Those of you who know us In Real Life (or IRL, as the kids say) know BrightSide and I just got back from our church’s middle school mission trip. Sixteen delightful young people and five adults kicking it in the Appalachian region for a week. Holla.

tone note: That was not sarcasm font, they actually were delightful young people. Yes, they were tweens and teens with the occasional manifestation thereof but seriously…I expected that part to be harder. God had mercy on the newbie mission trip chaperones.

There was a meeting before we left and a packing list was distributed but, like much of life, there’s a learning curve. Traveling for a mission trip definitely falls on that list. Helping kids travel for a mission trip cranks that up another notch. Which means my brain was composing this post as we got on the interstate to come home on Friday.

Yeah. I didn’t miss blogging. Much.

5 Tips and Tricks No One Told Me Before My Kids Went On Their First Mission Trip.

You’re welcome.

1.  Pick up those cheap kicks. Seriously. Roll on in to Walmart/Kmart/wherever you like to go for not-so-pricey shoes and grab your kid some sneakers they can trash over the course of the week. They’ll sweat buckets into their shoes. They’ll paint, clean, weed, and generally get grimy every blessed day. Shoot, we pranced through chicken poop each morning and waded in a river at lunchtime. Just buy the shoes. You’ll thank me.

2.  Pack a few plastic grocery bags. See sample job descriptions above. Nobody knows what they’ll be doing on their work site until they get there, and even if you think you know plans change. Shoes get grubby. And gross. And sometimes it helps to pull them off before you head home for the day. Your kid’s feet will thank you.

3.  Pack comfy transit shoes. See plastic bag usage above. Sure, your kid can wear their sweat soaked, poop- or sawdust-covered sneakers back home in the evening, tracking paint/who knows what into the trucks and vans…or they can slip into clean slides for the ride. Your group leaders will thank you.

4.  Pack a trash bag. No, I’m not under the illusion that your kid will voluntarily pick up the trash around their room, but I can almost guarantee they’ll be toting home a damp towel or two. Maybe they’ll take a shower that last morning, convinced elf magic will dry it before they have to pack. Or maybe a towel will get tossed in a corner after they’ve gone swimming, since apparently kids believe the laws of physics are suspended while away from home. Either way, when you open up that suitcase on the other end you’ll be happy to have the really musty stuff as isolated as possible.

5.  Send a dirty clothes bag/hanging hamper. We discovered ones like this the first year our kids went to camp, but did I think to pack them? Nope. I sure didn’t. Duh. And at the end of a long, sweaty day working in the hot sun you really don’t want your kid to peel off nasty clothes and drop them back into their suitcase. Can I guarantee those grungy clothes will make it into the dirty clothes bag? No. But at least you’ve got a shot.

So what tips and tricks do you have? I’d love to hear your suggestions!