Sure, it feels good to be able to take the kids on a luxury vacation. After all, you work hard and you’ve earned it. But for many of us, being able to participate in a service project while still enjoying that swanky retreat can make our family bonding experience so much more meaningful. Hands Up Holidays is one company making a name for itself by blending high-end luxury and service at locations around the world.
Accommodations are typically in eco-luxury boutique hotels in exotic locations that are, at the same time, carefully curated to be safe for you and your children. But instead of hanging out by the pool or throwing Frisbees on the beach, trips usually build in three to five days of service projects that allow your family to bond over shared experiences, but also help animals and local residents — all while leaving a portion of your vacation to just play and see the sights.
Trips are customized according to the interests and ages of the children, but generally the Hands Up Holidays staff recommends wildlife conservation projects for those children who love animals and are aged 12 and younger. For example, in Thailand or India you could help prepare meals and feed elephants, or even help bathe them, or in Australia you can help protect kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.
Teens and older kids might consider helping build a house for a needy family in such destinations as India or Thailand.
Some other examples of activities children can participate in include hand feeding native sea birds and checking kiwi habitats in a New Zealand wildlife conservation initiative; leading art classes at a makeshift school in Vietnam and engaging with local children; working to construct a library in Morocco and a school in Malawi; and teaching youngsters in the Maasai community in Kenya.
Adults can also help in a number of ways, according to interests and skills, by offering advice on business, fundraising or marketing to local charities or lending assistance at medical facilities.
Trips typically begin by learning about the destination, picking up a few words in the local language and gathering tips on cultural practices and etiquette, all designed to help you make the most of your immersive experience. Service days are usually timed for the middle of the week, while the last few days are reserved for exploration or well-earned R&R.
A sample itinerary in Costa Rica includes accommodations at Tabacon Resort & Spa in Arenal; a day of zip-lining, kayaking, volcano hiking and night jungle walking; volunteering at a wildlife center preparing the meals for monkeys, sloths and parrots and assisting the vet on his or her rounds; and air transfers to Manuel Antonio for an overnight at Arenas del Mar, followed by two days of a private walking safari of Manuel Antonio National Park, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling.