Sometime after you’ve decided to travel to Israel or other lands of the Bible, you’ll start to wonder what you should pack for your trip. I’ve been to Israel four times, and my wife and I (mostly my wife) have developed a list of things we want to make sure we bring along when we go. Most of the times we’ve gone it has been summertime so there would be some adjustments for temperature if you’re traveling during fall, winter, or spring. When we’ve led Pastor’s Familiarization (FAM) tours, they’ve been in January. Temperatures are much cooler and conditions rainier in this season. So, you might want a small umbrella and a decent windbreaker (at the least).
Of course, you’ll want all the basic items of clothing, and if you own some, clothes that wick or breathe will be more comfortable and will also clean and dry more quickly. If you know that you’ll be in one hotel room for two or three nights, you can plan on doing some light washing (in the bathroom sink) and letting the clothes hang dry. If you plan on this, you’ll need some laundry soap, etc. You don’t want to plan on doing this too much, otherwise, you may be packing wet clothes into your suitcase.
Most of the time you will be wearing casual clothing (men may even want to wear long hiking type shorts or zip-off pants on hot summer days), but many sites you’ll visit will have a dress requirement. Most likely they’ll require that legs be covered (unless you’re wearing a longer skirt) and shoulders and upper arms be covered also. It is quite likely that you will not ever visit a “formal” church service. You’ll probably have services or sermons from people in your group, so “church outfits” are not normally necessary.
You will be on and off your feet a lot, so you will probably want to have sturdy walking shoes. Some guides prefer that you wear hiking boots that have some ankle support built in. I think all guides will prohibit shoes with open toes or heels such as sandals. If you are going through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, you’ll need some water-shoes or shoes that you don’t mind getting totally wet. Also, nights in Jerusalem can be cool even in the summer so you might want a light jacket.
The land of Israel is normally very sunny so you will want to have sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat. You will also want a water bottle. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. You will probably be able to buy more bottles of water from your bus driver for about $1.00 each. Most guides will require that you have a hat on and a water bottle with you whenever you leave the bus. This is for your own safety and also so that the trip is not hindered or slowed down by a trip to the hospital.
You might want to bring some swimming clothes or exercise clothes also. My wife and I try to exercise regularly, and so we don’t like to get out of that habit even while out of town. We bring our normal hot weather running gear, and it’s nice to have our Garmin GPS running watch so we know how far we’ve gone in the unfamiliar area. If you plan on going swimming in the Dead Sea, there are places that it can be done in a fairly private manner, but the Sea is very salty and you won’t want to just wear the clothes you planned to wear during the day there.
It’s not a bad idea to bring bug spray, and if you’re worried about wrinkles in your clothes, you might want some of the spray that helps get them out. You also might want a small flashlight for some unexpected situation. And don’t forget things to occupy yourself or stay comfortable on the long flight there: reading material, puzzles (crossword, sudoku), earplugs, etc.
Of course, don’t forget your passport. You will need money but can use a credit card or debit card in most places. There are a few credit card companies that will not charge any foreign exchange fees. Those are preferable, although my experience is that if they do charge an exchange fee, it is not anymore that the fee you pay to convert dollars to shekels. You probably will want a little cash, but most can be gotten from ATM machines in the land if you need more.
Finally, don’t forget your Bible or a device that has the Scriptures on it. You will want to look up references at almost every site you visit and some of them are hot, sunny and windy. So a device might be preferred to the nice Bible you use at church. Also, a camera to document and remember all the places you see will be desired.
I hope this list is helpful and I welcome any questions that might be needed to clarify or expand.