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All the Essentials Your Mission Trip Packing List Needs and Why

Planning your mission trip packing list is much different than planning for a vacation. Depending on your destination and the purpose of your mission, what you pack can vary considerably.

Questions to ask yourself while packing for your mission trip:

  • How long will I be gone?
  • Which airlines am I flying with?
  • What kind of accommodations can I expect?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • What is the cultural standard of dress for gender, age, and modesty?
  • What type of electrical outlets will I encounter?
  • What expectations are placed on giving and receiving gifts?

Once you’ve decided what you need, it can be a challenge getting it all in your suitcase. When you can’t fit everything, how do you decide what is essential and what can be left behind?

We’ve assembled this list of absolute essentials for any mission trip, so you can have confidence you’ll have what you need while you travel and after you arrive. Read on to learn what you shouldn’t leave behind:

Preparing Your Carry-On Bag

For International Travel

If you’re traveling abroad, it can be necessary to bring a lot of documentation with you on your trip. Make sure you pack everything you need in a convenient place in your carry-on bag. Make more than one copy of your documents and place them in separate locations in your carry on. That way if you happen to lose one you’ll be covered.

Here’s a list of the most common types of documents needed for mission travel: 

  • Your personal ID
  • Travel visa
  • Passport
  • Vaccination certificates: check the CDC’s website for current recommendations and warnings before you travel
  • A hard copy of your travel plan and accommodations
  • Printed airline tickets
  • Contact information for the mission organization and the local S. Embassy
  • A local map or directory
  • Other pertinent emergency situation information

TRAVEL TIP: In addition to your documents, you’ll also want to carry a fair amount of cash with you. Plan to exchange around $20-50 into local currency once you arrive at your destination. Don’t forget to notify your bank and credit card companies that you’re traveling if you plan to use those accounts while away.

For Transit Delays

Whether your mission trip takes you to a destination near or far, you will undoubtedly encounter some sort of delay while you’re on your journey. As any seasoned traveler knows, what you pack in your carry on can make or break those unexpected travel experiences. These items can also come in handy should your carry-on luggage get lost or delayed in transit.

Pack the following things in your carry on to ensure you’re covered should you encounter a transit delay:

  • A change (or two) of clothing
  • Travel-sized toothpaste
  • A toothbrush
  • A brush
  • Deodorant
  • Chapstick
  • Gum
  • Your prescriptions and other common medications (like pain relievers)
  • A travel pillow and light blanket: we like this compact combination from Lug
  • Earplugs

TRAVEL TIP: Many countries have specific regulations regarding travel with medications. Here are a few things you should know.

For Long Waits

From layovers and delays to long flights and taxis, most of your journey to your mission trip destination consists of sitting idly for long periods of time. Don’t forget to include a few items in your bag to help make the time pass more quickly and comfortably.

Here are a few things we recommend for keeping your mind occupied and meeting your body’s needs during long waits:

  • Snacks that can go through TSA: try a mixture of dried fruit and nuts
  • Your Bible and other reading material
  • Puzzle books
  • A notebook and pen
  • Mobile devices
  • Headphones
  • Charging cables: don’t forget an international power adaptor like this all-in-one option from Samsonite
  • An empty water bottle: refill it after security

TRAVEL TIP: Wear a pair of compression socks like these. They can help with travel-related swelling and soreness throughout the duration of your trip.

Mission Trip Packing List Download

Packing Your Checked Luggage

Strategically planning the contents of your checked baggage is a two-fold adventure. What you take on the trip there and what you bring home can vary significantly. Having a well thought out approach going into this part of your preparations will help your journey play out smoothly in the long run.

While putting your packing list together we recommend thinking about what you’ll need for each direction of your trip. Ask yourself: What will I need while I am there? What do I want to leave behind? And, what do I want to bring home with me?

Many short-term mission trip participants bring a few gifts, treats, or reminders of home for the missionaries that live on the ground. Not only is this a nice “thank you,” but it’s also a way to acknowledge some of the sacrifice missionaries make by living in another country. Plus, the long-term missionaries really look forward to the nostalgic items, or even the practical items they just don’t have access to in their host country.

For the Journey There

Many people travel to their destinations with the intent of leaving much-needed material items behind. If you aren’t planning on leaving the items you used on your trip, you’ll want to plan for the extra space to bring along extra things.

Here’s a list of our most recommended essentials so you can prioritize and plan to fill your extra bag space with other valuable donations:

  • Toiletries not packed in your carry on: soap, shampoo and conditioner, moisturizer, sunscreen, insect repellant, etc.
  • Several sets of weather-appropriate, comfortable clothing that is modest and culturally sensitive. Take items for work, leisure, and dress.
  • Vitamins and other dietary supplements
  • Additional nutrient-dense and filling snacks like granola bars, jerky, and drink mixes
  • A first-aid kit: this one from the American Red Cross has all the basic items you might need
  • A flashlight or headlamp
  • Disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer
  • Footwear and headwear
  • A travel towel: choose something lightweight and absorbent like these options from Youphoria Yoga

TRAVEL TIP: Mark your luggage (in two locations) with a bright ribbon or another unique identification tag. Finding it in the masses of bags on the return belt will be easier.

For the Trip Home

Aside from gifts for the people who supported your trip or souvenirs for yourself or loved ones, if you plan correctly, you should be returning home with less than you arrived with. Make sure to pack any fragile items you may have picked up in a few layers of soft clothing and place them at the center of your bag.


TRAVEL TIP: Support local shops, artisans, and craftspeople by buying your gifts and souvenirs in the community you’re serving. If you need something last-minute, duty-free shops in the airport are a great option.


Although figuring out what to put on your mission trip packing list can feel like an overwhelming task, it’s easy to begin narrowing down your list. If you start with a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing and answer a few key questions about your travel, accommodations, and your mission’s purpose, you’ll be well on your way.


Mission Trip Packing List Download