What to Pack: Essentials for a Missions Trip

Summer 2012 was the first time in my life I had ever been out of the country. Since I (apparently) like to do things big, I decided Africa would be a great stepping stone for my first overseas missions trip.

I had never been out of the United States before, much less to a third world country. I was clueless as to what all I should pack. Thankfully, the organization I traveled with kept our team well informed and sent us as much information as possible. But I was still that paranoid packer who was just SURE I was going to need everything but the kitchen sink to survive (for ten days).

Skip ahead to Summer 2013 when I left the country again, this time bound for the Dominican Republic. It was a different climate and different culture, but many of the same packing rules applied.

After two trips into two different countries and climates, I discovered what things I absolutely couldn't do without and what could be left at home.

One of my teammates from Tanzania, who became a forever friend, is taking the next step on her missions journey at the end of this month. She will be traveling back to Africa for two months and I couldn't be more proud of her. Her sweet mom told me some of the things she was worrying about the most were the little essentials that can easily be overlooked. So, I put together a small care package for her to alleviate a tiny bit of her stress.

If you look in the travel section of Walmart or Target, you will find lots of travel sized goodies that will make your life ten times easier while living out of a suitcase in the middle of nowhere. These are the things I've found that help when traveling overseas, and a few things I knew she loved.

Let's start on the top left.

Baby Wipes: An absolute essential. These were more needed in Africa for me, when we were camping in a remote village with only a bucket of cold water for a shower. They work wonderfully for dry, dusty feet after a long day of walking.

Band-Aids: Good to have on hand for nicks and scrapes.

Eye Drops: This was a special item I packed for my friend, because I know she wears contacts, and Africa can be a dusty, windy place. Not an absolute essential, but very nice to have when you need it.

Neosporin: I used this quite often on both trips. This kind is the NEO To Go spray-on Neosporin. I LOVE it. It's tiny and can fit in a pocket, pouch or purse. If you scrape your leg, just squirt the cut a few times and stick a bandaid on. It's perfect.

Hand Sanitizer: Need I say more?

Tide To Go: This is something I packed when I went to Tanzania, but didn't end up using. Because my friend will be in Africa for two months, I knew she would need some.

Let's check out the inside of the box.

Toothbrushes: One of the hardest things to get used to in Africa was brushing your teeth with a bottle of water. Clean water is something we definitely take for granted in the states. I picked up a few cheap packages of toothbrushes, because it's easier to switch every few days than to worry if your one toothbrush is contaminated or not. Not an essential item, but definitely something nice to have!

Bug spray: An absolute essential. I used a rub-on stick on both my trips, but any bug spray will do.

Baby Powder: This is an absolute essential for us girls. Walking all day long, in a skirt, in warm weather...your thighs will thank you for the baby powder. Nuff said! :)

Clorox Wipes: This is a new item I added for my friend. You never know what kind of conditions you will encounter in a third world country. There are often times when clean facilities are nowhere to be found. I know these will come in handy for her.

Finally on to the right side.

Kleenex: Travel size packs are the best!

Lysol To Go: The same as the clorox wipes. I just happened to see this tiny can for 99¢ so I picked it up.

Lip Balm: Whether it's Carmex, Chapstick or EOS, you'll be glad to have some with you. EOS just happens to be my friends' favorite.

Tums: Our bodies aren't used to other cultures and their foods. This is something I wish I would've packed on my first trip, and absolutely needed on my second trip.

Tylenol: Always good to keep with you.

I packed everything in this container. For less than $4 at Walmart, it was perfect. Everything is in one location, and the box is the perfect size to slip into your suitcase.

So, there you have it. For under $40 you can put together an easy-to-pack essentials kit for your next missions trip. This would also be a great gift idea for high school kids heading off to college, or even as a semi-emergency kit to keep in the car.

Have you been overseas lately? What essentials do you find necessary when traveling?

If you would like to keep up with my friend and her missions journey, you can visit her blog Brandi's Mission.

-Jenn (With 2 N's)

Apostolic Youth Corps
Associates In Missions
AYC Tanzania 2012
AYC DR 2013


  1. In my suitcase I also pack:
    -- wooden spring clothespins clipped to the handle of my toiletries bag; great for hanging handwashables, closing a gaping hotel curtain, etc.
    -- safety pins pinned to every inside zipper of my suitcase and toiletries bag
    -- gallon, sandwich and snack size ziptop bags; I open a box of 20-50 gallon size and half of them are stuffed into both Dave's and my outside luggage pockets. We double-bag every single liquid inside a ziptop bag, no matter the container's size. The sandwich and snack size bags are stuffed into the inner pocket of my suitcase. I have laundromat quarters in one and other coins in the other. Keep a couple empty ones in your purse for collecting little trinket souvenir tokens along the journey.
    -- packing tape; I'm always glad to have this.
    -- Thank You notes; Enough said.

    Great post, Jenn.

    Hugs and happy highways,
    Sister Dribblzzzzzz

  2. Sista D,
    I was hoping you would put your two cents in! :)

    The sandwich bag idea for trinkets is excellent! I did that last year in the DR for seashells. So glad I did, too. I never would've thought of the safety pins, but I can see where that would definitely come in handy.

    Love you much!