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17 Must-Haves for Every Mission Trip

17 Must-Haves for Every Mission Trip

It can be hard to pack for a mission trip, especially if you’ve never been on one or haven’t done a whole lot of traveling. Some things are fairly self-explanatory, while other items may be so unique you would never think to add them to your list. We want to help with that! We asked a group of people who, collectively, have been on a couple hundred short-term mission trips, and this is what we heard. Everyone agreed, though, that the very best way to know what to pack is to ask your team leader or connection in the place you’re visiting what they recommend the most. You might be surprised by what they say!

Bible & journal
A mission trip allows us space and time to get away from the regular routine of our lives and enter into something new. This can be an amazing time of both personal growth and challenge. Digging into the Word of God on a trip can open our eyes to things we’ve never seen or heard from Him. If that happens, you’ll want a place to write it all down so you can look back on the experience again later.

Bag for flights
Flights can get long, so be sure to pack accordingly. It’s also a possibility your checked luggage might not arrive right away, so you’ll want a few things on you. It’s helpful to carry a written copy of the address where you’ll be for immigration. Wipes, deodorant, toothbrush, medications, sweatshirt, phone charger, headphones, compression socks, snacks, an extra set of clothes.

Meal times may vary from what you’re used to, or local food may not sit well with your stomach. You’ll be thankful to have a little something in your bag. Protein bars, nuts, jerky.

Powdered drink mix
Dehydration can happen quickly when working hard in a hot place or at a higher elevation. Drink early, drink often. Gatorade, Propel, Powerade packets.

See in the dark without using your hands! Many parts of the world lose power on a regular basis, so it’s always good to have some form of supplemental light.

Power adapters
Do a little research to figure out what type and what voltage is used where you’re traveling. You’ll want to be able to charge devices, but you also won’t want to fry them with too much power. There’s a big difference between 110V and 220V! If you purchase something specific for your trip, consider leaving it with your hosts so they have a few extras if the next visitors forget.

External charger
A battery pack that can charge a phone a few times means you’ll definitely be able to keep snapping photos on your phone through a good part of your trip, whatever the local power situation.

Wipes & hand sanitizer
Washing up on the go can be a challenge when sinks, soap, or showers may not be available.

Tissues & toilet paper
Many bathrooms around the world do not have their own supply, so having a few small packages of tissues or toilet paper can be helpful.

Wash cloths
These aren’t often provided internationally or in rural locations, and they can be an easy way to wash up after a long day.

Quick-dry towel
In humid areas, towels can take a long time to dry, leaving them smelling terrible. Take something light or specifically quick-dry.

This will vary greatly depending on the place you’re going and the work you’ll be doing. Sandals are always good for wearing around after a day of work or in the shower. It’s usually a good idea to have a nice pair of shoes for community visits or church, along with whatever works best for your specific trip.

Nice clothing
It’s easy to only think about the dirty work you might be doing on a mission trip, but it’s important to consider the culture in which you’ll be working. Many cultures value appearance, even if they don’t have the resources to purchase new things. If you’re going to have time with locals, be sure to pack appropriate clothing.

Fanny pack or other small bag
Yes, we said it. Fanny packs are back in, so why not take one for the convenience of having everything in reach! If the bag is small, you might want to attach a clip so you can attach your water bottle, too. Ladies, if you’re traveling to a place that requires you wear skirts, you may not have pockets. A small bag is a great place to keep all the things you would otherwise tuck in your pockets. Kavu sling rope bag.

Over half of those we asked about packing said they recommend taking along a few over-the-counter meds, just in case they’re needed. Tylenol, cold meds, non-drowsy Dramamine, roll-on pain reliever.

Multipurpose tool
These have multiple helpful purposes, hence the name. Keep them on the smaller side, and of course, be sure to pack them in your checked luggage. Also, double-check with your team leader to make sure they’re okay to take along. Gerber, Leatherman.

Package of blank note cards
It’s always a nice thought to leave a thank you message for the people who work with your team while traveling. They often put in a lot of work behind-the-scenes and before you arrive.

Ask what your hosts would like
In the excitement of preparing and packing for a trip, it’s easy to forget about the people you’ll be working with on the field. Send an email to your missionary hosts asking if there is anything they’d like you to bring for their ministry, for their neighbors, for themselves. And don’t forget about the missionary kids! They love being remembered, often with treats they can’t find in their host country.

Are you interested in going on a mission trip but need help figuring out how, where, or when to do that? We’re happy to help! Click this link to discover more information about how you can be involved in what we’re doing around the world.

Open suitcase being packed.

Angela Olsen is a staff writer for WGM while serving as a missionary on Special Assignment with her husband, Pete, and their two kids. They currently live on the shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. You can follow her journeys at, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

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