Packing for any trip is important. Whether it’s an overnight stay with relatives or an extended vacation overseas, having what you need makes all the difference in the world. Discovering something you left behind can put a damper on the entire experience.
So, you can imagine why a medical missions trip packing list can be your best friend. You might be a veteran traveler or a rookie on your first mission adventure. You might be a natural list-maker or someone who’s not always that organized. Whatever your experience or personality, a medical mission trip packing list can spell the difference between an effective project and a journey that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The first step in creating a packing list for a medical mission trip is to do some research. Medical mission opportunities can take on a variety of forms. You might be going for a couple of weeks, or you could be pursuing a career in an international field. The length of your trip and your assignment will have an impact on your mission trip packing list.
Likewise, the location and timing of your trip is a factor. You need to familiarize yourself with the cultures you’ll be visiting and with how the seasons play out in that nation. You don’t want to accidently do something or wear something offensive, and you don’t want to get caught unprepared for cold, heat, or a rainy season.
You’ll also need to think through baggage restrictions. You can’t take everything, so you’ve got to figure out what matters most. That includes deciding what needs to be in your checked bag and what needs to go in your carry-on. For example, if your luggage gets lost for a couple of days, you’ll be glad you added an extra outfit and your prescription medications to your carry-on bag.
The group or agency you’re traveling with can answer a lot of your packing questions for your specific mission application. And there are some great websites hosted by both ministries and medical organizations that provide experience-based suggestions. But, in the end, what goes on your medical missions trip packing list is up to you.
In the list below, we’ve focused on some basics you'll need to consider before you take off on your first trip. While the list isn’t exhaustive, it will prime the pump as you think about what you’ll be doing and what you’ll need on your medical missions trip. Some of the items are general to any mission experience, while others are specific to medical missions. But all of them will help you be at your best as you become Jesus’s hands and feet to a world in need.
It might seem like a no-brainer to include things like your passport, visa, airline tickets, and photo identification on a medical missions trip packing list. But the truth is, you’re not going anywhere or helping anyone without them. This category also includes things you might not think of, such as your travel itinerary, insurance information, and a list of important phone numbers. Many mission trip veterans suggest keeping copies of these documents on a phone and in baggage.
Most countries around the world don’t process electricity like the United States. That means you need to secure adapters for your electronics. For chargers, solar or battery power might be best depending on where you’ll be and how long you’ll be there. Again, researching what’s available will help ensure that you don’t run out of power on the trip.
In truth, “comfort” can also mean “functional.” These are the packing list items that will protect your health and allow you to carry out the normal routines of your mission project. For example, you’ll need a filtered water bottle or some water purification tablets in many countries. Backpacks (preferably waterproof) are essential, as are sleeping sheets or a sleeping bag. Hand sanitizer and baby wipes can keep you fresh, while a language dictionary can help you communicate with locals.
Again, putting clothes on your medical missions trip packing list might seem obvious; but, as a medical missionary, you have to take extra care to balance comfort with cultural expectations. In many areas, scrubs and pants would be fine; but in other cultures, long skirts are less offensive. Since medical missionaries spend a lot of time on their feet, comfortable shoes are also vital.
Some of these items are personal to you, like your stethoscope, your gloves, and your N-95 masks. Other things are simply useful in the field, like a first aid kit, a headlamp, or goggles/safety glasses. You also may be asked to carry medicines and drugs for the project in your luggage. Ask about this ahead of time and make sure you leave room in your bags—without going over an airline’s weight limit.
Many online lists encourage you to bring some reading material to help pass the time on the trip and during any “down” times in your project schedule. Of course, cameras are important for recording memories and even sending updates to supporters back home. You also may want to bring a journal and some pens so you can put your thoughts and experiences down on paper. Nothing helps you keep the lessons from a mission trip alive better than reviewing what you’ve written after you get home.
These don’t have to be fancy or expensive. And they certainly don’t need to take up much space. But leaving a little piece of yourself behind will make a difference in the lives of the people you help, especially children.
Admittedly, your medical missions trip packing list is primarily designed to make sure you don’t forget some tangible items. Again, you don’t want to find out something important is still sitting on your nightstand once you’ve landed in the country. But it’s also important to “pack” some important intangibles for your trip. Character qualities like faith, humility, and flexibility are keys to any mission's endeavor. In fact, they are often more important than physical items on your mission's packing list. They will carry you through the tough times and make your work more effective for God’s glory.
So, as you’re creating the packing list for your medical missions trip, don’t forget to focus on who you are, along with what you’ll need.
Medical Missions serves to connect your professional skills and biblical calling to the largest database of healthcare mission organizations, professionals, and thought leadership. Join us at the Global Missions Health Conference to find your Medical Missions calling. Or, browse our full list of partner organizations to find the right mission for you.