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Ultimate Female Packing List for a Mission Trip

The is a mission trip packing list brought to you by Caroline. See all packing list posts here.

mission trip packing list

One of the most difficult trips I’ve ever packed for was one in which I spent two weeks in rural Thailand on a mission trip, followed by another two weeks sailing the Croatian coast. I tried to find items that were versatile enough for both trips, but I needed to bring specific items for my mission trip.

Mission work can take you all over the world, from Southeast Asia to South America and everywhere in between, so it’s important to be prepared. After consulting others who have traveled for mission work, we’ve come up with this mission trip packing list.

Clothing

As a representative of the organization you are traveling on behalf of, you will likely be expected to follow a certain dress code. Modest clothing is important to pack in effort to respect local cultures.

2 pairs of capri or long pants– Most trips prefer that volunteers not wear shorts during their trip. Instead, wear cargo or lightweight linen pants. I packed my ExOfficio Roughian capris. http://www.exofficio.com/products/details/womens-roughian-capri

2 long sleeved shirts– Bug proof clothing is a must-have for a mission trip. It’s even better if it’s wicking as well. Long sleeved shirts are also great for layering.

2 short sleeved shirts– While working, it’s a good idea to wear basic short sleeved shirts that you don’t mind getting dirty. I recommend cheap tees from a bargain store like Old Navy to throw away if you need to.

1 tank top or sleeveless shirt– If you have a day off you can wear a tank top or wear it under your other shirts.

1 long skirt– You can wear a skirt on your day off or even at work, depending on what your project involves.

3 bras– I recommend packing 2 regular bras and at least one sports bra.

3 pairs of underwear– If I had known about ExOfficio underwear at the time, I would have packed it exclusively and washed it as I went.

1 windbreaker or light jacket– The rain in Thailand came quickly, often when I wasn’t prepared for it.

1 pair leggings or yoga pants– You need something to wear on planes and to sleep that won’t be too revealing.

1 bandana– As the all-purpose travel item, I used mine to wipe off sweat on hot afternoons.

1 hat– Keep the sun out of your eyes and protect yourself.

1 pashmina or sarong– I used my sarong as a long skirt, to cover up when I got out of the shower and sometimes as a blanket.

Shoes

1 pair of athletic shoes– Closed toed shoes are essential if you’re working on a building project.

1 pair of flip flops– Just like in hostels, volunteer housing has shared showers, so keep your feet clean.

Caroline on a mission trip

Caroline on her mission trip.

Toiletries

Shampoo/Conditioner – Travel sized and TSA friendly are the way to go.

Soap or Body Wash – I brought body wash instead, but soap is usually easier to pack if you’re flying carry-on only.

Toothbrush/Paste – Also get a snap-on case so you don’t get anything on your toothbrush.

Deodorant – You’ll be glad you had it on the sweltering days.

Razor – You might not see this item as essential, but it’s your call.

Brush – Useful for pulling your hair back.

Hair ties and headbands – Necessary to keep the hair off your neck on those hot days.

Motion Sickness Medicine – You may be taking local transportation, which can be bumpy.

Diva Cup – The Diva Cup is ideal for this trip since you will be active and won’t always have time to change. And not every country has the same feminine products that you might be used to.

Prescriptions and medications– Visit a travel doctor before your trip to see what vaccinations and medications you need beforehand.

First aid kit– The basics, like band-aids, ibuprofen and burn cream, should be sufficient.

Protection from the Elements

Mosquito spray– I purchased heavy-duty DEET mosquito spray for my trip to Thailand but didn’t put it on as much as I should have.

Sunblock– Save yourself from a miserable week of sunburn.

Travel insurance– You don’t want to be put in a situation where you need to be airlifted out of the country without travel insurance.

Tech Gear

Camera– Capture the memories of your mission trip, but make sure your camera is fully charged before you go in case you don’t get a chance to plug it in.

iPod– Keep yourself entertained on the long flight.

Adapters– Don’t forget adapters for your chosen country.

Other

Towel– Pack a quick-drying towel for convenience and extra space.

Passport and necessary visas– Make sure you’ve acquired all necessary paperwork to visit the country you’ll be working in. Also throw in extra cash in case you can’t find an ATM right away.

Deck of cards– I always pack a deck of cards because it’s a form of entertainment that never needs charging.

Books– I rarely had a chance to charge my electronics, so I was glad to have real books, rather than an e-reader. I also didn’t feel bad about leaving them behind.

Language guide– There are lots of language guide options, but you should at least know a few words of the local language.

Headlamp– On a few occasions I had to fumble around in the dark to go to the restroom, so it was handy to have my headlamp next to my bed.

Wet wipes– You won’t be able to shower as much as you might back home, so a quick face wipe can make you feel cleaner immediately.

Water bottle– Make sure your bottle is filled with potable water before drinking it. If you’re unsure, pack iodine tablets or a SteriPen.

Gifts for kids– If you will be working with children, you can bring items like pencils as a treat for the children. Just make sure it’s nothing that can’t get refilled.

Anything else you would add for a mission trip packing list? Add it to the list in the comments below!

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18 Responses to Ultimate Female Packing List for a Mission Trip

  1. Elle March 5, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Long time lurker here! :)
    I read through this checklist going “Yep, yep, yep yep” as I went along.
    The sports bra is especially important if you’re doing any sort of outdoor manual labor. You don’t want to possibly ruin your good bras and it’s nice to have one bra designated for all the dirty work.
    The pencils are a great gift idea, so are fun-shaped erasers. I try to avoid sweets because they often have poor access to dental care and you don’t want to add to any existing problems.
    I’d add that if your mission trip is of the religious variety and they want you to bring a Bible, get an app instead. Those Bibles are HEAVY!!! I have a free Bible app from You Version that lets you download and/or use WiFi to access 450 versions in 244 languages. Way more helpful than lugging the actual book around!

