Posts Tagged ‘ministry travel’

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Raising Funds for a Mission Trip

The excitement of an upcoming mission trip is often dampened by the realization that the funds aren’t readily available to pay for it. That’s when we have to get creative!

With a good plan and the determination to make it happen, you can raise the amount you need.

Start by writing a letter to your family and friends describing the mission you are undertaking and ask them to consider supporting you. Hand-written letters will come across as more sincere and heartfelt than emails, so bear that in mind. Include a pre-addressed return envelope for their donation.

Reach out to friends for their ideas on ways to raise funds. They might be willing to help with car washes, bake sales and other events, and they might have contacts at restaurants and other businesses that could hold fund-raisers  on your behalf.

A great idea for a fund-raiser is to sell hand-crafted items from the country you are planning to visit, with a portion of the proceeds going to your trip. Use your social media pages to promote sales and let friends know about your upcoming trip.

Finally, take a close look at your budget for luxuries you can do without for a while. Deferring monies normally spent on those daily lattes, nice restaurants and premium cable channels to your trip fund will reap rewards in no time.

So, if you’re excited about serving abroad but are apprehensive that you won’t be able to come up with the money, pray about it and create a plan. Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you feel led to do. Use the suggestions above and you will raise the money — and grow a lot in the process!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Use Timeline, Checklist to Plan 2012 Trips

Next summer’s mission trip abroad will be much more successful and enjoyable if you start planning right now, and follow a careful timeline. Travelers who plan ahead and allow sufficient time for paperwork to be processed find fewer inconveniences and unwelcome surprises along the way.

For best preparation, follow this timeline to get ready for your trip.

Six to nine months ahead

Book air travel: This is the time to confirm your travel details with your destination office. Contact Ministry Travel so we can obtain the best airfare and other rates for your group. Discuss your needs for travel insurance with your agent.

Pay deposits: Your agent will provide specific details for your group, but deposits will be required not long after reservations are made. Refund terms vary depending on whether payment was made by check or credit card.

Review visa requirements: Your Ministry Travel agent will advise you how to determine the visa requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit, and assist you in obtaining any necessary documents.

Determine immunization requirements: Check with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out the most current immunization requirements for the country or countries you plan to visit. Then, receive the required immunizations. Check with your physician about whether you should update your tetanus, polio and other standard vaccines as well. Obtain proof of all immunizations for the visa process.

The CDC provides information and printable forms for recording what vaccines were received and when.

Four to six months ahead

Apply for visas. Complete visa applications and gather signed passports and photos for submission. The U.S. State Department’s website provides detailed visa information, searchable by country.

Two to three months ahead

Submit final list of travel group. The airline will want a final list of the members of your group several months before departure. This will vary depending on the destination and the airline. Also, remember that the names on the list must be identical to the names on their passports.

Update group members. This is the time to remind fellow travelers of the due date for the balance of the trip expense and the final amount due. Double check the names on tickets and itineraries for accuracy, and contact us at Ministry Travel if there are any discrepancies. Also, if you have not bought travel insurance for this trip, you may still do so. Your agent can explain the various options available to you.

Consider baggage regulations. Check with your airline or agent about current baggage rules and regulations. You need to know what is allowed for free and what additional baggage charges will be. In addition, it’s good to know about restrictions on imports, so you don’t bring anything with you that is not allowed into the country you are visiting.

Two weeks ahead

Check in with field office. This is the time to check with those at your destination about who is meeting your group at the airport, and obtain phone numbers for your contacts there, in case of emergency. In a safe place, record the addresses and phone numbers of the American embassies or consulates in the nations you are visiting. You can find a list here.

Double check credentials. It’s important to make sure everyone in your group has passport and visas, plane tickets, immunization records, a copy of the passport in case of loss or theft, and any applicable missionary credentials.

One week ahead

Secure transportation to the airport. Make sure your plans allow adequate time for traffic delays and airline check-in — note that international flight check-in takes longer than domestic check-in — and adequate space in the vehicles for everyone’s luggage.

Three days ahead

Confirm flight plans. Call the airlines to confirm flights for departure and return.

