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Here are a few companies offering activity-specific trips in Eastern Europe.

  • Globus (tel. 866/755-8581; www.globusjourneys.com) offers vacations to Eastern Europe in a variety of styles. Choose family-oriented, religious pilgrimage, culinary, or other vacation styles from this 75-year-old company.
  • Smithsonian Journeys (tel. 877/338-8687; www.smithsonianjourneys.org) puts together meticulously researched educational trips designed to maximize the time you spend in the places that command the most interest. Itineraries include "behind-the-scenes" visits that enhance the cultural and educational experience. Tour leaders are often internationally recognized experts in their fields. Smithsonian's Eastern European destinations include Slovenia, Prague, Budapest, Moscow, and St. Petersburg.
  • The Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS) (www.unesco.org/ccivs) is a good place to look for opportunities to immerse yourself in an Eastern European culture and help the people there at the same time. CCIVS helps match aspiring volunteers with organizations that need their help in a country of interest.

Volunteer & Working Trips

Volunteer travel has become increasingly popular among those who want to venture beyond the standard group-tour experience to learn languages, interact with locals, and make a positive difference while on vacation. Volunteer travel usually doesn't require special skills -- just a willingness to work hard -- and programs vary in length from a few days to a number of weeks. Some programs provide free housing and food, but many require volunteers to pay for travel expenses, which can add up quickly.

For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org. Before you commit to a volunteer program, it's important to make sure any money you're giving is truly going back to the local community, and that the work you'll be doing will be a good fit for you. Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a helpful list of questions to ask to determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.