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Great Charitable Hotel Packages

Think you have to spend hours in a soup kitchen to do the most good?Relax (literally!) on a “charity vacation,” and let your next vacation do double duty as you revive yourself and give to worthy causes at the same time. Fortunately, many travel providers are making it easy to do just that.

“Most people in America have more money than time,” says Dr. Steve McSwain, author of The Giving Myths: Giving Then Getting the Life You’ve Always Wanted, which is what makes investing in travel an easy choice.

Take the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, in Bluffton, South Carolina, where Southern hospitality meets philanthropy. The hotel offers packages (good through March 13, 2009) that give back five percent of the rate price as a charitable donation to the Bluffton Self-Help, a local food bank. There’s also a “Palmetto Pampered Pets” package that includes a five-percent donation to the Palmetto Animal League no-kill shelter instead. Whether helping save pets or feed the hungry, the feeling of generosity is a necessary upgrade.

Think luxury is all take and no give?Over in Portland, Oregon, more than half of the $5,000 price tag of the Heathman Hotel’s “Portland Patron of the Arts Luxury Package” goes to support Portland Center Stage.

“We’re honored to benefit from the generous philanthropic spirit of the Heathman Hotel,” said Charlie Frasier, Director of Development for Portland Center Stage. “Their Portland Patron of the Arts package allows us to continue offering the high quality of programming that we present year after year.” Highlights of the package include a private dinner for two prepared by Chef Philippe Boulot, two box seats, and overnight accommodations in the Heathman Grand Suite. (Double bonus: Guests also get a $3,000 tax write-off!)

For those with a more hands-on approach, Marriott & Renaissance hotels in New Orleans are offering a “Big Easy Spirit To Serve” program, which combines voluntourism with cash-back charity incentives. The New Orleans Marriott, JW Marriott New Orleans, New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center, Renaissance Pere Marquette, and the Renaissance Arts Hotel give $50 per night of the guests’ room rate to the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. Additionally, the hotels provide access to a Care Concierge to recommend volunteer opportunities. (Visit www.marriott.com. Rate code XXAU.)

San Francisco’s elegant Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa offers a special package which includes a daily donation of $15 to the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation for every night booked. And it adds up: Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the Huntington’s Hotel’s umbrella brand, gave over $500,000 to charitable organizations in 2008.. But you don’t have to leave home to help out; (Hyatt Gold Passport members) can donate their points to give hotel stays to Make-A-Wish children.

With considerably older guests in mind, the US Grant Hotel’s Grant Grill in San Diego creates a specialty cocktail with 10 percent of proceeds donated to charity. Last month’s Mistletoe Martini supported the San Diego Food Bank. Similarly, Loews hotels created Cinnamon, Spice and Everything Nice, a seasonal mix of apple cider, cinnamon, and Woodford Reserve Bourbon, in support of Modest Needs, Loews’ corporate charity. Through January 20th, 2009, 100 percent of the drinks’ proceeds go to applicants whose requests are viewed and ranked by donors online.

What else can travelers do to help during their travels?“My best tip is to visit websites like WorldVision, FeedtheHungry, and SavetheChildren, and search the hotels at their destinations that offer charity packages,” McSwain says. Check out www.travelersphilanthropy.org as well; the site has a slew of travel partners that operate philanthropic trips and donation opportunities. It’s all infinitely more fun than putting a check in the mail.

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