If you’re looking for a family vacation that leaves lasting memories long after you’ve returned home, you can’t look past family volunteering abroad. Volunteering abroad is the best way to experience a new country and immerse yourself in a different culture, all while giving back to a community abroad.
International Volunteer HQ is proud to provide the most trusted and affordable family volunteer vacations for parents looking to experience meaningful travel with their loved ones. Whether you are interested in construction, conservation, working with children or volunteering with animals, volunteering abroad as a family gives you quality time together while instilling the values of service.
How to plan the best family volunteer vacation
- Set a budget and understand the costs
- Work out the best time for your family to travel
- Understand what skills and projects would benefit/interest your family
- Understand the accommodation options available to you
- Discover the best family volunteer opportunities
- Apply online and secure your families spot on the program
- Talk with our expert team and learn tips from past volunteer families
How much does it cost to volunteer abroad as a family?
Taking the family abroad can be costly - think expensive resorts and over-priced tours, but family volunteering is an affordable way to travel. That’s because you’ll put the focus firmly on spending quality time together, authentic experiences and helping communities in-need.
As with all travel, there are costs involved, so before we set our minds to an exoctic destination thousands of miles away, it is important to set a budget that is attainable for your family. Once you’ve got your budget in mind, you can work with IVHQ to discover the volunteer package that will suit your family the most. And, with a bit of planning, saving and preparation you can make your meaningful family vacation an affordable reality.
Here are the typical costs associated with a family volunteer vacation:
- Travel insurance
- Volunteer fees (see below for further details)
- In-country transport
- Spending money (additional meals and tour activities etc)
For those of us who are accustomed to planning trips abroad, the above will be enough to gauge a budget. If you’re completely new to this, keep reading our helpful guide and you’ll come away with a solid base for how to get started.
When you’re doing your trip budgeting keep in mind that each family member will need to pay an individual Registration Fee and Program Fee for your family’s chosen volunteer abroad program. Take a look at our program costs to see our range of affordable programs. If you’re planning to travel with 8 or more family members you can work with our dedicated Groups Team to create a custom family volunteer vacation.
How long can my family volunteer abroad for and when should we go?
The flexibility of our volunteer abroad programs means you can choose to volunteer for anywhere between 1 week and 24 weeks. This allows you to fit a family volunteer vacation into your children’s school breaks or your working year.
There is no right or wrong time to travel for your volunteer vacation, there are just times of the year that will provide you with different experiences. Depending on the destination you select, weather could be a factor, or there could be festivals taking place. Typically, June through to August is a popular time to travel.
Our recommendation is to sit down with your family and brainstorm the types of experiences everyone is looking to gain. This will help guide the ideal time of year for your family to volunteer abroad.
Which projects are most suitable for family volunteer trips?
During your volunteer program, children and teenagers under the age of 16 will need to be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times. This means it’s best to choose a project the whole family wants to volunteer on.
We often get asked “will my children just be watching?”. At IVHQ we believe the whole family should be actively involved in the volunteer experience. That’s why we work with you to select the best volunteer project for you and your family!
For families 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.
If you have children aged 16 and above, it’s possible for them to take part on their own volunteer project in certain destinations. We recommend you ask your Program Manager whether this is possible and they will be more than happy to match individual family members with the correct projects.
What accommodation options are available to families that are volunteering?
Depending on the makeup of your family, we recommend that families with children under the age of 15 look at our programs which offer home-stay accommodation, rather than those which offer dormitory-style accommodation.
This provides families with greater privacy and the opportunity to be accommodated together in private rooms. Living in a homestay is a unique experience, as your family can enjoy living alongside a local family, while learning about their culture, cuisine and traditions.
If you are looking for a more social setting and the opportunity to live in a volunteer house alongside other international volunteers, your family can enjoy the comforts of a private room in a range of destination options.
All of our accommodation options have been vetted by IVHQ staff and routinely checked agaisnt volunteer feedback to bring your family the safest and most comfortable options available.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the suitability of any of these volunteer abroad programs for your family, as we will be happy to support you with selecting the best destination to meet the unique needs of your family.
18 of the best family volunteer opportunities from around the world
IVHQ has safe and family-friendly volunteer abroad programs in over 50 destinations. These family service trips vary depending on your level of volunteer experience and the type of work you’d like to take part in. Some families are happy to collaborate on childcare and teaching projects, where others like to take part in active and outdoor projects such as a family volunteer vacation with animals.
Please note that children under the age of 18 years are able to volunteer abroad with a parent or guardian on any IVHQ program, with the exception of Italy - Rome, Brazil and Colombia volunteer programs.
How do we apply to volunteer abroad as a family?
To volunteer abroad with IVHQ an online application will need to be submitted for each family member. To do this, you’ll need each family member to have their own email address. Our program managers can work with you in setting up applications for your children if required.
If you are volunteering as a family unit with more than two people we recommend that you do the following:
- One family member submits the first application and becomes the ‘Group Leader’
- When you are filling out this first application it will ask “Will you be volunteering with a friend, family member or group?”. In this case, select “yes” and you will have the ability to send invites to your family members via their own email addresses
- Each family member will then get an email link which will take them through to an application form.
- Once your family members have submitted their individual applications, your IVHQ Program Manager will respond within 48 hours and provide guidance on your next steps.
How safe are family service trips?
No doubt you have have some questions around your safety while abroad. IVHQ programs are tried and tested by thousands of volunteers every year. Our outstanding safety systems and track record set us apart - we are the world’s safest organization. Having placed 112,000+ 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.
Read a review from a mother that took her daughters volunteering
Molly Dalton, USA
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.
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
Undertaking a family service trip abroad is certainly an experience that isn’t for every family, but your families different, you want to create stronger relationships, gain a greater appreciation for what you have and provide positive outcomes for a community abroad, all while experiencing a new culture and country. Take the opportunity and start your journey with IVHQ today!