• A group of people looking at a mural
  • People doing gardening work
  • People walking in a valley
  • A group posing with shovels
  • Three women talking at a table

Alternative Breaks

Do something different!

About Alternative Breaks

Alternative Breaks are service and learning trips led by a small team of students and staff to give participants a chance to travel, learn, and serve meaningfully in their academic breaks. Nonprofit partners provide great opportunities to learn and serve in the local community, and our groups spend time as a team each night during reflection exploring social change and civic engagement. During the week, we live simply and in the community to keep trips accessible financially and to be intentional. We have full days, but give folks some breaks, and we work in some simple group recreation the last day! This is not a typical trip, but we think that is what makes it great. Join us for a weekend trip, or for our weeklong experiences during spring break or after finals.

"I enjoyed hearing everyone's individuality and how that intersects in people's lives. Loved growing and sharing a beautiful trip with beautiful people."

Upcoming Events

Application Details

Apply for a Trip

Participants can submit their information at any point once applications are open; submit application and deposit to be considered complete:

  • APPLY: the online application takes ~15-30 minutes and involves:
    • Collection of some personal information
    • Three short-answer questions, including a photo submission
    • Discussion of your interest in topics
    • Pay $50 deposit online via the link (in application and/or above in header)
    • OPTIONAL: submit a travel subsidy application

Applicants can opt-in to be placed on a waitlist in case trips are full. If a participant withdraws and a spot opens up, program staff contacts the waitlist to offer that spot. Participants can be offered a space on a trip starting as soon as 11/5 (fall trip), 3/4 (spring break), or 4/29 (may trips) OR until one week before the trip.

People on the waitlist will be required to join any pre-trip meetings or to schedule one meeting if all other meetings have passed.

More about the waitlist:

  • Waitlisters could be offered a space on a trip starting as soon as a few days after the deadline up until one week before the trip.
  • If selected from the waitlist, participants will be notified by email and must accept their spot.
  • If selected from the waitlist, participants must pay the remaining trip cost by the payment deadline or as soon as possible.
  • If selected, participants must join pre-trip meetings to get info, complete forms, and connect with folks (or schedule meetings with AB staff if all pre-trip meetings have passed).
  • If waitlisters are selected to go on a trip, their deposit is applied to their balance due.
  • If no spots open and a waitlister does not join a trip, deposits will be refunded after the trips. Waitlisters will be notified via email that deposit funds are ready and can be picked up during business hours.
Apply to be a Student Site Leader

Want to be part of a national movement, gain transferable skills, have your trip cost covered, and make awesome friends and connections at UNLV? Apply to be an Alternative Break Site Leader!

Download these documents for more info on the role and responsibilities:

Application Timeline Applications are open in spring (April), selection is notified in May; site leader term starts in August through the following May (one academic year).

Questions? Email altbreaks@unlv.edu.

Apply to be a Staff Learning Partner (formerly known as Staff Site Leader)

Join Alternative Break Trips as a staff Learning Partner! This unique opportunity supports student site leaders as they lead service and social justice trips, facilitates some nightly reflections, and helps manage logistics (driving, finances).

View the Learning Partner Info Packet for more info on role and responsibilities, important dates and more.

Apply online here by 10/16 at noon | Trip notification by 10/21| Accept by 10/23

Cost Details

Cost Overview
  • Costs for 2019-20 trips are under location information. (Weekend trips are typically around $50. Weeklong van-based trips typically cost $100-150. Flight-based week-long trips include flight costs, and average $600-900. International trips will cost more around $1500-2300 for the week.)
  • Trip costs vary by location; costs include food (group meals), lodging, transportation and fuel, and program fees. If the trip is international, supplemental international insurance is also included.
  • Not Included in the Cost: any desired souvenirs, supplemental recreation activities (if there is time and availability), transportation to and from LAS (participants can arrange carpools), other personal costs.
  • Alternative Break Trips subsidizes on-the-ground costs at ~60% (participants are contributing 40% of the trip costs). The university has invested in this program due to the unique and intensive learning experience that the program requires; this is also why there are different guidelines such as simple living and community, as we are stewards of our resources.
  • Trips are paid for using a payment plan that disperses the cost of the trip over several payments, alleviating some of the financial urgency. The payment plan is dependent on the specific trip cost.
  • Questions about payment can be directed to altbreaks@unlv.edu.
Application Deposit
  • The deposit completes your application and holds your place on a trip if you are offered one. If we are not able to offer you a trip, your deposit is refunded. If you wish to wait on the waitlist, we hold it until you join a trip or the trip happens and then we refund it after the trip.
  • If you are offered a space on a trip, we keep it and it goes toward your total trip balance; if we offer you a spot and you decline it, your deposit is no longer refundable and will now support travel grants.
Trip Subsidies
  • These reduce the overall balance due to cover trip costs; apply in the same online form as the trip deposit.
  • For weekend trips, there are no subsidies available due to their low cost.
  • For week-long van-based trips, the lowest cost available is $50 and for flight-based trips, the lowest cost available is $50 for on-the-ground costs + airfare.
  • If the online travel subsidy application is accepted, the trip costs will be reduced to the amount requested by the participant (if someone applies for a grant and is offered a spot on the trip, their trip amount has been accepted and approved - unless otherwise outlined in their offer email).

