CVM has quite a few volunteers signing up for short-term missions in the coming months.
Before you head out into the world, you need to know how to prepare for a mission trip. Here are three things to do before you set off.
Research Your Area
Before the mission kicks off, do a bit of research.
Start by looking into where you’re going. Look at the weather for the given season. For example, is it the rainy season? Does it get cold at night?
You should also check on clothing customs in the country. If it’s a conservative country, you’ll need to pack clothing that covers your shoulders and legs, ideally loose-fitting. If you’re traveling further afield during weekends, check whether you’ll need specific gear, like hiking boots.
While you’re packing, take the time to familiarize yourself with your team and your role. Gather the whole team together for dinner so you’re comfortable with each other before you get on the plane.
And don’t forget to check what vaccines you need to go to your country of choice.
Get Your Personal Documents
Once you have the basics packed, you need to get your personal documents in order.
First things first: your passport.
Technically, your passport expires on the date printed inside. But that date is a bit deceiving, as some countries won’t allow entry if your passport expires within six months.
It might seem ridiculous, but it’s a precaution. If you wind up staying overseas longer than planned, the country wants to ensure that you have a way to get back to the United States. To avoid problems, renew your passport about nine months before it’s due to expire.
You should also research whether you’ll need a visa to enter your chosen country. If you do, get the process started ASAP–this can take quite a while depending on your destination, and if you don’t have the right visa, you’ll get sent on the first plane back to the U.S.
Once your documents are in order, make physical copies of everything. This includes:
- Your passport
- Your visa
- Travel insurance
- Medical documents, including prescriptions
- Any other vital documents relating to health or identification
You’ll bring the originals with you. Leave the copies with a family member at home, and upload digital copies to the cloud.
All your travel documents should go together in one folder that can fit in your carry on. If you somehow manage to lose everything else, don’t lose this folder.
Cash, Credit, Insurance, and Fraud
After the travel documents are in order, it’s time to get your financial affairs in order.
Technically, your debit and credit cards can be used almost anywhere. But if you’re in a remote area, it’s safest to carry cash on hand just in case.
The problem is that many American banks charge you a fee for withdrawing for an ATM that’s out of their network. You can get cash converted in the U.S., but you don’t want to risk carrying around a large sum of cash.
Stick with small(er) sums of cash and try to use banks that will reimburse you for ATM fees charged abroad (Fidelity and Charles Schwab both offer this).
And while you’re dealing with your bank, make sure to notify your bank and credit card company that you’re traveling abroad, where you’re going, and what dates. Otherwise, they’ll block foreign transactions as fraud.
You can find the best foreign exchange rates by using your credit card, but many credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee. Do yourself a favor and open a card with a company that doesn’t have this fee.
Prepare for a Mission Trip, Make Memories That Last
Once you know how to prepare for a mission trip, you’re ready to set out and make a real difference in the world.
If you’re looking to spread your wings, we offer a variety of short-term veterinary missions to help you integrate your professional skills with your spiritual life.