There's a new buzz word in the travel industry: "volunteer vacation." Don't get too excited, this is not where you volunteer to go on vacation. Rather, it's where you spend your vacation (or at least part of it) volunteering.  Not only will it make you feel good, but it will usually lower the cost of your trip.

Why would you want to give up fruity drinks with umbrella garnishes at a resort pool for a vacation where you have to "work?" Read on to find out:

It Will be an Adventure

Let's face it: while lying poolside is relaxing, how many days can you really "lounge" until you are bored out of your mind? Volunteer vacations are adventure central and give you the opportunity to participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Love animals? Why pony up your hard-earned cash for commercialized zoos-on-steroids, like Animal Kingdom or Sea World, when you can get the hands-on opportunity to work with animals in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecuador's Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center offers eco-conscious travelers an opportunity to work with monkeys, parrots, macaws and turtles that have been abandoned by owners and confiscated by the Environmental Police. On your volunteer vacation, you will get to rebuild cages, prepare and administer the animals' special diets, design toys to stimulate the animals, and maintain the center's trails. An eight-day trip costs only $449 (plus airfare).  This includes accommodations, food and supervision while you work at the Center.  You won't be working for eight days straight; there is plenty of free time scheduled for relaxation and exotic excursions.

It Offers a Chance to Spruce up your Resume

Similar to how college-admissions-obsessed high school students travel on service trips to spruce up their college applications, adults can use their volunteer vacation experiences to make their resumes stand out. Are you a carpenter or designer?  Then why not build a house on your next vacation?  Are you an English teacher?  Then why not consider teaching English fifteen hours a week in Russia? Not only will the volunteer program in Russia cover all your housing and food expenses, but the trip will give you something to talk about at your next job interview for a teaching position.

You Can Save a Ton of Money (Tax Write Off!)

While the costs of volunteer vacations can vary considerably, the costs associated with the trip are tax deductible. If the organization you are working for is a non-profit with a 501(c) designation, then you can write off the program fees you paid to the organization (i.e. the $449 program fee for the Ecuador Animal Rescue program discussed in this article). If you volunteer for eight hours a day on your volunteer vacation, then you can write off all your travel expenses including airfare, VISA fees and other expenses you incur on your volunteer vacation.

Interested? Here are Some Websites to Help You Plan Your Trip

  • Global Volunteer: If you're interested in a volunteer vacation to Asia or Africa, then this site is an excellent jumping-off point.
  • National Park Service: Want to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite or another jewel in the U.S. National Park System? If so, then there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available during your trip.
  • Sierra Club: While the Sierra Club will cover your food and accommodations, this organization's volunteer vacations tend to be some of the most expensive. However, this organization is known across the world, and some of their volunteer excursions offer first class opportunities for fun.
  • STA Travel: If you're a student (or teacher), then this travel agency can help you find and book a volunteer vacation.
  • World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms: Have a green thumb? If you work on one of this organization's organic farms, then you can get free meals and lodging during your stay on the farm.

Bon Voyage! While the rest of us are waiting in a two-hour line for Space Mountain, you'll be saving the world (and some money!) on a trip of a lifetime. Don't forget to send your friends at KCL a postcard!

This has been a guest post by Lisa from Miami, FL
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Do Good While Traveling with Volunteer Vacations