By Kathy Kirk, volunteer

Many times I’ve been asked what I pack to go to Africa for these trips. You will usually get some wonderful advice from your team leader – but here is my take to add to that. These are some ideas of how and what you should pack when going on a Vacation with a Purpose trip, where you might be visiting remote areas of Africa with limited access to electricity, clean water or supplies. 

Personal items

  • Take enough for the duration. You won’t have a shop nearby so make sure you have 
    • Deodorant
    • Sunscreen! Sun protection is very important.
    • lip balm with SPF
    • Shampoo, conditioner if you can’t live without it. 
    • Bar of soap (if anyone knows what that is anymore), 
    • Ladies don’t forget your personal hygiene products, 
    • Toothbrush cover you don’t want to think about what might have walked over your toothbrush while you are away, toothpaste
  • Bring some medicine for gastric problems (you’ll get them at some point I promise). I often pack a couple of Gatorade types of drinks (powder if you can) in case you need some electrolytes.


  • Don’t pack anything that can’t be covered in paint or some other substance. I usually keep a group of clothes that I would normally be giving to a local charity – 3-5 sets is plenty. 
  • Shoes – have good solid joggers. Do NOT leave them outside at night no matter how muddy. You don’t know what might decide they are a comfortable nestling place. You don’t want to stick your foot into a pre-occupied shoe.
  • Pack a large-ish plastic bag in case you have wet/still damp/muddy clothes or shoes
  • Don’t forget your hat. If you use a cap, be careful of the back of your neck.
  • Cultural awareness – In Africa you won’t see female legs/knees or décolletage. So pack pants that are no shorter than cargo pants or ¾ pants. No dipping necklines. Short sleeves are OK but I never take sleeveless or Singlet T-Shirts 


  • I never pack my own snacks, I’m there to enjoy the experience including the food. 
  • I always pack a towel in case they aren’t provided.
  • Don’t assume you will have power outlets in the bathroom or even in your room. Remember to check what the electrical outlets look like before you leave home, so you can get an adaptor.
  • Pack a plastic water bottle. You will fill it at breakfast and lunch so you have water with you. Bring some headache tablets if you aren’t good at remembering to Hydrate. 
  • I always pack 1 or 2 pairs of undies in my carry-on bag as well as my toiletries bag just in case my suitcase decides to go on a different holiday destination to me!!
  • Occasionally I’m asked about bringing donations of things. Be sure you discuss this with your team lead. It can be problematic if it causes jealousy within the community for the way the donations are allocated. If it is all OK to bring things, I also ring the airlines I’m traveling with, and usually when I’ve explained what I’m doing and ask if they will allow me to bring another suitcase at no charge, they agree.  I then fill the suitcase with clothes, toys, books, jigsaws, etc. Don’t add electronics like tablets or toys needing batteries.
Vacations with a Purpose