Many students, families and travelers are rethinking the criteria for a great spring break and eschewing the traditional idea of a vacation. Voluntourism is a hybrid holiday that combines volunteer work and travel in a short vacation. Organizations sponsor spring-break getaways that involve engaging in scientific research to protect the environment in exotic locations or rebuilding homes for the materially poor. In return for a few days of service, participants can immerse themselves in a new culture and experience a different slice of life, sometimes even working alongside community members.

An international volunteer vacation may cost as much as a week at the beach. If you’re on a budget, domestic volunteer experiences that are closer to home tend to be less expensive. Almost all trips require volunteers to provide their own transportation to the volunteer site. Once there, many organizations provide lodging and meals. However, it’s important to confirm what you’re responsible for once you arrive as many nonprofit organizations operate on tight budgets and may require you to bring your own camping gear, food and even water.

Here are just a few of the organizations that are mobilizing volunteers and improving conditions around the world, one vacation at a time.

Student United Way Alternative Spring Break
For hordes of college kids around the country, spring break is a time for relaxing on the beach and partying at night. You won’t find any bikinis or beach chairs in Biloxi, Mississippi, but Student United Way is confident students won’t miss either on their Alternative Spring Break. During the national week-long event, individual students can team up with their peers to rebuild homes and communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. United Way student groups can pair up with universities around the country to customize an alterative spring break exchange program.

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Spring Break Voluntourism: Don’t Just See the World — Change It
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