10 December 2004
It’s no secret that thousands of active seniors are seeking out volunteer vacations each year, preferring a meaningful experience helping the underprivileged to a bus tour or cruise. Beyond the decision to go to Boise or Brazil, and finding out if they’ll be bedding down in a lean-to or lodge, would-be volunteers need to make careful choices on the myriad of vacation providers available today.
To help cut through the clutter, i-to-i Volunteer Travel, organizing volunteer vacations abroad, offers these tips on how seniors can choose a provider offering the best fit:
- Something old or something new – History can be a good thing in choosing a volunteer vacation provider. Find out how many years the organization has been in business, and how well-established the firm is in the industry.
- Conservation or communications – Make sure you choose a provider that supports issues in which you are interested. Different companies offer volunteer experiences in areas ranging from journalism to nature conservation to teaching.
- Making plans or making do– Does the volunteer organization you’re considering provide pre-departure advice on visas, inoculations, and cultural expectations for the country you’ll visit?
- In sickness or in health – Get details on travel and health insurance. Is it part of the fee? What does it include?
- Emergency response or emergency chaos – Learn what type of emergency transportation, communications, and logistics support the company provides if the unexpected happens while you’re on a trip. Find out how they’ll work to get you what you need, and how they’ll get you home if necessary.
For seniors, deciding on a vacation provider is just as important as deciding on the type of trip, says Lee Ann Johnson, managing director of i-to-i. “We’ve found that active seniors want more out of their travel by immersing themselves in the local culture, something that a volunteer vacation uniquely offers. Women, who make up more than two-thirds of older volunteer vacationers, are especially conscious of logistical support and pre-planning assistance offered by travel providers, Johnson adds.
Johnson points out that it also is critical to learn the details of the trip itself – location, living situation, housing, type and amount of work to expect, day-to-day scheduling. “But no matter how interesting the work and travel destination, the provider’s organization structure and support need to be in place as a foundation,” she stresses.
The “50-plus” bracket is one of the fastest-growing volunteer vacation markets. i-to-i estimates the number of bookings from that group will triple in 2005. And with the “baby boom” generation beginning to turn 65 in 2011, it will only grow faster. “This is a active, interested, energetic market that needs to be served, and served well,” says Johnson.
i-to-i Volunteer Travel is an international volunteer vacation organization, specializing in helping disadvantaged communities and ecosystems around the world. The company arranges placements of one to 24 weeks in teaching, conservation, com¬munity work, building and a variety of other projects in more than 20 countries. Founded in 1994 with international headquarters in Leeds, England, i-to-i North America is based in Denver, Colorado.