So you’re going on a mission trip. What should you bring? Or more importantly, what shouldn’t you?
The answers to those two questions depend entirely on where you are going and what you are doing. However, here are some great questions to ask before packing for any mission trip, and some general lists and suggestions.
GREAT QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What airline(s) are you flying with?
Before doing anything else, check and double-check your plane tickets. You need to know what airline (or airlines) you are flying with so you can check their baggage policy.
You need to know: how much can your bags weigh, how big can they be, and how many bags are included with your ticket. Also, make sure you know if your baggage is or isn’t included in your ticket price, because if it’s not, you’ll need to have a credit card, or cash on hand . Check which options your specific airline accepts!
- What’s culturally appropriate?
The partner organization or people you are travelling with should provide you with a list of what clothing items are, and are not, culturally appropriate. Before you begin packing, make sure you know what’s ‘above reproach’ to pack. Think and ask about:
– The length of shorts, pants, skirts and tops
– Graphic T-shirts
– What do people wear to church?
This also applies to tattoos. If you have visible tattoos, depending on the culture, you may need to bring and wear clothing that covers them.
- What electrical outlets does your host country use?
A quick google search will let you know the power and socket type of your host country’s electrical outlets. You may need to purchase an adaptor, and possibly a surge protector, if you’re thinking about bringing any electronic devices.
- How secure is the place you are staying?
Your specific country and accommodation will determine what you pack for your mission trip. As a general rule of thumb, if you would be devastated if something was stolen or lost, don’t bring it with you. Of all the things you should be thinking about during a mission trip, your possessions and how to keep them safe should not be one of them.
- How much travelling around are you doing?
There’s a big difference between packing for a week if you’re going to be stationed in one secure location versus moving every day and sleeping in new beds each night. Be kind to your travelling self and pack to suit the mobility that you need to have. Most people tend to over pack.
- Do you have the right suitcase?
Piggybacking off the last point, a lot of packing and traveling stress can be eliminated by simply having the right suitcase in the first place. Are you moving around a lot? Consider taking a hiking pack. Are you carrying any valuables in your carry-on bag? Choose a duffel bag as opposed to a roller-bag, as the airline can insist upon checking roller-bags at the door of the plane last minute if there isn’t enough overhead space.
As a general rule, one easy to carry checked bag and one small backpack as carry-on should be enough for almost any mission trip. Make sure your bags are labelled with your name and contact information, and are easy to identify.
- What’s the climate?
This may sound obvious, but make sure you know the climate you’re travelling into and pair that with your information about what is/ isn’t culturally appropriate. For example, a predominantly Muslim nation with a hot, tropical climate may require you to wear long sleeves and pants, but you’ll want to leave your heavy jeans and winter shirts at home. Long-sleeve, quick-drying items made from thin fabric will ensure you are dressed for the culture and the climate.
Another point to consider with climate is mosquitoes. If your host country has malaria or zika mosquitoes, for example, you’ll want to make sure as much skin as possible is covered, without causing yourself a heat stroke.
- What message are you sending with your belongings?
One of the ways you can be a blessing or a burden to your host culture is how you present yourself, based on what you wear and what you bring. As much as possible, you want to blend in with those around you – and that goes beyond dressing appropriately. For example, if you’re visiting slums or people living in extreme poverty, it’s probably best to leave your diamond wedding rings and DSLR cameras at home. This isn’t a comment about safety, (although that is something to think about), but humility. Before you leave, it’s important to ask: What message do my clothes and belongings say to the people around me?
- What is/isn’t available?
Once again, depending on where you are going and what you are doing, this will drastically change how you pack; but it’s important to think about what will or will not be available when you are on the ground. For example, if you have seasonal allergies and are not sure how the host climate will effect you, it’s best to bring your preferred medication with you because you can’t be sure your host country will have everything you need. Another example is laundry. If you do have access to a washing machine, you will need to bring a lot less than if you don’t.
Once you have all those questions answered, you’re off to a great start and can begin packing!
Here’s some general guidelines about what to pack:
GENERAL PACKING LIST
- Work clothes
- Casual clothes
- Dress clothes
- Warm and wet weather clothing
- Shoes, work boots, tennis shoes, flip-flops and/or sandals.
- Underwear and socks
- Wet weather gear
- Bible, journal, and pens
- Prescription Medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Insect repellent
- Ear plugs
- Small waterproof backpack
- Photo ID
- Passport (and a photocopy)
BEFORE YOU GO
- Consider purchasing a travel wallet. Unlike other wallets, they are designed to hold a boarding pass and passport, and keep your documents flat, safe and on hand.
- Notify your bank and credit card companies that you are going overseas.
- Make sure your checked baggage is easy to identify, with (for example) a bright ribbon or tape attached.
- If you are taking any prescription medication with you, be sure to get a doctor’s note.
PACKING YOUR CARRY-ON
- Consider packing a soft (as opposed to a hard-cased) carry-on, as they ‘squish’ better into the overhead luggage space and having a soft carry-on will increase the odds of keeping your belongings with you at all times.
- Pack all of your valuables (camera, laptop, money etc) in your carry-on.
- Put all of your electronics (laptop, iPod, phone, etc.) in an easy-to-grab location, as you will have to take them out during security screening and it will be a quicker and easier process if they are in one spot, easy to grab, and easy to put away.
- Bring an empty (not a full!!) water bottle with you, as there is almost always a drinking fountain in the airport to fill it, and it will save you having to buy expensive airport water.
- Bring any toiletries in a clear quart-sized Ziplock bag that’s also in an easy-to-grab location. Do not bring any liquids more than 3.4oz/ 1 quart. Do not bring any aerosol sprays.
- We recommend bringing gum (to unblock your ears), chapstick (as plane air dries your lips out), and ear plugs (if you plan to sleep). Any medications, prescription or over-the-counter, must be in their original container or package.
- Make sure you bring a copy of your flight itinerary and the address of where you will be staying in your host country with you on the plane, as you will need it to fill in the immigration form.
- Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on, in case your checked baggage doesn’t make it at the same time you do.
- Make sure you have a phone that is able to call your contacts in the country you are leaving, and the country where you are going.
THINGS NOT TO PACK IN YOUR CARRY-ON
- Liquids and toiletries you do not need immediately (or that are bigger than the allowed size).
- Umbrellas, knives, forks, spoons, drinks, open or fresh food, needles, lighters, razors, nail clippers, scissors, aerosol sprays, etc.
WHAT TO WEAR
- Usually planes are either too hot or too cold, so wearing layers is a good way to plan on being comfortable. Or, if your luggage space is tight, considering wearing your heaviest jacket on the plane and just stowing it under the seat in front of you (or using it as a pillow).
- Slip on/slip off shoes (to make it easier as you go through security).
- If it all possible, don’t wear a belt (again, it just delays your process as you have to take it off and put it back on during security screening).
We hope these questions, lists and tips were helpful as you plan and pack for your mission trip!
All of our teams (Global Teams, Global Ambassadors, and Urban Plunge) will receive a specific packing list for your mission destination as part of your preparation materials.
Happy packing, let us know if you have any questions, and have a great trip!