How to make your luxury family vacation meaningful
“It is hard to know where to start, as the whole trip was filled with such great experiences. There were absolutely no negative elements in this trip, and we thank you for creating an organization that does so much to enrich the lives of both your clients and the communities that they help. Hope you enjoy the photo. We have so many more!” Isabelle Bradley – Family trip to Morocco
My name is Christopher Hill, founder of Hands Up Holidays. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with information about how to add meaning and purpose to your luxury family vacation, and the kinds of trips that are available to you as a family. From personal experience, and that of countless family clients over the years, I believe that the best way to achieve this is to include a hands–on, giving back
component to your family vacation. This is known as ‘voluntourism’ (volunteering + sightseeing). Examples would be: Helping to build a house for an impoverished family; Renovating an orphanage; Assisting on a wildlife conservation project; Spending time in a community, getting to know them and learning about their needs, and deciding which causes best represent your philanthropic aims
Why this is brilliant for families: Your children appreciate how fortunate they are Your children experience the joy of helping the less fortunate Your children learn valuable life lessons and skills in a safe context Your children get the opportunity to develop the confidence to start unfamiliar projects Your family shares memorable experiences and spends precious time together Your family will gain a deeper understanding of another culture You can watch your children grow and learn
In my years providing voluntourism vacations to families, I have encountered a few misconceptions, so we’ll address those, as well as making some recommendations so that you can make the most out of researching, booking and going on your trip. MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT VOLUNTOURISM: 1. We will need to rough it Don’t worry about having to give up your home comforts – you can still travel in style.Volunteering and luxury accommodation needn’t necessarily be mutually exclusive. Your trip can easily combine the best of both worlds: amazing,
luxury, tailor-made holidays that also give you a taste of volunteering on worthwhile local projects. Look for companies that work with properties in the ‘eco-luxury’ category. These are hotels and resorts that have the highest standards of comfort and service while retaining ethical and environmentally-friendly policies, such as recycling, green energy solutions and community empowerment programs. They will also likely have all the amenities that your family could need. 2. Developing countries are dangerous for children Your children’s safety is clearly top priority no matter where you are in the world. In familiar places, we know where it is safe to go and where we shouldn’t, but in foreign lands we don’t have this local knowledge. The world is always changing and this lack of information can prevent
many people from exploring destinations that are now quite safe. Government travel warnings can be one source of information, but local knowledge is essential, so look for operators that provide local guides. Furthermore, the best voluntourism operators take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of their participants, and only take their clients to areas with excellent track records. Check the safety record of your provider, and only book if you feel 100% comfortable with their response. 3. We need to give back for a long time to make a difference Programs can be designed so that you can make a positive impact to the local community within 3-5 days, especially when a financial donation is taken into account, to cover the costs of materials and supervisors, who can maximize your impact.
Your children can gain cultural insights and make friends even in a short time, and it all counts towards quality family time. Short trips are also a great way to ‘test the waters’ and find out if volunteering is for your family, such that you may take a longer trip in the future, or volunteer as a family in your home town.
built. That is an amazing feeling, and awesome for family bonding! 4. Children are no help on volunteer projects. Granted, very young children aren’t going to be suited to working on a building site or anything massively physical, but teenagers can help with building, and, as noted above, it is a powerful bonding experience to build a home for a family who could otherwise not afford it. Look for a voluntourism operator who arranges local expert builders and craftsmen to supervise and handle the tricky bits – who also provide more opportunities for meaningful interaction and cultural exchange.
Look for programs where the role you will play has been carefully researched and selected so that no matter how short a time you’re there, you can hit the ground running and you will maximize the positive impact of your time. An example would be paying for a family to have a home. You may only have four days to spend on helping alongside local expert builders to build it, but if your voluntourism provider knows what they are doing, the work can be started before you get there, so you get to finish it off, and hand it over to the family. If your money was not provided, the house would not have been
For families with younger children, assisting at orphanages or schools is a great opportunity for your young ones to interact and socialize with the local children, while you and older children help out. Imagine the wonders of the cultural exchange that could happen, each child learning about a completely new way of life. Furthermore, environmental conservation projects are often children-friendly, such as helping feed baby animals that have lost their mother, or planting seedlings. Some voluntourism operators can also arrange for childcare if you have infants or young children.
TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR VOLUNTOURISM PROVIDER: 1. Will we really be beneficial to the local community? This will be down to whether your provider is really matching your skills and personalities to the project that would benefit most, and not just trying to sell you anything. Talk to your provider, make sure that they are being attentive and sympathetic. The closer the match, the more your family and the host community will get out of the experience. 2. Can I tell my kids we’ll be making a difference in the world? Every project is exciting, but a good provider will be managing your expectations from the beginning. Inspiration is important, but you should be aware of the scope of your contribution and a trustworthy provider will enthuse you while keeping you anchored in reality. 3. What level of support can I expect? Everyone needs some kind of support on their trip, but as you know, families have very specific needs. A provider should be aware of this and it’s best to look for ones that are experienced in preparing voluntourism itineraries for families. You deserve the reassurance of all the help you need, so make sure that they are providing you with 24 hour, in-country support. Find out if they’re going to send you a detailed briefing pack well in advance of your
departure so that you can prepare, and make sure that your children have some idea of what to expect. 4. What experiences have other families had?
There’s nothing like first hand stories. Find out what opinions previous families have formed, and what they got out of the trip, from both the parents AND the children’s perspectives. Your provider should always be able to give you first hand references and maybe even contact details of past clients. 5. Have you or one of your colleagues been out there? Nothing beats first-hand knowledge of the destination and volunteering project. Ask to speak to someone at the company that has seen the work for themselves and knows the destination inside and out.
6. What exactly will we be expected to do once we’re there? While surprises can sometimes be nice, when traveling, it’s best to avoid the unexpected as much as possible. Find out as much as you can about what your tasks or daily routines are going to be like once you arrive. Your advisor should have a full run-down of your responsibilities. 7. Will we be well looked after? Safety and health are concerns on any trip, and especially with children in the mix. Your advisor should be able to answer detailed questions about the health and safety issues for the country, region and specific project. This should include any time your children may be supervised and the recreation and relaxation facilities available to them.
8. Shall we take some toys to give out? Since you’re traveling all the way out there, it might be useful and rewarding to take some kind of donation with you – toys and games would generally be especially welcome at schools, orphanages or kids’ hospitals. Ask your consultant what might be best - they should have a good idea of what’s most needed and appreciated, as well as what’s easily transportable. Please note that it is best not to give gifts directly to children – rather, give them to parents or teachers, who are better attuned to the appropriate timing, and this also does not cultivate begging. Please also do not give out sweets or candies, as dental services are often not as good as at home, and this can cause teeth to rot.
9. What happens when we come home? The time after your trip is incredibly important. Most people feel connected to the communities in which they worked and stayed, so make sure that a detailed debriefing and suggestions on how to maintain contact with the community are available. Children will doubtless find new pen-pals, so ask your provider about their post-trip care. 10. Are we insured? Nothing is 100% in this world, but the best you can do is to make sure that the
company you travel with has liability insurance, as well as measures to protect your payment in the event of their unforeseen insolvency. It is also wise (and with some companies required) to take out personal travel insurance, to protect you in the event of medical emergency, flight cancellations, etc. Â
help offset many of the concerns or perceived costs that you might associate with volunteering. On top of this, think about the quality family time these trips can provide, free from the interruptions of modern media and the like.
FIVE TOP TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR LUXURY FAMILY VACATION WITH A PURPOSE 1. It’s an important decision for all of you, so take your time. Talk to your kids about their concerns and expectations. Research all you can and talk to your consultant for as long as you need. Don’t be rushed into anything. 2. Be clear on what you want to get out of the experience. One way to do this is to sit down with your kids and make a fun list of the top five things they want to see or do. Ask them to make lists of things that might scare them or that they don’t want to see. You can do the same with the things you’d like achieve, and another list of the top five things you want to avoid. Use these lists as the criteria for selecting a voluntourism provider, or at least a jump off point when you’ve already chosen one. 3. Look at the options for trips and think how they will benefit your family as well as the local communities. Work out how the activities might help your children grow and learn, what skills the unfamiliar surroundings might teach them, which social barriers they will learn to cross, what kind of self-reliance they will develop. Pinpointing the potential growth areas for your kids will
4. Ask your provider for projects that are centered around or focused on other children or the environment/wildlife. Orphanages, hospitals and environmental projects are the best kind to look at, and offer the most educational potential for your kids. Another way of life is immediately accessible to them, and the social interaction is priceless. 5. Ask your provider for as much information about your destination as you can before you leave. You can help acclimatize the children beforehand by making some of the local cuisine for dinner, watching video clips of the region on the internet, or inviting their friends around for a country-themed party at your house. Have fun with it. Teach them a few words of the local language – the words for child, dog, cat, hello, thank-you, etc. It will all be invaluable when you get there.
NEXT STEPS Thanks so much for taking the time to read through this guide and for listening to our advice. We hope that you found the information helpful and inspiring. You are now well placed to book an amazing voluntourism experience. If you want a family vacation that does not entail giving back, many companies can help you. If you are attracted to voluntourism but prefer more budget accommodation, there are great operators that can help you. If you want your family vacation to be luxurious AND meaningful then I invite you to browse our website (www.handsupholidays.com), or go right
ahead and contact one of our specialist consultants: email: email@example.com or call: (US) 201 984 5372 (UK) 0207 193 1062 (Rest of World) +44 207 193 1062 Thanks very much for reading. I hope you found this consumer message helpful. If you end up making a booking with Hands Up Holidays, quote â€œFAMILY2013â€? for free upgrades in all your hotels, where available. On behalf of Hands Up Holidays, thanks again and we hope to have the opportunity to inspire you soon! Christopher Hill Founder - Hands Up Holidays
About Christopher Hill:
"I founded Hands Up Holidays to give you the opportunity to not only see amazing sights, but also to have authentic interaction with local people and give something back in a “hands on” way to local communities through a taste of volunteering. In my life I have been blessed to have had some incredible travel experiences in over 50 countries, from African sunsets on safari, to swimming with dolphins, to hiking up volcanoes and even gasping for breath in the Himalayas. As amazing as those experiences are, my most enduring memories are the times when I have engaged in meaningful ways with the local people: becoming the official photographer at a village wedding in a remote section of North-East Vietnam, sharing chai with Indian farmers, sheeshah with Touareg nomads or copious brandies with gracious Serbian hosts are memories I cherish.
Moreover, when these interactions are overlaid with giving back through volunteering, they became incredibly fulfilling, inspiring…and life changing. Experiences such as helping build a house in South Africa and teaching English to my host family in a home-stay in Guatemala are great examples, and the lifelong friends I have made as a result and the lives changed were the catalyst for leaving my job in the City in London and setting up Hands Up Holidays. Through volunteering, and the consequent meaningful interaction with local people, I gained an insight into peoples' lives, and was blown away by how whilst they had little materially but were incredibly rich culturally and socially. I was both challenged and inspired by this, and I decided to adopt a simpler, more contented attitude to life – being grateful for what I have, rather than striving for more and more possessions. I started working on Hands Up Holidays in 2003 to make it easy for you, fellow travelers, to have incredible voluntourism experiences and dig a little deeper into a community and give back in ways that enable you to make a positive impact in 3-5 days with a taste of volunteering. I am passionate about you having amazing travel experiences through Hands Up Holidays. Expect to have a meaningful holiday with us, while at the same time being challenged to look at the world in a new light. That’s why we are Hands Up Holidays –
“Adventures That Count…for you, and the community"
About Hands Up Holidays: Hands Up Holidays is a luxury travel company with one BIG difference. We are obsessive about you having more than an amazing vacation; our passion is for you to have a remarkable luxury travel experience that you will treasure forever, by combining expertly-led sightseeing with meaningful community development through volunteering or philanthropy. Touch lives, including your own. So what makes us special? The secret ingredient that makes our trips so special is the combination of a fantastic tailor-made luxury holiday with a ‘taste’ of volunteering or philanthropy. Combining the two gives you the chance to get under the skin of a destination and interact meaningfully with the local people and giving them a 'hand up' in life. Don’t just scratch the surface: help that African girl have a safe place to live, teach hospitality skills to the Colombian coca leaf grower so he isn’t reliant on an illegal trade for a living, or help conserve elephants in Thailand. In so doing you will find yourself immersed in local life, championing a cause and learning new things, all combined with sights that you want to see, led by an expert local guide. Some of our clients have been so transformed by their journeys, that it has inspired them to change careers and in a few cases they have even moved to the country of the project. Now, this might not happen to you, but rest assured that you will have fun and return with great memories and touching stories.
This guide aims to inspire you with great new ideas for your next family trip and help you make sure you have the best possible experience....