Core Values

We build our trips around our core values, which means a trip may look different than other trips you have been on:

We build trips to be affordable through simple accommodations (group meals and cooking, communal lodging, shared chores, limited technology, etc.). The team will recreate and recharge, but the focus is on a simpler service trip experience.
Our priority is to build sustainable relationships with each other, as well as the local community hosting us.

Definition: unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

We seek to work alongside communities and partner with deeply-connected nonprofits working with the community for long-term social change.

We seek to be intentional about the potential impacts of our service, to understand structural inequity, and to explore how we can work for social change. This process can be slow and challenging; but also rich and empowering.
Our goal is for folks to integrate this experience into life "back home" - to continue serving and learning, and make a plan to keep working for social change.
Drug and Alcohol Free
Participants commit to a drug- and alcohol-free experience to build a safe, responsible, reciprocal service and learning experience.


This year’s trips:

Fall Weekend (Nov. 8-11, 2019)

  • Apps due 10/20 | Trip Notification 10/24 | Accept by 10/28
  • Pre-trip Meeting (*mandatory): 11/6 4:30 - 7:30 p.m. | Reorientation: 11/13 4 - 6:30 p.m.
Ecology and Fire - Santa Monica Mountains, CA ($50)

*This trip will do outdoor work and will require boots and/or sturdy shoes to be safe outdoors. Work with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area rangers and staff to do trail building, revegetation, and to learn about the recent impacts (human and natural) after the devastating Woolsey Fire in November of 2017 and recent fire in Pacific Palisades and San Bernardino.

Spring Weekend (Feb. 14 - 17, 2020)

  • Apps due 2/2 | Trip Notification 2/3 | Accept by 2/5
  • Pre-trip Meeting (*mandatory): 2/12 4:30 - 7 :30 p.m. | Reorientation: 2/19 4 - 6:30 p.m.
Food Access and Community Gardens- Southern California ($50)

Come explore food access and community gardens for the weekend as we work with community partners growing food, organizing communities, advocating for worker and access justice, and educating people.

*This trip will involve outdoor, physical work; participants will need clothing that can get dirty and sturdy shoes.

Spring Break (Mar. 15 - 21, 2020)

  • Apps due 2/19 | Trip Notification 2/21| Accept by 2/25
  • Pre-trip Mtgs: 2/27 5:30-7:30, 3/6 4:30-6:30, 3/11 4:30-6:30 p.m. | Reorientation: 4/2 5-7
Ecology and Public Lands - Grand Canyon National Park, AZ $100

Work with one agency for the week and learn about ecology, public lands, native history, and responsible use. Service could include a range of projects including trail rebuilding, transport center clean-ups, seed cleaning, tree branch removal, and more.

*This trip will be in cold weather; participants will need warm shoes/boots, mittens, coats and more to work safely and comfortably in the elements.

Food and Housing Insecurity - Seattle, WA $150

Serve and learn about how housing and food insecurity affects different groups of people. We may volunteer with a food bank, hygiene access, meal and wraparound outreach agencies, meal programs and more. We’ll see the destination city Friday, but most of our time will be spent learning and doing service.
*This trip will be in cool/damp weather; participants need waterproof shoes, coats, umbrellas, and more to work safely and comfortably in the elements. This trip will also involve air travel and potentially public transportation.

Immigrant and Refugee Experiences - Chicago, IL $250

To explore the complex issue of immigration and refugees, we will work with the Brother Darst Center in this urban location. We are learning more about the schedules they plan, but may work with the Immigrant Youth Justice League and a number of other partners that we will learn about as we get closer. We will also take some time to take in some of the local sights on Friday.

