Packing for a mission is hard. You're expected to pack everything you'll need for 18-24 months in just 3 suitcases. And since you'll be flying, each checked suitcase has to weigh under 50 pounds. Once you're in the mission field, you're then expected to pack everything back up and move around every 6 weeks! Here are some tips for packing your suitcases that I wish I had known.
I cannot express enough just how much I love vacuum bags. I asked for them for my first Christmas on the mission, and they saved my life. They're great for those quick moves you'll have to make when transfers come around, and they save so much space when you have to fit a lot. When you're packing to fly, you do need to be aware how much you put in the vacuum bags. You may be able to fit your entire closet in one suitcase with their help, but you will be WAY over the weight limit. You can still use them to get yourself a little extra space though!
Use Your Shoes
You'll probably be packing 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, which can take up a lot of space! But you can use that space to your advantage! Stuff your shoes with all your socks, ties, feminine hygiene products, etc. Anything small that will fit safely in your shoe can help safe lots of space.
Roll Your Clothes
I was surprised at how much space was saved when I rolled my clothes and tightly packed them in. I was easily able to fit enough outfits because of that. I know it makes them extremely wrinkly, but your clothes will get wrinkled in transit no matter what. Unless you have a secret trick to fix that. I'd love to hear it!
This is also helpful with your garments (which will definitely take up the most space every time you travel for the rest of your life. Worth it!). I'd recommend rolling a top and a bottom together to save even more space.
Do Your Research
The mission packing list that comes with your call can be so helpful. But sometimes it can be overwhelming in unnecessary ways. If you're serving stateside, you probably don't need to bring all the toiletries you'll ever need for 18-24 months since you'll definitely have access to a Walmart or two. If you're serving in a foreign country, you'd be surprised how many have plenty of toiletries to use. They just may not be the brands or prices you're used to. I'd recommend researching the place you'll be serving to learn what kinds of products they'll have, and how much access to stores you'll have. A great place to start is the advice binders at Missionary Mall! We've collected lots of advice for lots of missions, and many missionaries have advised not bringing all the toiletries you'll need. Even some third world countries have what you need. You'll be surprised!
Speaking of toiletries, have you noticed that most of them come in big bulky packaging? Get rid of the packaging! You don't need to fly a cardboard box to Norway, trust me. I especially found this helpful when packing up feminine hygiene supplies. I saved so much space by taking everything out of boxes and just shoving it into the nooks and crannies of my suitcases.
Shake it Up
Your suitcase may look completely full, but you'd be surprised how much hidden space there is. When you think you've run out of room, zip up your suitcase and give it a couple good shakes. When you unzip it, you'll most likely find a couple inches of space at the top. I did this all the time, especially when I only had a few things left to squeeze in there!
I only had to worry about the weight limit on my two biggest suitcases. So when I flew out and when I flew home, I put as much as I possibly could into my carry-on. And I made sure it had some of the heaviest things. You'll need to make sure you can still lift it over your head to put it away once you're on the plane. And, of course, you need to be careful that what you put in won't raise any alarms at TSA. One of the areas I served in was known for producing bricks. I managed to get a really old brick with the area's name on it as a souvenir, and I didn't want to worry about it's weight. So I stuck it in my carry-on. In retrospect, it wasn't the greatest idea. Lets just say it's a tender mercy the TSA believed me when I explained what it was and promised I wouldn't use it as a weapon. It now sits proudly displayed in my home.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful! I myself know how hard it is to pack for a mission, and I'm sure you'll have to leave some things behind. Just remember to have faith in the Lord and that He will take care of you.