Should Your Nonprofit Use A Travel Agent?

If you thought your nonprofit was the only one stretched thin, take heart. There are a vast number of nonprofits the world over and each has a unique mission, but there are a couple of things that most, if not all, nonprofits have in common and that is they operate on a lean budget and their employees wear many hats. Organizations are consistently searching for efficient ways to streamline their work and increase their impact. For those nonprofits that are organizing international travel for employees or volunteers, it’s a relief to find tools that can wrap the job of researching, booking, organizing, and communicating complex travel details into one nice, compact package. Have you ever considered that a travel agent might be just the “tool” you’re looking for?

Should your nonprofit use a travel agent?

If we had to wager a bet, we’d put all of our money on YES. Not only do travel agents save your nonprofit time, money, and potential frustrations, but they also have your back in the event that something goes wrong (which happens with travel from time to time, believe it or not).

should your nonprofit use a travel agent

5 reasons we think your nonprofit should use a travel agent

Now, if you’re like most of America, you may hear the words “Travel Agent” and think to yourself, “Please, it’s 2017. Have you ever heard of Kayak?” We know that the appeal to hop online and book some airfare that’s advertised as the “lowest rate” without having to go through someone else is appealing, but let us offer you 5 reasons why we think it’s better for your nonprofit to use a travel agent. Maybe, just maybe we’ll convince you to give one a try.

1. Travel agents have access to airfare rates that you don’t have access to

Did you know that nonprofits can qualify for special “humanitarian” airfare rates, which often times will offer you the lowest possible ticket price plus many other benefits such as free baggage? This is the airline industry’s best-kept secret. But, you can only get access to these lower rates through qualifying travel agencies, like our sister company Fly For Good.

2. A travel agent can coordinate travel for multiple people in a group

If your nonprofit sends teams of people abroad then you could certainly benefit from the services of a travel agent. Booking and managing airfare for a group can be a real challenge. Let these industry experts coordinate and keep track of all travel details for your teams, freeing you up to accomplish other important tasks.

3. A travel agent is a travel advisor to your nonprofit

You have questions about your destination, traveling internationally, luggage, the airports, connections, what to do if a flight is missed…the list of questions is endless. A travel agent will be able to offer you expertise and personalization for your trip making it easier for you to get answers and communicate information to your teams.

4. Travel agents understand the fine print

We know you don’t want to read it, even though you should. All airlines include fine print on their rules, terms, and conditions and these are things that a travel agent will be well versed in.

5. A travel agent will advocate for you

Sometimes, it can be hard to get an answer or even get in touch with someone directly from the airline. A travel agent will typically have a direct contact at the airline which makes it possible for them to assist with your issue in a timely manner and advocate for the best possible outcome.

If none of those reasons convinced you to contact a travel agent and get a quote on flights, then perhaps this reason will: Humans are better than robots. Working with a travel agent is a human process. A real person will book your flights, rather than booking engine; You’ll build a relationship with a human who learns your frequently traveled routes and what nuances your teams have; If you have a question, concern, need to change some details to a reservation, or anything in between, you’ll be able to contact a real person, whose name you know and who knows yours.

should your nonprofit use a travel agent





Are You Prepared To Be An Expat? Get Our Checklist

expat checklist to do


So, you are going to live abroad long term. Congratulations! The expat life can be a great one but it takes a lot of planning to make sure things go smoothly and you stay safe, healthy, and accident-free. The to-do list can begin to look quite daunting, but we’re here to help you find a method to your madness.

Let’s begin with some basic health and safety information about long term, expatriate living.

According to a recent article in the International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, 80% of expatriates are concerned about accessing quality healthcare while living abroad, but only 42% actually make a plan for healthcare.  No matter what is taking you to live abroad as an expat, be it a search for new adventure, education, volunteerism or work, you need to put the priority on preventing any travel or medical mishaps. But if an unexpected emergency does arise, you want to be able to handle it quickly and efficiently, all while keeping your financial risk low.


“While travel insurance isn’t a cure-all, there are many ways that it can help people during difficult, unexpected travel mishaps or emergencies.”


