Planning an international mission trip is an exciting process. Deciding where to go, how you will serve, and imagining the amazing things you hope to experience adds to the anticipation of your volunteer vacation. There are also many practicalities to thoroughly plan. Your health and safety are paramount. Here are three of the most important things to research and plan before you join an international mission trip.

1) Apply for passports.

•After you submit your application, photos and identification documents, passport issuance usually takes minimum of four to six weeks.

•Be sure all existing passports are valid for at least 6 months after return of planned travel. Many countries now require this.

•Keep two photos of yourself and a photocopy of your passport information page separate from your passport in case it’s lost or stolen.

2) Educate yourself.

•It’s really important to find out as much as you can about the country you are visiting. Getting accurate information and keeping up with any alerts or news will keep you informed and safe.

•It’s also a good idea to talk with someone who has recently visited the country you plan to volunteer in. They will have first hand tips to share, based on their own experiences.

3) Get Healthy.

•The right health insurance and vaccinations are essential for international travel. Check immunization suggestions and requirements at least 3-6 months in advance of your departure date.

•Receive required immunizations. Allow time between vaccinations if multiple shots are needed and especially if you need them as proof for obtaining visas. It’s a great idea to have all immunizations you receive listed on a card from the World Health Organization.

•Check your current medical insurance policies for overseas coverage. Many US policies do not offer international coverage. Make sure the policies provide evacuation services to come home due to illness or injury. You can buy additional insurance if you need to.

Your time as a volunteer abroad will be a life changing experience. Being prepared in practical ways will make it even better.