You did your research on voluntourism companies, you signed up with a program you’re qualified for, you learned the needs of the community you’ll be volunteering in, and you’re giving back for the right reasons. Great! Thanks for being a responsible volunteer. So what’s next? Now, you have to decide what to pack, and while many organizations give you a list, most of the time it’s just the essentials. So here are a few suggestions that people don’t think of telling you that will help enhance your trip.
If you invest in anything travel related, it should be strong, durable suitcases. I recently started using this bag whenI go abroad and I’m obsessed. It’s so sleek and stylish, plus it’s easy to spot in baggage claim. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s the lightest suitcase ever and it’s crush proof, so I don’t worry about my things getting damaged. True story, my 90 pound dog stood on top of my suitcase and there wasn’t a scratch or dent on the bag when I finally was able to get him off. Inside,, there’s an organizing panel for socks, toiletries and other items in addition to a separate laundry compartment. There’s even a packing list inside to help you remember the must haves.
The best thing about it is the wheels, because they make the spinner easy to maneuver, they’re sturdy, and they don’t squeal as you’re rushing down the terminal. You can have an amazing suitcase, but if the wheels suck, the bag is worthless. The biggest reason I never used hard-sided luggage was because most don’t have an expandable option, and I have a tendency to overpack so I like that feature. However, I just packed for an eight day trip to Greece and squeezed in everything I wanted, and I still had a little space in the bag, Overall, it’s an amazing piece, and if this is the only good suitcase you have then you’ll be in great shape.
Price: $198–on sale from $288
These are the perfect items to bring if you’re trying to save space in your luggage—and who isn’t? The water bottle flattens down to a small compact size, and the reusable cups are just as flexible and simple to travel with. As someone who volunteers often, I know you can’t bring your purse or other personal items to your job placement most of the time for security and practical reasons.
So, I usually bring a small backpack or even fanny pack that holds just a few things I need like a water bottle, and these effortlessly fit with great ease. Plus, many times, volunteering housing is short on supplies, so bringing your own is helpful. The HydraPak stash bottle and collapsible cups are also great for hiking and any type of adventure travel.
Price: HydraPak Stash Bottle $23
Where to Buy: http://hydrapak.com/shop/water-bottles/stash-1
Price: Speed Cup $20 (Includes four cups per set)
How many times have you used travel sized bottles for your liquids and then you go to use one thinking it’s lotion, but it’s actually shampoo? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that, and it’s annoying. However, there’s now a simple solution: Lolly Zip. They offer labeled ID collars on the bottles and they’re amazing.
I’ll never travel without them again. They fit in your carry-on, and they can be used for anything like sunscreen, hair gel, face cream or any other liquids. And if you’re staying in volunteering housing, which most do, this will differentiate your items in a shared space. You’ll never buy drugstore travel bottles again after using Lolly Zip!
Price: $9.95 per silicone bottle. The super ID bottle will also be available as included in their travel kits in prices ranging from $24.95 to $39.95
Where to Buy: www.LollyZip.com
I’m a big fan of fanny packs—don’t judge. I wear them a lot when I’m volunteering, because as mentioned above, I don’t bring my purse with me to my work placement, but I need something small to carry things I need. I love the Talus fanny pack because there’s three separate compartments—but it’s not bulky—it’s small enough to conceal if you don’t overstuff it. It’s tear and water-resistant, which is great because I’m rough on fanny packs. In addition, it’s lined with RFID blocking materials to prevent others from scanning and stealing your credit card numbers, which has happened to me numerous times. So, volunteers and adventure travelers, check this one out!
The thing I immediately liked the most about the mentor organizer sacs is how super lightweight they are, and I love that they fold up really small when not in use. Three different sizes come in an order, and they are made of a thin material unlike other bags I’ve seen, so they’re not bulky. You can put anything in them like cameras, tablets, phones, drinks and food you’re worried about spilling. I’ve had liquids explode in my bag before and ruin everything in my purse, which isn’t cool.
But with these, you can just rinse them out or wash them and reuse them over and over. The organizer sacs are also great for actual water sports like tubing, kayaking, white water rafting among other water activities, because you can clip them to the boat so they won’t get lost if the boat overturns, or get damaged if splashed. You NEED these bags!
