How much cash should you take on a mission trip?
When it comes to mission trips, nearly all of your expenses are usually taken care of beforehand (remember all that fundraising you did?). So, there aren't many situations that you'll be stuck needing a fist-full of cash.
The amount of cash you should bring on your mission trip depends on whether or not (and how much) you plan on spending in just a few areas. So, think through the following situations for your particular mission trip, add it all up, and that's how much you should bring. The three times** you may need cash are: in the airport, souvenir shopping, and in case of an emergency.
In the Airport:
In most cases, food will be provided throughout your whole mission trip, with one exception: in the airport. If you get hungry waiting to board or during a layover, you may be responsible for buying your own food. If you plan ahead and pack good snacks, you can avoid having to bring cash for this situation. If you plan on eating in an airport, plan on $10-$15 per meal (airport food is usually pretty expensive, even fast food). So, for one good meal there and back (or some hearty snacks), I would bring $20-$30.
Souvenir shopping is common near the end of a mission trip. After a week of hard work, sometimes the last day (or even simply in the airport), your team will visit local shops to snag some keepsakes. The amount of cash you bring is certainly up to you. However, small trinkets are usually pretty inexpensive. I would bring $20-$40.
In case of an emergency:
Finally, I always recommend carrying $20 for emergencies. A $20 bill can buy you anything from a taxi ride to basic medical treatment in almost every country. Bonus points if you convert that emergency $20 into the local currency. If you get stuck in a situation where you need more cash, your debit card will take you the rest of the way (and you can use your $20 to get you to an ATM!). Bring $20.
Putting it all together:
Assuming you're bringing cash for all three of these situations, I recommend bringing a maximum of $90 cash. If you're packing your own airport snacks and don't plan on spending much on souvenirs, you could bring $40 and be just fine. Determine where you fall on this scale, and be sure to bring the right amount of cash! Bringing too little can put you in a pinch, and bringing too much is unnecessary and risky.
**The only other situation you may need cash is if your destination country requires that you pay an entrance fee or visa fee upon arrival. In this case, make sure you set aside the right amount of cash for this purpose. However, this is not very common.
Written by CJ