smart spending

5 offbeat paths to foreign travel deals

  Agritourism: Work on a farm in return for room and board.
  Volunteer travel: Immerse yourself in a new culture with most expenses paid.
  Home swaps: All the comforts of home at no cost to you.
  Hospitality networks: Share your life experiences with hosts in 125 countries.
  Ambassador programs: Professional and educational exchanges plus travel.

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Volunteer travel
Immerse yourself in a new culture with most expenses paid.
Sample organization:Global Volunteers.
Where: 19 countries on five continents.

   How it works:
Volunteers generally spend one to three weeks in one of about 20 countries. They participate in projects such as teaching English, providing health care or maintaining community buildings.

   Benefits:
You don't have to fend for yourself: Meals, lodging, ground transportation, emergency medical evacuation insurance and other project expenses are all covered. Participants go because they hope to give back and experience a cultural immersion. They often return with a sense of accomplishment and new friends.

   Drawbacks:
The work may be rewarding, but don't expect an easy schedule. Because of strict regulations required for tax benefits under federal law, you'll be busy. "Volunteers work 40 hours per week," says Judith Strobel, director of media relations at Global Volunteers. "The weekend and most evenings (are) free."

   Costs:
Costs vary greatly depending on the country you visit and the length of your stay, but are often tax-deductible.

   Other notes:
If you plan on taking a tax deduction, be sure you check with the individual organization you plan to use to make sure they meet the required guidelines. Among other things, the organization must be a registered nonprofit. You'll also be required to work an average of eight hours a day, five days a week.

   Also check:
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers volunteer abroad activities in social services, education and health. Some options include caring for the elderly, working for women's empowerment and working with people affected by HIV/AIDS.

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Habitat for Humanity: Help build simple homes for people in many countries. Some knowledge of construction is helpful, but not required.

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