I have two different brands of packing cubes and I use them for every trip I take, because I’m the worst at being organized and these help make packing much easier. I love them, but I’m now hooked on the caravan compartments because they’re waterproof and easy to clean. The various sizes of the cubes allows you to pack more effectively, and they’re great for ensuring your shampoo and liquids don’t leak over everything. Whether you’re a wanderlust type of traveler, or someone who just takes weekend trips every now and then, Caravan Compartments are a must have.
Where to Buy: http://www.innate-gear.com/product/caravan-compartments/
I always travel with a backpack, and I’ve tried so many different brands and designs, but the Lug Puddle Jumper backpack has quickly become my new favorite for several reasons. When I travel for work, I have to bring my laptop, which is heavy for me. After a few minutes I start to feel the weight of it on my shoulders and back, but not with this one. I can wear this backpack for an extended period without experiencing that additional pressure on my body. And, my computer takes up the majority of space in most backpacks, which is annoying, I have a 15″ Macbook Pro that I’ve had for about four years, but because the Puddle Jumper has so many pockets and compartments, I’m able to fit everything I want in the bag along with my laptop.
Another great feature that I love is how the pockets close with a magnetic seal, because it’s easy to get to my things. I can’t tell you how many snaps and buttons have broken on others, and I end up not using that bag because I’m worried about my things getting lost. So for me this is the perfect backpack. It’s a little pricey, but worth the expense. You’ll have the Puddle Jumper for a long time.
I’ve taken on a variety of volunteer projects in several different countries and cities. Sometimes, I’m in very polluted environments and it can be challenging to adapt. We’ve all seen the masks people wear when traveling, or in smoggy areas, but you’re still breathing in particles of fumes, smoke, and other harmful air toxins. So, when I heard about this product, I was really excited to try it out. The DetoxAir is designed to filter out these contaminants in heavy polluted areas, which is not only beneficial to volunteers, but those living and working in these conditions.
It fits like a mouth piece, and it’s comfortable, however, you’re unable to talk while you’re wearing it. But, you can do any other activity. It’s small, lightweight and you can pack the DetoxAir into any piece of luggage with ease. It’s a smart idea that will help many people. Make sure to clean after every use to get the best results.
Where to Buy: http://detoxair.com
When I volunteer outside of Los Angeles where I live, I usually stay in volunteer housing, which is awesome because I love meeting and getting to know the other volunteers. But it can also be a bit awkward at first, especially if you’re rooming with several other people you’ve never seen before. So, break the ice games are always a good start. I personally love cornhole, so when I saw there was a travel sized version, I had to have it. Asking other volunteers to hang out and play is a wonderful way to be social, make others feel relaxed, and have fun. While it does fold up to a small compact size, it’s a little heavy, so maybe don’t pack that extra pair of shoes you don’t need to make room. And what’s great about this game is that it’s two in one. There’s also ladderball, which I’m not as good at yet, but I will be!
Like most volunteers, I’m always traveling on a budget, so that means economy class for me—which if I’m being honest…kinda sucks. It’s not that great, especially when you’re traveling long distances—but whatev. I’m just happy to travel and give back to others. So, to make the flight more comfortable, I tried out this new travel pillow. It’s hard for me to sleep with my head straight back and neck pillows don’t work for me. But, what I like about Cardiff Wings is that you can place it on either side of your seat and rest easier.
You can adjust it to your liking, and it is simple to set up once you watch the video explaining how, (which you can see below). Well, for me anyways—I’m not good at assembling anything, but once I visually saw how to do it, it was pretty uncomplicated. And I love that it comes in a nice case that will not only keep your pillow clean, but it’s easy to store.
This vacuum lightweight bottle is wonderful for volunteers, or anyone who travels really, because it seriously keeps drinks and liquids hot for eight hours. It’s perfect for tea and coffee drinkers. For myself, I fill it with veggie broth and sip it when I’m volunteering for long hours and I’m not able to grab anything to eat. It also keeps drinks cold, which is always a plus, especially when it’s hot outside and you need to stay hydrated. It won’t leak, but make sure to lock the lid so it stays secure, otherwise the top could come off.