A vacation is usually seen as time allotted for you and yours to rest, relax and partake in other variations of “me time.” And while hot-stone massages and golf are great, there’s another side to trips, one where you can give back time or money to assist others who are less fortunate. Several upscale hotels around America have packages that do everything from donate portions of the proceeds from your stay to charities to offer a chance to save sea turtles. So, if you’re ready for your next trip to really mean something, see these five shining examples of luxury voluntourism.
Whether you’re going for business or doing a little sightseeing in the nation’s capital, a stay at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. could benefit the MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Simply book the hotel’s “Giving Back” package and you’ll snag a two-night stay in luxurious accommodations, daily continental breakfast for two, overnight parking, Internet access and a round-trip car service to and from the hospital for your volunteer sessions. You can choose between two half or full days at the hospital, where you can volunteer for sessions such as the Red Coat Program (welcoming patients and visitors to the hospital, coordinating transportation for patients/visitors, providing assistance and information regarding hospital services, giving directions to various locations throughout the hospital), the Ambassadors of Hope Program (volunteering with patients in the Cancer Resource Center) or Mended Hearts, Inc. (supporting and encouraging those who have heart disease, as well as their families).
The award-winning Hearts of Montage program began in 2003 when associates at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Montage Laguna Beach wanted to help their community. Today, employees of the Montage Hotels & Resorts family, including Five-Star Montage Beverly Hills and Four-Star Montage Deer Valley, volunteer their time, knowledge and financial support to children’s education, senior citizens’ care, healthcare, family economic assistance and environmental protection. Montage Laguna Beach has supported local beach clean ups, mentored at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, and sponsored the release of rehabilitated sea lions and seals. Montage Beverly Hills has participated in the Los Angeles AIDS Walk and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure and partnered with the American Red Cross to conduct blood drives. So how can you help? Last year, 10 percent of your room’s rate was donated to Hearts of Montage during the month of November.
If you want to take a vacation and also help the city you’re visiting, consider The Ritz-Carlton’s Give Back Getaways. The programs allow guests to join hotel employees in a half-day experience volunteering around the community—activities are distinctive to the destinations and include everything from working with children to saving sea turtles. At Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, you do your part by helping out The Battery Conservancy with activities like painting Battery Park benches, or cleaning the park’s lawns. In the Florida Everglades you can kayak or canoe on Shingle Creek and remove debris and plants that aren’t native to this ecosystem, or build birdhouses and duck boxes around the hotel grounds at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. And we especially love the idea of conserving and planting trees with the crews from Trees Atlanta, Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead and The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta.
The luxurious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Umstead Hotel and Spa is known as a place to retreat and unwind. But it’s also where you’ll find many initiatives that benefit both charity and the environment. During its renovation completed in April, the hotel donated salvageable materials to various organizations around the Raleigh-Durham area: Wall coverings were given to The Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit reuse center in Durham, N.C.; mattresses and box springs to The Green Chair Project in Raleigh, as well as linens and draperies that were repurposed into slipcovers or pillows; and all salvageable carpet was contributed to Habitat for Humanity. And think again if you want to take The Umstead’s bath amenities home with you: The hotel donates unused or remaining soaps, shampoo, conditioner and body wash to Clean the World, an organization that collects, disinfects and distributes these products (that would otherwise be discarded) to countries in need.
If one charitable vacation simply isn’t enough, we’ve found a solution that might be for you. Membership to the exclusive Getaway 2 Give program gives you access to a collection of luxury vacation properties around the world, including yachts, private homes and Forbes Travel Guide star-rated hotels such as Four-Star The Langham, London and Four-Star The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, New York. Getaway to Give is part of The Giving Plan, whose mission is to raise $1 billion for charity every decade by offering consumers the chance to support several charities with expenses they normally accrue (like travel). Half of your first-time $15,000 membership fee goes to charity and is tax deductible (annual fees are $5,000 after that) and 5 percent of every night’s stay is also donated to support a cause.
Photos Courtesy of Montage Hotels And Resorts and The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC