Family Life


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Eco-Voluntourism: The next generation of family-friendly travel

While writing an article recently, I was introduced to the concept of Eco-Voluntourism.  Much like the variety of “sweat-equity” type vacations, Missions, or active disaster response volunteer opportunities (think rebuilding and recovery after Hurricane Sandy or the Earthquake in Haiti), Eco-Voluntourism is the next generation of conscientious, earth-friendly travel.

From Carbon Credits to staying in eco-friendly hotels to sticking to the principals of reduce, reuse, recycle, there is a growing roster of exciting “green” opportunities to allow you to see the world, learn about a new culture or environment, and all while helping or protecting the planet.

The website best describes Eco-voluntourism as going beyond Voluntourism which traditionally involves offering some man hours to provide “much-needed services while offering a very personal cultural exchange, creating long-lasting ties between foreign tourists and local community members” and taking it a step further to “minimize the environmental impact ….(and)…in addition, at least some of the volunteer opportunities are selected to contribute positively to the environment.”

Not for the faint of heart

But traveling to such far-flung places with limited resources and access is not for the faint of heart. Any time you travel with kids you really need to do your research and think about what you as a family hope to get out of this type of a vacation.  I am an advocate of really involving kids in the research, planning and preparation, and if there is a lot of resistance before you go, then this is not the type of vacation to push on them. And ‘not now’ doesn’t mean never, consider putting off this type of trip until the kids are older or more willing to participate.

What do you hope to get or give?

In researching this option for our family, I came across quite a few really good resources. The folks at outline tips on what you need to know and how to prepare to become an eco-voluntourist. To start, I’d suggest having a family meeting and ask yourselves:

  1. Why do you want to volunteer?
  2. What do you hope to gain from the experience?
  3. Where would you really like to go, see or experience (sights, people, marinelife, etc)?
  4. Are resources (medical, communications, food, etc.) easily accessible?
  5. Will the project truly benefit a local area?
  6. What is the work schedule like?
  7. What is the history and experience of the organization hosting you there?
  8. Are you prepared to sleep on the ground or do you require a bed?
  9. What about your tolerance for extremes of cold or heat?
  10. Are you emotionally prepared to see people living in poverty or those in poor health?
  11. What is the minimum age for the destination?
  12. What fees and extra expenses should you be prepared for?
  13. Are there vegetarian, gluten-free, peanut-free food options?
  14. What skills can you offer (research, manual labour), and what are you NOT willing to do?

For a more detailed list of questions you can check out

Whatever your goal – simply greener travel or lending a hand – there are options for every budget and accommodation preference.  Once your family gives you the green light, here is a list of the top 7 family-related Eco-voluntourism websites:

  1. Habitat for Humanity International Global Village – more affordable family-centered projects available from North America to Asia
  2. GoEco Family Volunteering – family vacations with ecological and humanitarian travel opportunities
  3. Go Abroad – with almost 1,200 volunteer abroad programs, one of the most comprehensive lists of travel options for all kinds of families, couples and singles.
  4. Earthwatch Institute – offering families of tweens and up a chance to do scientific research and get hands-on conservation and educational programs
  5. – with 90 outings across North American, lots of options
  6. Mother Nature Network –  from protecting marine life, restoring eco-systems, walking with lions, going solar to building a green dream home.
  7. uVolunteer – International volunteer abroad programs from Argentina to Thailand, Belize to Peru, and more!

For more tips and ideas visit WEplusTHREE…or more, or follow @largefamilytrav

Eco-Voluntourism: The next generation of family-friendly travel was originally posted by Our Kids is Canada’s trusted source for information on private schools and summer camps.

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