So you’re ready to go on your Living Water Trip, and you’ve got your packing list, but now what? What do you really need, and how do you fit it all in a suitcase for the week?
After going on more than 15 Living Water Trips, I’d like to consider myself a packing expert at this point. The comprehensive list of everything you need is in your trip book, but here are my top five packing tips and tricks:
- Pack smarter, not harder
You’ve probably heard the hype around Marie Kondo, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and the best way to fold your socks. I give credit to my sister for teaching me this method of folding long before “Marie Kondo-ing” became a verb.
Just like Kondo suggests, fold your clothes so that they can stand up on their own and stack them horizontally like this in your suitcase. This allows you to easily see all your clothes, and it maximizes your space. I also try to stack my dirty clothes like this in a trash bag, which makes it much easier to pack up at the end of the week.
To pack lighter, try to think through exactly what you’ll wear each day of the trip. When I get back from the community and shower in the afternoon, I put on the shirt I’m planning to wear in the community the next day. This way, I don’t need to pack five extra shirts just to wear in the evenings.
You probably only need 2-4 pairs of pants, even if you’re drilling. If you bring dry-fit pants, you can always rinse them back at the hotel or guesthouse and re-wear them the next day since they dry so quickly. Or just re-wear your dirty pants, because they’re bound to get muddy and wet again. Use the extra space to bring more donations
- Packing toiletries
I generally try to pack light, but one thing I am not willing to skimp on is my “just in case” bag of medicine and toiletries. On most trips I never even open this bag (thank goodness), but I’d hate to be on a trip where I need it and don’t have it. I pack my daily-use toiletries in a separate bag for easier access.
My best trick for saving space when packing toiletries is to use contact lens cases for liquids. I’ll put moisturizer, face wash, and even toothpaste in each side of the case. The small amount is perfect for a week, and it saves me from having to buy travel-size products.
Don’t forget to pack liquids and lotions in plastic bags because occasionally they will explode from the air pressure on the plane, and you don’t want that all over everything else in your bag!
- It’s okay to pack a “comfort” item
If this is your first volunteer trip, or even if you’re going for the 10th time, you’ll still be pushed out of your comfort zone. I like to pack one thing that I know will bring me a little bit of comfort while I’m on the trip.
For me, it’s my pillow because I know I’ll sleep that much better with it. For my mom, it’s a small travel iron. Maybe for you, it’s a familiar snack or your favorite coffee creamer. Whatever it is, bring it if it’s going to help you feel a little more comfortable during the week.
- Pack a carry-on bag
You might be able to fit everything in a carry-on bag for the week, but if you have to check your suitcase, there are two important things to do just in case your luggage doesn’t make it.
-Take a picture of your suitcase on your phone and have the address of the team house or hotel, so you can provide that at the lost baggage counter. If you have a really generic bag, use your Living Water sticker to make it more distinguishable!
-Pack essentials in a carry-on bag. This includes any medications you need, an extra set (or two) of clothes, glasses/contacts, toothbrush, etc. If your luggage is lost or delayed, it could be 2-3 days before you get your bag, so be prepared!
This carry-on bag or backpack can also serve as your day pack during the week. I like to keep sunscreen, bug spray, a few snacks, and my camera in my backpack while we’re in the community.
Don’t forget these helpful items
–Wet wipes: You’ll want something to wipe the mud off, not just spread it around like hand sanitizer.
–Flushable wipes/toilet paper: These are useful for any latrine you may need to use in the community.
–Games/cards: This is a great way to bond as a team when you’re relaxing in the evenings. My personal favorite is Catch Phrase.
–Earplugs: I learned my lesson the hard way in El Salvador with their impressively vocal parrots!
–Reusable water bottle: Please stay hydrated!
–Bible, journal, and your Living Water Trips book
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