Ultimate Female Packing List for a Mission Trip

mission trip packing list

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

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.

>>Check out these clean water hacks.

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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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Elle says

    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!

  2. Margaret says

    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. 🙂

  3. Johnelle says

    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.

    • Erica says

      Totally agree! I bring a pack of baby wipes and also a pack of face wash wipes (which I use at night then I often keep overnight to be used as a wash cloth to freshen in the morning). a

  4. Emma says

    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 says

      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 says

      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 says

      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!

    • Andrea DAVIS says

      Scrubs are great. I always take them to wear. I have different colors. I even wear them on te plane. My black ones go with everyrhing.

  5. Kriselle says

    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.

    • Stacey says

      I’m going to Peru with my sons youth group soon. Do you have any other tips for me, like what to expect weather wise, etc. It’s also my first one so I’m nervously excited lol

  6. Nicole says

    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 says

      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!

  7. Patty says

    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 says

      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?

  8. Katy Lee says

    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

  9. Annie says

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

  10. Anna says

    Thank you, Caroline for all the great tips! I’m a teen and have my first ever mission trip next week and I appreciate all the do’ s and dont’ s! Please pray that God will be glorified during this exciting week and His name will be lifted high 🙂

  11. Ada says

    Hey so these are few tips from my experiences

    1)If you are going to be doing a lot of outside work bring sports bras. They sell them padded unpadded I recommend the ones from under armour (little pricey but at least you wont be ruining your $40 bra with sweat )

    2)If you are going to be in a not so remote area and you have bathrooms bring tampons just do it because if you are doing any water activities and don’t want to wear or cant find a diva cup, it will help (this is more for local regions )

    3)Bring snacks in resalable containers you can find Doritos in giant pringle cans, bring drinks in twist cap bottles etc.

    4)duffel bags are the best because they are unique so if you are on a sports team, bring your duffel from the team

    5)pack as little as possible don’t bring your giant 3 pack of toothbrushes just bring one . don’t pack a giant 100 pack of hair ties only bring 10 (only ten plus a few headbands )

    6)don’t bring hairspray (aerosol ) you will stink up your cabin and when you sweat it will all go into your eyes

    7)bring collapsible sunglasses

  12. Jill says

    Also chopstick is really important and if you’re trying to pack lighter, pack some laundry detergent pods in a plastic bag. If you’re staying in a hotel you can wash your clothes in the tub.

  13. Gwen says

    Thank you all for your advice. I am leaving on. my trip to Kenya next week I had no idea of what I should pack. May God bless you for your help!

  14. Rosie says

    It’s incredible to see so many people passionate about missions. Seriously love it. I’ll be leading a team in Cambodia next January (I cannot wait to go back and see the progress since I was last there!) so just refreshing the memory.

    A few random things I’d add:
    •A sink plug. One that can be used in multiple sized tubs so that you can wash clothes in it. This was such a lifesaver last time! A few pegs and small string washing line can also be handy, otherwise a few costhangers to hang clothes in the shower.

    •Portable power bank – so you can charge phones or cameras when you don’t have access to other power.

    One of our team last time took powdered milk and oats to have for breakfast. It was great as cereal wasn’t accessible over there so we’d have to go and buy fruit or heavy meals with rice for breakfast otherwise. Obviously depends on how much space you have!

  15. Becky says

    My last trip to Guatemala we built a house. Even though I was drinking lots of safe water my body needed electrolytes. Next time I’m packing some Gatorade packets to add in to my water.

  16. Katelyn says

    Just a heads up, in many cultures, actual playing cards that have the suits and face cards are very taboo because they are connected to gambling in some cultures and are seen as being bad. This was something my parents learned when traveling abroad for my brother’s adoption, and something that my youth pastor made sure the teens were/are aware of when packing for an upcoming out of country missions trip, that you can’t bring a deck of regular playing cards.

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