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Volunteering on Vacation with Fred Carlson

Is making an impact in the communities you visit the secret to great group trips?

Fred Carlson thinks so. The founder of SerVacations, he helps multigenerational groups make the most of travel experiences by serving alongside local nonprofits in the communities they visit. He joins this episode of the podcast to explain how volunteer experiences enrich trips, travelers and destinations.

Fred shares how he plans the mix of service and tourism activities on his trips and how he creates volunteer vacations with multigenerational appeal. Plus, we have news about a new day trip fee in Venice; a Road Tip about packing for cold-weather travel; and a Hot Minute about the problem of overtourism.

Insights from Fred Carlson

On the ideal mix of activities:

“Picture serving in the morning for a two or two-and-a-half hour block. We’re finding that’s kind of the sweet spot…. Then we’re off to do more sightseeing in the afternoon.”

On doing impact tourism well:

Really get to know the charities in your destination. Start vetting them and understanding their unique needs and challenges in the communities. Make sure you explain to them that you want to share their mission.

We’re trying to create ‘wow’ moments, but authentic wow moments where people are really touched by the people they’re able to serve, and they go away knowing that they made a positive impact and that it’s sustainable. It’s important that you’re doing something that can continue after you leave.”

On the value of serving:

“Our service is where we get some of the big ‘wow’ moments that you might expect from a really expensive attraction… It might be taking away some of the profit potential when you could be at something that has more of a perceived value. But really, that intangible value they’re getting from service is immeasurable.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Learn more about SerVacations at

Follow SerVacations on Instagram.

Contact Fred Carlson at 813-498-2229 or

Receive text updates about new SerVacations trips texting SERV to 813-437-9079.

Learn about SerVacation opportunities such as a Historic Tour of England and A Capital Christmas or explore other tour ideas here.

Get your copy of “Travel Free and Bring Your Friends” here.

Key Moments From This Episode

1:29 — Travel News: A new fee for day trippers in Venice

2:49 — Road Tip: Preparing for winter travel

12:47 — How Fred Carlson found a mission in service-focused travel

18:47 — The growing market for volunteering vacations

20:56 — The ideal mix of community service and fun

22:42 — Best practices for building service experiences

31:26 — Making volunteer trips multigenerational

33:42 — The value proposition of volunteer vacations

35:25 — The future of service-based travel

46:11 — Hot Minute: How big a problem is overtourism?

About the Podcast

Gather and Go with Brian Jewell is a tourism industry podcast that helps group travel leaders plan, promote and lead better trips. There are also tips and insights for destination marketers and others who support the tourism trade. Each episode reaches thousands of professional tour operators, travel agents and the volunteer group leaders they serve. The audience also includes destination museum leaders, church travel leaders and other tourism enthusiasts around the world. Each show includes an interview with a smart travel pro or an insightful person from outside tourism who’s expertise can help make travel businesses better. You’ll also hear travel news, road tips and more. New episodes are released about twice monthly.

You can find Gather and Go wherever your listen to podcasts or subscribe by email.

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