My Mission Trip Pack List
By Tawny Austin
Hey, I’m Tawny! I’ve been a missionary with CBM since Fall of 2017 and have served in Honduras full-time since October 2019. Surprisingly, before moving to Honduras, I had only been on one mission trip, and it wasn’t even a “typical” mission trip. I went to Japan with my husband in 2016 for a month, over one of our college summer breaks to help out with a VBS program, English classes, and some other ministry work. We moved to Honduras a few years later and, after a few teams came to work with us, was the first time I saw what the “typical mission trip” really looked like. I also learned a lot of things about what to pack to go on a mission trip! So, here is a list of my best tips of things to bring on a mission trip and why:
WHAT TO PACK FOR A MISSIONS TRIP
1. Reusable Water Bottle–In order for your body to be functioning the best it can, so you can SERVE the best you can, you MUST keep hydrated on your trip. Depending on the country you visit, you might be able to buy water bottles to have when you’re out and about, but I highly recommend bringing a reusable water bottle & filling up with clean water every chance you get. You can carry this on the plane with you, so it doesn’t have to take up precious space.
2. Passport & Driver’s License (and 2 copies of each)–Your passport is a given, but sometimes you will be asked to show 2 forms of identification, so having your driver’s license is a good idea. But you should not need any more ID, so leave your Social Security card, birth certificate, or anything like that at home, you won’t need them. It’s unlikely but you may find yourself needing to drive while on your mission trip, and some countries are fine with you using your US driver’s license. You never know!
3. Hand Sanitizer–A lot of times the people–especially the little kiddos–will want to hold your hand, give you things, shake your hand, etc. and you won’t have a chance to get to a sink & wash your hands very often!
4. Shower Flip Flops–I personally don’t like walking barefoot into community showers or showers that I’m not sure get cleaned very often. This might not be the case where you’ll be staying, but, in case it is, you’ll appreciate having some extra peace of mind with you.
5. Journal & Bible–These two are also kind of a given, but I would say that having a journal with you is so, so important. It’s one thing to have photos of the people & kiddos you connect & fall in love with while on your trip, but you won’t regret writing down what your memorable moments or conversations were each night before bed or in the mornings. Even if it’s just a 5 minute journal entry, it will help you out so much! You can also write about what the Lord taught you each day through your personal & group devotion times, things you saw/did, or people you met.
6. Backpack or Fanny Pack
7. Cash for Souvenirs/Drinks/Snacks–NOT for giving out to the people you’re ministering to, even if they ask you. You most likely will get asked for money but it is best to speak with the missionaries directly about this, as they will help you to meet the need in the best way possible. Otherwise, it could become a very negative or complicated situation that ends up hurting the missionary and their work in the country, other people in the community, or the person who asked. Trust me, I have heard and seen many horror stories related to this.
8. Checked Bag–If you’re trying to pack super light or travel as cheaply as possible, then you can ignore this one, and a carry-on would be the best choice for you! BUT, I recommend bringing a checked bag. One reason is that this will help you out when it comes to liquids/toiletries, as you can bring larger things. Another reason is that if you buy souvenirs like coffee or pottery while in the country, you might not be able to bring them back in your carry-on baggage. Some countries (Honduras being one of them) only allows pottery and coffee to be brought in checked baggage. You can also ask the missionaries if there is anything needed for the ministry and, if you have the space, you can bring it along.
9. Photos of your family & pets–I’ve seen people on missions trips bring these, and they were super helpful! You could simply get some photos printed, or you can make up a little booklet (maybe even with labels written in the language). They will help you connect better with the person you’re talking to. You could also save some of these into an album on your phone, but it’s nice to have them physically so you don’t have to rely on your phone as much, and they can be passed around more easily.
10. Baby Wipes & Dry Shampoo–These are in case the shower situation is complicated or less than ideal. You also might find that having baby wipes on you will help you out a lot.
11. Travel Tissues–I’ve seen some recommend bringing a whole toilet paper roll for your trip, but I like bringing the little travel packs of tissues a lot better. That way you can have something discreet in your bag that you won’t forget, because you will probably need some toilet paper at least once! There is no guarantee that every bathroom you use will have toilet paper, or that you won’t have to use nature as a bathroom at some point. You never know.
12. Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, Bugspray
13. Some sort of Electrolyte water mix-in
14. Mini Translation Book or Offline App–I have heard some of our translators say that they would prefer the people on a mission team not worry about trying to talk with the people in their mother tongue and just focus on building relationships through the translators; I still think having a book or app could be helpful! The people usually do appreciate when you know a little something in their language and try to speak it, but you don’t need to feel like you have to know it all. The translators are usually really great, so leave the job to them for the most part. I personally use the Google Translate App but I download the offline version of the language I need so I can use it anywhere.
15. Mini Creamers–This may seem like a weird one, but I saw some people on a mission trip with some and thought it was genius! I need my morning cup of coffee to function, but I also prefer it with flavored creamer rather than milk & sugar, if I can. If you’re like me, you’ll be glad you have some of these mini creamers with you! Also, most likely the coffee in the country you’re serving in will be DELICIOUS so you don’t wanna miss out on trying it because you don’t like black coffee or cream & sugar in your coffee.
16. Stomach Relief/Pain Relieve–Your trip leader might have this with them already, but I like having a small stash for myself just in case.
17. Treats for the missionaries–Check with the missionaries you’ll be serving with to see if they need anything from the states! It’s very encouraging when teams come, especially when they think of us and want to treat us! Oftentimes there are a lot of things we can’t get in the country we’re in and we miss a little bit of home!
18. Towel–Sometimes there are no towels provided or the laundry service isn’t very fast. So I like being prepared and bringing my own!
19. Phone and/or Camera–Of course you’re going to want to take some photos and/or videos of your trip! If you just have a phone, there is no need to go out and buy a new camera just for your trip. Your phone will suffice! But, if you do have a nicer camera like a DSLR, bring it! I recommend bringing just one lens. As a photographer, I have quite the arsenal of lenses, but I usually bring my 17-55mm zoom lens, and it serves me well. If you have one, I think bringing along your Polaroid camera is a good idea! The kids will be fascinated by the photos you take with it, and you’ll be able to give them as gifts to them if you’d like.
20. Clif Bars (or other convenient, healthy snacks you like)–It’s always good to have a snack on you, because you’ll likely be more active & hungrier than usual. There’s also a chance that you won’t like the food or it will bother your stomach, so having a Clif bar or something that can give you needed energy & nutrition will be helpful.
21. Good Shoes, Work Clothes, Bathing Suit
22. Your usual toiletries–I didn’t feel I needed to list everything individually here. You know what you need & use. Try to keep it as bare minimum as possible but bring everything you need! If you are bringing that checked bag, you don’t have to worry about the size of your toiletries (except if you go over weight). If you want to bring full-size products but don’t have the space on the way back, you can leave them behind for the missionaries or anyone else who might need them!
And that’s my roundup! If you have any other tips on what to pack, add them to the comments!
Of course, I want to mention that you should also be packing a good, teachable attitude, humble heart, and open mind. Be prepared to be flexible, expect the unexpected, and above all… trust the Lord! If you ask Him to help you prepare for your trip and grow you through it, He will! If He has called you to go on this mission trip, He will provide the funds, equip you with everything you need, keep you safe, and teach you things you never expected! You will be pushed out of your comfort zone on your trip but embrace it! You will have a much better time if you remember that the trip is not for YOU, it is to honor and glorify the LORD and to reach people with the Gospel. There may be many salvations on your trip…or there may be none at all. But, if you follow the greatest commandments, Loving God and Loving People, while on your trip, it will be successful. Seeds will be planted; you may be watering seeds, or reaping the harvest (Matthew 22:36-40). All of it is significant in the path to becoming a believer in the Gospel.
If you would like more helpful information about preparing your heart & mind for your mission trip here are some helpful websites & books:
Helping Without Hurting on Short Term Mission Trips Book
IMB Mission Team Training Course
Good Soil Evangelism & Discipleship Course for Short-Term Mission Trips
Written by Tawny Austin, a CBM Missionary who served at The Filling Station in Honduras. To learn more about CBM of Honduras or about CBM in general check out our Home Page.