For the child in us all who loves to play in the dirt (or at least get a little messy), a volunteer vacation can be rewarding fun. Families with younger kids might weed fields at an organic farm in exchange for room and board. Teens and their parents can help clean up trails for the Sierra Club. Churches and other groups often organize trips in times of need, as to help rebuild Joplin, Mo., after the May 2011 tornadoes.
Many volunteer vacations are arranged through nonprofit groups such as VolunteerMatch and World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). They have minimum age requirements to ensure the safety and success of the volunteers and the project. Check with the organizing group before promising your 10-year old that she can help build a community center in Appalachia.
As with all volunteer opportunities, look for one that matches your family's abilities, values and, in this case, budget. Membership in a conservancy group may include a discount on volunteer trips. Other organizers may charge $2,000 or more for a week-long project. That fee covers basic lodging and meals. You'll be responsible for all your other expenses, including transportation to and from the destination. Given the cost of travel, it's good to remember that charity starts at home.
You may be wondering how we could possibly top nine brilliant vacation ideas. We can't. Instead, we're leaving that up to you.