Wouldn’t it be nice to know what steps to take, or how to properly prepare yourself for settling into life as an expat? Yes, it would. Let us help you prepare for your long term trip with this checklist of things that need to be done 90, 60, and 30 days prior to departure.

expats checklist to do

1. 90 days before becoming an expat

By now, you should have read up on your destination to learn about visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical care in your host country. You’ll also want to begin keeping your eye on travel warnings and travel alerts. A great resource for these things is

Are you up-to-date on your vaccinations? Does your host country require any additional vaccinations? You can find out about health precautions and recommended vaccinations through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Some vaccines require a series of injections so you’ll want to visit your doctor to begin this process at least 90 days prior to departing on your trip.

Do your friends and family know you’ll be moving abroad? They may want to throw you a going away party, or at least say “see you soon!”. Share your new address with them and let them know how they can get in contact with you while you’re living as an expat.

2. 60 days before becoming an expat

Notify your bank and credit card companies to let them know that you’ll be living overseas. Depending on the financial institution, you may need to cancel cards or get new ones. Check exchange rates for your destination so that you can budget properly. It’s also a good idea to do research on using cash, debit/credit cards, and ATMs abroad.

Visit your family practitioner to get an updated copy of your medical records. Keep these on file as you travel. If you are bringing any medications, you will want to get a letter from your doctor. Some countries have strict laws that effect even over-the-counter medications so read about your destination on the website

Make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy. As an expat, we recommend that you purchase a supplemental travel insurance policy that will cover you up to 365 consecutive days and one that you can easily renew while living abroad. A good travel insurance policy will cover medical costs and emergency evacuation.

3. 30 days before becoming an expat

Change your address with the post office and reroute your mail. If you’re sending your mail to a friend or family member’s house, ask them to forward you any important documents to your new, international address.

Make sure you have living essentials packed in your suitcase. Document what’s packed, and in which bag, by taking photos of each suitcases contents.

Say goodbye to friends and family!

Download the full expat checklist for free!





Avoiding Identity Theft While Traveling: 7 Things To Think About

The top three identity theft risks for travelers are stolen wallets or passports, credit or debit card theft, and fraud. Protect your identity and your sanity by keeping these seven key tips in your mind before, during and after your volunteer trip. If you do experience a loss or theft of personal documents on your volunteer trip, call our claims department so we can help you get things settled. If your passport is lost or stolen while traveling abroad, call the 24/7 Emergency Assistance phone number on the back of your Volunteer Card for immediate assistance with passport replacement.


 Click the image below to view full-size

Avoid identity theft







Gratitude Week 2016

Gratitude Week is a time for us to reflect on the year that has been and give some thanks for all of the amazing volunteer and volunteer organizations that we work with every day. A lot of people think the travel insurance world is boring. We have to disagree. Every single day we interact with people who care deeply about the world –  its people, its natural resources, its animals, its wellbeing. We’re thankful for the sacrifices you make in order to go and volunteer, and we want you to know it! We will be celebrating Gratitude Week 2016 from Monday, November 21 – Wednesday, November 23. We’re taking three days to honor volunteers and volunteer organizations by giving you the chance to win the ultimate volunteer prize package! To enter, you simply need to scroll down and tell us why you are thankful for your volunteer experience!


By participating in the giveaway, you are agreeing to the official rules. Gratitude Week 2016 contest begins on Monday, November 21, 2016 and end on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. Please take a moment to view our official rules.

Words From Our Founder: The Secret To Human Happiness

Growing up, my father never took me to Disney World. Instead, he took me to refugee camps in Mozambique, Africa as a child. It so impacted me, I wanted the same for my children.

So my wife and I took our three and five-year-old children to the border of Thailand and Burma to help in War Refugee Camps. After traveling to 45 countries in my life, this was one of the most devastating sense I had ever been in; Children who lost limbs to land mines, nursing mothers who could not keep their newborn babies alive because they did not have enough food. That trip inspired us to start a relief feeding program with our friends that today feeds around 9,000 children every day. And to this day, every Volunteer Card sold gets a meal to a child in this region.

Photo: Sara Aho

Photo: Sara Aho

However, something powerful happened on our way home from that trip. The hotel we reserved made a big mistake and lost our reservation. We were staying on a layover from midnight to 4:30 AM with a three and five-year-old. The reservation desk was mortified, but my wife and I just looked at each other and told them, ‘It’s okay…It’s okay. We just came from a refugee camp. We’ll be fine, trust us, we are more than fine.’

