Updated for 2024 by Munira Maricar
Have you ever thought about doing something different for your spring break? Instead of the usual beach vacation, imagine spending your time making a meaningful impact in a different part of the world. Welcome to the concept of alternative spring break trips, where adventure meets altruism, and where you can volunteer abroad as a student.
There are many advantages to volunteering abroad, such as the chance to help people, travel the world, learn new skills and meet great people. These reasons are precisely why volunteer abroad programs are increasing in popularity.
Planning Your Trip
Beginning a volunteer trip requires thoughtful planning to ensure a fulfilling and safe experience. This section will guide you through selecting the right program, managing your budget, and ensuring your health and safety while abroad. Let’s dive in to make your journey as impactful and worry-free as possible.
- Choosing the Right Program: Do your research. Look for programs that are reputable and have a track record of making a positive impact.
- Budgeting: Plan your finances. Consider fundraising or applying for grants to cover costs.
- Health and Safety: Stay informed about the health risks and safety measures of your destination. Prioritize your well-being while abroad.
What to Expect
Your days will be a mix of hard work and cultural immersion. Expect to face challenges, whether they’re language barriers or adapting to new environments. But remember, overcoming these hurdles is part of the rewarding experience. You’ll return home with a new sense of confidence and a plethora of unforgettable memories.
Requirements for Spring Break Volunteer Abroad Programs
Before starting your volunteer journey, it’s important to understand the common requirements that most programs have in place. These criteria are designed to ensure both your safety and the effectiveness of your volunteer work.
Age Requirements: While Volunteers above 18 can participate on their own, some programs require parental consent or accompaniment for minors. Always check the details of each program to be sure!
Health and Vaccination: The CDC website has country-specific lists of vaccinations and immunizations required or recommended before you travel.
Visa and Travel Documentation: The Spring Break duration of one to two weeks would likely only require a basic tourist visa, however not all countries offer visas on arrival and you may need to apply in advance, for example, ETAs or e-visas. Always check with the country’s immigration website well ahead of time, as some visas may require significant processing time.
Language Proficiency: Volunteers are expected to be comfortable communicating in English, even if you plan to volunteer in a non-English-speaking country (although it won’t hurt to learn a new language!)
Background Checks: Some programs, especially those that require working with children, may require participants to submit to a police clearance or background check. The program providers will let you know if this is necessary.
Travel Insurance: Adequate volunteer travel insurance is likely mandatory for most participants.
Types of Spring Break Volunteer Abroad Programs
The diversity of choices you’ll have is limited by the one- or two-week period you’ll have in March or early April. But options still abound. From Teaching English abroad and conservation programs, there is seemingly no limit to how you can help. Here are just a few of the things you could do during your volunteer trip this spring break:
- Help protect sea turtles in Costa Rica.
- Build housing and schools in Tanzania.
- Read with children on the island of Bali.
- Raise awareness about health issues in Fiji.
- Working in NGOs in Cambodia.
So, as you can see, you can still go someplace tropical–keeping with the flavor of spring break–while doing something that will have a huge positive impact. And that is what’s most important.
The alternative spring break programs listed here share the following things in common:
- The organizations are reputable.
- The programs are affordable for the most part. We know about volunteer sticker shock!
- The quality of the activities involved in the program is top-notch.
To make it simpler, we’ve divided programs between spring break service trips for high school students and those geared toward college students and other adults.
Best Spring Break Volunteer Programs for High School Students
Here are spring break service trips for high school students, or those 18 years and under, worth considering:
This initiative with International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers a chance to assist in veterinary clinics, horse therapy centers, and animal welfare organizations, focusing on caring for and rehoming abandoned animals. The program, starting at $445 for one week, includes local homestay accommodation, meals, and comprehensive support. Volunteers will engage in grooming, feeding, and playing with animals, offering a full immersion in Costa Rican culture. Suitable for volunteers aged 16+, it’s an opportunity for personal and professional development while contributing to biodiversity conservation.
IVHQ offers 17 safe, and educational international volunteer programs for teen volunteers between ages of 16-17. They can travel independently for a duration of 1-24 weeks year round. Check more programs here!
Join a two-week Sea Turtle Conservation journey in Bali tailored for teenagers aged 15-17. With a group limit of 30, participants will delve into turtle conservation, aiding these endangered species while enjoying cultural experiences and recreational adventures like snorkeling and beach excursions. The program, set against the backdrop of Nusa Penida’s stunning landscapes, offers a balance of meaningful work with leisure activities, ensuring teens contribute to marine life preservation and savor Bali’s beauty. Priced at $1,450 for two weeks, this program promises a transformative experience with lifelong memories and new friendships.
Take a look at other specifically curated teen programs from GoEco!
The Climate Change & Wildlife for Teenagers program in Nakuru offers a unique two-week experience for 15-17-year-olds, blending cultural immersion, wildlife conservation, and environmental stewardship. Participants engage in activities like Maasai cultural experiences, wildlife tracking, combating invasive species, and community projects. The itinerary includes exploring Nakuru National Park, Thomson Falls, and Lake Naivasha, along with educational elements such as Swahili lessons and environmental workshops. Accommodations in a secure gated community and comprehensive support ensure a safe and enriching experience. Priced at $1,550, this program is an ideal blend of adventure, education, and meaningful volunteering, tailored for teens during spring break.
In Guadalajara, Projects Abroad’s Public Health program focuses on community health campaigns and medical initiatives. This option is one of the organization’s Team Trips that coincides with spring break dates. This project is suitable for 15-18 years old. During this trip, you’ll work under the supervision of medical professionals. This program lasts one week, and you’ll live with a host family.
