Now, I know what you might be thinking: What the heck are travel charities and why would I support one? Well that is an excellent question and you’ve dropped into the right place to find out more. Travel charities are those which support causes centered around the travel industry. This might be minimizing the impact of travel across the globe, helping underserved communities gain travel experiences, or supporting those who work in the industry.
While we all whole heartedly support travelling as a way to meet people, understand new cultures, and expand your world view, all of these good things don’t come without some cost or impact. By supporting one of the travel charities below, you can help create a difference. Each of the charities and organizations below are fully vetted as well, so you can donate this holiday season with some peace of mind knowing your money will support a good cause.
Many of these charities work to protect beautiful landscapes like this
Leave No Trace was one of the first travel charities that I supported. Their work focuses heavily on helping understand how we can minimize the impact we leave on the places we visit. Their Seven Principles of Leave No Trace are recognized the world over as a guide for those enjoying the great outdoors. One of my favorite parts of their work is education workshops for kids. These are a fantastic way to not only educate children about protecting the environment, but it’s done so in a way that engages them in the learning process. All-around Leave No Trace is a fantastic organization to support!
The Nature Conservancy is an advocacy and action driven organization. They are driven to tackle challenges that will have a direct impact on all of us in the near future including climate change. Through partnerships with local communities and governments, The Nature Conservancy helps protect land and water resources. These protections not only keep these lands safe for years to come, but also provide places for people to learn about why they should be protected in the first place. For regular travelers, supporting The Nature Conservancy means you’ll be helping protect our great outdoor spaces for the next generation of travelers.
This organization is definitely more US-focused, but they still play a vital charitable role. With more people than ever choosing to visit US National Parks, the National Parks Conservation Association is a critical travel charity in need of support. They work closely with the National Park Service to help protect national park lands across the US. Since 1919, the NPCA has been a leading advocate for national park protection and conservation. One of the more unique ways to visit a park is through trips led by the NPCA. If you’re a lover of our national parks, then you’ll have no issues backing one of the best travel charities on this list.
One of the more fascinating travel charities on this list is Earthwatch. They are a scientifically focused organization that gather volunteers to travel and assist with scientific expeditions. They recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, showing the longevity of their cause. Much of their support comes from those who volunteer for expeditions, as volunteers will also pay for a portion of their costs along the way. However, they can also greatly benefit from outside support as well. Their field research is critical in understanding how to protect endangered species, climate change, sea level rise, and other projects. It’s a great way to support science research and get a unique travel experience at the same time
The Center for Responsible Travel is a travel charity based in Washington, D.C. Their focus is on how we can continue to drive economic mobility through tourism, but done in a way which makes us responsible stewards of the environment and culturally significant places. One of the key ways in which they complete this work is through “impact tourism”. Through impact tourism, or traveling with philanthropic efforts in mind, the Center for Responsible Travel makes it possible to connect with places in need of more physical assistance. They are also leaders in creating programs which help highlight culturally important areas, but in a minimally impactful way.
Educating ourselves on the ways we impact the world around us as we travel is important in changing the mindset around travel. The RISE Travel Institute is one of the best travel charities that seeks to educate travelers and tourism professionals about responsible and sustainable travel. Their flagship educational program is a 10 week course focused on social justice, community development, and environmental sustainability. This is all done through the lens of travel. When completed, you’ll receive a Certificate in Sustainability and Anti-Oppression in Travel. RISE also creates experiential classes that allow certificate seekers to put their learning into practice. They are a fantastic organization that is centered on educating travelers the world over.
Some of the most impactful travel experiences we can have come during our youth. Yet many simply lack the means to travel or study abroad, especially historically disadvantaged communities. The Fund for Education Abroad is an organization focused on changing this. They work to give scholarships out to increase access to study abroad opportunities to those in these communities. This is a powerful way to provide students with perspectives that can change their lives and create lasting change in their own communities.
The final entry on this list of travel charities is The Wander Foundation. It was founded by a wonderful couple, Lia & Jeremy Garcia, who also happen to be travel bloggers as well. Their blog, Practical Wanderlust, was one of the most helpful blogs when I first started out. The Wander Foundation is focused on helping young people broaden their horizons through travel. They do this through working closely with locals in the cities to which they travel. Ultimately, it’s about making a difference through education and cultural understanding that can change minds at home.
If none of these travel charities strike your fancy, there are plenty of other ways to give back. Organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders are always in need of donations. You can also use Charity Navigator to find a cause dear to you, which also uses the money you give in the right ways. If you’re traveling this holiday season, I also encourage you to shop small and local. The impact you can make in local communities can’t be overstated. No matter how you choose to give back, it will always be helpful.
If you want to read more about ways to be more mindful when traveling I’ve got a couple of other resources. For more on how to respectfully visit historic places, read up on my guide to heritage tourism. I’m also a big advocate of not geotagging your posts on social media as well!