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Filtering by Tag: Tips

How to Find Good Organizations to Volunteer with When You Travel

Steve M

Here at Justifi, one of the central parts of all of our programs is partnering with local organizations within the area we head out to. This helps to make each of our projects sustainable as well as a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved, as they are able to provide wisdom about the community itself. With knowledge about the population, the existing infrastructure and the traditions of the area, partnering up with local organizations allows us to immerse in the culture and create meaningful and sustainable relationships.

We make it a top priority to choose the right partner organization by knowing the various strengths of our group members, budgets per program, and of course making sure it’s a good cultural fit for what we do.

One of the many benefits that we reap from doing this is that often times we get to work with organizations that don’t typically take on volunteers. What helps to set us apart and allows us to do this is that we come with the necessary resources, we completely manage the team of volunteers, build relationships and plan for months in advance to help ensure our projects are well focused to make a real difference within a short amount of time.

However, we understand and appreciate the fact that not everyone can join us on one of our trips. Taking the time off of work, budget reasons, or conflicting dates could be factors in not being able to join in on a trip. If that sounds like you and you may be thinking about volunteering somewhere else on your own, consider the following pieces of advice on how to get started doing just that…

Before Your Start Looking for Partner Organizations:

Ask Yourself: What time and energy are you looking to commit?

How much time do you have to set aside from your everyday life and routines and maybe take off of work in order to volunteer? Do you have the time? The timing of things is an extremely big factor to most and it truly does affect the amount of options you have. Typically, the longer you commit to, the more opportunities there are and the better the chances of finding something that intrigues you as well.

Ask Yourself: What issues are important to you?

Have you always been passionate about the welfare of animals? Maybe you care about education or sustainable living? Think about it and try to narrow down your focus to specific causes that have are of most interest to you.  From there, you can begin a search in your destination area that matches your specific interests.

Ask Yourself: What specific skills do you offer?

Depending on the organization or community you are interested in, you may find that they tend to be extremely busy and may even receive multiple inquiries a week for people hoping to volunteer with them.

It's an unfortunate reality for many small organizations that taking on volunteers is a challenge that requires planning, management, and time commitment from the organizations core staff.  So if you really want to make a difference and make your visit as convenient as possible for your host organization, think about exactly what you'd like to do and be specific on what exactly you can offer them. Are you good at crafts? Do you know how to build a bamboo fence? Maybe you love cooking and cleaning? Whatever you know you can contribute and offer, tell them that and let them know the specifics on when you can come, what you can do and make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.

Tips for Finding Great Organizations

Simply Use Google

As with any other research you conduct, Google is your best friend in this case too. Type in ‘volunteer’ and place you would like to head to. Chances are, something will come up within the first page or two that will spark your interest and typically are ones that are well established and can accommodate you. The one negative thing, however, is that sometimes these are also bigger and a bit more ‘structured’ and less needy than others out there that you could help. If you are hoping to volunteer for a shorter amount of time, these may be just the right fit for you.

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Search for Specialty Networks

With English as one of the most highly sought after languages to be learned and plenty of countries with mass populations of both children and adult not being given the opportunity to learn it, the demand for English teachers is often extremely high. There are a ton of organizations out there that can help you connect with communities who are in need of English teachers and in turn, you will find that the longer you stay, the more you will get out of it and the biggest difference you will make.

If teaching isn’t quite your thing, then consider helping out on a farm through an organization like WWOOF where you will work in exchange for food and accommodation. Not a fan of farms or teaching? Maybe helping out in a hostel for a month or so checking people in and out, cleaning and organizing events may just be the thing for you!

Use Social Networks

Chances are, if you find an organization during your Google search, they have got a Facebook page where you will be able to check out the reviews, comments and personal posts and pictures of people that have volunteered through them. This also offers you a better look into a more emotional aspect of the organization as websites can often times (not always) offer as much helpful information as their Facebook pages do. Scroll through what they have there and chances are, you will get a much better idea of what the organization has to offer.

Just Show Up & Ask Around

If you are reading this and are already in the middle of an adventure abroad and are contemplating possible volunteer opportunities, then ask around at local cafes, restaurants and shops! You never know if they are being ran by someone who could point you in the right direction or if they have a bulletin board with the exact flyer that may just be right for you. Talking to locals and connecting with people personally is one of the best ways to get helpful information that could bring about new opportunities and ideas.

Note – A Word of Caution

Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations out there that don’t exactly have the best intentions when it comes to volunteers helping out in their communities. With money as the main object in mind, these places often times leverage the needs of a disadvantaged population to attract both sympathy and profit. 

We strongly advise that although helping out at places like orphanages and with victims of abuse does sound good in and of itself, visiting only for a short amount of time in either one may not be what's needed for the population you're trying to help. Children in these places need stable relationships and proper care in order to grow and thrive and if your trip is a short one, it's unlikely you'll be able to offer them the support they need.

