Travel FAQ’s

What is a Soles4Souls Global Experience?

What is the purpose of the Global Experience program?

To experience hands-on, humble service, see firsthand how shoes create opportunity in partnership with Soles4Souls and local leaders, authentically experience unfamiliar cultures off the beaten path, and create meaningful relationships along the way. By learning about our own and others’ values, strengths, similarities, difficulties, passions and more, we are more equipped to be active, compassionate citizens throughout our life journey upon our return.

What separates a Global Experience from other service-oriented travel programs?

Our global experiences are unique in that we spend quality time immersed in local communities and embracing human connection in the purest, most powerful form: washing the feet of a child, hugging them and their parents, talking with and learning from local leaders, playing, serving and spending time within their community face-to-face. We serve hundreds of children and families while also forming incredible relationships and creating moments directly with the local people. These moments will stay with you for a lifetime.

Our trips are a perfect balance of comfortable and modest; adventurous and safe; educational and exciting; intimate and purposeful. Not to mention, we are professional and handle all travel logistics down to every very last detail. 

How do I know this Global Experiences program is trustworthy and reputable?

We pride ourselves on excellent customer service and take care of every last detail. And not to brag, but we know what we’re doing-we’ve taken more than 2,500 people on over 200 service trips around the world. You can trust us to take care of the details. We’ll be with you every step of the way!

What does a Global Experience look like?

What to expect on a Soles4Souls Global Experience?

During your global experience, you’ll be taking a hands-on role in the mission of Soles4Souls. The days are long, but they go by fast.  You can expect to:

  • be part of something bigger than yourself
  • serve alongside others who share your heart and passion
  • make new friendships with beautiful people
  • see firsthand how shoes create opportunity
  • be inspired by passionate leaders
  • learn and grow by stepping outside your comfort zone
  • explore your own purpose and values
  • have the most fun you’ve ever had
What does a typical 5-day experience look like?

You will see and do something new, different and worthwhile every day.

  • Day 1 – midday arrivals, team meeting (orientation & project preparations)
  • Day 2 – morning and afternoon service, evening team reflection
  • Day 3 – morning cultural excursion, afternoon micro-enterprise education, evening team reflection
  • Day 4 – morning and afternoon service, evening team reflection
  • Day 5 – morning activity midday departures
How do we serve others throughout our experience?

Travelers will play a tangible role in distributing new shoes to children and families in need. Trust us, you’ll never forget how it feels to see a child’s eyes light up when you put a new pair of shoes on their feet JUST FOR THEM. There is a powerful human connection formed through this exchange of dignity, love and gratitude, and it’ll make a lasting impact on your life. We also work with various communities and partners to share time and resources to make this a wholesome experience built on strong relationships, mutual respect and responsible intention.

Are we going to change lives on our experience?

It is important to us at Soles4Souls not to overinflate and guarantee we will change everyone’s lives who we serve. We’ve seen thousands of beneficiary and traveler lives changed in different, but important, ways. In everything we do, we aim to ethically serve and support local leaders, initiatives and economies, while also recognizing that this is a life-changing experiences for our travelers as well.  As an organization, we emphasize the responsibility we have to bring dignity to every interaction we have.

Will we work with local partners and communities on the ground?

Yes, this is our favorite part of our work: getting off the beaten path and working directly with people and communities. In every volunteer location, we work through local vetted partnerships and teams to serve responsibly. Our partners are either native to the country or have lived there for 7+ years, so they know their communities, language, and culture best!  We work with them to build our itinerary in the most intentional manner, identifying the greatest needs and understanding our group abilities. 

What should I pack?

Your travel leader will provide you with a thorough packing list suitable for your specific experience.

When do we receive our final itinerary?

Leading up to your departure date, your travel leader will provide you need to help you prepare for the experience.  That includes giving you a snapshot of what your team will be doing throughout your experience, including any details about what additional goodies for children you may bring if you so choose.  Within a week or two of the experience, your travel leader will provide you with a “finalized” itinerary.  Please note: we are working with a different culture and norms, which does not operate the same way ours does in the United States.  Your “finalized” itinerary is subject to change on the ground, which can be common with international service trips and the uncontrollable variables that come with them. Be flexible and trust your travel leaders to work out the kinks and keep everything on track.

