Practical Packing Tips
Different airlines will vary when it comes to luggage restrictions for both checked luggage and carry-on items. Please verify with your airline their specific requirements keeping in mind non-US airlines may have different, stricter guidelines, even if your flight originate in the US. There may also be a large fine for overweight luggage. Remember, you will be responsible for carrying and guarding all your luggage. We cannot stress enough the fact that you can never pack too lightly! For international flights, we ask that you check in 2 ½ hours prior to departure.
Pack light but be adequately prepared. You will be happier if you pack light – and probably surprised by how little you need to survive 7-10 day trips. The team you will be serving with will provide a packing list. Please carefully follow their recommendations.
Note: Many cultures wear the same clothes for multiple days. If you wear a different set of clothes every day, you might inadvertently re-enforce the “rich American” stereotype.
Download Sample Packing List
Plan for jet lag
Once you arrive, try to sleep according to the time zone you are in, even if it means staying up for a long time on the first day. Your body will adjust to the new time zone quicker this way.
Research the country you will visiting. Your Trip Leader should provide you with some information about your destination country but it’s a good idea to take time to learn about the culture so that you understand what will be expected regarding your behavior and dress.
Some examples of cultural considerations are:
- Avoid wearing clothing with overtly American slogans, symbols, or branding;
- Ladies wearing head scarves during church services or not wearing sleeveless tops and pants/trousers (more about clothing is listed later in this section.)
Climate and weather
Understand the climate you will visit. Check www.weather.com for information on the weather you might experience. Dress in light layers and be prepared for all types of weather, hot and cold, wet and dry. You may want to bring a hooded raincoat or folding umbrella for rainy weather, a sweater or light jacket for the evenings and a hat or scarf for protection from the sun. Note: some cultures frown on sunglasses because this prevents people from seeing your eyes.
Electrical current in other countries is different than in the US. A converter and adaptive plugs may be needed and can be purchased at most US department/drug stores. Electrical items such as shavers, hairdryers, etc. will not work without a transformer unless they are dual voltage. All plugs, adapters, and transformers should be purchased before you leave. To aid in your packing light, consider whether you truly need such appliances.
Personal items to bring
Don’t forget your Bible, a notebook, and a pen! A notebook can be used to record times of reflection on what God is saying to you as well as to record the names and addresses of the many friends you will make. Most travelers like to have a small backpack.
Most major airports and cities have currency exchange offices. You can either use cash or plastic for these transactions. You will also be able to use your debit/credit card at ATMs in large cities. For security reasons, be sure to inform your bank/credit card company about your travel plans and determine what fees you will be charged for foreign transactions.
Most foreign businesses appreciate clean, crisp $10 and $20 dollar bills. Familiarize yourself with currency exchange rates before you leave the US so that you will know how much you are actually spending in US dollars.
Some cash will be necessary during your day off/free time. You will be responsible for purchasing any food and drinks and personal transportation that you require in that time. There may be opportunity for personal shopping during your trip. Be sensitive to the other members of your team who may not have extra money to spend. Please avoid large or extravagant expenditures. Remember, as well, that your purchases will need to find a place in your luggage on your return flights.
In a multi-cultural environment, standards of dress will differ greatly. Follow the recommendations and requests of your Host in the country where you are serving. Dressing nicely and with cultural sensitivity earns respect. It may be necessary to defer your personal preferences, however modest and attractive they may be, in favor of what is appropriate to where you are serving. The goal is to present yourself so that nothing distracts from glorifying God in all that you do. Bring clothes that are easy to wash and that dry quickly. You may want to pack an outfit, extra underwear, toiletries, etc. in your carry on in case of lost luggage.