Change Your View and Other Lives Too With Volunteer Vacations

482902_10200536274353607_1093409579_nYour next getaway could change more than your view. More travelers are finding a way to help others while exploring experiences and cultures through volunteer vacations. Social impact travel is growing in popularity for individuals seeking unique experiences and real connections with locals as they explore new communities. This type of vacation may be described as a cultural exchange, service adventure or educational tourism.

Volunteer vacations can also strengthen family bonds while working together to help others. Volunteer get away programs may offer opportunities to spend meaningful time as a team while learning new skills.

Travel adventures for a cause can involve some tropical paradises or exotic scenery, but require more planning than your typical vacation advises travel expert and author of Voluntourist, Ken Budd: “Taking a volunteer trip isn’t like spontaneously going to the beach. It requires a lot of homework and research. You want to find organizations that are meeting a legitimate need, and projects that need volunteer labor; not projects created to give volunteers something to do.”

Fall_Park_sheltephoto-1465940617394-6c04e5525665Finding a great volunteer vacation opportunity starts with being realistic about your desire and abilities for the adventure. Taking a good look at what you’d like to get out of the trip will decrease your chances of disappointment.

Think about what areas and subjects are important to you: Do you want to study climate change in Alaska, volcanic activity on a tropical island or preserve the campground where you vacationed as a child? Budd suggests you ask questions about a volunteer vacation adventure before packing your bags.

  • What is the volunteer work?

 

  • Who will benefit?

 

  • Who runs the volunteer programs?

 

  • Where does the money from program fees go?

 

  • May I contact previous volunteers about their experiences?

 

hotel.jpgMany volunteer vacation organizations will ask you to submit to a background check, particularly if you’re working with children. Others will want you to provide references or to write an essay on why you want to volunteer. When organizations don’t require some kind of registration that should be a warning sign.

There are many volunteer vacation opportunities close to home.  For example, public conservation trips combine service and vacation locations. These popular options combine living in national or state parks with service projects.Fall_lake_photo-1444492827838-96343b09c9af

The National Park Service offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals or groups to work behind the scenes or in front line positions at park locations throughout the United States, including the territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. There are artist-in-residence programs at some parks for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media.

Some volunteer adventures travel on the rails as Amtrak and the National Park Service are partners in an initiative to educate travelers on the heritage and natural resources of a specific region while traveling by rail. In 2017, there were 600 Trails & Rails volunteer guides who gave 43,000 hours of time to the program.

banner on VC2-croppedWildlife refuges are another popular option to volunteer and get away within the United States. Volunteer opportunities may be found at more than 500 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges and hatcheries. Volunteer conservation opportunities may include activities like wildlife photography, trail work, counting butterflies, banding birds, maintaining gardens and sprucing up buildings.

Volunteer vacationers often get access to parts of wildlife preserves and parks not open to the public. There is always have free time to enjoy the beautiful public lands they’re helping.

Whether your volunteer tourism takes you across your nation or around the world, it can change more than your view and teach you a lot about people and the places they call home.

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It is Travel and Vacation Season and there is Pet-cious Cargo on Board!

ImagePets are a big part of our lives and many of us take our dogs and cats with us when we travel. Millions of pets are included in vacation plans every year. In fact, more resorts and vacation packages are being designed around pet families. The American Automobile Association, or AAA, says more hotels and resorts welcome companion animals. AAA says in the United States there are more than 12-thousand pet friendly hotels. Other vacation options for pet families include animal friendly campgrounds and marinas. Double-check with your resort, hotel or other location on their animal policy to ensure your pet receives a warm welcome on arrival.

So how will you get there? Flying might sometimes seem to be the fastest and least stressful way to go, it can be the opposite for a pet forced to fly in the cargo hold. The only time any animal should be placed on a plane is if you’re relocating and all other options are unavailable. Most pet families drive with their pets. Nearly six in 10 respondents to an AAA/Kurgo survey reported they had driven with their dog in the automobile at least once a month in the past year.