After my global experience, what should I expect?

Think of it as an experience that keeps on giving to you and everyone around you.  Serving others on a global experience gives you a chance to learn about a place and interact with the locals in a way that nothing else does. Your encounters will likely change your understanding of the world and yourself.  The extent to which is up to you! Though Soles4Souls will not require continued engagement from you after your experience, we see a high participation of travelers continuing to volunteer and make a difference through our mission because of the extraordinarily life-changing experience we shared together! Contact your trip leader about various ways to stay involved with Soles4Souls.

Do travelers need to provide the shoes to give away?

No, we got you!  Soles4Souls receives corporate donations of NEW shoes to distribute to children on our experiences. Offering a NEW pair of shoes that a child can call his or her own, let alone the shoe box to accompany it, is an indescribable moment and a true gift to share with those we serve and come to love.

If you think you might have access to new and/or used shoes prior to experience, please talk with your travel leader on how these can best be utilized at Soles4Souls!

Can Soles4Souls utilize other goods I can bring or services I can offer?

Every experience is different. Your travel leader will share with you any community needs in advance so you can choose to meet them as a team (i.e., the nutrition center could use toothbrushes, toothpaste and baby wipes in addition to the shoes we’ll give away). If you think you have resources/skills you can offer to the team, please share with your travel leader and trust her decision of whether/how to utilize them. 

I love taking photographs! Can I do that on my experience?

Yes, as long as you do so responsibly.  Naturally, you’ll want to take photographs, but if you wish to photograph the local people, please ask for permission before snapping a photo. Some cultures believe that picture taking is intrusive and might violate their cultural beliefs. Your travel leader will share information with you on how to photograph and share content that dignifies those we serve, and our local partners will inform you of local traditions, beliefs and customs to be cognizant of. 

NOTE: Soles4Souls does not offer discounted rates to travelers in exchange for media content of any sort.  As a non-profit, we are cognizant of how we afford and capture content to be used to promote our mission and dignify those we serve.

Traveler Information

Who can join a global experience?

Just about anyone! Because our work is relatively low impact, almost no one is discouraged from joining a global experience.  We do ask that you join the team in good health.  Extenuating circumstances (i.e. heart conditions, pregnancy, etc.) may require additional doctor’s approval if requested by Soles4Souls.

Those under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult and/or a parent/guardian must sign both a parental release form and a travel agreement on behalf of their minor(s). We ask that travelers be at least 10 years old to withstand the emotional and physical demand of our experiences that can be relatively challenging. If you want to travel with someone younger than 10, they must be well traveled and accompanied by a guardian. For these reasons, Soles4Souls does reserve the right to disapprove of a traveler under age 10.

For all youth travelers, we require them to be respectful and open to learning from our Soles4Souls team and partners throughout the experience.  We cannot be responsible for disrespectful behavior during such a meaningful, cross-cultural experience.

Can I join as an individual or do I need to be part of an existing group?

If you have a group of 12 or more and want to customize your experience, that’s our specialty! We will work with you to understand your group dynamics and goals, and then bring opportunities to life on the ground that enhance your values and align them with the Soles4Souls mission.  A huge perk of creating your own custom experience is that you get to choose your preferred destination and travel dates to work best for your group!

Otherwise, Soles4Souls offers global experiences that are open to the people of all walks of life!  On these experiences, you’ll fast become friends and leave as family.   Speaking of family, serving abroad can be a wonderful family experience.  There’s nothing like sharing the spectrum of human connection like we do on our trips than doing so with your loved ones.  We travel with dozens of family units every year, and it’s incredible to watch these experiences shape their family’s core values, relationships, career moves – you name it! – for years to come.

If I’m a parent of a student traveler, what is my role?

Don’t worry, mom & dad, we’ll keep you informed along the way!  You will be copied on all team emails to ensure you’re in the loop.  In addition, we will let you & other emergency contacts know when we arrive at our destination, so you have that peace of mind.  You will also have access to the travel leader’s phone number so you have a direct line in case of emergencies.  If you have concerns about sending your child on an experience without you, we are happy to connect you with other parents’ of past travelers who can share with you their experience doing the same.  Just let us know! 

