1. Three words: space. saver. bags. I've been on two other mission trips but last year was my first trip out of the country. And as I'm preparing for a trip back to Guatemala, space saver bags are a girls best friend! I was amazed at how compact my clothes were.
2. Splurge on a sleeping bag. Last year, I found a sleeping bag at a local thrift store for less than ten bucks. I washed it and crammed it in a space saver bag. I ended up leaving it in Guatemala, knowing I couldn't fit it back in a space saver bag. This year I invested in a compact sleeping bag. It comes in a compression sack and is only three pounds; about the size of a football. I did some shopping around, wanting to get the best price and ended up at Walmart. I paid forty dollars and am pleased with how comfortable the sleeping bag itself is. It's a mummy style - which wasn't my first choice - but I still have room to move around.
3. Dry shampoo. For as long as I can remember, I've faithfully washed my hair every night. Until going to Guatemala last year. Dry shampoo was something I hadn't heard of until then and it's changed my life. I use it now between washes - because I've even read it's good not to wash your hair every day.
4. Disposable items. I'm all about travel size and disposable items. I really like the travel size plastic bottles you can get so you can just fill them with shampoo, etc. you already have. Anything I can use up and then throw away, I'm all about. The less I have to unpack, the better.
What I have to keep telling myself: this trip isn't about me. As hard as it might be, keep it simple. Try not to overpack. I usually make a list of everything I'll need and then decide if there's anything I could stand to not take. It's a little harder for me to do that when going out of the country because I know there won't be a Walmart nearby - it helps me justify taking a few extra things :)
And as far as making everything fit in your suitcase, there are some great ideas on Pinterest! What did we do before Pinterest??