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Packing Notes

¡Hola estudiantes!

The time has come to start the packing process. The trip is getting closer and getting real ¡ Woohoo ¡
You can refer to the Course Preparation Manual for guidance, but we have a few tips from our own experience that we thought we would share with you.

Many of these are suggestions, not requirements. We think these things will make your trip/transition easier. But on the flip side, many travelers and locals live without any of the stuff listed here. It’s not going to be the “stuff” that makes your trip, so judge for yourself. The lighter your pack is, the more flexible, adventurous, and comfortable we’ll be.

We’ll suggest two guiding principles and a few finer points and then include a copy of suggestions that have been helpful on past Central America courses.

Guiding Principles

LESS IS MORE – We will be moving a lot! Less weight and fewer things to worry about can make your trip more enjoyable in many ways. Keep it simple.

AN ARTICLE OF CLOTHING IN THE HOUSE IS WORTH TWO IN THE STORE – Don’t think you need to buy a brand new quick-dry wardrobe and show up looking like Indiana Jones. Much of the clothing you use at home will probably look cool, feel great, and work perfectly this summer! Jeans and t-shirts are our go-to garments.

Ok, so for some finer points…

Prioritize sun protection! The sun is very strong, and we will spend lots of time outside. Some cover up with pants, long sleeves, hats, sunglasses, and light-weight clothes. Others prefer sunscreen lotions (which can be bought easily in Guatemala, by the way). What kind of person are you? The only wrong answer is, “A sunburned person.”

Anticipate rain! We recommend “shell” style of jacket that you can use in warm temperatures, over a t-shirt, and in cold weather, over more layers, because we’ll be in different climate zones at different altitudes. Some people have taken the umbrella route and really rocked it. Something waterproof to cover a backpack can come in handy too – if it rains as we trek, we’ll trek as it rains.

Bring layers! Expect to be in highlands and lower areas. Even within one zone it is common for weather to vary greatly even within one day. Temperatures average around 50° at night and up to about 75° during the day in the highlands. Be prepared for temperatures to drop to the high 30s overnight as we trek – we pack wool hats for that! The lower areas are much hotter. In the middle of the day, it can get to the mid-90s, with humidity too, and you’ll want clothing that is as light as possible.

p.s. this text below is the set of suggestions that has been used on many past courses in Central America. It’s good stuff!


First things first! Pack extra UNDERWEAR and SOCKS. We’ll be able to do laundry about once a week, perhaps by hand more often, and we’ll be out and about in all kinds of weather. To stay healthy and happy, hygiene is KEY, so pack enough of the essentials to be changing them out very frequently. Jeans and other outer layers can be reused, however.

BRING NORMAL CLOTHES! We can’t emphasize enough how nice it will be to have some normal jeans, t-shirts and stuff you would wear back home. Although we will be doing some trekking, the majority of this journey is not an outback safari — not everything needs to be quick dry.

Be sure to bring COMFORTABLE PANTS AND/OR A COMFORTABLE DRESS/SKIRT (that covers the shoulders and goes down to the knees). This is useful for when we are living in one community for an extended time. You will want some clothing that helps you to feel relaxed, and possibly something semi-formal for a group dinner or community celebration.

SHOES Versatile footwear! One pair of hiking waterproof boots that can be used for manual labor AND hiking, one pair of sneakers/athletic/casual shoes, and one pair of flip-flops.

PROBIOTICS Traveling abroad almost always brings stomach issues. Bring a bottle of probiotic pills with you to try and stay healthy. In fact, it is helpful to start taking probiotics now (and eating yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc regularly) to build up good gut flora and help protect from bacterial infections.

GIFTS You may want something for individuals who make your course special, such as ISP mentors and homestay families. We have multiple home stays during our course, so it’s probably best to bring at least 5 separate gifts. There’s no need to bring anything elaborate. Think about a couple of small gifts that anyone would appreciate.  Some ideas are: postcards or pictures from home with a message on the back, games that you enjoy, small tokens of where you’re from (magnets, a local treat, etc.).  There is no expectation that you bring gifts, so simplicity is best for this!

CAMERA You will not be able to rely on your cell phone to take photos. We will keep your cell phones with us for the duration of the course.

USB STICK for saving photos, documents for independent study projects, yaks, etc.

TOWEL that covers all the necessary parts (tiny towels can make walking to and from your homestays and hostels awkward and cold).

HAND SANITIZER in a small bottle for all those times when there is no soap in the public bathroom.

FLIP FLOPS are great for hostel showers and informal settings.

EARPLUGS as there will be all sorts of new noises (think roosters and car honks RIGHT outside your window).

A small SEWING KIT for those random repairs. A sewing kit from a hotel is perfect.

On top of a JOURNAL, you’ll also want to bring a straight-up NOTEBOOK. Bring a couple of PENS to get you started, but know they are easily replaceable in-country.

Something to do as a GROUP– you will have many moments together as a group, it is nice to have games (ideas are cards, Uno, banana grams) and BOOKS that you can trade off.

Bring MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS if you play (guitars, ukulele, flutes, etc.).

EXTRA DUFFEL BAG for forwarding your extra stuff to our final destination for the treks. We don’t carry everything we own on our backs while hiking, so having a safe place to store what you leave behind can be helpful.


You do not need a sleeping pad. We won’t need one on our treks because we’ll be spending the nights in the homes of families along the way.

A mosquito net. If they are needed they will be provided.

Anything you don’t want ruined or lost.

CELL PHONES (iPhones included) leave at home. If you do decide to bring a phone to coordinate your travel to and from Miami, please keep in mind that we will collect all phones for the duration of the course and are not responsible for loss or damage. Please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for time together. You will have access to internet and call centers to contact home during the program. There will be plenty of ways to stay in contact with home, and the Yak board will be our main source of communication as a group to concerned loved ones following our journeys.

INAPPROPRIATE CLOTHING (leggings as pants, clothing that is skin tight, low-necked, more than a few inches above the knee, blazoned with inappropriate words, excessively torn, etc.) should be left at home to be enjoyed after our trip. Students with clothing deemed culturally inappropriate will be asked to change by their instructors. We hope to travel as respectfully as possible through lands that aren’t ours, and this sometimes means leaving some of our personal preferences at home.

THINGS YOU CAN BUY IN-COUNTRY Clothing (traditional, American, and souvenir), knock-off footwear, books in Spanish and English, toiletries (non-natural), notebooks and writing utensils, souvenirs, among many other things. Feminine hygiene products (pads/tampons) are available in-country if needed. It’s pretty easy to cover your basics in-country. Just remember to bring your staple items and technical gear from home.

Thanks for reading! If any of you have any suggestions for each other from your own travels, please post your own Yak. And please ask if you have any questions.

Ok, that’s all the advice we’ve got for now. When in doubt, let those two principles be your guides!!! Any questions you have can be posted in a response Yak , emailed to us, or addressed when the instructors reach out to you in early June on the phone.


Lauren, Randall, Erick.