Volunteer Vacations For Families
Are you interested in learning more about volunteer vacations for families, and want to know which programs are best suited to your family? You’re in the right place! While spending your family vacation volunteering abroad may not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a trip, we strongly encourage families to consider the opportunity of volunteering overseas together. Family volunteer vacations expand global awareness and appreciation for different cultures, while teaching you and your children valuable life skills, including how to travel responsibly and work effectively as a team.
Forget expensive resorts and over-priced tours, volunteering abroad as a family is highly affordable and will bring you closer together. You will be uniting to have a positive impact on a community abroad and creating lifelong memories as a family - just imagine helping to rebuilding a school together in Argentina, or traveling to Bali to experience the vibrant culture while contributing to meaningful community-driven projects. There is no doubt volunteering abroad will be something you will cherish forever and immediately make you the coolest parents around!
We recommend that families with children under the age of 15 look at our volunteer abroad programs which offer homestay accommodation, rather than those which offer dormitory-style accommodation. This gives you and your family added flexibility and privacy. For families volunteering with young children, our Childcare projects are generally the most suitable volunteer projects, as these allow children to become involved and interact with the other children. An Environment and Conservation project may also be suitable for families with children who enjoy working outdoors and don’t mind getting their hands dirty!
Our local teams can ensure that family members are placed together if you all wish to take part in the same volunteer project. If you have children under the age of 18, they will need to be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times, and therefore need to be on the same project as you for the duration of your family volunteer vacation.
We know that traveling abroad with a family can at times feel daunting, so IVHQ is on call to support you and your family every step of the way. From helping you select a destination best suited to your family’s unique needs, to coordinating your airport pick-up, meals, accommodation and program orientation - we’ll take care of it! If you’re interested in learning more about the support services provided by IVHQ, read our information for parents and continue to explore our recommend volunteer abroad programs for families below.
No doubt you have have some questions around your safety while abroad. Having placed more than 60,000 volunteers abroad, we’re always happy to speak with you to ensure that all of your questions are answered and that you feel comfortable with your family volunteer trip plans. Through our online safety training, comprehensive information booklets, ongoing support from experienced Program Managers, and round-the-clock support from our in-country teams - volunteers are well supported to make the most of their time abroad.
Why I took my family volunteering abroad…
I have always loved traveling, but often felt like such an outsider when doing so. I thought it would be nice to see a country as more of a local rather than a tourist, and IVHQ offered the opportunity to live with a host family and experience the culture from the inside. The goal of the trip was for my children to see that not all of the world lives as we do, and to expose them to different cultures and ideas.
I think the girls’ eyes were opened to how different, yet similar our lives are on all parts of the globe. Every parent loves their child, everyone wants the best for their family, and we all have similar basic needs. What they were not prepared for was seeing how people have to manage with the lack of some basic necessities, like clean water and enough food. You can read about my daughter’s take on volunteering abroad as a teen here.
Sharing the volunteer experience has been invaluable to my family. We now have a different frame of reference when we look at the life we have at home. It is wonderful to work on a project together, especially when it involves discomfort like riding a hot bus, waking up early, or eating less than tasty food because someone can usually find a laugh in a tough situation and it brings us all closer as a family.
Children all around the world love to play, and in every country my daughters have been included in the local games even if they share no common language. It’s great to see kids from such different backgrounds playing together and being able to share a universal and enjoyable experience. One of the unexpected benefits of volunteering on a project is living/working with others. My girls were young when we volunteered in Africa and most of the other volunteers were college age. The girls had the best time ever hanging out with the grown-ups, playing cards, watching movies, and just getting to know the other volunteers, and as a result, we have friends in the far ends of the globe. No matter the age, volunteers will bond over the shared experience. I can still picture a communal meal of questionable origin sending silent eye rolls and giggles at the table from all present age 8 to 68.
I recommend doing research on the country or getting a guide book which can give you a good idea of what to expect in your host country. IVHQ provided us the logistical support - picking us up at the airport, giving us an overview of our country and took us to our host family, which took most of the logistical stress off us. When choosing a destination with my family for the first time, I wanted something I was comfortable with so I chose a country or region where I had previously visited so I had a better idea of what to expect as far as food, costs and safety. If you have never been abroad but have many ethnic neighborhoods in your town then spend some time there to get the feel of the culture and become familiar with your chosen country’s offerings. When choosing a project I wanted to be sure my young children would be involved so they would not feel left out. Almost all countries offer child care or teaching, which is a great fit for children because kids love kids all over the world.
Tips for future family volunteers…
- Take initiative with your program - parents, kids, everyone. You get as much out of it as you put in. You don’t want to look back and have regrets.
- An important thing to keep in mind is that all of the volunteers are there to do something positive, make a difference, and have a great time.
- Depending on the country, you can buy a very basic cell phone that can be used to contact your placement or family members.
- If you really cannot go without mobile data, you can purchase a local SIM card and put it in your phone if it’s unlocked. Check online or call your wireless provider to see if you need to have it unlocked.
- Traveling with your family is like having a personal support system, which is always great. Sometimes you really need someone to listen to you vent a bit, or joke around with.
- Your host family is offering up their home to you and the other volunteers. Keep this at the top of your mind, especially if you or your children are struggling with the difference between your home and accommodation in country.
