What to Pack When Volunteering Abroad

What to Pack When Volunteering Abroad

By Jenny Holt on 10/05/2017

There’s no doubt that volunteering is a wonderful thing to do with your life, and it’s become increasingly popular, with over 1.6 million people volunteering in other countries. However, whether you’re volunteering as part of a trip, or it’s the main focus, you should understand what to pack when volunteering abroad. More specifically – what you should and shouldn’t take with you. Keep the environment in mind, and you can take part in ecotourism, too. It’s easy to over-pack your luggage, or to think you’ll need something you may only end up using once. Doing so means you’ll be contributing to pollution as you travel with heavier bags; leaving things you don’t need will help lower your carbon footprint as you travel the world and volunteer.

Do Your Research on What to Pack When Volunteering Abroad

Lots of research should go into planning your volunteering trip. You’ll need to know where you’re going, for how long, and what the weather is going to be like. You’re not going to need a rain jacket if it never rains, after all. That would be wasted space in your luggage, and it’d add unnecessary weight to your mode of transportation. These are some steps you can follow:


  • Research – Make sure you know what the season will be, and how the temperature can change throughout the day. Understand the kind of culture you’ll be visiting, and what clothing is acceptable there, as well as what’s appropriate for the job you’ll be doing; for example, don’t bring jeans if you’ll be hiking every day. Decide whether you’ll want more formal clothing for the evenings, and keep how long you’re staying in mind.
  • Documents – Have contact numbers for your country’s embassy to hand, as well as other necessary numbers you might need. All your travel documents should also be in one place that you can take with you in your carry-on, such as a travel wallet. It’s also a good idea to make a copy of your passport, travel insurance, itinerary, credit cards and other important documents.

What to Avoid Packing

There are also things you shouldn’t pack for volunteering, though. You don’t want to be carrying around a very heavy bag the whole time. Things you should avoid packing include:


  • New Shoes – These are likely to get dirty, and can give you blisters.
  • Suitcases – An alternative here is a lightweight backpack. It is much more adaptable.
  • Toiletries – Take travel sized shampoos and toothpaste, but it’ll be easier to buy other products once you arrive.
  • Books – These take up a lot of space, and nowadays an e-reader is the better option.
  • Sentimental Items – Things like jewelry that has been passed down through your family is inadvisable to take, as it could be stolen, lost or damaged.

Packing and Staying Green

Though there are things you shouldn’t pack for your volunteering trip, there are also items that would be perfectly acceptable to bring along with you, while also allowing you to stay sustainable while you do it. Ways to stay green when packing include:

  • The Right Backpack – This will be with you just about all the time when you’re travelling, so it needs to be a comfortable size. Don’t choose one too large though, as the easiest way to be eco-friendly while you travel is by not having a heavy bag. By using a medium sized backpack, it’ll be comfortable, and can ensure you don’t over-pack. This can also cut down on the amount of fossil fuels modes of travel will need to use.
  • Reusable Sporks – These all-in-one cutlery sets will ensure you don’t have to keep using flimsy plastic ones that will damage the environment. Simply wash these, and reuse.
  • Collapsible Water Bottle – This handy bottle can be rolled away after use, allowing you to save space and reuse it, meaning no more disposing of harmful plastic bottles.
  • Reusable Shopping Bag – These can usually be folded up to store, and then be used when necessary for things like laundry, or food shopping when you’re travelling.

Ready to begin your search for a volunteering opportunity abroad? Go here and start the journey today.