*This trip will be in very cold weather; participants need warm shoes/boots, mittens, hats, thick coats and more to work safely and comfortably in the elements. This trip will also involve air travel and public transportation.

Immigration at the US-Mexico Border - San Diego, CA $100

We work with local organizations doing social justice work in this border city to explore the complex topic of immigration. We will tour the border, visit a local park to learn about the history, learn from advocacy groups, visit a local university to see their context, or serve with a local community garden-- this trip will be an interesting and powerful experience. We will also take in some local sights on Friday.

*Please note: the group on this trip will likely encounter an ICE/CBP roadside border checkpoint and ID check.

LGBTQIA+ - San Francisco, CA $120

Explore the history of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement and the changing policies that affect this community. Serve with a variety of organizations doing projects that could include: working at a food bank, helping in a community garden, or connecting with individuals experiencing homelessness. The LGBTQIA+ community has a range of experiences and identities, and this trip will seek to take an intersectional look at the topics this community faces.
*This trip will take place in an urban context and will involve a fair amount of walking and/or public transportation.

May (May 17-23, 2020)

  • Apps due 4/15 | Trip Notification 4/17 | Accept by 4/20
  • Pre-trip Meetings 4/29, 5/6, 5/13 4:30-6:30 p.m. | Reorientation 5/27 4 - 7 p.m.
Mass Incarceration, Community Development and Restorative Justice - Los Angeles, CA $125

Explore the fundamentals of this country’s justice system and how organizations are working to develop community to try and break the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce recidivism. Work this week will include volunteering with nonprofits focusing on education development, serving with work-ready programs, learning from policy groups.

Ecology - Balancing Restoration & Recreation - Catalina Island, CA $125

Work and learn about environmental conservation and native island ecology. In past years projects have included trail building, painting and landscaping, beach clean-ups, and invasive plant species removal. Discuss and explore environmental restoration, conservation and recreation and how to balance these sometimes-competing priorities.
*This trip requires taking a round-trip boat ride to the island, camping in more remote locations, and outdoor work.


Our days are long but the week goes fast!

  • Most teams are up by 7 a.m. to prepare group meals, dress for the day, and head out.
  • Service will play out differently depending on the site.
  • If sites have one community partner, a rhythm and flow develop with them.
  • For sites with numerous community partners, the days can vary.
  • We share a rough weekly schedule with each team during the pre-trip meetings.
  • Each team is expected to spend one hour a day engaging in reflection together, led by the staff and student site leaders.
  • Overall we try to balance the schedule to have 85% of time engaging in service and learning, and 15% of time doing recreation and down time.
  • Each team typically will have the final full day held for recreation.
  • Teams are provided some ideas on local experiences that fit their budgets.
  • Most of the schedule is spent as a team; participants will have some time to themselves, but this is a community-oriented trip and may vary from personal travel.


Safety is a top priority for us. We work closely with our partners and have proactive and reactive plans to keep our teams safe. So while there are always risks associated with any activity, the university tries to minimize those to the best of our abilities.

Pre-Trip Meetings
These are held for several reasons, including building the team, communicating trip details, and reinforcing safety and travel practices. There is time at each meeting to answer participant questions.
CDC and Student Health Center
Our staff consults experts to ensure our students have taken the necessary preparations.
Emergency Information
We store emergency and health information two places on campus, and staff on the trip maintain records for the team on-site.
Training and Preparation
Each team has a first aid kit with them at all times. Participants are asked to be with groups of a minimum of three persons at all times. Our staff and student site leaders have risk management training, and keep resources with them at all times. A staff member remains on-call back on campus to support travelers.

Why You Should Participate

Everyone goes for their own reasons. Some people may want to connect with community, see a new part of the world, build their resume, learn about a new topic, serve in a meaningful way, or translate their classroom learning into practice out in the world. Whatever your reasons are, we hope you will consider deepening your social justice learning, working for positive social change, laughing with others, and finding your connection. Discover what your reasons are for joining! If you want more information, join one of our info sessions or contact us to see if this experience fits you.


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"I enjoyed that they made us think about what we did that day. Reflections also served as an opportunity to help us decompress and really understand what we witnessed that day."

Additional Information

You can reach us electronically at altbreaks@unlv.edu. You are also welcome to stop by our office on the third floor of the Student Union in 316 (ask at the front desk and they can get you to the right spot in the office!).