This post is second in our series on mission trip preparedness – check out our list of Essentials for Your Packing List and our staff "don't-leave-home-without-it" recommendations.
Your suitcase will be strapped on top of a van, toted across the country in a train's overhead rack, or cluttering the few square feet of floor space in a shared dorm room. The point? Pack light. If you can't fit everything in a small-to-medium suitcase, you're probably bringing too much.
Need some pointers on how to weed out excess baggage? Here are some common mistakes of the over-packer:
6. Piles of Clothing
A ten-day trip doesn't mean you'll need ten days' worth of clothes! Whether it's a bucket, a hotel sink, or even (wonder of wonders) a washing machine, there's almost always a way to wash, rinse, and repeat your outfits.
Tips from the Pros:
- Bring basic items that mix and match easily.
- Pack a lightweight cord for a makeshift clothesline.
- In a pinch, Fe-breeze it!
5. Big Bottles
You probably won't need an entire bottle of shampoo or laundry detergent, and they're taking up valuable space in your suitcase. Use small bottles or buy travel bottles and fill them yourself. Estimate how much you'll need, add a little extra, and leave the original massive containers at home.
- Powdered laundry detergent is much easier to pack than liquid.
- Remember that liquids must be in 3-oz containers to go in your carry-on. (A half-empty 6-oz tube of toothpaste could get nabbed in security.)
- Less is more. Depending on location, you can probably buy some there if you run out.
4. Food for an Army
Ok, snacks are great to have – especially if you're a picky eater or have a food allergy. But don't pack enough to live off of the entire trip. Be adventurous! Dive in and sample local delicacies. You'll probably find something you love – and even if you don't, it's a great way to both explore and celebrate the culture you're heading out to serve.
- Small, grabbable protein – like nuts or protein bars.
- Prunes. (They may, ahem, come in handy.)
- Rehydration packets.
- Anything that would require refrigeration.
- Crackers or cookies – unless you absolutely can't do without them, the lack of nutrition makes them a waste of space.
- Anything messy - you may be in a living situation where crumbs and spills could attract unwanted pests.
On your trip you'll probably see physical needs that you long to meet. While the desire to bless is good and godly, be aware that handing out candy, toys, or even basic supplies can dilute the message you're there to share, leading to unintended negative results. Check with your trip's organizers ahead of time to see if there are gifts you can bring that would really serve the community you're visiting, and don't give anything away (especially money) without their input.
Local churches or missionaries will have a better perspective on how to have a long-lasting impact with gifts. Although it's more fun to give something yourself, consider asking them to handle the distribution.
2. Too Much Tech
Bring a camera, of course! But if you're only gone a couple of weeks, it's a great opportunity to unplug. As nice as it is to be able to stay in touch, constant access can be a huge distraction – and usually makes people more homesick, not less!
Don't be like countless people who look back on their mission trip and realize that they missed opportunities for relationship, ministry, and cultural experiences because they were busy checking Facebook or getting frustrated by a slow Internet connection.
- If you do bring your smart phone, make sure you turn off data roaming before you land to avoid racking up huge fees.
- While many cell phone companies offer international plans, you'll save a lot of money (and focus) by using a local pay phone or internet cafe to call home.
- You may want to designate one person to update a blog or Facebook page on behalf of the whole team.
Whoever said "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference" was dead wrong. Attitude isn't a little thing. Attitude is huge – and it will make or break your mission trip.
The best way to keep the right attitude on your mission trip? Prepare your heart now to be open to whatever God has in store for you.
Attitudes to Leave Behind:
- the know-it-all attitude
- the pity-these-people attitude
- the unwilling-to-risk attitude
- the I-want-it-my-way attitude
- the it's-better-back-home attitude
Attitudes to Choose Now:
- I'm here to learn.
- I need Jesus as much as anyone.
- I came here to grow, not stay the same!
- I'm here to serve.
- Different isn't necessarily wrong; it's just different.