There’s a world of reasons to consider holiday travel, from taking advantage of the off-peak travel season to maximizing work and school vacation time.
It can also be a fun and unique way for families to spend time with each other during the holiday season. Many families have even substituted traditional gift giving and opt instead to allocate their budget on a shared holiday travel experience.
In response to the increasing number of travelers who are using the holidays to explore the world, Discover Corps has launched a series of vacations with purpose for the holiday season.
So whether your family wants to care for elephants in Thailand’s northern mountains or you want to take off on a solo long weekend in Cuba, here’s a look at some intriguing holiday travel ideas for the 2016 season!
Feel the Connection on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula
On our 10-day Costa Rica: Protecting the Pacific trip (December 26-January 2) travelers will discover the connection between humans and the environment and learn about ways that the small Pacific community of Uvita is prioritizing sustainability.
You’ll volunteer with a local reforestation project and talk about recycling with local youth, but you’ll also have plenty of time to relax! From taking surf lessons with a local pro to searching for hidden waterfalls in the heart of the rainforest, the warm “Tico” culture will make you feel like you’re actually home for the holidays.
Rescue Sea Turtles on the Nicoya Peninsula
Discover Corps’ 8-day Costa Rica: The Sea Turtle Initiative post-Christmas trip currently has a waitlist. But if you and your family want to kick off the holiday season early, a new trip has just been added from December 10-17.
This popular voluntourism program is all about wildlife conservation in the “most biologically intense” place on Earth (we didn’t make that up—National Geographic did).
You’ll work alongside organizations who are protecting endangered Sea Turtles, helping to release baby turtles back into the ocean, cleaning up trash on local beaches, and even taking on “night patrol” duty to help protect vulnerable turtle nests.
The adventure won’t stop there, though. You’ll also have a chance to soak up all of the adventure Costa Rica has to offer, from ziplining through the rainforest to searching for crocodiles in lush mangroves.
Leopards & Lions & Hippos, Oh My!
The focus of the 10-day South Africa: Wildlife Conservation Experience trip (December 19-28) is seeing and contributing to some of the most inspiring and innovative wildlife conservation efforts in the world.
South Africa’s diverse wildlife populations face many threats, and on this trip you’ll both learn about and confront these threats directly.
Not only will you take game drives in some of the world’s most stunning safari parks, but you’ll also nurse baby rhinos, get up close and personal with wildlife ambassadors, and collect data on leopard behavior.
You’ll also get a chance to relax and unwind at the pristine Rukiya Camp afterward- it is a holiday, after all! This unique holiday travel experience allows you to go far beyond the safari, becoming a small part of the growing wildlife conservation movement.
Up-Close and Personal with Elephants
Elephants are often taken advantage of, throughout Asia and other parts of the world, for the purpose of tourism. On our Thailand Elephant Conservation Expedition (December 18-27), travelers can learn more about this issue in a place that is famous for elephant tourism, Northern Thailand.
There you’ll meet a Thai family who recognized the threats facing elephants in the region– from deforestation to a boom in cruel elephant tours– and decided to do something about it. Visit their home for local rescued elephants and help with the daily care of these majestic creatures, from feeding them to bathing them in a nearby river.
You’ll also explore the rich culture and beauty of the region, visiting nearby hill tribe communities and observing monks as they pray in world-famous temples.
You Better Belize It!
Belize is a Central American paradise, and it’s the perfect place to unwind. It’s also a place of incredibly diverse wildlife and ecosystems, boasting the second largest reef in the world and spotted with rainforests, dry forests, beautiful beaches and jungle rivers.
Our 8-day Belize Caribbean Wildlife Adventure trip (December 26-January 2) is designed to give travelers a taste of it all. You’ll learn about the threats facing endangered Manatees as you work alongside scientists and conservationists to collect data on these gentle creatures in the wild. You’ll also participate in activities as diverse as the country itself.
Hike into the jungle to explore caves and secret swimming pools, go snorkeling on a tropical caye off the mainland, learn to make tortillas with a local family, and visit Maya ruins tucked away in the rainforest. All all while embracing the tropical Caribbean rhythms of this beautiful country.
Christmas in Cuba
Looking for a short tropical getaway during the Christmas holiday? Our 4-day Havana Weekend Getaway (December 23-26) is just that. This trip is the perfect way to explore Cuba in a long weekend, and packs enough punch to make your holiday season one to remember.
From checking out the charming seaside town of Cojimar– once author Ernest Hemingway’s home– to discovering the culture and community of Old Havana, travelers will amazed at the ability to both embrace the island pace of life and learn so much about Cuba in only a few days.
You’ll stay at a casa particular (a local bed & breakfast) and spend your days exploring the art, history, and music that makes life here so colorful and special. You’ll leave feeling nothing but refreshed.
Machu Picchu and an Adventure in the Andes
If you’ve been waiting to check Machu Picchu off your bucket list, you’re in luck! Our Peru: Children of the Andes trip (December 19-28) includes an excursion to this beautiful and ancient Inca citadel.
In addition to seeing Machu Picchu, you’ll also explore Peru’s other important Sacred Valley sites. In the process, you’ll learn all about the captivating and unique culture that is unique to this region of the world.
Travelers have a chance to meet a local shaman, help teach English and play games with children at a village school, and shop for handmade textiles and instruments at bustling local markets.
Along the way, you’ll learn more about the triumphs and challenges that Andean people face, and discover unique ways that local leaders are creating positive change in the community you can now call your second home. -Sara McDaniel
BIO: Sara McDaniel is a San Diego-based educator who uses her summers to explore the world, often alongside her students! In addition to writing for The Volunteer Traveler, she has directed international programming for various travel organizations. When she’s not writing or researching, she can often be found swimming in the ocean, eating all of the delicious foods she can find, and teaching in San Diego State University’s College of Education.