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Charity shops are my bread and butter; I spend a lot of time scouring them, whether I’m at home or away, and I try to visit any interesting ones I pass. However, not all travellers support charities when they’re packing, holidaying or returning home, and they don’t realise how easy it is to adjust to giving something back. Here are the best ways to support charities as you travel, whatever your time and budget.


Yelp is particularly good for pre-trip research. Plus, some councils list all the shops – Edinburgh has a detailed charity shop map, designed to help locals, but good for tourists, too.

Across much of Europe, you’ll find Humana charity shops: they’re a treasure trove. From Berlin and Helsinki to Tallinn and Vienna, I’ve never visited a branch of Humana I didn’t like. Big European cities often have several branches with very different opening hours, so just check before you travel. Web addresses are ‘Humana’ followed by the internet country code as the domain, e.g. humana.de for Germany and humana.ee for Estonia.

Charity shops are even more essential when you’re in an expensive destination (Vienna, in particular, was a shock), and what counts for everyday shopping makes you break out in a cold sweat. Affordable retail therapy shouldn’t be underestimated, kids.


If there’s a charity event being held during your holiday, why not go along and support it? You don’t need to know anyone taking part to feel involved. Charities of all sizes have cheering squads at their events: groups of people who stand at specific cheer points along a marathon route, for example. The London Marathon is perfect for this, but less well-known events can be just as exciting to watch from the side-lines. Non-athletic events, like craft fairs, are fun, too.

Alternatively, try factoring a charity challenge into your holiday. Before going on a road trip of Scotland this June or October, you could abseil off the Forth Road Bridge for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland. The charity supports the many people in Scotland living with chest and heart problems, or dealing with the aftermath of a stroke; every 45 minutes, someone in Scotland has a heart attack, and someone has their first stroke, so it’s a country-wide issue.

Or, if you fancy volunteering at a music festival for the likes of Bowel Cancer UK, Help Refugees or Surfers Against Sewage, join My Cause UK. You’d be taking on different stewarding duties, with meals provided during your shifts, and time off to see bands. The festival then donates to your chosen charity.


Grab a few charitable products for your trip: some products will need to be bought new, like walking boots or underwear, but most charities have their own eye-catching t-shirts and accessories for sale through their websites. Also try car boot sales and village fairs, which often fundraise locally.

If you’re visiting a country with a strict dress code or challenging climate and you won’t wear your purpose-bought clothes again, it makes sense to buy from charity shops, and donate the clothes back afterwards. Someone visiting a conservative country could find full-length skirts, maxi dresses and lightweight cotton trousers in a charity shop.

As for the rest of your packing list:

  • The ‘Choose Love’ t-shirt, sweatshirt and hoodie, from ASOS, donates all profits to Help Refugees. The range was designed by Katharine Hamnett.
  • MAC Viva Glam lipsticks have limited edition packaging, and the full RRP (minus VAT) goes to support people living with HIV and AIDS – a cause MAC has supported since 1994. Viva Glam is currently endorsed by Sia and Taraji P. Henson.
  • L’Occitane and Neal’s Yard both support charities all year round, and they sell travel-size toiletries and make-up. Neal’s Yard also has the Bee Lovely range, helping to protect bees.


Donate as you go, through collection boxes, airline charity drives, or something more makeshift. When I’m at comedy gigs or theatre shows, particularly in Edinburgh and London, there’s usually a donation bucket at the back of the room to raise money for a particular charity, so keep some coins handy.

A new tech initiative I’ve spotted is this hole-in-the-wall contactless card donation point, by Bristol Energy Hub on the Harbourside, supporting four local homeless charities through the SOS (Safer on the Streets) Campaign; other donation points are in Bristol’s Broadmead. Giving £2 via credit or debit card is fuss-free for cashless donors, without the commitment of a monthly donation.

Otherwise, once you’re back home and you’ve unpacked (or, in my case, your half-full suitcase is in a corner somewhere, pointedly being ignored, as you upload and edit 1,000 new holiday photos…), take your spare change to the nearest M&S Bureau de Change. They accept any currency as a charity donation to Breast Cancer Now – just look out for the ‘Change4Change’ boxes.

You don’t need to make huge lifestyle changes to be more charitable – any traveller could try one or two of these. Share your charity success with me on Twitter; I can’t wait to hear from you.

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