Voluntourism seems like a great idea on its face. In acknowledging the privilege inherent in most travel, you can experience a new place authentically and give back by investing in the community with charity and labor. But let's face it — that's not for everyone, especially if you're taking a vacation because you're already burned out on work. Not everyone finds volunteering restorative, but if you're already interested in ethical tourism, you've got some other options.
Specifically, you can invest in programs and services that are already on the ground, even passively. A few travel booking organizations will contribute portions of your fee to a charity of your choice. One example is Wander, which offers donating on your behalf not just in voluntourism hotspots but in cities like New York and Barcelona during regular stays. Charitable Hotels works like any other online travel agency (think Expedia), but it uses its commission from hotels for philanthropy, which you can designate. Global Animal creates an affiliate referral, donating to emergency animal rescue services when you click out on a link to book from their website.
You might feel a bit chagrinned that you're not building houses and teaching kids, but voluntourism has a secret: It often doesn't do as much for the folks who live at your destination vacation as you think. The most effective volunteers tend to have specialized skills, such as in medicine; furthermore, most visits are too short to bring about as much change as advertised. Find out if there's a local organization you can support during your next getaway — they'll know best what they need, and they'll appreciate anyone who helps them get the work done.