That trip changed our entire baseline of what makes a good day. To this day in our house, we say, ‘I got to eat today, actually, I got to eat three times today…I have both of my legs…what an amazing day, regardless of what happens.’ Once you change your baseline, it takes less to make you happy. It takes fewer things, fewer accolades, fewer conveniences. It’s freeing, liberating even.

Photo: Sara Aho

Photo: Sara Aho

It’s not only one of the most important lessons we learn from volunteer travel, it is the secret to human happiness: It’s called gratefulness. I don’t know of grateful people who are unhappy, and I don’t know ungrateful people who are happy. I’ve met multi-millionaires who were not grateful and as a result not happy. I’ve met war refugees who are grateful and as a result, happy. You could, in one sense, call volunteer trips “gratefulness therapy.” In addition to the good your services do for other people, your baseline for gratefulness is changed and your life enriched forever.

This week at Volunteer Card we are all trying our best to practice gratefulness because it leads to a generous life of happiness. It’s a secret staring all of us in the face, yet so few seem to find, and fewer still remember it. Thank goodness there is at least one week a year to remind us.

We hope you all experience the beauty of gratefulness this week. 


Ryan Skoog

Founder & President, Volunteer Card

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Volunteer Travel

A quick Google search for advice on volunteer travel will result in thousands of articles that leave your head spinning and maybe a bit more confused than when you started. You may read phrases like, “The world is waiting for you!” or “When in doubt, travel.” that leave you thinking, “But how?” We are big proponents for volunteer travel, and we believe that everyone can do it if they want to, but over the years we’ve heard some pretty bad advice about volunteer travel.


The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Volunteer Travel


The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Humanitarian Travel

“All volunteer organizations are the same, just pick one.”

We have the privilege of interacting with some of the greatest nonprofits and volunteer organizations on the planet (you know who you are!) and we know for a fact that there are vast differences between them. When you’re considering volunteer travel, don’t close your eyes and pick the first one your finger touches on a list. Do some research: Consider what your interests and passions are, what you want to get out of your volunteer trip, and what your strengths are. You should also look for a volunteer organization that fits within your budget and is affordable for your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to ask prospective organizations what is included in your trip and how they use your donations and program fees.

“Don’t worry about the money, just travel.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? We think that volunteer travel can be a reality for many people when they determine that it’s a priority in their life. However, we would strongly advise that volunteer travelers also do their best to plan for the unexpected. That may mean that you can’t just pack up and go at your heart’s first whim, but perhaps you instead plan, set a budget and get a quality travel insurance policy to help cover unexpected travel and medical emergencies.

“You have to buy your volunteer travel experience.”

You can buy an airplane ticket. You can buy an exceptional meal. You can buy access to the best volunteer programs in the world. But what you can’t buy is a genuine experience, friendships, appreciation of different cultures and worldly insight.

“You have to drop everything in order to participate in volunteer travel.”

Some travelers choose to leave everything behind and live the nomadic volunteer lifestyle, and that is lovely, but it’s not for everyone. If you have a family, a career, schooling, or anything else that ties you to home, then you’re not automatically excluded from participating in volunteer travel. All you have to do is find the best type of program that fits your lifestyle. Here are three options that you may consider:

  • Volunteer abroad programs are perfect for those with basic savings but not enough to fund long-term travel. Trips can last from one week to several months. Find a program that fits your lifestyle and interests and you’ll be one step closer to living your volunteer travel dreams.
  • Work in exchange for housing, food, and a small living allowance is a good option for volunteer travelers who have a small travel budget but still want a unique, interpersonal experience.
  • Student travel programs are vast and you can find one in almost any field of study. If the study abroad program at your school is not an option for you, search for student travel scholarships or travel bursaries. Often times you don’t even have to be enrolled in a university or college to participate.

Have you received any “bad” volunteer travel advice? If so, how did you overcome it?

Does Travel Insurance Really Help People?

Does travel insurance really help people? That’s a great question. I’ll give you the short answer and the long answer here:

Short Answer: Yes, travel insurance helps people.

Long Answer: Yes, travel insurance really does help people and it is essential to volunteer travel. There are many reasons why we hold this truth high, but let us first begin by explaining what travel insurance is and what it is not. Travel insurance is intended to cover unexpected medical expenses, lost luggage, lost travel documents, delayed flights, emergency evacuations and other unexpected losses incurred while traveling abroad. Travel insurance is not a substitute for regular health insurance, a supplemental way to pay for your trip abroad, or “cover me for any reason” insurance.


