Packing for a trip is never at the top of anyone’s list of favorite activities. Besides all the laundry that’s involved ahead of time, there’s the stress of getting it right, making sure you don’t forget any crucial items. But packing for a trip that includes volunteer work—in addition to some traditional R&R—can up the challenge to the next level. No matter where in the world your work-and-play vacay takes you, following a few smart, simple tips can lighten your load, ease your mind and ensure that you’ll be prepared for all the different experiences that await you.

RELATED: Volunteering on Vacation—More than Great Memories

Do Your Homework

Before you even step foot in your closet, get specific details about the volunteer portion of your trip: Learn all you can about accommodations, local climate and customs, and your work itinerary. Will you be sleeping in a tent, hostel or with a host family? Does the location experience swings in temperature throughout the day that require different types of clothes? Is the culture conservative, meaning clothes like tank tops or shorts aren’t good options? Will you be getting dirty, or need a nice outfit for a special event? Is there someplace to purchase things like toothpaste, contact solution and tampons if you run out? The more info you have, the better you can pack.

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Pick the Proper Bag

There may be a valet to help with your heavy, hard-sided wheelie suitcase at a hotel, but you’ll likely carry your own luggage—and possibly navigate less-than-smooth terrain—during your volunteer experience. With that in mind, choose a bag for your entire trip that’s a manageable size, will be comfortable to carry for longish stretches and is suitable for a variety of environments, like a soft-sided duffel or a backpack.


Whether you use packing cubes or simply designate a side of your bag for each portion of your vacation, dividing your things up will keep you organized throughout your entire trip. Plus, it’ll feel nice to dig into a fresh stash of clean clothes on the second part of your trip, and not think about the tucked-away dirty stuff until you return home.

Be Versatile

That wrap you’re bringing for breezy evenings on the beach can double as a light blanket on a plane or when you’re sleeping in a tent. The slides you’re packing for the sand will work as shower shoes. And your smart phone can act as the ultimate all-in-one tool: your translator, currency converter, flashlight, library and more. Make the things you pack multi-task for you.

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Be Selective

It’s fun to feel fancy on vacation, but this is probably not the trip when you pack five pairs of shoes, or bring a designer purse or your good jewelry. Non-essentials that will take up a lot of bag space or cause you to worry about their safety are best left at home.

Download a Packing App

If you’re worried about forgetting irreplaceable essentials like your contact lenses, or feel that you can’t possibly think of everything you’ll need, try a packing app to ease your anxiety. Two popular choices: PackingPro, which gives you access to sample lists based on where you’re headed, helps you make personal lists and provides helpful destination info. There’s also PackPoint, which calculates what you need based on the length of your trip, weather and activities.

Don’t Forget Baby Wipes

Wipes are travel miracle workers, whether or not you have kids. They come in handy for everything from cleaning sticky hands, removing make-up, removing stains on the go, serving as toilet paper where there isn’t any and even taming fly-away hairs. They won’t take up much room in your luggage, and you’ll be glad to have them in an inevitable pinch.

For more volunteer vacation packing tips, click here.

Travelocity’s Travel for Good™ program aims to inspire travelers to give back in ways big and small throughout their journeys. To learn more about the program, get involved in a local community or start planning your next Travel for Good trip, please visit

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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