Justifi's Top Tricks to Booking Cheap Airfare

Steve M

Here at Justifi, we travel a LOT. From Thailand to Nicaragua, Peru to South Africa, we're booking dozens of international trips per year. And, as a small not-for-profit organization, we do everything we can to book them on the cheap.

Beyond the need to travel for work, it's a personal hobby of mine to find incredible deals on travel for myself and others. I've spent many dozens of hours reading travel forums, blogs, talking to experts, and pouring over award travel charts to find the sweet spots. And the results are fun. In the last few years the tricks below have helped me book <$400 round trip tickets to Israel from New York, a $330 ticket for my father to Bangkok with a 2 week stint in Europe between Venice and Prague, gleen more than $3,500 in flight credits, and earn enough frequent flier points to circle the world at least 3 times. (It's a fun hobby). 

Because one of the biggest concerns potential participants have when considering a Justifi trip is the cost of airfare, I wanted to share some of the top tips and tricks that past participants have used to save hundreds of dollars on their tickets and joined our programs for a lot less.

Basic Tools of A Savvy Traveler: Have a Good Travel Agent, Check our Travel Desk

Make friends in high places.  We've assembled a list of several nice, reliable travel agents from around the country that can help you book your flights. For when you just want to get there for a good price and know someone has your back if something goes wrong.

Google Flights: Your New Best Friend

Screenshot for flights as we book from Israel to Thailand for this Winter on Google Flights. It's a robust tool with many options to find exactly what you're looking for. 

Book 1-4 Months Before You Travel:

There IS a magic time to book your flight. It's generally 1-4 months before you depart. One study very specifically recommends 47 days before you travel is the exact best date. 

Advanced Moves for Travel Ninjas:

Be Flexible with Your Departure City:

Flights out of New York are outrageous? Sometimes a $15 Bolt Bus to Philly, Boston, or even DC can save you a chunk of change. From Canada, look at small shuttle flights to New York and see if you can get a flight for cheaper from there. Use Google Flights to enter multiple options for departure cities to see if it's worth the schlep. (BONUS: Take an overnight in your transit city, see that old friend you haven't seen in ages).

Check out the airports in a neighboring city! Sometimes you can save a ton!

Be Flexible with Your Dates: 

This is the most pain-free way to save a fortune. A recent study suggests Leaving on a Thursday and Returning on a Monday could save you 20%. Use Google Flights to look a few days out after your trip 'normally' ends and consider extending. At Justifi, usually 25% or more of Justifi participants extend their trips. Plus, you can use the money you save on flights to pay for hotels (and coconuts).

Having a flexible schedule can often save you a fortune!

Having a flexible schedule can often save you a fortune!

Take A Stopover:

Many people don't know this, but it is often possible to take up to 24 hours (often more) at a destination along your route to your destination. We've done this ourselves and visited family in Florida en route to Nicaragua, and sampled authentic sushi in the markets of Tokyo en route to Bangkok. Past participants have taken overnights at South Beach or up to a week in Singapore through creative routes that sometimes save you money. We recommend looking at The Points Guy and Frugal Travel Guy for tips, but consider breaking your itinerary into low-cost parts or multi-city itineraries to take advantage of the best prices per flight leg and get a mini-trip in your big one.

Getting creative with YOUR travel plans only add to the adventure!

Getting creative with YOUR travel plans only add to the adventure!

Fly INTO a Different City, Use Local Transportation:

For the courageous traveler, consider flying INTO a different gateway city and using local options to navigate to your final destination. Flying to Thailand? Look at flights into Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and take AirAsia to get to Bangkok. Nicaragua? Fly into San Jose, Costa Rica and take a deluxe bus ride to Managua. Use Google Flights' map tool to see nearby cities and then use Rome2Rio to navigate to your final destination. Budget extra time, though - local options aren't as reliable. (Note: Be careful to check visa requirements and passport restrictions).

Here's a taxi in Thailand- Not quite the yellow taxi you see cruising around New York

Credit Cards and Frequent Flyer Miles: Master the Game

Use credit card sign-up bonuses and daily spending to fund your travel. Start with The Points Guy Blog and work your way up to Dan's Deals (Jewish guy from Brooklyn, Dan's the man). I've earned over 250k miles this way and maintained a great credit score and my mentor (Alumni Josh G) has used these tricks to join us on 4 trips in Thailand, Nica, South Africa, and Peru flying business class for free. 

Think you can Master The Game? Feel free to share your tips: info@justifi.org.


BONUS: Get The Bump from Oversold Flights

I really shouldn't share this, it's my all-time favorite move and the fewer people that know about it easier it is to get. But I've earned thousands of dollars in free travel by volunteering to be bumped from oversold flights. If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, see if your flight is oversold and volunteer to take compensation to be re-booked on a later flight. See this article for details.

Whew! Not so bad, eh?

Now that you can travel anywhere you want for free or cheap, may I recommend you Apply to Join us on a Justifi Trip? Our team will then follow up if you're approved to join us and help make it possible for you to come on board.


Have fun, be responsible, and happy travels.