Mission Trip Travel Safety Tips

Keep these general mission trip travel safety and packing guidelines in mind as you prepare for your trip. Make sure you also check if there are specific local guidelines you should follow in the area where you’ll be serving. For the most up-to-date information on security measures and restrictions in the U.S., visit the TSA website. For Canadian security guidelines, visit the CATSA website.

What you should pack and what you should know for safe travel

Keep these suggestions in mind for a safe mission trip outside the United States or Canada. 

Before you go

  • Make sure you have a valid passport. If you don’t, you should get one well in advance of your trip. You may also need a new passport if yours is close to expiring. Most countries require that your passport be valid six months beyond the date of your trip.
  • Make two copies of your passport, in case you lose it. Plan to take one with you and leave one at home.
  • Find out if you need a visa to enter the country. Securing a visa can take time, so if you do need one, start the process for obtaining one as early as possible.
  • Research the electrical voltage and plug configuration in the country where you are going. You may need to get an adaptor/converter to plug in electronic devices while abroad.
  • Check the exchange rate. Airports don’t always have the best exchange rate. Talk with your hosts before you arrive about where you can safely exchange currency or use a secure ATM.
  • Let your credit card company know you’re traveling. Only take the credit card(s) you need.
  • Learn about local laws and customs. Your host will be able to help you with this.
  • Learn a few key phrases in the local and/or national languages.
  • Find out if drinking tap water and eating fresh produce are safe in the area where you’re going. 
  • Some countries require a parental consent form for minors traveling without a parent. If you will be traveling with minors, check what the policies are for your destination. It is always a good idea to have parental consent forms when traveling internationally with minors.
  • Designate a co-leader who will take charge in case the team leader is sick, or needs to take care of someone in an emergency and is away from the rest of the group.

Getting there

  • Pack light.
  • Leave your valuables at home.
  • If you take prescription medications, make sure you carry them in their original, labeled containers. Keep them in your carry-on baggage.
  • Remember the 3–1‑1 rule. All liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes you wish to put in your carry-on must be packed in one quart sized, clear, zip-top bag. Each container in the bag must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less. Each passenger is only allowed one bag.
  • Check the TSA or CATSA website for the most up-to-date security regulations. 
  • Each airline has its own guidelines on baggage. Check with your airline before you travel to see what its luggage policies are. 
  • Some countries require a tax to enter and leave the country. Check to see if this is included in your ticket cost.
  • Bring non-perishable snacks. Eating new or different foods doesn’t agree with everyone, and sometimes the meal schedule is different than what your body is used to.
  • Be aware of any travel alerts or warnings for the place you are traveling to.

While you’re there

  • Consider having a TSA/CATSA approved lock for your luggage, and leave luggage locked while it is in your room during the day.
  • Always stay in groups or with a buddy, and check with your host or leaders before you go anywhere.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of money around with you without first checking with your hosts.
  • Don’t give away money to people on the streets. If you want to give money or donations to people the ministry works with, check with the local ministry staff first, and allow the donation to come from them, through their normal processes. 
  • Check with your host about the appropriateness of gift-giving in the culture. It may be customary to exchange gifts with people.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, both for safety and to be courteous to those around you.
  • Don’t pet stray animals.
  • Have a plan for storing passports during the week. Your host may have instructions. If not, it might be best for a leader to keep them all. 
  • Keep your camera or cell phone in your bag when you aren’t using it.

Keep these guidelines in mind for a safe mission trip within the United States or Canada.

General guidelines

  • Do not carry large amounts of money around.
  • Leave jewelry at home and store your camera in your bag when not using it.
  • Always stay in groups or with a buddy, and check with your host or leaders before you go anywhere.
  • If you take prescription medications, carry them in their original, labeled containers. 
  • Carry a copy of your emergency contacts with you. Give your group leaders a copy as well.
  • Communicate health needs to your team leader. This includes everything from simple allergies to complex medical conditions. 
  • Make sure you have signed medical release forms with you. 
  • Exchange cell phone numbers with everyone in the group.
  • Have someone in the group always carry a first aid kit.
  • Designate a co-leader who will take charge in case the team leader is sick, or needs to take care of someone in an emergency and is away from the rest of the group.

Guidelines for air travel

  • Be at the airport at least 90 minutes before your flight for check-in.
  • Check the TSA or CATSA website for up-to-date security guidelines. 
  • Check with your airline before you travel to see what its luggage policies are. 
  • If you aren’t sure whether you’re allowed to put an item in your carry-on luggage, check the TSA or CATSA websites. Always pack prescription medications in your carry-on.
  • Travel light.
  • We recommend booking air travel through a travel agent. If you need assistance with finding one, email shortterm@rca.org

Guidelines for ground travel

  • Drive in vans instead of cars. They carry more people.
  • Make sure you have a smartphone with a maps app, or a GPS, in each vehicle. Also bring printed or written directions, just in case.
  • If you need to rent vans, see if you can rent or borrow them from other Christian organizations in your area.

What domestic travel tips have worked well for your church? Email them to us at shortterm@rca.org.

Want more trip planning support? Our short-term mission team would love to help.