Volunteer Vacations with Animals: Donate Your Time to Charity for Your Next Vacation

volunteer vacation elephant rescue

A baby elephant orphaned by poachers feeds itself at a rescue center. Photo by James Dorsey/Bigstockphoto.com

Volunteer vacations allow you, and sometimes your entire family, to combine your love for travel with your passion for a cause. And since many of these opportunities involved conservation, habitat, and/or wildlife, it’s a great way to explore a possible career. With the growing popularity of combing travel with doing good deeds, many nonprofit organizations around the world have developed programs to allow any visitor the opportunity to volunteer their time. When you volunteer on vacation, you may find yourself teaching impoverished children, caring for discarded pets, or studying the natural habitat of an endangered species on such a unique vacation.

Finding Volunteer Vacation with Animals Opportunities

Decide if you want to take a trip to a certain region, or choose your charity vacation based on type of work. This narrows down where to look for opportunities.

To find volunteer vacation opportunities, search websites that have lists of volunteer vacation opportunities such as VolunteerGuide.org or GlobalVolunteers.org. These sites have compiled the information you need to choose and start planning your trip.

If you cannot find something that interests you on a volunteer vacations website list, try contacting nonprofit organizations directly to determine if it has a visiting volunteer program.

Volunteer Vacation Expenses

Plan to pay for the trip expenses yourself. While some organizations may offer a free room and a travel guide for visiting volunteers, many do not have such resources or extra money to spend to get you there. If you are going to volunteer your time, know that all the expenses will mostly likely be paid by you.

Creating Your Own Volunteer Vacation with Animals

Many small nonprofit organizations do not have the resources or staffing to have programs set up for visiting volunteers. In some cases, the extensive training involved before a volunteer can be put to work prevents organizations from even considering developing a volunteer vacation program. In cases like these, where you feel strongly about helping a specific organization, pitch an idea to the charity organization. You may be able to prove that you are the exception to the rule and be put to work for a good cause.

Choose an organization that you can travel to on your vacation that you want to help. If animals are your passion, this may be a rescue, zoo, wildlife rehab center, or aquarium. Research the organization online to get a full understanding of its mission, goals, and how it works to meet these. From this, get ideas of what you can do for the charity in the short amount of time you will be there. Then contact the nonprofit of your choice and find out what it needs help with in the immediate future. Ask about specific projects, such as building something, setting up a computer system, or fundraising.

From your conversation with staff at the charity, choose a specific project that you can complete from start to finish using few to none of the organization’s already strained resources. Plan the project from start to finish, including how it will be paid for if any costs are involved and if you will need extra help. Ideally, bring your own crew to complete the project. When you are creating your own volunteer vacation, you ideally want to propose a project that you can realistically do from start to finish during the length of your vacation. Starting a project and not being able to finish it may leave the organization with a burden, so do your best to complete the project during your time there.


Once you have a completed proposal, pitch the project idea to the right person (someone high up and in charge of volunteer projects) at the nonprofit. Your initiative should peak their interest. And a proposal on paper with plans will certainly be welcome. Although they will likely make modifications to your plan, the fact that you are willing to be solely responsible for the project that will benefit the organization will certainly have them welcoming you for your vacation and possibly future volunteer vacations.

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