6 Small Travel-Related Gifts for Total Strangers (that cost you practically nothing!)

pack for a purpose

It’s fair to be sceptical. I get it. But this is legit! These easy-to-do and practically-free, travel-related things provide a benefit for humanity. Read on.

1. SWIPE THOSE TOILETRIES!

Let’s face it, most of us already do – and even the most restrained traveller probably has a stash of little soaps and shampoos lurking somewhere in the bathroom cupboard. But here’s the thing: those pretty little bottles – which you paid for as part of your hotel stay – would provide a moment of luxury and joy for someone who really needs both. Free your cupboards and make yourself feel great in the process by donating them to a local women’s shelter.

HOW?

Fill up a shoebox with tiny goodies and drop them off. Finding a local shelter is as easy as an internet search. One of the biggest national shelter providers is the YWCA – find a local association at http://ywcacanada.ca

2. DONATE YOUR NEWSPAPER

Several newspapers, including The Toronto Star, give you the option to donate your paper (instead of putting it on hold while on holidays) to the Newspapers In Education (NIE) Program, to be used in a classroom for myriad educational purposes. If your paper doesn’t offer the option – then ask them to start. Many local and national publishers participate in the NIE program already in different ways, so it’s not exactly a stretch.

HOW?

Rather than contacting the paper to suspend service, subscribers simply ask for their newspapers to be given to NIE instead. Refer to this link if you’re trying to get a different paper on board: https://www.thestar.com/about/agreement.html

3. SPOT PENGUINS FOR SCIENCE

OK, so this one is more about virtual than actual travel, but it’s super cool so bear with me. Did you know that there are scientists all over the world looking for help with their research experiments? These folks are overwhelmed with data (think: stills of a Javan rainforest or images of penguin colonies in Antarctica) and they need help making identifications. You can choose from heaps of topics, they give you instructions, and you can use a few minutes to check out another part of the world entirely – all while helping to advance science!

HOW?

Start here: https://www.zooniverse.org/
(Fair warning: penguin-spotting is surprisingly addictive!)

4. PACK FOR A PURPOSE

Often, supplies you can easily purchase in North America are hard to come by or exorbitantly expensive in the countries we visit. The folks at Pack For a Purpose have found an easy and effective way around this: charities and community organizations provide a list of items they need, travellers purchase them and drop them off at hotels and with tour companies in destination. Pack for a Purpose works with charities in places as far-flung as Fiji and Estonia. Requested items differ by charity and destination but range from pencils to (deflated) soccer balls to stethoscopes, band-aids or sets of dominoes.

HOW?

Simply go to the Pack For A Purpose website: https://www.packforapurpose.org/ choose a destination and a project to support, purchase the items listed and drop them off when you get there.

5. DONATE THOSE DIRHAM! RELINQUISH YOUR RUPEES! PURGE THOSE PESOS!

India’s recent decision to eliminate their most popular bills should act as a reminder to all of us. Use it or lose it. You know those foreign bills you have tucked away in your “travel” box? You’re probably not going back to Nepal any time in the immediate future – and those bills may have changed by the time you get there. Why not put them to good use instead? Send them off to the UNICEF Change for Good Program, and know that they won’t just expire in your drawer like they easily could.

HOW?

Send off a package to:

U.S. Fund for UNICEF
ATTN: Change for Good Program
125 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038

Also: many foreign exchange places will accept coins in other currencies – look for a donation jar in many locations (or ask!)

6. HELP CROWDSOURCE A FLIGHT FOR SOMEONE IN NEED

If, despite your efforts, you still haven’t earned enough to get a free flight- or your airline status doesn’t even get you an upgrade, why not give those things away before they expire? Many airlines offer a way to donate unused miles – but there’s also an independent organization who will pool donated miles and give them to people in need (think: someone looking after a dying relative or someone with a life-threatening illness). People are carefully vetted, and the organization is not affiliated with any one airline. It couldn’t be easier.

HOW?

Go to http://giveamile.org and follow the instructions there.