Join the Community Volunteer Work in Fiji with Projects Abroad, and immerse yourself in traditional village life. Contribute to teaching, farming, and village maintenance while experiencing local culture. Based in Pacific Harbour, volunteers over 16 can enjoy kayaking, zip-lining, and exploring local beaches in their free time. Stay with a host family for a genuine cultural exchange, with accommodations and meals included. This program offers flexibility with year-round start dates, making it an enriching experience for those interested in community service and cultural immersion.
Project Abroad has more volunteer trips for High Schoolers for summer or winter break, click here to learn more.
“Volunteering for Teens in Groups” is an enriching program by Involvement Volunteers International, tailored for 15-18-year-olds, blending volunteering with a Rite of Passage framework. Designed to foster growth and independence, it offers teens a chance to contribute to underprivileged communities during school holidays. The program includes structured activities focusing on self-discovery and confidence-building, with a three-stage process: Separation, Transition, and Integration. Destinations like Fiji, Thailand, and Bali offer diverse cultural experiences, making it a transformative journey of personal growth and meaningful community service.
Global Vision International’s (GVI) spring break program in Costa Rica is meant for those under 18 years old. With an emphasis on community development, volunteers work to improve the quality and accessibility of education and construct and renovate gardens. You’ll spend your time volunteering in the community of Quepos, a coastal community located right beside Manuel Antonio National Park. The program lasts a week but will leave you with a lifetime of memories.
Best Spring Break Volunteer Programs for College Students and Adults
Here are spring break volunteer service trips and programs worth considering if you are an adult or college student.
Embark on the Island Outreach by Boat Volunteer Project in Madagascar with International Volunteer HQ. This unique 7-day journey takes volunteers across Madagascar’s remote islands on a 50ft boat. Engage in community service and environmental initiatives, staying in rustic beach camps and huts. The program, starting every first and third Monday of the month, includes accommodation, meals, and full support. It’s an ideal opportunity for volunteers aged 18+ to contribute meaningfully while exploring Madagascar’s stunning landscapes and culture.
When you volunteer for Maximo Nivel’s construction program, you get to choose among various destinations, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. During the project, you’ll do everything from removing dirt and mixing cement to carrying brick and painting. The great aspect of this program is that your impact is very tangible. After a week (or longer if you decide to stay), you’ll clearly see how you helped build or repair homes, schools, and orphanages for the local community.
Discover International Volunteer HQ’s diverse Ecuador volunteer programs. Choose from a range of impactful projects, including Teaching, Environmental Education, Childcare, NGO Support, and Music. These projects are based in the capital, Quito, or the coastal city of Santa Elena. The programs include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals, and 24/7 support. Engage in enriching activities while immersing yourself in Ecuadorian culture and contributing to various United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
When you choose Projects Abroad’s Childcare and Community Program in Jamaica you’ll assist staff to help children learn through play and advance their educational development. This trip coincides with most colleges’ spring break dates and is a great option to do something worthwhile during your holiday. You can add the experience to your resume, and know that you’re improving the lives of those in need.
In Cusco, Peru, volunteers have the unique opportunity to contribute to local communities through the Alpaca and Llama Farm Project. This project, offered by Involvement Volunteers International (IVI), involves caring for alpacas and llamas, assisting with Peruvian textile production from their wool, and supporting local farms. Starting weekly with Saturday or Sunday arrivals, volunteers stay in home accommodations in Cusco. The project, which requires no special skills, focuses on animal care, light construction work, and creating educational materials. This project is ideal for animal lovers who are willing to get hands-on and contribute to sustainable community development in a rural setting.
African Impact offers a range of transformative volunteer and internship programs across Africa, established in 2004. They provide opportunities in wildlife conservation, teaching, healthcare, and more, set in breathtaking locations like South Africa, Zambia, Zanzibar, and more. Each program is designed in partnership with local communities, ensuring a sustainable and meaningful impact in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Participants can immerse themselves in diverse cultures, contribute to vital community projects, and experience Africa’s natural beauty. These programs offer a unique blend of cultural immersion, impactful volunteering, and personal growth.
Sponsored by Global Vision International (GVI), Volunteer With Children in South Africa is held throughout the year and aims to help orphaned and disadvantaged children obtain educational opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. The idea is to create a curriculum for the children where they can develop their full potential in a safe and caring environment. The program lasts two weeks and is held in and around Cape Town.
Embark on a unique two-week Special Volunteer Program in Cusco, Peru, where you’ll immerse yourself in local culture and contribute to children’s education and welfare. This project by Volunteering Solutions includes excursions to Rainbow Mountain, Humantay Lagoon, and the majestic Machu Picchu, you’ll blend meaningful volunteer work with breathtaking adventures. For $999, this program provides a rich experience in the “Land of Incas,” complete with accommodation, meals, and extensive travel support, ideal for those with limited time wishing to make a significant impact and explore Peru’s wonders.
Experience an unforgettable spring break by volunteering with Surfpop, where you can immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Cape Town and share the joy of surfing with children from local townships. As a vital part of the program, you’ll assist in surf sessions, support educational activities, and help facilitate life skills workshops. Beyond volunteering, relax in a cozy surf hostel, catch waves with professional lessons, and embark on unique tours around the Cape Peninsula. Suitable for those eager to make a difference and embrace adventure, Surfpop offers various packages designed to forge meaningful connections and provide a holistic experience combining service and surf.
Have the Best Spring Break Ever!
No matter what your interests are and what your budget is, you have diverse options when it comes to an alternative spring break trip. The programs featured here offer you a variety of ways to make a real impact in a range of locations across the world.
As you select a program, consider where you feel you’ll make the most noticeable difference, as well as which one will be the most fulfilling personally. This will ensure you choose the right spring break volunteer program — and come home smiling (because you just had the best spring break ever).