Before you begin packing, there are few preliminary steps to get your furry friend ready for the big trip. Consider having your animal microchipped by your veterinarian or a facility like the Animal Protective Association of Missouri. This is a low cost and painless process in which a microchip containing all identification information is inserted under the animal’s skin. Also have your veterinarian issue a health certificate stating that your animal is healthy and able to travel and that all necessary vaccinations are up to date.

Plan your trip with your pet in mind. Will there be a lot of pet friendly activities, or will he or she be cooped up in a hotel room while you are on the golf course, sunning on the beach or riding roller coasters? As much as you love your pets, if they suffer from motion sickness, get over-stimulated easily, or get physically or emotionally upset when their routines are disrupted, the best option for them may be to stay home or in the care of a trusted sitter.

If your trip itinerary is pet friendly and your vehicle is outfitted for your furry friend there are, of course, some steps to follow:

• Never leave your pet alone in the car: Dogs can suffer and die when left inside parked cars, even on mildly warm days. On a 78°F day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 90°F, and the inside of a car parked in the sun can reach 160°F in minutes. Animals can succumb to heatstroke within just 15 minutes.

• To prevent sickness, feed pets early so that they don’t eat in the few hours before departure. Exercise them several hours before you depart so that they aren’t hot and thirsty in the car or forced to “hold it” for hours after gulping down water after a walk.

• Don’t transport your pet in the bed of a pickup truck. All it takes is one abrupt stop for them to be propelled into the street; plus, heat brings the added danger that they might burn their feet on the hot metal.

• Carry water and ice in containers for rest stops. No-spill travel bowls are available in pet supply stores and online.

• For pets prone to car sickness, consult your veterinarian for remedies or try ginger capsules, available at health-food stores.

• Use a kennel or restrain your dog with a canine seat belt, available from pet supply stores and catalogs.

• Never open a car window or door when your pet is unrestrained. Countless animals have been lost at tollbooths and rest stops this way.

• Stop to walk dogs often.

• Use a window shade for the back and side windows. Make sure that your air conditioning is working properly, and use it while driving. It is not safe to let an animal hang his or her head out a car window.

Charlotte Reed, a pet lifestyle expert and First for Women pet solutions columnist, has some video tips and helpful products for taking your pet on the road safely: http://www.videoatgm.com/videos/us/en/gm/RECENT/Faces-of-GM-Pet-Day-at-NYIAS/1567094590001/1

Summer and Spring Pet Safety Tips

ImageGreat warm weather may have you heading for the great outdoors. After a long, cold winter, spring and summer activities outside can prove not-so-sunny for pets and their owners. Warm weather celebrations, spring cleaning and home improvement projects may present potential pet hazards.

Warmer weather may mean more trips to the park, longer walks and more chances for your pet to wander off! Make sure your dog or cat has a microchip for identification and wears a tag imprinted with your contact information. Pet microchips are available at the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, your veterinarian’s office or shelters.  A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time.

This is the season to hit the highway for vacations and weekend getaways. The lure of the road is a powerful force as dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces. It can be very dangerous to allow dogs ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows! Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse. Pets in vehicles should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.

Many pet families welcome spring breezes by opening windows. Unfortunately, this may put furry friends at risk, as pets may be tempted to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.

Spring showers bring flowers and an onslaught of insect pests! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication, as well as a flea and tick control program. Spring cleaning can also hold hidden hazards for pets. Be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.

This is also the time of the year for household projects and fix-ups. Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.

Spring is the time to let your garden grow but check before you plant. Many popular seasonal plants including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas are highly toxic to pets. A garden threat may come in a variety of volunteer of poisonous plants and native flowers that are dangerous to curious pets. For example, mushrooms are among the most commonly pet ingested organic material in the yard during the summer. Remove mushrooms you find growing in the yard. Mushrooms are a fungus and they can grow quickly, even overnight, so check your yard frequently.

Wildlife is active in the spring and coyotes are among our Saint Louis urban wildlife population. Coyotes are increasing in the Saint Louis area. During the spring coyotes are on the prowl for food for their pups and are aggressive with family pets. It is smart to go out with your pet late at night and if you see a coyote, make a lot of noise to scare it off. You can make your property safer for pets with fencing, getting rid of debris piles, high grass and weedy areas. This will also reduce your risk for encountering a venomous snake.
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