Spring Break Alternatives

So maybe you’ve already been to Florida, or Cancun, or the latest spring-break destination where you can cut loose and run a bit wild for a few days… or maybe that’s not your style anyway. In either case, there are lots of alternative options out there, from just planning your own exploration with friends, to joining a project that’s working to be a force for good.

Here’s a sample of a few spring-break alternatives. There are also a lot of religious groups that offer programs, so if you belong to any kind of congregation, you might look there too for ideas. Many schools also have programs, whether you are a current student or alumnus.

MTV’s project, organizing volunteers to help out on the Gulf Coast, is already full for this year, but you might want to check it out for the future. MTV also has a listing of other alternative programs. You can also check out volunteersolutions.org, which lists volunteer opportunities by zip code and by topic.

Habitat for Humanity has a special program for college students who can spend a week on construction work. You need a group of five of more, but you don’t have to be an official group, just a bunch of friends is fine. Habitat provides you with a place to sleep, shower and cook, but it’s likely something like a church basement, so you’ll need a sleeping bag. Most sites ask that you donate about $100 per person per week, otherwise your main expenses are for travel.

Sierra Club also offers week-long service trips all year round, usually at pretty low rates … about $500 or so for a week, not counting travel. Most of these involve building and maintaining trails in wilderness areas and parks, so accommodations are often campsites or hostels. Trips for March this year, when most spring breaks are scheduled, are already full, but there’s a waiting list. And you can start planning for next year, or summer.

Earthwatch also has week-long tours during spring break season. This year’s options include exploring the ecological riches of Mexico or Belize, monitoring gray whale migrations, helping out at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., or learning about climate change in New Orleans.

Cross-cultural Solutions offers projects around the world, like a mini-Peace Corps experience. They have programs that last up to 12 weeks, but you can also sign up for just a week. Their one-week programs can take you to Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, or Russia. Volunteers work in orphanages and child-care centers, schools, health clinics and hospitals, and other community organizations. You also get free time to explore, and the program provides cultural activities. Click here to view a video about their Lima project. The week-long program costs about $1600.

You can also check with any organization you’re involved with, or would like to be involved with, and see what kind of volunteer options they might have. And you can come back to school feeling great, having made new friends and experienced something different from your everyday life at home… after all, you don’t have to travel to drink and party to excess.