Can I join a global experience if I’m not a United States citizen?

Yes!  We welcome all travelers from around the world. There are no restrictions/fees from our end! You will be required to check whether a tourist visa is required to travel to your preferred destination given your citizenship/status, as well as letting your travel leader know your status so he/she can assist you.  You will be responsible for any additional fees incurred to secure a visa/additional paperwork to travel with us.

Do I need any particular skills to volunteer?

We welcome any and all volunteers who meet the minimum age requirement, regardless of background, gender, religion, and/or race. We will be very active throughout our experience. However, our service work is low impact, so we are always able to find a spot for everyone to participate. All we ask is that our travelers join and serve throughout with a positive, open heart and mind.  The rest takes care of itself!

I haven’t traveled internationally before. How do I prepare?

Leading up to the trip your travel leader will send emails, set up phone calls, etc. to give you all the info you’ll need to know, including, but not limited to, vaccinations/medications, what to pack, cultural preparation, money, phone/internet, and food. We take care of all of the trip logistics so you don’t have to stress, and are very mindful of varying travel comfort levels across travelers.

Do I need a passport?

A passport is required to enter several of the countries we travel. Please visit the State Department website to check requirements specific to your destination. If a passport is required to travel and you do not have a passport, or if your passport will expire within six months after your travel dates, please apply for or renew your passport. Standard processing time for your first passport is minimum 6-8 weeks, and routine passport renewals are estimated around 2-3 weeks. We encourage you to take care of this immediately upon booking.

I’m ready to book! What’s next?

What are the steps to joining one of these experiences?

First, secure your spot on your experience of choice by registering on our website.  Once you have submitted your registration form, you will receive a welcome email from our coordinator with next steps! They’re pretty simple: make your $250 deposit payment, submit your experience paperwork including your passport, and work with your travel leader to meet your team and prepare for your global experience!  Ready, set, go!

Do I need to already have a passport to register for a S4S global experience?

You may register and then start processing your new passport or renewal application form here. However, we do caution against registering for an experience within the next 60 days if you do not already possess passport. It’s doable, but very stressful & pricey for last minute booking flights and expedited passport processing.

Who from Soles4Souls will be leading my experience?

We have a group of insanely talented & compassionate Global Experiences “travel leaders” who will lead you & your group throughout your entire experience. She will prepare you & your group in advance (think: anything from what to expect to how to prepare to what to pack), lead you throughout your adventure on the ground, and be a resource after your experience as you take everything you learned and integrate that into a life of active citizenship. Our Global Experiences team is full of experienced travelers who exhibit the utmost professionalism and care throughout our journey together.

How far in advance do I need to apply for an experience?

It’s never too soon to grab your spot! We aim to have all travelers on the team at least six months prior to any experience for several reasons: it gives you ample time to save/raise money for your trip cost and allows you enough time to scout & book your flights at a reasonable price. While also giving Soles4Souls ample time to plan logistics for our team knowing the group size. As trips fill up, they are removed from the website, so it’s best to apply now rather than later to snag your spot!  In the event we still have room for you & you join closer to trip time, please note that in-country and flight prices might be at an extra cost if the demand is higher last minute.

Health and Safety

How does Soles4Souls ensure my safety throughout the experience?

The health and safety of our travelers are our highest priorities throughout our journey together, therefore we take every precaution, including:

  • medical and evacuation travel insurance.
  • safe, secured accommodations.
  • private transportation for the entire duration of our experience, and make every effort to be off the roads before nighttime
  • registering all travelers with the State Departments’ STEP program.
  • operating based on a thorough risk and crisis management plan, and train our leaders based on this protocol.
  • following current events on the ground where we stay & work throughout our network of local partners, making real time and appropriate decisions accordingly.
Where will I stay on a global experience?

Lodging can vary depending on destination.  In most places, we stay in a 3 to 4 star hotel based on local standards or a private home-Airbnb type accommodation with private bathrooms.  In a few locations, we stay in communal/bunk bed styled rooms, split by gender with shared bathrooms. Everywhere we stay has warm running water, air conditioning, bed linens, limited Wi-Fi, as well as 24/7 surveillance/security/gated premises. 

Can Soles4Souls accommodate dietary needs/restrictions?

