close up of man's hand on luggage handle

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best–the ones that make you hit yourself in the head like a V-8 commercial and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

When Rebecca and Scott Rothney took a trip to Africa, they recognized that they had a luggage limit of 40 pounds for the safari portion of their trip, yet the international airline regulations allowed them a total of 140 pounds per passenger maximum, with checked and cabin luggage combined. What if there was a way to use that extra 100 pounds of packable space to deliver school supplies to a community in need at their destination? Their first attempt required lots of groundwork and research to find the needs of local communities…so they’ve taken on all that hassle for us, and created Pack for a Purpose, a website asking you to pack just a simple extra five pounds in your luggage of needed items for the destination where you are headed. There are pages on the website for destinations in eleven global regions, and within each destination category, specific hotel/lodge/resort properties where you can drop off your bundle (You don't need to be a guest at the properties, they are the initial receivers of the goods you bring, which they then have delivered), and the specific needs of that community (health clinics, schools, etc. needing things like bandages, over-the-counter medicines, sports equipment, pencils, children’s shoes, etc). There is also specific advice on how best to pack–which items should be left in original packaging, which should be streamlined for saving space, and more. The drop-offs are arranged with no work from you and expected at the properties (so nobody will look at you funny when you walk in and present them with deflated soccer balls and an air pump), and they take on the job of getting the items to the community, so it really is effortless on our part.

I wish I had known about this prior to my last visit to South Africa–it would have been great to bring requested supplies to local orphanages and schools near where we stayed.

Check out the site, and then check it out again when next you are traveling. Five pounds is nothing, and also guarantees some packing space on the way home for souvenirs you buy from artisans to support the local community that way, as well.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation ( and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project ( Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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