This is how to vacation with a purpose

vacation with a purpose

Don’t waste your next trip by just sitting around your vacation destination. Do something you’ll remember for the rest of your life: Take a vacation with a purpose.

Oh, I know, vacations are supposed to be fun, not work. But they’re even more fun when you bring meaning to them, like earning a patch in a national park or collecting photo trophies. I know because I’ve done it.

People are looking for purpose, and that’s especially true for young people. An impressive 84 percent of millennials say they’d travel somewhere to volunteer, according to a survey conducted by Marriott.

I’m not a millennial, but my kids are. And they’re all about the experience. But how do you add just enough “experience” to your next vacation without making it seem like work? Well, there’s an art to that.

vacation with a purpose
Erysse Elliott on Bell Rock in Sedona, Ariz., in 2018.

Come on, rescue me

Take our DIY Sedona Vortexes Tour. And by “DIY” I mean we didn’t bother hiring a tour guide. When we were stationed in Sedona, Ariz., for two months this summer, I knew we had to hit as many vortexes as possible.

Vortexes are thought to be transformational energy centers located in various parts of this resort area. People believe they are intersections of electromagnetic earth energy. But we’ve come to know them as tourist magnets — places where we can see visitors do incredible things.

We managed to do three vortexes. The first two — the airport and Cathedral Rock — were fairly easy and uneventful hikes. You can park at a trailhead near the airport, with a stunning view of West Sedona, and walk a few steps to the place where the vortex is thought to be. Cathedral is a brisk climb up a rocky trail. The views are equally spectacular.

Sure, we saw a few visitors behaving in ways tourists normally don’t. At the Airport Vortex, people were meditating, which was pretty routine for Sedona. But at Cathedral, tourists were chanting and singing at the summit, as if they expected some of the mystical energy to suck them into another next dimension.

But Bell Rock, a dome-shaped monolith just outside of Sedona, took the cake. As we wrapped up an easy 4-mile hike around the mountain, I heard the whap-whap of helicopter rotors echoing reflecting against Bell’s sheer rock wall. I looked up to see a rescue helicopter pulling a climber down the mountain. At the base, I met the climber’s girlfriend. She told me he’d slipped on the ascent and broken his ankle.

The trail was a circus. We met New Zealanders who were still jetlagged and looked like the walking dead, a couple from Texas who were about to pass out in the heat, and another couple from Israel who were Facetiming their grandkids back home.

Positive energy? I’m sure it was there but with all these people, it was sometimes hard to feel. I wouldn’t have given it up for the world though, because it underscored an important point about the vacation experience. You can notch up all the vortexes, but the real attraction may be the people visiting the vortex.

The vortex photo-safari wasn’t our first. We’ve toured enormous sand dunes in Colorado, driven along solitary beaches in Maine, crossed the vast flatlands of Manitoba, all with the same goal: Find a common theme, a reason for being there.

In other words, vacation with a purpose.

vacation with a purpose
Erysse aboard the Chichagof Dream in 2017. She earned her junior ranger badge on this trip.

Becoming a junior ranger in a national park

Here’s something else you can do on vacation without turning it into a full-blown volunteer vacation: Encourage your kids to earn their Junior Ranger badge.

The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger is a quick, activity-based program conducted in almost all parks. Basically, kids ages 5 to 13 do a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate. And it doesn’t cost anything extra.

Junior Ranger programs serve several purposes. First, they let your kids gain insider knowledge of a national park. And trust me, they’ll pay close attention to their briefings, because they know they’ll be earning a patch. But it also gives parents an afternoon off from the kids while they pursue their prize.

My son Iden, now 13, received his Junior Ranger certificate at Yellowstone National Park in 2015. He’d ignored most of Yellowstone on that particular visit (except for the geysers). But when they dangled a patch in front of him, he snapped to it.

My daughter Erysse, 11, earned her Junior Ranger badge in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve near Juneau, Alaska. We were on a small ship called the Chichagof Dream. The ranger guiding our vessel through the park asked her if she wanted to become a ranger like her brother, and she nodded enthusiastically. The swearing-in ceremony took place at dinner in front of the other passengers. I’ve never seen her look so proud.

Make your vacation count — vacation with a purpose

As someone who talks to travelers every day, I’m often disappointed at how little effort people put into them. It only takes something small, like an insignificant service lapse, to “completely ruin” the vacation.

To which I say, “Really?” Was that all you wanted out of your trip?

Adding purpose, even a small purpose, allows you to bring a little balance to your next vacation. Tour the sand dunes or the vortexes or encourage your kids to earn their Junior Ranger badge. But please, don’t just sit there. Wouldn’t you rather have an utterly unforgettable trip?

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Posted in Away is Home Tagged , ,