How to give back while travelling

Melody Wren 26 May 2022

With responsible tourism on the rise, packing donations to give to local charities is one way you can make a positive impact on your next trip

When you travel, do you often notice poverty and homelessness and wonder how you can help?

Did you know that there are specific charities, such as Pack for a Purpose, which help you target donations to vacation destinations in need? 

Giving back to a destination gives you a different insight into the local culture and will endear you to the community you are visiting.

Making space in your case will open up your heart, give you a real sense of pride and purpose in your trip, and most definitely add to the memories of it, especially if you have the chance to interact directly with the locals. 

"Giving back to a destination gives you a different insight into the local culture"

Pack for a Purpose practises exactly that and answers all of the questions you may have about how to make your trip more meaningful.

Whether you want to find a pocket of space in your luggage for a few items or, better yet, take an extra suitcase, follow these easy steps.

Identify countries that are involved

Currently there are participants in over 55 countries with Pack for a Purpose.

Determine if and what your destination(s) may need

On the Pack for a Purpose website, research the destination you are travelling to.

Calculate how much you can take

Figure out how much extra space you have to accommodate items, determine a budget and narrow down what you are going to buy. It’s as easy as filling a small gap in your suitcase with a few extra items or investing in an extra case altogether.

Choose a local charity to support

Under the Select A Destination section on Pack for a Purpose's website, there is a map with links to accommodations and tour companies that list the projects they specifically support.

These projects may include a school, a medical clinic, or an animal shelter. Choose the one that speaks to you. Read about the place that is being supported to discover what items are needed.

Getting it delivered

Pack for a Purpose's interactive map shows you the resorts or drop off places that you can take your donated items to. Your donations will then be delivered for you.

In some cases, you can arrange with Pack for a Purpose's partner accommodations to visit a school you have donated to. However, Pack for a Purpose does not recommend visiting orphanages, as this can be disruptive for the children.

Decide what to donate

Woman plans travelling trip on ipad with mapPack for a Purpose works with local partners to help you to make impactful donations wherever you choose to travel

Each project included on Pack for a Purpose's website lists exactly which items are needed, ranging from deflated soccer balls to specific school or art supplies and medical items.

Take an extra suitcase 

Many airlines will not charge you for the extra suitcase if it is being used for humanitarian reasons. Some conditions may apply. To take an extra suitcase (filled with 50 lb. of donated items), go onto the airline’s website and complete the waiver application in order to avoid the extra baggage charge.

Calculate your budget

If your personal budget doesn’t stretch to more than a couple of items, consider putting a call out to your local community and clubs, friends and family and circulate the list of needed items that can be dropped off to you. Your extra case will be filled in no time.

Make an impact

Woman packs medicine and suncream into suitcaseYou only need a little extra space in your suitcase to pack donations like medical items or school supplies

According to Rebecca Rothney, founder of Pack for a Purpose, “One of our key messages is that 'a stethoscope weighs less than a kilo but it can touch 10,000 hearts.' Even 12 tubes of antibiotic cream, if that is requested, can prevent 30 children from getting an infection from cuts and scrapes. Whatever you are able to bring within the limits of your luggage is greatly appreciated.”

Don’t donate cash instead

Rothney says, “We do discourage people from donating cash, however, if the participant has their own foundation or there is a registered non-profit in their country we certainly are happy for them to make a donation in that case.”

Give charitable travel a go

It’s as easy as filling a small gap in your suitcase with a few extra items. You can’t withdraw money from your bank account if you haven’t made a deposit. Give back to the community you are travelling in and you will withdraw with interest. 

Read more: Volunteering abroad: 11 Things you need to know

Read more: How Megan Maloney turned tragedy into goodwill with Charity Pro Travel

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter