"Volun-Tourism" Catching On

Volunteer Vacations, woman helps kids CBS/The Early Show

About 100-thousand people each year take vacations focused on volunteer work, and that number is growing.

What's behind the trend -- and might such vacations be for you?

Travel guru Peter Greenberg observed on "The Early Show" Monday that volunteer vacations are one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.

Despite a tough economy, or maybe because of it, more and more Americans are taking a "volunteer vacation." Some do it to give back to others, and some do as a result of a sort of indirect guilt trip, feeling it's not right to spend big bucks on big vacations, so they get their reward through giving back.

YOU SAY THERE IS A VOLUNTEER VACATION OUT THERE TO MEET EVERYONE'S NEEDS. HOW DO WE DEFINE A VOLUNTEER VACATION?

You can dedicate a whole trip to volunteering or you can actually bookend the trip, meaning you can have a regular vacation and then do a few days volunteering at the end of the trip. Working or volunteer vacations are a great way to get a deal on a trip and also make a difference-without having to serve two years in the Peace Corps. Whether it's helping to save Leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica, delivering crucial medical supplies to an orphanage in El Salvador, helping to build a hospital in southern Thailand, or helping in the continuing efforts to rebuild the ninth ward in New Orleans nearly four years after hurricane Katrina,each trip allows us to make a real difference while exploring the world, getting immersed in a different culture and even learning a new language

WHY DO YOU THINK THESE TYPES OF VACATIONS ARE SEEING AN UPSWING?

It is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry, and despite a tough economy, or perhaps because of it, more and more Americans are opting to travel a little differently this year...they are taking a volunteer vacation. Part of the reasoning, of course, is to give back, to help others. And another driving force behind the growth of volunteer vacations is that they have in essence become a sort of indirect guilt trip -- many travelers these days don't feel right about spending ten solid days at a spa so they bookend their pampering with another kind of feel-good activity -- giving back. Also, many of them are tax-deductible.

ARE THEY USUALLY CHEAPER THAN A REGULAR VACATION?

Depending on the organization they can be, but sometime they aren't......it depends what type of trip you take...you can have some like the Airline Ambassador program which allows you to get most of the same perks that the airline employees get on airfares/hotels and then you have some that are much more high end-like the Earthwatch institute that can end up being quite costly.

WHERE DO YOU SUGGEST PEOPLE GO TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT SPONSOR THESE TYPES OF VACATIONS?

The first thing to do is Google "volunteer vacations." Narrow the many that come up based on your own personal interests.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE MORE POPULAR CATEGORIES. WE USUALLY THINK OF GIVING BACK IN SOME UNDERDEVELOPED COUNTRIES WHEN WE THINK OF VOLUNTEER VACATIONS. WHAT IS ONE THAT YOU LIKE?

Airline Ambassadors was started by a grassroots organization of airline employees who wanted to give back.

They do up to 10 trips a month and you get the discounts that the airline employees get as well.This non-profit organization is affiliated with the United Nations and recognized by the US Congress. AAI provides humanitarian aid to children and families in need, as well as relief and development to under-privileged communities worldwide. They escort children in need, hand-deliver humanitarian aid to orphanages, clinics, and remote communities, assist at special events and involve youth in humanitarian efforts around the world. They provide assistance on a global level.

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