A do-good vacation

By Jen Haley, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If herding to and from photo spots with a busload of tourists or lounging your day away beneath a scorching sun isn't necessarily your idea of vacation paradise, there are more meaningful vacation options available.

An increasing number of people are combining volunteerism and travel. There are projects you can participate in across the country and around the world. For example, you can teach English, help to renovate a castle, construct a school or clinic, or join an architectural dig.

But before signing on, make sure you research the programs thoroughly. Find out about accommodations, ask questions about the kind of security that is in place, ask who you can contact in an emergency and how family members can get in touch with you while you're on assignment. You want to sign on with a company that has experience and a solid reputation in the voluntourism area.

Even though you're volunteering, you still have to pay your way. A few programs may pick up the cost of your airfare and lodging, but costs vary widely and you could find yourself with a larger bill than you bargained for. And make sure to take time into consideration. Many international volunteer projects last from one to three weeks. But others can last for much longer. You'll want to inquire about language training, health insurance, including emergency evacuations and any special excursions within the program.

Here are some places you can go if you're interested in volun-cationing:

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