Thursday, Sep. 11, 2008

Take a Tour

Make way, Cancún. Each year thousands of college students choose volunteer-service trips over beach bumming during their spring breaks and summer vacations. Many universities arrange "voluntours" of their own, and groups, including Students Today Leaders Forever, run trips for interested under-25s. Voluntourism isn't just for the college set: research shows that 45% of Americans have considered taking a volunteer vacation, and 5 million households actually followed through with it in 2007. Lasting from a day to a few weeks, voluntours are abbreviated versions of the kind of trips that have long been sponsored by church missions and the Peace Corps. The Gulf Coast became a popular destination after Hurricane Katrina, and many voluntours venture abroad. The trips are entertaining too: voluntourists usually take some time off to explore their destination's cultural and recreational life. Getting involved can be as simple as signing up online. CheapTickets lets customers book volunteer activities along with their vacations, while offers information on packaged tours through voluntour groups such as Ambassadors for Children, Globe Aware, Go Differently, Relief Riders International and Voluntourists Without Borders.