Make Your Next Hotel Stay in California Count—for You and the Destination

Kind Traveler launches first statewide regenerative travel initiative to help travelers give back to communities across California.

Pepperwood Preserve in California

Pepperwood Preserve, a sprawling reserve in Sonoma County, is among the many impact partners featured.

Courtesy of Visit California / Kind Traveler

In this new year and new era for travel, perhaps one of your resolutions is to make your travels count more—to make your trips more meaningful but also to ensure they positively impact the places you visit.

Enter Kind Traveler, a socially conscious hotel booking and education platform that enables travelers to contribute as much as they take from the destination. The organization just launched the first statewide regenerative travel program with Visit California, which includes 58 Californian hotels—38 of which are new on Kind Traveler’s platform—and a total of 25 impact partners. The latter are California-based, vetted charities advancing both community well-being and environmental sustainability.

Kind Traveler’s “Give + Get” hotel booking tool allows travelers to unlock exclusive offers and perks, such as free bottles of wine, late checkouts, and room upgrades, from participating Kind Hotels with a $10 (or more) donation to a local charity that positively impacts the community they are visiting or to another charity of choice on the platform. Transparency is also key: 100 percent of donations are given to the selected charity, and travelers receive impact metrics with their booking, so they can see exactly how their travel dollars are benefiting the local community.

Each selected charity partner, from Farm to Pantry, a nonprofit tackling food insecurity and waste, to UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, which is dedicated to saving Lake Tahoe, contributes to the destination’s well-being and future, as well as to the United Nations’ Global Goals for sustainable development. New “Kind Hotels” in Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, and Sonoma County have been added to the site.

The program offers new opportunities to “travel kindly” in 12 destinations in California, including Los Angeles, Monterey County, Santa Monica, and Oakland, with charities that support food insecurities, climate action, LGBTQ+ communities, animal welfare, local wildlife, and more. Here are some of the opportunities:

Palm Springs

A stay at Kimpton, the Rowan Palm Springs can support Friends of the Desert Mountains, a nonprofit protecting over 60,000 acres of Coachella Valley desert for future generations. A donation when booking provides outdoor science supplies for one East Coachella Valley youth. See why the natural resources and beauty of this fragile desert need to be preserved by joining stargazing nights with members of the Astronomical Society of the Desert or an interpretive guided hike with Friends of the Desert Mountains.

Monterey County

A stay at the Sanctuary Beach Resort (or any Kind Hotel) in Monterey County supports Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, a local nonprofit that provides resources and vocational training to underserved and predominantly Latinx youth. A $10 donation will cover one-third of the cost per day for a young person’s education, and travelers can see their impact in action by visiting the student-staffed restaurant located on Rancho Cielo for its Friday night dinner series, which trains them for successful careers in the local hospitality industry.

Sonoma County

If you head to the Stavrand in Sonoma County, you could choose to support local charity Farm to Pantry with a $10 donation providing 23 servings of produce for those facing food insecurity in Sonoma County. You can also join Farm to Pantry to “glean” or collect excess fresh food from farms and gardens to provide it to those in need—reducing food waste (which accounts for 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually). Or you can choose to use your donation to support Charlie’s Acres Farm Sanctuary, a Kind Traveler impact partner that rescues abused farm animals in Sonoma County. After meeting the animals—maybe over a session of goat yoga—you might be inspired to eat a more plant-based diet, or at least be more conscious of where your food is coming from.

Graduates from Rancho Cielo Youth Campus

A modest donation can fund a youth’s day at the nonprofit Rancho Cielo Youth Campus.

Photo by Juan Avila. Courtesy of Visit California/Kind Traveler.

“The goal is really to motivate and incentivize travelers, not only by an exclusive offer but also an opportunity to give back to local nonprofits that are on the ground, in the destination that one is traveling to, to make it easy for them to mobilize a positive impact,” says Jessica Blotter, Kind Traveler’s CEO and cofounder (and board director for the Center for Responsible Travel, CREST).

“It creates a triple win where the traveler, the charity, and the hotel—even the destination—are all winning. Once you’re already on the ground in your vacation destination it’s often too late. Positive impact happens on the planning side of your trip, before you even get on your plane or in your car.”

On a trip to Belize, Blotter and her partner and cofounder, Sean Krejci, were inspired to create a way for travelers to do more for the destinations they visit. After encountering emaciated stray dogs roaming the street, the couple saw how a simple act of buying dog food to feed the hungry animals inspired their fellow travelers on a tour bus to do the same. Both animal rescue volunteers in Los Angeles, Blotter and Krejci saw how even a small act of kindness created a ripple effect and a shared sense of purpose.

Kind Traveler has captured the growing movement of more impact-driven and regenerative travel, which only galvanized during the pandemic. As of 2023, the platform has grown to 150 and counting hotels in 22 countries with 150 nonprofit partners.

A former earth science teacher with a master’s degree in education, Blotter knows the importance of Kind Traveler doubling as an education platform. On each hotel listing on the platform, travelers are given tips on how to travel more consciously in the destination and offered ways to give back beyond their donations by participating in unique experiences and voluntourism opportunities with the charity.

See where you can stay and make a positive impact with all of Kind Traveler’s destinations and impact partners.

Kathleen Rellihan is a travel journalist and editor covering adventure, culture, climate, and sustainability. Formerly Newsweek‘s travel editor, she contributes to outlets such as Afar, Outside, Time, CNN Travel, and more.
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