Are you planning your volunteer trip with IVI? One of the most important things to consider is how to pack efficiently and effectively. Packing can be overwhelming, especially if you are going to a new country and are unsure of what to expect. In this article, we will share essential tips for packing for your volunteer trip, so you can focus on making a positive impact instead of stressing about your luggage!
Research Your Destination
Before you start packing, research your destination to learn about its climate, culture, and customs. This will help you determine what to pack and what to leave behind. For example, if you are travelling to a tropical destination, you will need to pack lightweight, breathable clothing, whereas if you are traveling to a colder climate, you will need to pack warm layers and a coat. Sometimes countries you think will be warm can actually be pretty cold at night so double check first!
Many of our destinations dress much more conservatively, particularly for women, so please bring something that covers your shoulders and knees, which will come in handy when visiting local temples, working on your project or visiting local family homes.
When it comes to packing for a volunteer trip, less is more. Try to pack only what you need and avoid overpacking. This will make it easier to travel and move around, and it will also leave you with more room to bring back souvenirs or gifts.
You may be on local buses and trains, or travelling on to another destination afterwards, so to make things easier on yourself, pack light and your body will thank you for it! You never need as much as you think you do, plus local clothing from the markets in usually very cheap and comfortable too.
Choose the Right Luggage
Choosing the right luggage is crucial when packing for a volunteer trip. Consider the type of transportation you will be using and the amount of walking you will be doing. A backpack or a rolling suitcase is usually the best option, as it allows you to keep your hands free and manoeuvre through different terrains easily.
Sometimes pickups are via local transport so a backpack is usually recommend as it makes it easier to store in the luggage area, as well as on dusty or unpaved roads. Do some research on the best backpack to buy, sometimes you can get a decent one for fairly cheap on Amazon but it is also a good idea to try it on in the shops to see how it fits on you. You’ll be wearing it a lot so make sure it’s the right fit and you can also ‘break it in’ at home by filling it to see how it feels with some weight to it.
Pack Versatile Clothing
Pack clothing that can be worn in multiple ways and for different occasions. For example, a lightweight scarf can be used as a cover-up, a headscarf, or a towel, while a pair of leggings can be worn for yoga, hiking, or as pyjamas. Wearing things with similar colours that can make several different outfits should be your go to. Trust us, when your hot and sweaty, you’ll be reaching for the same loose t-shirt over and over again and the ‘nice’ clothes you bought won’t get a look in! That being said, do bring something a bit nicer for wear in the evenings or days off.
Bring Essential Items
Make sure to pack essential items, such as a first aid kit, medication, toiletries, and a reusable water bottle. Small things like extra camera batteries, portable chargers, adapters, can often get forgotten so make yourself a good list as soon as you know you’re travelling, and get these bought in advance.
Don’t Forget Your Documents
Make copies of your passport, travel insurance, and other important documents and keep them in a separate place from the originals. This will ensure that you have a backup in case you lose your documents while traveling. Bring your welcome pack (either on your phone or printed off), and the local team contact details in case of any issues with your airport pickup.
Pack for Your Volunteer Work
Consider the type of volunteer work you will be doing and pack accordingly. For example, if you will be working in a construction project, bring sturdy work boots and clothes that can get dirty. If you will be working with children, you may wish to bring toys or educational materials to help you out in the classroom. Access to resources can often be limited abroad so bring anything you think will help you and research ways to teach and basic lesson plans beforehand. If you are teaching, here is a helpful post on classroom game ideas.
Consider the Culture
When packing for your volunteer trip, it’s important to consider the local culture and dress accordingly. Research what is appropriate to wear and pack clothes that respect the local customs and traditions. This will not only help you blend in but also show respect to the local community. You may want to bring some photos or objects from home to show your host family, other volunteers, or the local children. This can often be of great interest to them and you can learn about each others cultures.
Get vaccinations and visa in early
As soon as you know your dates, check in with your GP or doctor about any vaccinations you may need. Sometimes you need to get 2 doses, several weeks apart so make sure you have time to fit it in before you leave. This also applies to visas. For some countries you will need to apply for your visa in advance, either online or at your local embassy, and it can take a few weeks. If you are working with children you will also need a police check which can take a while too.
Use Packing Cubes or Compression Bags
Using packing cubes or compression bags can be a game-changer when it comes to packing for a volunteer trip. These tools can help you save space, organise your luggage, and make it easier to find what you need. Plus, they can also help keep your clothes wrinkle-free.
Bringing your own snacks can be a lifesaver, especially if you have dietary restrictions or are traveling to a place where food options may be limited. Pack non-perishable snacks such as protein bars, nuts, or dried fruit to keep you fuelled during your volunteer work or long travel days. There will likely be local shops close to your accommodation but for more remote volunteer projects, make sure to stock up before heading offsite. The local team can advise you on this once arrived.
Many participants like to bring donations such as clothing, school supplies, or medical equipment, but this is totally up to you. Make sure to leave some space in your luggage for these items if you intend to bring something from home. Not only will you be able to make a positive impact by donating, but you’ll also have more space to bring back souvenirs or gifts.
Label Your Luggage
Finally, make sure to label your luggage with your name, contact information, and destination. This will help you identify your luggage quickly and prevent it from getting lost or mixed up with someone else’s. Consider adding a colourful luggage tag or ribbon to make your luggage stand out.
In conclusion, packing for a volunteer trip requires some planning and preparation, but with these essential tips, you can make the process more manageable and stress-free. By doing so, you’ll be able to focus on your volunteer work and have a memorable and meaningful experience.
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