We sure can! It’s important that you share any of these restrictions/preferences with your travel leader as soon as you register, so we can work to accommodate your needs.  It is also important that you come prepared and remain flexible throughout the entire experience, as the local food choices in most destinations are not as vast and vegetable-fruit heavy as in the United States.  We strongly recommend all travelers, especially picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions, to bring snacks with them to supplement their 3 square meals that we provide!

What will we eat on our experience?

The majority of our meals are served at local restaurants, to give you an authentic experience, though occasionally we will do packed lunches or eat at our accommodation.  All restaurants and meals are pre-determined and safe to consume if determined by your travel leader(s).  We’ll get to explore a little while also having a safety net of comfort food to catch you!

Do we drink the local water?

No, simply as a precaution we always drink filtered, clean water provided by your travel leader(s). We do this as a precaution because water is processed differently everywhere and our bodies can react in different ways that might make travelling uncomfortable. Hydration is SUPER important throughout our experience and reinforced by your travel leader(s), so come prepared by bringing your reusable water bottle. Also consider getting some electrolyte hydration tablets before your trip.

Will I need specific immunizations/medications for my experience?

Some destinations have specific requirements for vaccinations, while most do not.  Check the CDC’s website here or talk with your travel leader to determine whether vaccinations are required in the country where you’re traveling.

While Soles4Souls does not also require you to get any vaccines if they are not required, we do encourage all travelers to review and consider the CDC’s recommendations here with their doctor. Because everyone’s preferences and comfort levels differ, this is totally up to you. Most vaccinations need to be administered at least a couple of weeks in advance to be effective during your experience. 

Payment, Paperwork, & Policies

I’m concerned about the trip cost. Do you offer fundraising support?

Yes!  We have an online fundraising platform that is free, customizable & user friendly!  You can create your own fundraising page and share it with your family and friends via social media/email.  It’s a great tool for others to help you, allowing them to be part of your journey. All donations go directly to S4S and are credited to your account to offset your total amount due.  No fundraised money will be refunded directly to the traveler. NOTE: do NOT fundraise through Facebook – there’s no way we can trace donations back to you to credit them to your travel account.

Traveling is expensive, especially when you’re giving back along the way.  That said, we are also firm believers in where there’s a will, there’s a way!  If it’s important for you to travel & serve, it’ll be important to others in your life.  Soles4Souls can also offer insightful fundraising tips & tricks to creatively fundraise for your experience. Let your travel leader know and she can offer additional help & resources!  

What is included (& not included) in my experience cost?

This tax-deductible program cost includes all in-country expenses such as all accommodation and meals, private transportation (vehicle, driver & fuel), onsite support (translating, partner donations, and general in-country resources), cultural immersion and excursion activities, travel insurance and arrangements (medical and evacuation), welcome package and post-experience materials, shipping of shoes & project supplies, and a donation to Soles4Souls.

Not included is Roundtrip airfare, as well as optional expenses, like luggage, vaccinations/medications and souvenir shopping.

How much does my experience cost?

The program cost of each experience varies depending on location and trip length. Experience costs range from $1,400-$3,300+.  Go here to see a list of current trips and their costs. Note that customized experiences can cost more depending on the group’s requests.

Why do some experiences cost more than others?

Our experiences’ costs vary depending on the destination and factors like the destination’s local economy, cost of living, demand and frequency of tourism, etc.  We aim to consistently create economic impact evenly and responsibly across all experiences.

How much is my deposit?

To reserve your spot on an experience, you must both complete the online registration and submit your $250 non-refundable and non-transferrable deposit.

How do I know when to make my trip payments?

We make it easy for you!  We provide a 6-month payment plan to follow, and our team’s coordinator will send you balance and payment reminders leading up to your travel dates. 

Following the payment of your $250 deposit, the remaining balance is payable in six equal installments with the first payment due six months prior to the trip and the remaining trip balance due thirty days prior to the trip. For example for a $1,750 trip to Jamaica, this is what your payment plan would look like:

  • $1750 – $250 deposit due w/in 1 week of registering = $1,500 balance
  • $1,500 / 6 equal installments = $250 due each 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 months out from your experience
How does it work when it comes to booking flights?

