Packing Tips for Global Village Volunteers
Pack light! Limit your baggage to what you can carry without any help.
Consider not checking a bag. I’ve been using a back pack and a hard-sided carry on that fits in the overhead of most planes. It speeds up arrivals and departures and nearly guarantees you won’t lose your bag. If you pack light and leave some items behind that will free up some room even in a small bag for things you want to purchase.
Nondescript boring looking bags are less attractive to thieves (I know this from experience)! Therefore, put some type of identifying mark on your luggage—sewed-on patches, outrageously colored tape, but leave the designer looking bags at home.
Weight limits for international flights are generally different from domestic flights, so be sure to confirm with the airline. Usually these limits are even less for safaris or if you are flying on small aircraft.
Backpacks are handy for taking to the work site and shopping in town, and make good airline carry-ons. Keep all important paperwork, medication, irreplaceable items, size appropriate toiletries and at least a change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case.
You’ll need less than you think. Plan to wash some of your clothes or, depending on your location, there may be a laundry service available for a small fee. For the build you’ll need closed toe shoes, maybe boots, and pants and t-shirts – comfortable clothing that will also protect you from the work and the sun.
Think about layering and remember that most of our time will be spent at the work site. Bring clothing that you don’t mind ruining with dirt, concrete, mud, etc. Consider buying clothing at a second-hand store. After the build you may be able to donate any clothing you wish to leave behind, also lightening your load.
You’ll also need comfortable shoes and clothing to wear when out and about. It is important to consider the weather and cultural norms. Check with your team leader to be sure what’s appropriate.
*This is a fairly comprehensive list; pick and choose accordingly.
- Hat for sun and rain protection (or bad hair day)
- Lightweight raincoat, windbreaker or umbrella
- Fleece, pullover or sweater
- Daily work and play clothes
- One special outfit for house dedication, cultural outing, dinner in a nice restaurant
- Undergarments, socks, PJs (you will be sharing a room!)
- Works shoes for on site, comfortable shoes for when you aren’t working, sandals or flip flops if appropriate
- Soap, shampoo, laundry detergent (good to pack in small Ziploc bag)
- Dental care, lip balm, lotion, sunscreen
- Personal cosmetics and toiletries (Q-tips, deodorant, feminine products, etc.)
- Tissues, toilet paper, travel size wet wipes
- Towel, washcloth (if recommended)
- Prescription medication (kept in the pharmacy bottle and packed in your carry-on)
- Over-the-counter drugs (pain reliever, Cipro, motion sickness medication, etc.)
- A written copy of your prescription in case you lose the medication and need a refill
- Small first-aid supplies (We’ll have a team medical kit, but you may want to bring antiseptic, a few band aids, etc.)
- Insect repellent (something with DEET seems to work best)
- Prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses and cleaning supplies
- Watch (a cheap one that can double as an alarm clock, or a travel alarm clock)
- Water bottle (if recommended)
Paperwork and Money
- A money belt or pouch (to wear under your clothes) or small purse for carrying a few items out to dinner or while sightseeing
- Passport, airline tickets, immunization record, in-country contacts & itinerary
- A photocopy of your passport, tickets, contact info (packed in your suitcase)
- ATM, credit card and personal spending money for souvenirs, etc.
- Emergency Contact Information sheet (also leave a copy of The ECI with someone at home)
Miscellaneous Items to Consider
- Swimsuit (if applicable)
- Binoculars (great for safari)
- Earplugs for the plane or for snoring roommates
- Family photos to show and share with new friends (always a favorite!)
- Journal and writing supplies
- Reflection materials for team meetings
- Travel guides, books and magazines to read and share or leave behind
- Games, cards, puzzles (down time or waiting time)
- Favorite snacks
- Plastic bags/old pillow case for dirty laundry, packing shoes, etc.
- Phone, laptop, headphones, camera, batteries & charging cords
- Duct tape
- Flashlight/headlamp (extra batteries)
- Resealable plastic bags
- Universal adapter and/or voltage adapter
- Solar camping shower, mosquito nets (if advised by team leader)
ONE MORE BRIGHT IDEA! Consider taking clothing or hats with the logos and names of your Alma Mater, professional association, a civic organization you belong to, anything you would want to be photographed in so that you can promote Habitat and your GV experience. It’s free. It’s fun. And it builds awareness for a great cause!
GOT A LITTLE EXTRA SPACE IN YOUR LUGGAGE? Check out Pack for a Purpose, a non-profit with the mission to “positively impact communities around the world by assisting travelers who want to bring meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit.”