- Definitely go on weekend trips.
- Taking pictures to remember your trip is a must, but don’t spend the entirety of your trip behind a lens.
- Choose a pack over a suitcase, and pack light (it will leave room for souvenirs). Choose quick-drying fabrics (athletic wear is always a good bet) and pieces that can easily mix-and-match.
- Embrace the local cuisine instead of trying to find what you or your children would eat at home. This can be difficult if you have picky eaters, but do your best. It will help you get to know the culture, and save you a lot of time and money
Recommended family volunteer opportunities abroad…
The IVHQ team are passionate about the volunteer support services that we provide and we are committed to working closely with each of our volunteers to ensure that they are selecting the most appropriate volunteer destination and project to suit their needs. We understand that each family is different and for this reason we encourage you to contact us directly so that we can work with you to find the best option for your family. To give you a starting point, we have listed six of IVHQ’s top destinations for families…
Volunteer in Bali
Our volunteer program based in Bali’s cultural hub of Ubud is well suited to family, given the family-friendly accommodation arrangements, proximity to tourist activities and tropical climate! On this volunteer program, families with children under the age of 13 are accommodated in a private villa (rather than a volunteer house), which provides families with an extra level of space and freedom. We recommend the Kindergarten project for families volunteering in Bali, as this project involves plenty of hands-on work to keep the children engaged. Families will have the opportunity to work alongside locals and gain a unique insight into Balinese culture and customs, making it a family trip like no other.
Volunteer in China
If you are a well-traveled family looking for your next envy-inducing adventure, then the China volunteer program based in the ancient city of Xi’an could be the perfect fit for you. Separate accommodation can be arranged for your family and the local team go above and beyond to arrange projects that are the perfect fit for volunteering overseas with children, ensuring volunteer work hours are suitable for younger ones. You will never be short of cultural sites to explore with the Terracotta Warriors, fascinating markets and a dynasty show dinner being popular free-time activities for family volunteer groups. China is definitely a destination that is well suited to service vacations for families.
Volunteer in Ecuador
Volunteering in Ecuador is an ideal choice for family service trips, especially if your family has an interest in learning Spanish, or wants to brush up on any existing skills! On this program, your family will be accommodated together in a homestay with a local family. There are a number of volunteer projects suitable for families in Ecuador, with the top recommendation being the Street Children Support project. On this project, volunteers provide assistance to a local NGO team, providing basic education and development opportunities to children outside of schools in the market places. The project is aimed at supporting children of various ages towards enrolment in school and offering support to families and existing students to encourage education and prevent drop-out. Other suitable project options for families volunteering in Ecuador, include the Kindergarten project and the Summer project (during the months of July and August). For families with older children, the Teaching English project is available, while Spanish-speakers may participate on the School Support project.
Volunteer in Argentina
Our volunteer program in Cordoba, Argentina is perfect for families who want to gain a cultural insight, have some flexible time, and participate in Community Development and Childcare-focused projects. Volunteers are accommodated in a volunteer house and private bedrooms with private bathrooms can be requested in advance for families (subject to availability). While Spanish language ability is not required, there is ample opportunity to sign up for language lessons, which are a wonderful educational component to the program. You also might like to give the tango classes a whirl! Flexible start dates allow new volunteers to join on every Monday of the month. For volunteers from the Northern Hemisphere, this program provides a wonderful summertime escape to your winter holiday breaks!
Volunteer in Zambia
Calling all adventurers looking to experience the wonder of Africa, while being in a safe and supportive environment. The IVHQ Zambia program is an awesome option for volunteering as a family. You will be accommodated in a family-friendly environment and the local team will ensure that you are placed on a meaningful project that is the right fit for you. When it comes to spending your free time, volunteers are spoilt for choice! You can take part on safaris, go zip-lining, cruise the Zambezi, go shopping at the local markets or, if lucky enough to be there during a full moon you can watch the sunset over the Zambezi then check out the amazing optical illusion that is a lunar rainbow through the mist of Victoria Falls. Zambia is a fantastic location for family volunteering and volunteers all ages, offering a great way to get involved in impactful projects in a relaxed and friendly environment.
Volunteer in Morocco
If your family is after a unique volunteering experience where they will be able to draw interesting comparisons to their home country, look into IVHQ’s family volunteer opportunities abroad in Morocco. On this program, your family would be accommodated in a Moroccan-style Riad with a local family who will provide you with three traditional (and incredibly tasty) Moroccan meals per day. The projects most suitable for families volunteering in Morocco is our Childcare project, where all members of the family will be able to have an active involvement in the daily routines within a local childcare center.
We trust this information will provide you with the information and inspiration you need to plan your family volunteer trip! If you have any questions or want to speak with a member of the IVHQ team, please contact us - we look forward to hearing from you!
Latest Blog Posts
Carmen Liberatore talks about her experience traveling and volunteering in Peru. She was awarded the IVHQ Travel Blogger Scholarship in 2016.
Take this quiz to find out which program is the best fit for you, and your career path…
“Volunteering abroad on her gap year, IVHQer Kelly, was exposed to the school of life. Here’s why she thinks taking a gap year abroad should be a must-do for all high-school graduates.”