluntouring in New York City
New York City, the second most-searched holiday destination, is the ultimate location for travelers seeking – and spreading – holiday cheer. From Rockefeller Center’s humongous Christmas Tree, to the largest menorah in the world on 5th avenue, there are gentle reminders to give back to the community all over the city. While visiting, travelers can donate a coat at one of 280 coat drive drop-off locations across the city via New York Cares.
Where to stay: Located in the burgeoning and historic Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, Ink48, A Kimpton Hotel, is centrally located to New York’s iconic holiday attractions. Also known as a wellness oasis, Ink48 is home to Kimpton’s in-room yoga mats, complimentary PUBLIC branded bikes, the property’s own Runner’s Amenity Kit and eco-conscious InkSpa. Visitors can also enjoy the hotel’s inviting rooftop lounge and unobstructed sweeping views of the Hudson River facing west, and the Midtown Manhattan skyline facing east.
Voluntouring in Negril, Jamaica
A short direct flight from most major U.S. cities, Jamaica is an oasis for Americans during the chill of winter. Visitors can amp up their trips by offering their time at one of Jamaica’s many schools, teaching children how to read or painting and repairing educational buildings. Jamaica is involved in a major voluntourism initiative to immerse visitors into the local culture, and help out local communities. Visitors can pick and choose from a variety of organizations at the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website, VisitJamaica.com/volunteer.
Where to stay: Hidden amid tropical gardens and flowering plants at the edge of Negril — Jamaica’s “Capital of Casual” — lies a comfortable and all-inclusive property called Sunset at the Palms. Guests can enjoy the “treehouse-style” guestrooms and five acres of beachfront. From the martini bar to the beach bar, Sunset at the Palms delivers Jamaica’s beauty and endless charm.