We intentionally do not include airfare in our base program costs out of convenience for travelers/groups who choose to use points or have particular preferences.  

If you are interested in Soles4Souls booking your airfare on your behalf:

  • This is a great option because we can track reasonable deals for you for only a $25 booking fee. Please let your travel leader know if this interests you.
  • Soles4Souls cannot book a travelers’ flight until they have paid the full flight cost + their $250 deposit on their account. The sooner you can fully pay this amount, the sooner S4S can ensure you get the best deal!

If you are booking your own airfare:

  • Please do not book your flights without first confirming with your trip leader. Once we have confirmed we have a full team and firmed up trip details, we will give everyone the green light to reserve flights.
If I want to fundraise for my flight, when is the money due by?

The total flight cost + your $250 deposit must be raised before Soles4Souls can reserve your flight. The sooner you can fully fundraise this amount, the sooner S4S can ensure you get the best deal!

Do I need to bring money on my experience?

This is up to you!  Only if you anticipate buying souvenirs or snacks at the airport/local cafes. Typically we see travelers bring $50-150 with them, but talk with your travel leader about their thoughts for your particular experience. Your travel leader will also guide you on when to exchange your money to the local currency, if that’s necessary. Otherwise, Soles4Souls handles all expenses throughout your experience, which allows you not to stress about and be present.

Are discounts offered for returnee & referred volunteers?

Volunteers that previously traveled with us on a Global Experience receive $200 off any future trip (excluding a custom experience). *Custom trips follow a different discount schedule. Please contact the travel team for more information.

Volunteers receive $100 off their experience cost for each individual referred by them on the same trip (excluding a custom experience) with a maximum of 3 referrals per traveler per trip. The referring participant’s name must be submitted by the referral when registering for their trip. *Custom trips follow a different discount schedule. Please contact the travel team for more information.

*Travelers can redeem their returnee and maximum 3 referral discounts on the same experiences, thus getting a total of $500 their program cost.

Are there any cancellation policies to be aware of?

Within 1 week following your registration, a non-refundable and non-transferable deposit of $250 is required to secure your spot on the trip. In the event that you cancel your trip more than 60 days prior to the departure date, you may apply your balance, minus your deposit and all previously incurred expenses by S4S for your trip participation, to another trip. In the event that you cancel your trip less than 60 days prior to the departure date, you may apply your balance, minus your deposit, all previously incurred expenses by S4S for your trip participation, and a $500 cancellation fee, to another trip. Rescheduled trips must occur within 12 months of your cancellation date otherwise the remaining funds will be counted as a tax-deducible gift to Soles4Souls (S4S).

In the event that S4S has to cancel the trip due to unforeseen circumstances, S4S will provide a full refund (including deposit) or transfer funds to another trip within 12 months of the cancellation. S4S will not be responsible for reimbursing any expenses you may have incurred in preparing for your trip, i.e. booking flights without your travel leader’s permission first.

Please note: Soles4Souls’ travel insurance (medical and evacuation) does not cover your individual airfare reservations.  Trip cancellation insurance is recommended for all travelers

Why am I paying to volunteer? Where does my money go?

Remember that Soles4Souls and its local partners coordinating this experience are not-for-profit organizations. Approximately 70% of your program fee generates economic impact in the local economy. We share our time and resources to folks who need it most, and we go to help because it encourages and supports the local people while giving us an opportunity to learn from them. While the majority of the trip costs are allocated towards travel expenses, a small portion is donated to Soles4Souls to further our mission of providing opportunity through new and used shoes and apparel.

How can I utilize a matching gift for my donation?

First, find out your company’s matching gift guidelines. Some companies will match your donation to any 501(c)3 non-profit organization without restriction, whereas others may have tighter stipulations on how the money is used once matched. If them determine it cannot be used for your service trip, then S4S will still receive your company’s match & count it towards a donation to our mission.

Otherwise, if your company matches & we receive your donation match by the payment deadline, it can be applied towards your experience cost. If the donation is received after your final deadline, then it will be counted as a donation to Soles4Souls OR can be used on a future trip taken within 12 months of receipt. We’ll keep it on your account in the meantime!

Copyright © 2021. Soles4Souls is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit Organization.