It’s almost time to take off for your mission trip! You’ve arranged your ride to the airport, your passport is ready for a new stamp, and your brand new suitcase is lying open, waiting to be filled.
Now comes the hard part – packing for your mission trip! It can be hard to know what to take on a 7-day (or longer) trip to a developing country, particularly if you’ve never been there before. Then there’s remembering to actually take everything you need, which can be a challenge for all of us, whether you’re a last-minute packer or just forgetful.
While what you’ll need can vary from country to country and according to your group’s activities, the mission trip packing list below is a great start.
In your carry-on:
- Passport and airplane ticket. You can’t get too far without either of these, so place them in a secure place that you’ll remember, like a special pocket in your backpack.
- Any medications you use regularly, including allergy medicines.
- Medications you may need in a new environment: Anti-malarial medications, lotion or salve to treat insect bites, and over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol, Imodium, and Pepto-Bismol.
- Toiletries. Remember that anything in your carry-on must meet TSA regulations, and liquids are limited to 3.4 ounces. Put all TSA approved liquids in a quart-sized plastic bag toward the top of your bag so you can pull it out when they ask for it. Toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razor, lotion and other personal items such as baby wipes and medicated powder. Ladies–don’t forget feminine supplies.
- At least one day’s change of clothes. Unfortunately, baggage on foreign flights can get lost or delayed, so it’s a good idea to have an extra set of clothes in your carry-on just in case.
- A book or magazine for the flight.
- Ear plugs for sleeping on the plane and noisy roommates.
- Camera. Even if you don’t plan on taking photos on your way to your destination, valuable electronics are better off in your carry-on bag than in checked luggage. Bring memory card(s) and batteries.
- Sunglasses. It may be sunny where you’re going, and you don’t want to spend the trip there squinting!
- Glasses safety strap for those who wear prescription glasses.
- Hand sanitizer and pocket-sized tissue packs. While the airplane will have toilet paper and soap, the airport you’re flying into and any subsequent restroom stops may not. Clean your hands often.
- Money and/or an ATM card for souvenirs and tips. U.S. dollars are accepted in many countries throughout the world, but large bills may not be accepted. One and five dollar bills are easier to handle. Keep in a money belt or pouch.
In your checked luggage:
- Sunscreen. Many countries that are popular destinations for mission trips receive much more sun than many of us are used to, so it’s a good idea to pack sunscreen with a high SPF. In case your bag shifts during travel, you may want to pack any liquids in plastic baggies and with the lids taped shut. Lip balm is great for chapped lips.
- Snacks. The food at your destination should be tasty and safe to eat. However, you may want familiar snacks like granola bars or trail mix for travel days and in between meals as well.
- A flashlight with extra batteries. Lightweight but sturdy and extra batteries. While your destination may have electricity, it’s always good to have a flashlight on hand for walking in unlit areas or in the case of a power outage (not uncommon in many developing countries).
- Insect repellent with DEET. This is particularly important if you are traveling to a country where malaria or dengue fever is a threat. Check the CDC’s website for more information on your destination country.
- Appropriate clothing for your mission activities. Trips include at least four to five days of work, so many volunteers pack four to five sets of work clothes. Wear long pants and refrain from wearing sleeveless tops. Pack clothes that are loose and comfortable. Scrubs are lightweight and easy to pack. Bring an extra change of clothing in case you get wet.
- Sturdy shoes (work boots or tennis shoes): a pair to work in and a pair to change into after work. For rainy areas- shoes that have good tread and that can get wet for muddy areas. Bring flip flops for the shower.
- A hat and/or bandana to protect your face and neck from the sun.
- Hair ties and headbands to tie hair back and keep out of your face.
- Appropriate clothing to change into at the end of the work day. After a long day of work, you’ll want comfortable, clean clothes waiting for you after your shower!
- Enough socks, pajamas, and underwear for the length of your trip and a few extra socks and underwear.
- A poncho or raincoat, light jacket if your destination, like Central America, receives a significant amount of rainfall.
- A small backpack to carry personal items to the work site each day.
- Non-slip flip flops for the shower.
- Bath towel for the shower. Pack a quick-drying towel for convenience and extra space.
- Bed sheet for sleeping.
- Mosquito netting provides a great barrier from those pesky mosquitoes.
- A water bottle that can be refilled with clean water. Hydration is key to preventing potential illness, and keeping you going, despite the unfamiliarity of climate, schedule, and food. Bring a durable water bottle that’s easy to carry and won’t leak.
- Plastic bags for packing dirty clothes for the return home. Zip lock bags are great to compress rolled-up clothing, store snacks, and hold toiletries for potential leakage.
- Games for you and your team to play during down time: cards, UNO, dominoes or checkers are easy to carry.
- Gifts for the children. Pencils are a great gift idea, so are fun-shaped erasers.
- A language dictionary. A Spanish/English pocket dictionary is a necessity for many volunteers who hope to build new friendships!
- A notebook and pens to record new words, memories, and observations for your noteworthy experience!
- A Bible. Your faith is the most important thing you’ll take and share on your journey!
- Flexibility. Travelling and serving in a new culture is incredibly rewarding, but occasionally plans can change at the last minute. Expect the unexpected, and know that not everything has to go according to plan for the trip to be worthwhile, both for you and those you are working alongside.
- Travel in groups.
- Do not bring expensive jewelry.
- Do not show off cell phones, IPads, cameras, etc.
- Keep monies, passport, and travel documents in an inside pocket or security waist belt.
Now is the time to value the people you will be serving. Remember, nothing matters more than loving people like Jesus does. Choose ahead of time to respond in love when a teammate or cultural difference frustrates you. Prepare your heart to be open to new things, and God will amaze you. Love God. Love His people.
Now you’re ready to go! Enjoy your trip, and be ready for a great adventure!