How To Volunteer Abroad On The Cheap
Choose an affordable volunteer travel provider
While this may seem like a no-brainer, you'll find no shortage of organizations out there charging thousands of dollars to participate in volunteer abroad programs, leaving you wondering where your money went. In fact, the lack of affordable international volunteer opportunities is what motivated our Director Dan Radcliffe to establish IVHQ back in 2007.
If you're looking for an affordable international volunteer program, allowing you the opportunity to contribute to important development projects alongside locals and like-minded international volunteers, you've found yourself the affordable and most trustworthy volunteer travel provider right here. Find out how IVHQ's transparent fee structure allows you to volunteer abroad on the cheap.
Pick a destination and fly off-peak
The cost of flights is generally the biggest expense that comes with booking a volunteer trip. This means that booking the right flights presents a big opportunity for big savings. If you have a volunteering destination locked in, you're in a good position to score the cheapest set of flights. Once have an idea of where in the world you want to volunteer, you can start researching the cheapest times of the year to travel here. Traveling outside of the peak tourist season allows you to secure the best bargains on flights and means you'll be treated to shorter queues in airports and popular tourists spots. As an added bonus, accommodation and activities for your weekend adventures can often be discounted too!
Not sure where you want to volunteer yet? Take this 'Where should I volunteer abroad in 2015?' quiz for help in selecting a volunteering destination that's right for you.
FYI: If you're Bali-bound, July and August are usually the busiest periods with families vacationing during school holidays, and the same goes for the Christmas and New Year period. This means some of the best flight deals can be snapped up between March and October. For those heading to volunteer in Italy, the peak season is May, June, September and October, so those of us on a budget can plan accordingly.
On the other hand, if you're flexible with your destination but have a set period when you can travel (ie. school break or vacation time), shortlist a few favorite destinations and use a flight search engine like Skyscanner to determine which destination is the cheapest for you to travel to.
Tips for booking flights:
Opt for stop-overs - consider a flight route with stop-overs as this can often get you from A to B significantly cheaper than the direct routes. Conveniently, flight search engines like Skyscanner allow you to search for indirect routes, or you can discuss your indirect options with your travel agent. Having a few hours to kill between flights isn't always a bad thing either!
Mix and match your flights - take advantage of tools which allow you to mix and match your airlines to find the cheapest tickets for the times that suit you best.
Consider flying out of a different airport - closest doesn't always mean cheapest. Branch out and check the cost of flying out of an airport that isn't the closest to home, as sometimes these routes can be cheaper, even when you factor in the added cost of getting to this airport.
Buy tickets on Tuesday and Wednesdays - those in the know say that mid-week is more often than not the cheapest time of the week to purchase flight tickets.
Go incognito - you know when you search for a flight, and re-search the same flight a few days later only to find the cost has suddenly spiked? To avoid price hikes and sites tracking your search history, use a private window in your browser to search undetected (or "incognito" in Google-speak). When browsing on Google Chrome, click the Chrome menu icon at the top right-hand corner of your browser and select New Incognito Window.
Weigh your luggage before you go - spare yourself the hefty costs of overweight baggage and stick to your limits by making the most of your carry-on allowance.
Bring your own - if you're bargain hunting with flights, you may find yourself on a flight lacking in complimentary refreshments and entertainment. To dodge pricey snacks and entertainment devices on board, come prepared with some sustenance to survive the trip. Light meals (sandwiches, sushi or salads), a mobile/tablet (don't forget headphones) or a good book are trusty go-tos for no-frills flights.
Use a budgeting app
Once you have your program set and your flight costs confirmed, you can take advantage of the free budgeting apps available to get your savings on track. Mobile apps like Daily Budget Original will build you a daily budget based on your income and fixed costs. The bonus for international volunteers is that you can create goals to save for your volunteer trip, and the money you need to save will be automatically deducted from your budget each day. The program fee offered by IVHQ makes budgeting for your volunteer trip easy (as this fee incorporates your daily meals and accommodation), you just need to factor in how much you want to set aside for weekend adventures and additional travel expenses, such as visas and vaccinations. If your budget needs a boost, there is no shortage of tried and tested fundraising opportunities to reach your savings goals faster.
One of the easiest ways to get the financial boost you need to turn your trip into a reality is to start an online fundraising campaign. The crowd-funding website, Fund & Seek, is a popular platform used by IVHQers to achieve their fundraising goals. Fund & Seek allows you to create a personal fundraising page and share your mission with friends and family to support you - it's that simple! Offering incentives or tokens of appreciation are effective in supporting these types of campaigns too. IVHQer Sarah Samaros who joined our Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica back in 2012, and is now saving up for her next project in Fiji with the support of crowdfunding. Sarah has set up a fundraising page and is thanking each supporter who donates $20 or more with a handmade baby sea turtle.
We're equally impressed with the success of our volunteers' offline fundraising efforts - from bake sales, dinner parties and quiz nights, to garage sales, car washes and bottle drives. Here's some fundraising advice our IVHQ volunteers to get you thinking about how to volunteer abroad on the cheap too, or see these volunteer fundraising Tips for further inspiration.
Have your own stall at local farmers markets, festivals, galas or even outside your house on the street. Get your friends and family on the bandwagon to help prepare the goods. Cakes, slices, cookies are popular sellers while preserves are particularly profitable. Incorporating a “guess the weight of the cake” competition and a raffle are always great money spinners as well. Some bars (always ask first and try for the ones that don't serve food) will let you go through the crowd with a tray of goodies. Works best towards the end of happy hour. People love mini cupcakes, cookies, and brownies, especially if it's for a good cause! Also, a trick I learned, don't put a price on them. "However much you want to give" will get you a much higher average donation. - Nikki Stanbridge (Volunteer in Peru - Cusco)
Set up a day where everyone has to go without electricity for a day and donate the money they would spend on it for that day. Take bucket showers with boiled kettle water etc. I think we take electricity for granted, warm water, being able to blow dry our hair or be warm. - Melissa Gilkes (Volunteer in Nepal)
I organized a quiz night and sold tickets at a higher price ($20 per person or $100 for team of 5) got about 12-14 tables and provided finger food at each table (donated from supermarkets) but made more from selling alcohol at $5 a bottle and also cans. - Warkina Tujuba (Volunteer in South Africa)
In Canada you can cash in your beer, wine bottles and cans... I made about $800, I handed out flyers in my neighborhood and organized a pick up date. People are always too lazy to take them back and you are doing them a favor... Also good to do after a holiday weekend... - Kalia Cochrane (Volunteer in Kenya)
I am holding a fundraising movie night this Friday evening $15 per person including popcorn and prizes and raffles etc. Would like to fill all the seats. - Kerry Watson (Volunteer in Kenya)
If you have your program and travel dates sorted, and want to start thinking about sorting your savings, you can submit your application to IVHQ. It's free to apply and doesn't commit you to a program, but allows you to check if there's space available at the time you wish to volunteer. Then once you're ready to commit, you can register to become an IVHQer and join the community of over 48,000 volunteers.
Latest Blog Posts
We take on the challenge of answering the top 10 questions asked by IVHQ volunteers in Morocco, in under 5 minutes! Watch now …
We take on the challenge of answering the top 10 questions asked by IVHQ volunteers in Mexico, in under 4 minutes! Watch now …
Interested in volunteering in Colombia but can’t decide between Cartagena or Bogota? Here are the facts to help you find the right volunteer abroad program for you…