Going on a Mission Trip? How to Pack Lighter, Smarter, and Faster

packing for a mission trip

(Lessons From A Globe-Trotting Missionary)

If there’s one thing that comes with the territory of ministry, it’s travel! As we get closer to the travel season, I thought it would be fun to share some of our best practices when it comes to planning for travel. 

Chances are you and the family are planning some vacation or holiday trips in the next few months. Whether you’re going on a three-day business trip or preparing for a two-week vacation, here are some guidelines for maximizing suitcase space, minimizing your load and cutting down on wrinkles!

Tip #1: Be Prepared with Your Carry-On

One of our recent teachers who spent two weeks in India learned this valuable lesson the hard way. He packed all of his clothes in his checked bags. When he landed in India, he was told that his luggage had been “misplaced” by the airlines and that they would have it to him within a couple of days. Four weeks later, his luggage was delivered to his home in the US. He spent two weeks living out of his carry-on and had to purchase new clothes in India to make things work. Be sure to have a solid carry-on and pack at least two days’ worth of clothes so you are prepared. If your flight is canceled or delayed (something I’m all too familiar with), having your bag in hand can be the difference between getting on with your trip or spending a miserable night at the airport. We nearly always travel without checking baggage.  

Tip #2: Create a Separate Toiletry “Kit”

New TSA rules make it a requirement to have any large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, etc, stored in your checked bag, and not the carry-on. When you do this, I highly suggest a couple of things: 1. Keep Toiletries at the Top of Your Bag (In Case TSA Pulls It);  2. Put liquid bottles in a tight zip-lock bag in case the altitude pressure changes break the seal of the bottle; and 3. Don’t put them along the outer sides of a soft suitcase in case your bag is the one on the bottom of many other bags.   

Tip #3: Count (and Pack) Socks and Undergarments First!

This might sound silly but I can’t tell you how many times people run out of the essentials.  

Tip #4: Don’t Check Valuable Items Like Computers and Jewelry

Once your luggage leaves your possession, you will have no control over its security. As much as we would like to believe in the honesty of mankind, we all know that is not reality. If something is stolen from your bag, you will have no way to prove it was there or any way to prove it was stolen. Make sure any items of value stay with you as you travel.  Keep them in your carry-on.

Tip #5: Think “Tetris”

When you travel, think in terms of navigating an airport and having to carry ALL your bags should you have to. There have been several times when a flight is delayed, or the airport tram is out of service, and the only way to get to the connecting flight is to run. Try to choose bags that you are able to handle by yourself.

Tip #6: Don’t Reflect Any Political Statement.

When I was 17 years old, in 1985, we went to El Salvador for a week’s mission trip. This was during the wake of the civil wars that were happening throughout Central America as the US was fighting Soviet-backed communist groups. This was also a time when the US was remembering Viet Nam and M*A*S*H* was the hit TV show. Fashion trends included Army surplus items.  My favorite hat was a green US Marine Corp surplus hat. I loved that hat. As I was getting in line to board the plane, the director of our group about had a panic attack when he saw my hat. He exclaimed, “last week 7 US Marines were shot at a bar down there, and that hat will get you shot within five minutes.” The hat went to the trash can. In our highly political word, as we go on mission trips we need to make sure we are representing Jesus; and not that of the US. Be smart as you enter their world so you will not attack the wrong attention or offend.

Tip #7: Try to Pack Light.

Checked ba gage fees, small overhead compartments, and long waits at baggage claim are just a few reasons it pays to pack light. 

My hope is that these tips will give you some insight into your own journey when it comes to travel! 

Question: Are you traveling anywhere this upcoming season? I’d love to hear where you’re going and what you do to keep travel manageable. Leave a comment or write me back, I’d love to hear from you!


Follow Us On Socials

Share this article