    • Brooke March 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Awesome tips, Elle! Thanks for finally dropping us a comment ;) We love them!

  2. George March 6, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    Nice list. Diva cup is a must I’m a total convert

  3. Eleny March 22, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    this is awesome..I really needed this because I’ll be going on a mission trip soon..thank you caroline!

  4. Margaret April 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for the list! I’m doing an interfaith mission trip to turkey in a couple weeks and this is very helpful!! I’ve been struggling to find the balance of travelling light, packing for both work (helping refugees) and sightseeing. It’s important to have this list as a reminder to pack for whats most important… The work. :-)

  5. Johnelle April 29, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    For the past two summers I’ve been serving as a short term (2 month) missionary in India, Nepal, and Southern Africa and one thing I’d add is baby wipes. They almost always come in handy.

  6. Emma June 4, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    Hello, I have been reading your blog for a while now and this post about mission trips is perfect because I am going on a trip in Sept for 2 weeks to Bangladesh! My question was what you guys thought about bringing scrub pants to use for the everyday wear. Jeans are bulky and take long to dry. And I don’t think we will have access to laundry facilities. I also want to, obviously, keep my pack lightweight. Any thoughts or ideas are most appreciated! Thanks!

    • Heather July 10, 2013 at 2:00 am #

      I’m headed to Rio on a Mission trip and scrubs were what I decided on as well. As an added bonus, they’re comfy enough for the plane so I eliminated the need to an extra set of clothes for flying.

    • Lauren July 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

      Scrub pants are awesome! I am a CNA and they are the most comfortable pants I’ve ever worn in my life. Once you give them a quick wash and dry, they feel like pajamas but give you the casual look. They also come in many different colors or patterns. I know of a few churches in my area who require them to bring at least one pair of scrub pants to every trip. WalMart is the place to go for them as well. They have a few different styles to choose from and tons of colors. Have a great trip, I hope I helped!

    • Claire Hampton June 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Yes, I would definitely bring scrubs! I leave for Costa Rica in one week and we were recommended to bring scrubs for construction, and you could also wear them for everyday use! They are so lightweight and take up little room in the suit case so they are a MUST in my book!

  7. Kriselle August 4, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    One thing you forgot to add: bring a couple nice outfits that are conservative because if you are on a religious mission trip, you will most likely attend at least one church service. In my mission trips to the Philippines and Peru, we had to bring nice clothing for church services, but in Peru we couldn’t wear pants at all and couldn’t show our shoulders so we had to be more conservative there, whereas the Philippines allowed colored or dark jeans.

  8. Nicole March 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Do you have advice on sandals to pack for a missions trip? I’m going to Haiti but I can’t spend hundreds of dollars on Chacos or Tevas

    • Ashlyn March 7, 2014 at 7:08 am #

      If you shop at Sierra Trading Post, you can get Chacos or Tevas for way less expensive. I just bought a pair and, shipping and everything, they cost just over $50. There are promotions going on all the time and you can search for online coupons too!

  9. Patty March 18, 2014 at 4:48 am #

    Going to Honduras in 3 days!! Will be sharing with the Honduran women about marriage. I wanted to take them something. Would homemade wedding cookies be appropriate or could you suggest something else. I am on a limited budget and I have no idea how many women might attend.

    • Tammy June 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Patty,

      We’re leaving soon for a mission in Honduras. My teen daughter has a few streaks of lavender highlights in her hair. Do you know if this is culturally acceptable among churches? Would the highlighting have negative connotations in the Honduran culture?

  10. Katy Lee April 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi all! I’ve been on short term trips to Russia and Kenya, and I’ve been on long term trips to New Zealand, and I’m going to Kenya again for two weeks this summer! I totally agree with this list…especially for remote or undeveloped areas. :) So, awesome! A few things that I would add (not sure if anyone has added them in comments already):

    Bring a rolling duffel. I’ve found that to be the best type of luggage. You can stuff it to bursting, unlike a suitcase.

    When you pack, roll your clothes. It saves alot of space.

    Put all TSA approved liquids in your carry-on in a quart-sized plastic bag, toward the top of your bag so you can pull it out when they ask for it.

    Bring alot of hand sanitizer. In many places you won’t have water out in the field to wash with.

    Bring camping toilet paper, or toilet paper from a roll in a plastic bag. Sometimes you gotta go and there’s no toilet paper (or toilet!).

    Ponds (or similar) face wipes are so helpful!

    If you HAVE to bring some kind of makeup, bring a tinted moisturizer. They usually have sunscreen built in and it’s nice and light.

    Bring some kind of “lady wipes” like Summer’s Eve or Kotex.

    In the Walmart camping section you’ll find Repel Mosquito Repellant Wipes…they are the most handy thing I’ve come across. Especially for places that are known for malaria.

    A small flashlight is a good idea.

    If you’re going to be there for a while, bring a small sewing kit.

    In countries where malaria is a concern, wear long socks, apply mosquito repellant at least twice a day, and bring/diligently take malaria medication. The best way to avoid malaria is to not get bit.

    Never be caught in a foreign country without an anti-diarrhea med.

    Bring along a general purpose antibiotic (get prescription from a doctor). I’ve gotten skin infections in the field that were easily treated by something like cipro.

    Last one, benadryl or a good antihistamine. Unknown places, plants, animals and foods…just be on the safe side.

    Blessings on all your trips!
    -Katy

  11. Annie May 8, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Birkenstock or sandals made like them. You can walk all day in them and they are sturdy and supportive!

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