Take a Vacation That Makes a Difference

Volunteering time on your next holiday can let you relax and feel like you've helped at the same time.
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Vacations aren't just a time for relaxation. They can be a time to learn, a time to meet new people and a time to do something good for the environment. They can also provide a great opportunity to do something you've always wanted to do.

If this is the type of getaway you're looking for, check out the following eco-focused volunteer vacations:

EarthWatch Expeditions

Maybe, since childhood, you've had a secret desire to be a scientist. As an

EarthWatch volunteer

you can travel to the

Arctic

,

the Caribbean

or

New York City

to assist scientists with a range of research projects.

EarthWatch teams help researchers study

sea turtles

,

koalas

,

climate change

and even

mammoths

.

Trips range in length from one to three weeks and in price from $1,500 to $3,000 (meals and accommodations included).

Sierra Club Volunteer Vacations

The Sierra Club offers a variety of weeklong service outings throughout

North America

. You can help with scientific research in

New Mexico

, participate in an

archaeological dig in Utah

, restore

habitat damaged by Hurricane Katrina

or build trails from coast to coast.

Trips range in price from $325 to $1,175, and accommodations range from bring-your-own-tent to dormitories and even bed and breakfasts.

While most trips are open to anyone, some are designed for

families

, some are

women-only

and others are designed for

travelers over 50

.

American Hiking Society

If your dream vacation involves hiking, try a week-long volunteer vacation with the

American Hiking Society

. Participants work with state and national parks and land trusts to build and maintain trails throughout the country, including the

U.S. Virgin Islands

.

Projects vary in difficulty and in accommodations (ranging from primitive tents to cabins), and participants are required to bring their own camping supplies. The host organization provides food and most offer transportation from the nearest airport. For the first trip within a calendar year, non-members pay $275 and members pay $245. Each additional trip within that year is $175.

Globe Aware

Missed your chance to join the Peace Corps? Try it for a week or two with one of

Globe Aware's

environmental service vacations in

Costa Rica. Volunteers

can help a village in the Carara Rainforest Reserve develop a community-based ecotourism program or help a Caribbean village develop alternative livelihoods to reduce sea turtle poaching.

Each trip includes food, lodging and on-site transportation for $1,290.

Fundraising is encouraged

.

Kelsey Abbott is a freelance writer in Freeport, Maine, where she lives with her husband and their dog.