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Where to Donate Some of Your Travel Budget to Help Others During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic may very well be the biggest shock of the decade. Frequent travelers are finding themselves at home due to mandatory lockdowns. Instead of booking your next world trip, you may try donating part of your travel budget to help others in need.

If you’re able to, there are several ways you can help at the local, national, and international levels. This pandemic is leaving a health and financial impact in most parts of the world. 

Donate Your Travel Miles

Many of us exclusively redeem airline miles for award flights. Until we “flatten the curve,” few people will be able to fly on a regular basis. 

Most airline and hotel loyalty programs partner with charities you can donate points to. Some of these charities provide aid for the novel coronavirus including:

While each loyalty program has different charity partners, some programs have a disaster relief fund that can provide aid. If there are other charity partners you prefer, they will appreciate your donations too. Total charitable giving may be lower in the near future because of economic uncertainty.

A personal benefit of donating miles can be renewing their expiration date. However, you should read the donation terms and conditions to verify this is a qualifying renewal option.

Donate to a Local Food Bank

One of the best places to donate on the local level can be your city’s food bank. As temporary layoffs increase, hunger will become more common to more people. Food pantries are distributing more food than usual.

While most non-essential businesses temporarily close, food pantries remain open to help the needy. They need to provide food and meals each day of the week. The quickest and safest option can be making an online cash donation. The pantry can buy the items they need most and you can maintain social distancing.

As grocery store supply chains are struggling to keep up with demand, some local pantries may accept food donations. Try calling the food pantry to see where you can drop off extra items they can’t locally acquire.

Feeding America is a national organization that is collecting funds to help local food banks with the greatest needs. This is another option in addition to helping your local pantry.

Buy Gift Cards and Takeout from Local Restaurants

A few local restaurants may still be open for takeout service only. Ordering takeout for you or a friend can help the restaurant continue earning revenue and paying staff. Plus, some credit card benefits include free delivery and/or waived fees.

Buying gift cards is another way to support restaurants. You can provide immediate help now and use the gift card when dine-in meals are available again. These cards can also be a quick gift to people you meet who need a meal. Plus, you may be able to use your credit card 

Donate to Credible Charities

Several charities are responding directly to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Cash donations can provide aid for several necessities, including:

  • Medical services and supplies
  • Paying medical co-pays
  • Relief supplies
  • Support for local organizations
  • Education and prevention awareness

While there are many legitimate charities helping out, you should look out for fake organizations. Charity Navigator is a good starting point to find credible organizations. As the novel coronavirus is an international pandemic, you may choose to support organizations with a global reach.

Direct Relief donates supplies including gowns, gloves and masks to hospitals across the world. Supplies have been sent to at least 32 countries as the novel coronavirus spreads.

Many countries are less-equipped to handle an influx of patients than the United States.

Some of these international charities may help locals in your favorite tourist destination. While you can’t help them with your travel budget at the moment, these donations can provide aid to those in need.

Help the Elderly

While visitors cannot visit nursing homes and similar facilities, you can volunteer your time. Your time can be more valuable than providing financial aid. 

For example, you can call, send text messages, or video chat with those who are confined to their spaces to boost their morale. You may also be able to send a care package or donate supplies. However, you should call the caretaking facility to learn about the donation policies. 

Help Your Neighbor

The people who live next door to you may also need help. See if you can buy them food, provide supplies, or pick up their prescription medication. You can leave the items at the front door to maintain social distancing. Don’t forget to follow proper sanitizing procedures in your car to avoid potential spread.  

If your neighbor is single or living alone, make an effort to call or text them regularly. The extended isolation can impact their mental health. Plus, you may develop a new lifelong friendship.

Some communities are organizing volunteer boards to easily find ways to help. You can search for opportunities on your community homepage.  

Volunteer Online

One of the most exciting aspects of travel is being able to interact with new people. Perhaps you’ve even participated in a ‘voluntourism travel’ or had a volunteer trip that you had to cancel. Volunteering online allows you to still help others while you practice social distancing from your home. 

Translators Without Borders needs volunteers who are fluent in a language besides their native tongue. You can use your services to assist in these novel coronavirus efforts:

  • Translation
  • Language data and mapping
  • Social media mapping
  • Terminology 

If you are comfortable counseling others, you can volunteer at the Crisis Text Line. You will need to volunteer four hours per week until you reach 200 total hours. There are also 30 hours of training to complete before you can start counseling. Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer, you can make a donation to help train volunteers.

Donate Blood

While most of the current focus for novel coronavirus is on other medical topics, the American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage. There are more rigorous safety protocols to donate blood, platelets or AB elite plasma. For example, you must wait at least 28 days if you recently traveled to an affected nation like China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea. You must also wait 28 days if you have come into contact, or suspect contact, with a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

Even if you’re sheltering in place for the near future, there are many ways to help others. Whether you start in your own community or choose to give to an international organization, your charity can help save lives around the world.

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