How to pack your suitcase correctly

Useful tips from SAI

Be smart when packing your bags

I am packing my suitcase … and I take with me ... what actually? And: Do I even take a suitcase with me? Or is a duffle bag more suitable? Or a backpack?

Packing your bags is a challenge before every trip. After all, you don't want to have to pay extra because you're overweight. On the other hand, nothing important should be missing and a little selection would not be bad either. The golden rule is: "As much as necessary, as little as possible".

However, volunteer or language travel is something special: They take longer and often go to remote areas. You can find out here what you definitely need to take with you on trips like this:

1. Carry or pull?
Admittedly, it rolls so nicely at the airport! But, once you've checked in, you're rid of your suitcase and don't have to worry about it anymore. And there are also luggage carts. However, the situation is completely different after the baggage reclaim at the destination airport. Then your volunteer trip often continues for a long time by intercity bus or in some other way. Also, in many cases you will need to pass non asphalted roads. Therefore, we recommend: Take a large backpack with you instead of a suitcase. So, you always have your hands free and can also get over gravel without tripping.

2. Day Trips
You will probably use your free time at the project or language school location to explore the area. You should therefore have a daypack with you for a snack, water, bathing suits or other things. For both day trips and everyday work, you also need a durable refillable water bottle. Don’t forget a fanny pack to always have the essentials within reach during your daily activities.

3. The right clothing for every climate
When choosing clothes, it is important that you find out about the climate conditions in your host country. ATTENTION, about half of our projects are in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are therefore the other way around. Even in supposedly warm, tropical latitudes, it can get cool after a downpour or in the evening, depending on the altitude. With the onion principle, zip pants and sturdy, comfortable shoes, you're on the right track everywhere. A pair of slippers or flip-flops are a must – for the beach, at home and in the shower. Don't forget swimwear either.

And: lots of socks, because they quickly get dirty or wet. Whatever the weather, make sure your clothes are sturdy and can get dirty. Also, for safety reasons and out of respect for the less affluent people at the destination, do not bring clothing that is particularly expensive or flashy.

Extra tip: So-called sports towels are not only space-saving and super light, but they also dry much faster than terry towels. Quick-dry t-shirts are also good if you are traveling to tropical areas.

4. Weather protection
In addition to the sturdy shoes already mentioned, in almost all regions you need a rain jacket (which also works best as a windbreaker) or a rain poncho, a sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and ideally a thin multifunctional buff.

5. Hygiene, cosmetics, and health
Your toiletry bag should be well stocked, as should your first-aid kit, because: At many project locations there are only small shops or no shops at all, the nearest supermarket and the nearest pharmacy are often far away and may not have the right thing either. So, bring all the medication that you need regularly with you in sufficient quantities. Also don’t forget headache pills, diarrhea medication, antihistamine, antibacterial soap, and insect repellent.

But we not only care about your health but also that of our mother earth. Please think about the environment! Many of our projects are in sensitive ecosystems that must not be allowed to get out of balance. Therefore, please pay attention to biodegradable shampoos, soaps, detergents, and cosmetics. If possible, do not bring any plastic packaging with you that will end up in the garbage or the sea, but instead bring shampoo, soap, conditioner, deodorant, etc. in solid form and toothpaste in tablet form. By the way, make-up is not necessary. When using insect repellents, please make sure that they do not contain DEET or similar environmentally harmful substances. When it comes to sunscreen, it's very important to make sure it's reef-friendly, because not only is protecting your skin extremely important, but protecting our oceans and coral reefs as well.

6. Sleep
For some projects you need to bring a (thin) sleeping bag. In tropical regions you will also need a mosquito net (you can also buy one on arrival before heading to the project site). If you must go to the bathroom at night and other situations: Do not forget a flashlight or headlamp with rechargeable batteries. In some places electricity is not available 24 hours a day. Power outages may occur frequently in Latin America.

7. Miscellaneous
Further, you need all sorts of "little stuff":
- A pocket Spanish dictionary, because there isn't cell phone reception everywhere for online translation
- Pen and pad in backpack size
- Ziploc bags for things you don't want to get wet
- Bags for dirty laundry, shoes, or anything else that has gotten dirty (here we recommend avoiding plastic and choosing cotton bags for the sake of the environment)
- Socket adapter (suitable for your destination country)
- Luggage lock

Above all, do not forget your travel documents:
valid passport
certificate of international health insurance
Credit card, debit card as well as some cash
Flight booking documents
Your project documents issued by us

With this you are well equipped, and nothing stands in the way of your South America adventure! If you have any questions, just contact us, we're happy to help.