Mission trips are one of the most invigorating and rewarding ways to take a vacation from the stress and hassle of modern life. They give you an opportunity to leave work, school, and even your personal life behind in order to focus on helping others. Whether you're taking a group of charitable teens upstate to renovate a retirement community or a group of dedicated missionaries to build wells in a developing county, the good you do is always made possible by the logistics. The best way to make the most of your mission trip is to have everyone completely ready and on-point at all times.
While getting everyone to the right place at the right time is a big task, one of the most common logistical setbacks on any group trip is things forgotten while packing. In a loving church group, little things like sunscreen and itch cream can be shared between your missionaries, but it can become a real problem if someone forgets sturdy shoes, their medication, or some other personal item that is needed in order to complete your goals. The good news is that as a trip organizer, you have the opportunity to get everyone in line, including what's in their luggage, well before arriving at the airport. All you need is a packing list.
The Mission Trip Packing List
Packing lists have been a go-to tool for trip and event planning for as long as people have been writing things down. If you want to avoid forgetting something, make a list, cross items off as you pack, and check it again before you zip-up and head out just to be sure. Summer camps, business trips, and even conferences provide packing lists for exactly this reason and you can as well. The best part about writing your own packing list and distributing it to your group is that you have the opportunity to customize and make sure that everyone brings a few special items that will be particularly useful on the trip you have planned.
The first thing to remember is a list of personal items. If this is one of your first trips, you might be surprised just how many people forget things like extra socks and underwear, their toothbrush, shampoo, or shoes you can walk all day in. People will bring clothes they look good in instead of those they can work in, remember their makeup and forget their medication, or pack a bunch of tech they won't have time to use. How many outfits and which toiletries your crew will need depends on the length and content of your trip, and you can make this clear to them in the list.
Clothing and Shoes - Consider Destination Cultural Standards
Sturdy, comfortable jeans
Walking and working shoes
Hair ties or bandanas
One sturdy sweater
One nice outfit
One or two towels
Toiletries - Pack in a Sealed Plastic Bag
Sunscreen and Bugspray
Toothbrush, paste, and floss
Travel shampoo (skip the conditioner)
Bar of soap
Shaving kit if needed
Lip Balm and Lotion
Anything else you know you'll need (nothing fancy or electric)
Once the basics are covered so that your group is sure to be able to dress and groom themselves successfully no matter what kind of hotel, hostel, or camp you stop at, make sure everyone remembers to bring all the right documentation to travel with. The last thing you need is a missing passport, photo ID, or some other vital document when all of you are together in a foreign airport.
Government Issued Photo ID
Debit or Credit Cards
Plane Tickets and Boarding Passes
Cell Phones and Charger
Any special documents related to the trip
Of course, going on a mission trip doesn't mean that you have to only bring necessary items. Thinks like notebooks and decks of cards have always been welcome travel accessories and they are easily replaced if any get lost or damaged so are safe to bring along even on bumpy bus rides and remote areas. Ideally, your mission trip group will have between them a collection of books, snacks, and enough inexpensive ways to pass the time that any waiting you wind up doing together in cars, airports, or hotels will be a fun communal experience. While guitars are risky and difficult to travel with, one in a group is also always an enjoyable addition.
Good Carry-On Ideas
Notebooks, pens, and pencils
Deck of Cards
Bottles of water
Hymn and Praise Song Lyric Sheets
What Not to Bring
Finally, sometimes members of your group will forget that they're packing for a mission trip rather than a stay at a luxury resort. This can result in over-packing and items you definitely don't want to come along on the mission trip. While you can't keep the cell phones away, make sure your group members understand that a mission trip is about working with your hands and there won't be any need for fancier gear.
Laptop, tablet, and notepad computers
iPods and MP3 players
Jewelry (advise even leaving normal earrings at home)
Any additional tech or valuables
Fancy clothes and shoes
Digital cameras (use your phones or disposables)
Mission trips are a wonderful experience and the best way to make the entire trip go smoothly is to ensure that everyone has everything they need (and nothing they don't need). When you're planning the trip, make sure to plan a comprehensive packing list as well detailing the kind of weather to pack for, how many outfits, what kind of gear might be useful, and what definitely shouldn't come along. You can even do a final double-check when you all meet up at the church before heading out. Make the most of your next mission trip by getting the packing logistics locked down early.