Here are three things you may not know about travel insurance and how it can help people every day:


1. Travel insurance gives travelers the benefit of getting an emergency cash advance or reimbursement for their unexpected travel-related losses. Here are some real life scenarios where travel insurance was able to help people relieve the financial burden of a travel loss:

  • Jackie took six weeks off of work to bike across America to raise awareness and funds for human trafficking. On the trip, she was in an unexpected accident with another cyclist causing her to fall and break her leg. With her travel insurance, she had immediate access to emergency accident medical assistance. Her travel insurance provided an advanced payment for treatment directly to the hospital so that her financial risk was minimized.
  • Paul was traveling to Thailand to fulfill his life long dream of volunteering in a refugee camp. One of his connecting flights had a delayed departure due to the Airline Mechanics going on strike. The flight was delayed until the next morning. Paul’s travel insurance covered the cost of a hotel room  and transportation to and from the hotel so that he had someplace comfortable to sleep for the night.

2. Travel insurance supplements your major medical insurance plus covers so much more like lost or stolen baggage, travel delay, passport replacement and emergency evacuation. With Volunteer Card, you have the option of using your travel insurance as primary coverage while you’re traveling. This helps keep your major medical insurance rates low. Travelers with a Volunteer Card policy also have a $0 deductible, making emergency medical care much more accessible.

3. Unfortunately, everything doesn’t always go according to plan while you’re on a volunteer trip. While travel insurance isn’t a cure-all, there are many ways that it can help people during difficult, unexpected travel mishaps or emergencies. With travel insurance, you have access to 24-hour customer care and assistance. Some of the many included services are:

  • Medical Evacuation Assistance
  • Emergency Medical Payments
  • Prescription Assistance
  • Legal Assistance
  • Travel Document Assistance
  • Emergency Cash Transfer
  • Emergency Interpretation Services

So, if travel insurance is so good, why are there so many bad reviews about travel insurance providers? That’s another great question! You’re on a roll today. Let me explain; Sadly, many travel insurance companies don’t communicate well with their customers (I know, we think it’s weird, too). Travel insurance language can be confusing and hard to read or understand. Instead of spelling things out plainly for the travelers, insurance companies leave them to fend for themselves. Thus, travelers don’t read their documents and often times have no idea what they are covered for. This leaves a person with unrealistic expectations and assumptions that if *anything* goes wrong, their travel insurance will take care of it. You can imagine the frustrations a traveler must have when they think they’re going to be covered for something, only to be told they’re not. We can’t stand this type of behavior from travel insurance companies.

Enter Volunteer Card. When you have a mission to make volunteer travel easier, safer and more affordable you better take three things seriously: An easy purchase process, clear communication with 24/7 assistance and reasonable prices. That’s what we do. No secrets, no hidden fees, no “sorry we can’t help you today” answers. We’ll do whatever we can, every time, to make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting so that in the event you do experience an unexpected travel emergency or loss, you know exactly what to expect. Travel insurance really does help people!



Is Your Volunteer Team Fit To Travel?

Increase your overall volunteer team safety by identifying potential health “red flags” within each individual traveler. Getting sick overseas can be a very unfortunate turn of events for the individual, the team, and your volunteer organization. To prevent such circumstances we recommend that each volunteer traveler gets the OK from their primary physician prior to traveling. Ensuring that your entire volunteer team is fit to travel is just one of the ways you can reduce the risk of accidents or illnesses on a volunteer trip. As you prepare your volunteer team for departure, use this list of questions to help determine if a volunteer is fit to travel.

volunteer team fit to travel

1. Are you up to date with your vaccinations? 

Is the volunteer traveler up to date on their standard vaccines? This is a good time for everyone on your volunteer team to double check their medical records. Furthermore, depending on the volunteer destination, a series of vaccinations may be recommended or required. The Center For Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource for finding a list of country-specific vaccines. Volunteers should take care of this at least 6 weeks prior to departure.

