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:
1. Passport & 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.
2. Any medications you use regularly, including allergy medicines.
3. 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.
4. Toiletries. Remember that anything in your carry-on must meet TSA regulations, and liquids are limited to 3.4 ounces.
5. 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. Additionally, volunteers with HOI in Honduras don’t receive their checked luggage until after the second day of the trip during arrival at Rancho el Paraiso.
6. A book or magazine for the flight.
7. 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.
8. Sunglasses. It may be sunny where you’re going, and you don’t want to spend the trip there squinting!
9. 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.
10. Money and/or an ATM card for souvenirs and tips. U.S. dollars are accepted in many countries throughout the world, such as Honduras, but large bills may not be accepted. One and five dollar bills are easier to handle.
In your checked luggage:
1. 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.
2. Snacks. The food at your destination should be tasty and safe to eat, like the food prepared by HOI’s staff in Honduras. However, you may want familiar snacks like granola bars or trail mix for between meals as well. Just pack enough to share with your teammates!
3. A flashlight with extra batteries. While your destination, like HOI’s Rancho el Paraiso, 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).
4. 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.
5. Appropriate clothing for your mission activities. HOI’s trips include four days of work building latrines, mudding rooms, etc., so many volunteers pack four sets of work clothes. Since dress is different in Honduras and Nicaragua than the States, HOI asks that volunteers wear long pants and refrain from wearing sleeveless tops.
6. Work and/or and rubber gloves for mixing cement.
7. Sturdy shoes (work boots or tennis shoes): a pair to work in and a pair to change into after work.
8. A hat and/or bandana to protect your face and neck from the sun.
9. 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!
10. Enough socks, pajamas, and underwear for the length of your trip.
11. A poncho or raincoat if your destination, like Central America, receives a significant amount of rainfall.
12. A small backpack to carry personal items to the work site each day.
13. Non-slip flip flops for the shower.
14. A water bottle that can be refilled with clean water.
15. Plastic bags for packing dirty clothes for the return home.
16. Games for you and your team to play during down time: mad libs, cards, UNO, dominoes or checkers are easy to carry.
17. A language dictionary. A Spanish/English pocket dictionary is a necessity for many HOI volunteers who hope to build new friendships!
18. A notebook and pens to record new words, memories, and observations.
19. A Bible. Your faith is the most important thing you’ll take and share on your journey!
20. 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.
Now you’re ready to go! Enjoy your trip, and be ready for a great adventure!
Is there anything you think should be added to this list? Share it in the comments below!