Helping Others on Resort Vacations
Many travelers go on resort vacations to destinations in the United States, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. It’s easy to give back to others while you are on these trips. We have found many opportunities to assist with education, the needs of children, community initiatives, animal welfare, healthcare, nature and the environment, and a variety of other activities in popular vacation destinations such as:
- Orlando, Florida
- Maui, Hawaii
- Roatan, Honduras
- Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
- Cancun, Mexico
- Negril, Jamaica
- Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Nassau, Bahamas
- Ambergris Caye, Belize
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Castries, St. Lucia
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
and many others. See the country links on the right-hand side of this page for more information. In addition, we’re sure there are hundreds of wonderful organizations that we haven’t found yet that could use your help.
You can use the destination directory provided here as a starting point for finding schools, children's organizations, animal welfare groups, community initiatives, healthcare centers, environmental groups and others that you’d like to help. Other good sources of information include the concierge or tour desk at your resort and forums on sites such as TripAdvisor that are often staffed by local experts. Resort staff members are another good source of information on schools and local organizations that might need assistance and in-kind donations.
Some resorts and hotels have established foundations and formal programs to support organizations in their areas. The Sandals Foundation, for example, is very active in helping schools and local communities a number of islands throughout the Caribbean. The Solmar Foundation and the Royal Resorts Foundation offer voluntourism activities in Mexico. A few tour companies offer voluntourism excursions that combine both transportation and opportunities to give back. Resort concierges and tour desks can also help arrange for transportation when you’re doing community service visits. On a number of our trips, we’ve found it helpful to arrange for transportation in advance with local tour operators that actively cater to social impact tourism activities. You’ll find some of those listings in the destination directory.
It’s important to contact local organizations in advance to arrange for your visit and to check on last-minute needs. Many organizations request advance contact if you would like to volunteer or drop off items. This is particularly true for schools and children's centers, and often only certain hours are available based on the children’s school schedules. It’s highly likely that, with a little research, you will be able to find a local organization or community group that will provide you with a highly rewarding experience and your efforts to give back will definitely be greatly appreciated.
When you bring donation items with you on your resort vacation, you will have to pass through Customs and make a declaration. The “Learn About Your Destination” section on this page of the U.S. State Department website ( Travel.status.gov ) provides a good source of information on Customs laws and rules for Mexico and the nations in the Caribbean and Central America. Customs laws are different for each country. We have always brought receipts along with us and have declared the items as gifts and not for sale, noting the names of the organizations to which the items were to be given. Many organizations that we've worked with have sent us an email letter to be presented at Customs. Others suggested bringing along a formal typed declaration form. So far, we have not had a problem. It's even better if you can purchase in-kind donations locally, though.
In addition, many airlines provide extra baggage weight allowances for charitable donations. If you are interested, check with your airline to see if they need a letter from the organization to which you are donating in order to give you a luggage waiver. Most organizations will be happy to give you a letter if you let them know in advance.
Have a fantastic vacation and enjoy giving back to others as your travel! We’re sure that it will be one of the best experiences of your trip. You will receive a warm welcome with lots of smiles and hugs, and your efforts will certainly make a difference.
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
-- Mother Teresa