2. Do you have a chronic illness? 

If anyone on your volunteer team has a chronic illness, make sure it is documented within your organization. Advise the individual volunteer to check with their doctor and get the OK to travel long distances. Here are some examples of chronic illnesses:

  • Diabetes
  • Food allergies
  • Heart trouble
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Immune problems
  • Intestinal conditions

3. Do you require any prescription medications?

Your volunteer organization should keep a list of anyone on the volunteer team that requires prescription medications. Advise that any individual volunteer with a prescription travel with a copy of their prescription and a letter from their doctor stating that the medicine is for personal use. In the case of  luggage delay or theft, all prescription medicines should be kept in the individual’s carry on bag.




3 Ways To Save Money On Your Travel Insurance

Ironically,  international travelers are hesitant to purchase travel insurance for their trips abroad because they feel it’s too expensive, but compared to the cost of an emergency medical evacuation – well, there’s really no comparing the two! But we know what it’s like when you’re a volunteer traveler. Often times you’re raising support, taking time off work, paying a volunteer program fee and by the time you get around to thinking about travel insurance, it just doesn’t seem to fit into the budget. Keeping in line with our mission of making volunteer travel easier, safer and more affordable, here are 3 ways to save money on your volunteer travel insurance.


save money, volunteer travel insurance, save money on travel insurance, travel insurance


1. Don’t opt-in for travel insurance when you’re booking your airfare on websites like Orbitz, Expedia or even directly with the airlines. The reasons are simple:

  • The language used to sell you the travel insurance policy won’t explain things clearly so you may not be covered for things you really need.
  • They offer “one size fits all” policies which means you won’t be able to choose a plan that is right for you and you won’t be able to access upgrades.
  • When you have a problem, question, or need to file a claim you’re on your own to figure out what to do next or who to call.

Pro tip: Ask your volunteer organization which volunteer travel insurance company they recommend and what type of coverage they require. IVC policies almost always fit the requirements of volunteer travel organizations and are a great way for individuals and organizations to save money.

2. Avoid insuring refundable volunteer trip costs.

If you’re upgrading your volunteer travel insurance policy to include coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, then you only need to include costs that are non-refundable and pre-paid. Trip Cancellation and Interruption travel insurance will only let you claim non-refundable expenses, therefore ensuring refundable volunteer trip costs will raise the price of your premium unnecessarily.

3.  Make the right choice between single volunteer trip travel insurance and annual multi trip volunteer travel insurance.

How many volunteer trips will you be taking over the course of a year? If the answer is one, then a single trip policy is probably all that you will need. But if you’ll be traveling multiple times throughout the course of a year then choosing a multi trip volunteer travel insurance policy will save you money (and time) in the long run.

Pro tip: Choose an IVC policy that covers you for the right length of time. We offer policies that cover trips up to 60, 90, 180 and 365 consecutive days.


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Most Popular Olympic Sport: Volunteering

As the 2016 Summer Olympics kick into gear we have to recognize one of the most outstanding Olympic sports: Volunteering! With volunteer roles including interpreters, receptionists, drivers, reporters and medical professionals, 70,000 volunteers become “indispensable for the success of the Games.” Olympic Volunteers Programme Head, Flávia Fontes, says that during the 2016 Olympic games, “[Volunteers] are the soul of the event,” There seems to be no shortage of enthusiasm in becoming a volunteer for the 2016 Olympic games, as over 240,000 people applied for the coveted 70,000 positions.

One of our favorite scenes during the event this year has been the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team consisting of ten refugee athletes. As this team is a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide, so will be the many refugees who are volunteering their time during various Olympic games. News reports, “Prisca Mbamu, 28, was a journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo before fleeing the conflict in her country in 2013. Now a hairdresser in Rio, Prisca is working as a journalist during Rio 2016 and is one of 38 refugees or asylum seekers taking part in the volunteer programme as part of a joint initiative with the UN’s Refugee Agency and their Brazilian partners Caritas.”

2016 Olympic Games, volunteer, most popular Olympic sport,


The Olympics are a timeless event that requires a lot of time to prepare for, no matter the season. Jobs available for volunteers will range from ticket inspectors to uniform distributors, but no matter the job each person will have an experience of a lifetime. And with this experience of a lifetime comes background knowledge of how the ceremonies will function, secrets about the ceremonies and information the general public may never know. One such volunteer, CarolineEsthéfany Santos, a 23-year-old law student from Rondônia, Brazil was given a unique experience – carrying the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch and lighting the pyre at the end of the relay celebration in her hometown of Porto Velho. This is only a taste of what is to come for volunteers at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio!