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What to Pack on Your Summer Mission Trip

By Laura J. Bagby Sr. Producer Dress for the Weather

Be sure to check to get a weather report for the place you are going so you know if you are going to need a heavy jacket or a rain jacket or a T-shirt. Ask your missions trip director and, in some cases, you can Google in your location. Remember: You might have to consider various locations. The difference between a valley region and a mountainous area can be great enough to require heavier clothing.

Dress for Activities

If you are doing a construction project, heavy work boots and jeans and T-shirts would be in order. If you are there to do street performances, a costume may be in order. If you are teaching and training inside a church, you might need Sunday dress. Find out what kinds of activities you will be doing there. This will help you know what to pack. Generally speaking, you are going to need comfortable shoes at some point in your trip. Don't dress for fashion; be practical.

Dress for Modesty

Women: no belly shirts and low-rider jeans. Also, many trips require a one-piece bathing suit. If you have to bring a two-piece, make sure that it is modest and be sure to take a T-shirt to wear over the top as a cover-up. Ask your mission trip coordinator if you have questions.

Dress for Culture

Often when we think summer mission trips, we as Americans think shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, and sandals. But this might offend the culture you are entering. Some Muslim cultures, in particular, require long pants, long shirts, and long skirts for the women, and some even require head coverings. Try to find this out as soon as you can in case you need to go shopping.

Food/Water Issues

This can be one of the scariest concerns of those going on international mission trips to places like the jungle or remote areas. You can't simply say no to food that has been placed in front of you because it looks uninviting. You will offend your host(s) and you defeat the purpose of being there, which is to show Christ's love. Pray and ask for God's grace!

Be sure to always pack medications like Pepto Bismal and some form of anti-diarrheal medication. I suggest the chewable Pepto Bismal in case you can't locate water. Also, you can often get some form of antibiotic before you go on your trip if you visit your doctor in advance of your trip. A doctor might suggest amoxicilan or even ciprofloxacin (cipro tabs). Cipro is particularly good for stomach and intestinal bacterial infections.

If you have issues with blood sugar and require regular eating times, you might consider packing extra snacks such as peanuts or cheese and cracker packets, or even energy bars. Once again, these should be in original wrapping so that you don't have trouble getting through Customs. Don't take fresh fruit or vegetables. Customs won't appreciate that. Be sure to check with your mission trip director to let them know your medical situation and ask if this is something you can do.

If you can bring bottled water, I highly recommend it. You can get quickly dehydrated in the summer, especially in warmer climates without realizing it. Signs of dehydration: tiredness, confusion or fuzzy thinking, inability to concentrate, urine that is bright yellow gold, and salty lips when you lick them. The key is to keep hydrated. If you can pack some Gatorade, this is particularly good in areas where the sun will be blazing and you are working outdoors. Gatorade and Powerade products not only rehydrate, but they balance your electrolytes. Unbalanced electrolytes can cause major headaches and dizziness.

Hygiene Issues

Don't forget soap, wash cloth, towel, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer for times when you can't wash hands with water, baby wipes in small packs to take with you and to use if for some reason you can't get a shower, and shampoo/conditioner.

Perfume and cologne are optional and may not be wise if you are going to be outside for long periods of time or are in an insect-rich area. Bugs are drawn to flower smells and you are likely going to get bitten more. This also goes for hair products. Gnats seem to love hair spray. Try to avoid these.

One note about razors: If you are in an area where the water is questionable, don't shave in the shower or at the sink or water to rinse. If you have a cut anywhere on your body from shaving, you could infect yourself with water-borne diseases. If you have to shave, wait until after your shower. Use shave gel without water. Do not immerse any part of your body in water until several hours after to heal any abrasions. I recommend not shaving at all in areas where the water is infected. It isn't worth the risk.

It's a good idea to wear flip-flops in the shower or bathtub when you are in country on a mission trip. It's good protection against fungal problems like warts.

Be careful not to bring anything that might be considered a weapon. I think tweezers and nail clippers are still OK, but check first.


Beyond bringing over-the-counter stomach aids and antibiotics, it is wise to bring some form of ginger with you. You can buy ginger pills or candied ginger at your local health food store. You can also buy candied ginger (also called crystallized ginger) in the spice section of your grocery story, but you will buy almost twice as much. Ginger is great for nausea brought on by motion sickness or any digestive discomfort. It doesn't take much and it works very quickly.

Keep all medicines, supplements in original bottles as much as possible. Pills in plastic bags look suspicious. Buy smaller bottles and take these with you.

Consider buying a small first aid kit. It could really help you or one of your team members in case of a small medical issue.

Sunscreen/Bug Spray

Be sure to wear sunscreen in hotter climates, as you will be more susceptible to burns if you don't. You don't want blisters and a peeling back or worse, sun poisoning, because you forgot to pack your sunscreen. Be sure the SPF rating is above 8. Between 15 and 30 will do.

Consider taking bug spray with you also. If you are going to mosquito-infested areas, this is important. Bounce dryer sheets are also a good repellant against mosquitoes. You can put Bounce sheets in the pockets of your shirts or pants to help keep the pests away.

Handling Money/Passport

Because some areas are purse-snatching areas, and because you are carrying very important documents with you, consider a belly pouch, or, better yet, a money belt that you can wear underneath your clothes. You can get these at luggage places or even places like Target.

Be sure to keep your passport on you at all times. Don't just lock it in your suitcase. It is also wise to make a copy of your passport inside flap that has your passport number and picture in case your passport gets stolen or misplaced. Put the copy in another area, not on your person.


Frequently, suitcases get transported tied to the top of trucks. It is not the time for that brand-new beautiful matching luggage! Make your luggage identifiable. Be sure ALL luggage, even carryons, have your name and address. I suggest a brightly colored tie on to identify your luggage. Lots of people have the basic blue or black canvas luggage. You don't want someone picking up your bags by mistake. My father used to bring luggage that had a big "R" made out of strips of electrical tape slapped in the middle of the suitcase that was very easy to spot.

Try to pack things tightly. Ironing and then folding items will help them lay flatter so you can pack more. Packing a compact rain jacket or windbreaker is recommended over a heavier item. If you are in an area where the water is safe and you can hand-wash items, you can bring mild soap like Woolite or even mild liquid dish soap to wash clothes in. Bring some plastic hangers and clothespins, also to hang wet clothes on to dry. I did this while on a trip to Spain and it saved me from having to pack more clothes.


Quick Packing List of Important Items

  • Pepto Bismal and Anti-diarrheal meds
  • Antibiotics (like Cipro or amoxicilan)
  • Melatonin pills – helpful for the first few nights to get you on their clock
  • Ginger for motion sickness and digestive issues
  • Dramamine for motion sickness
  • Vitamins
  • Toiletries
  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Plastic bag for dirty laundry
  • Hanger and clothespins to hang up clothes that you need to wash
  • Liquid soap to wash clothes
  • Appropriate dress
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Tweezers and First Aid kit
  • Hat/sunglasses for the sun
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Personal, battery powered fan
  • Flip-flops for the shower
  • One-piece bathing suit (for women) with T-shirt to wear over the top
  • Rainproof windbreaker that folds up small
  • Passport
  • Foreign currency
  • Waist pouch or money belt for passport, money
  • Camera and accessories
  • Roll of toilet paper (crushed to fit in suitcase) or Kleenex tissues
  • Pack of Plug adapters
  • Travel iron / travel hair dryer
  • Ear plugs and face mask to help you sleep at night or on the plane
  • Deflateable neck pillow for the plane
  • Translate
  • Print Page

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