Packing for volunteer trips requires items outside of the standard
travel experience. You might be preparing for a quick week-long
mission trip or gearing up for a two year commitment in the Peace
Corps. You might be working with animals,
teaching children, or helping construct homes. No matter the purpose,
don’t leave without these essential items on your packing
list for volunteering abroad.
Clothing to Pack
For the most part, any clothing packed for a volunteer
trip should be comfortable and something you’re willing to part
with at the end. After working at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand,
I ended up tossing my heavily stained t-shirts at the end of the week.
In some countries, shorts aren’t appropriate, so a lightweight pair of
pants can be helpful. Bring a laundry bag or packing
cube with separate compartments to keep clean items from dirty ones.
If you’re working with wildlife or outdoors, moisture
wicking clothing is helpful for keeping you from being covered in
sweat. And if you don’t have the right clothing, remember that in
most places you can buy additional pieces when you arrive. Sturdy
are ideal for
volunteering, especially when working outside.
Sun and Mosquito Protection
Sunscreen and hats are important, especially if you’re working in
warm climates. Make sure it covers your neck to avoid burns. A bandana
is also helpful, especially for covering your face when needed or
wiping off sweat. In some places, you also might need mosquito
repellent. I recommend checking if DEET is important for your
destination and investing in clothing that has Insect Shield.
Medications and Toiletries
Obviously you’ll need the standard essentials in your toiletry
kit, like shampoo and conditioner and toothpaste and your
toothbrush. Deodorant is also a must-have, especially for hot climates
like in Southeast Asia or Africa.
It’s also smart to assemble your own first
aid kit using a small packing
sac filled with the essentials you’ll need for your specific
volunteer trip. Motion sickness medicine is recommended for the
journeys you might be taking to get to your destination.
Anti-diarrheal medicine, ibuprofen, antihistamine, antibacterial
ointment, and sunburn cream are all recommended. Rehydration salts can
also fix a lot of medical issues.
Before you go, see which vaccinations are required or recommended
for your destination and find the closest travel
clinic to your
volunteer placement. And don’t forget to buy travel insurance, which
can cover all sorts of
In addition to the items mentioned you might want to throw in a few
things to make your volunteer trip more comfortable. A refillable
water bottle is a must-have, especially one with a filtration
feature—this will also help you avoid
single-use plastic on your trip. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
keep you feeling clean. A flashlight or headlamp is important if
you’re staying in a rural area where there aren’t street lights.
You also might want a book or e-reader for down time, along with a
deck of cards. If you’re teaching or interacting with children, you
might want to bring pencils or other treats, with permission of the
organization, of course. Cash for souvenirs is also a must-have—pack
it along with your passport and visas in a neck
pouch for safekeeping.
Volunteer Packing Checklist
- Moisture wicking shirts
- Disposable t-shirts
- Lightweight pants or shorts (when culturally appropriate)
- Clothing with Insect Shield where necessary
- Sturdy shoes
- Mosquito repellent (possibly with DEET)
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Toothpaste & toothbrush
First Aid Kit Additions
- Motion sickness medicine
- Anti-diarrheal medicine
- Antibacterial ointment
- Sunburn cream
- Reusable water bottle
- Wet wipes & hand sanitizer
- Neck pouch
Pack it all up in a
or duffel bag, ideally out of a stain resistant material, complete
. Add in a
that you’ll recognize at the baggage carousel and you’ll be all
set to enjoy your volunteer trip abroad.
Specter™ Clean Dirty Cube M
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
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Ways to Become a More Sustainable Traveler
with WILDCOAST: How I Helped the Sea Turtles