Day of departure

Final credential check: Before heading to the airport, make sure every passenger has his or her airline tickets, passport, visas, medical documentation and other necessary credentials for foreign travel. Check to see that all luggage is properly identified.

 

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Preparing Mission Teams for 2012 Airfare Increases

The continued soft global economy has airlines cutting flights and raising prices, and that could have a major impact on missions teams and their 2012 budgets. In addition, with the Olympics coming to London next year (a major transfer airport for missionary teams) airline prices are being driven up even more.

USAToday reported that airfares rose in the U.S. nearly 10% for the 12 months ending in August compared to the previous 12 months, and the major U.S. airlines will cut capacity 2%-4% next year. This means 2012 airfares could go up even more. Baggage and miscellaneous airline fees are also on the rise.

In addition to fare increases, travelers can expect tax increases in 2012, especially on international trips. The White House has proposed travel tax increases, the UK is threatening increases, and various individual countries have already raised their taxes. Bulgaria, for example, just raised one of their travel taxes by 8%.

What does all of this mean to the mission traveler? Here are four things to keep in mind:

You can’t use last year’s mission trip budget. If you base your 2012 trips on what you paid for your 2011 trips you can expect to be greatly disappointed. Instead of guessing, call us and let us give you a no-obligation quote so that you can work with realistic numbers.

You may need to alter your trip dates. It is always true that flexible travel dates often lead to substantial savings; this is especially the case for 2012.

Consider alternate airlines. Some frequent missionary travelers have their favorite airlines and will stick with them even if they have to pay a little more. In 2012, however, you could be paying a lot more. Be open to considering other airlines. Your Ministry Travel agent can give you all the details and let you make apples to apples comparison of airlines.

Watch the luggage weight. It is reported that some airlines are charging as much as $450 for overweight bags on international flights. Pay attention to the airline weight rules and know that if your trip involves different airlines, there may be different weight restrictions. This is especially true if you are transferring to smaller regional or national airlines. For example, with certain tickets a team traveling to Tanzania from the U.S. can have three 50-pound bags, but if they take an in-country flight the national airline limits them to one 44-pound bag. Again, contact us for details on luggage rules and for information on our special tickets that allow for free extra bags.

As always, the earlier you can plan your trips and purchase your tickets the better off you will be, especially going into a volatile 2012. Contact Ministry Travel today at 1-877-541-5726 or www.ministrytravel.com and find out about our airfare discounts for your 2012 international mission trips.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Survey Results: Would you be willing to pay more if meals/snacks and baggage fees were included in the airfare?

As the airlines continue to find new and creative methods of charging for services, we were curious how our customers felt about ancillary fees. Out of 512 combined responses, 59% said they would be willing to pay more if meals/snacks and baggage fees were included in the airfare while 41% liked the fees for optional products and services. Thank you for participating!

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

How the 2012 Olympics Will Impact Flights for Missionaries

Every four years the world turns its attention to the summer Olympic Games as the world’s greatest athletes assemble in one place to seek the coveted price of a gold medal. London 2012 may be the farthest thing away from your mind right now as you begin to plan your 2012 missionary airfares, but it shouldn’t be. That’s because its location—London—could impact you regardless of your actual mission trip destination.

Many flights for missionaries go through Europe to get to destinations in Africa and Asia. That means that you can expect a lot of company in European airports if you’re traveling just before, during or right after the July 27-August 12, 2012 event. Even if you do not plan to fly on an airline that transfers in London, you should still expect major crowding in all of the key European hub airports during that time. London, of course, will be the epicenter.

For those who do transfer through London and want to explore the city during any layovers, they can expect the subway and other transportation methods to be very congested. According to the London 2012 Organizing Committee, they are aiming for a “public transport” Games, meaning there will be no car parking at or around Olympic venues, pushing even more people into using public transportation. Keep in mind that many of the Games’ events will actually take place outside of London and be spread across the UK, including the cities of Cardiff and Glasgow. So travel throughout the UK will be affected as well.

Besides the crowds that you can expect if you fly through Europe during the Olympics, you can also expect to pay more for airfare, especially if you wait much longer to make your airline reservations. We would expect limited inventory for discounted missionary tickets.

The bottom line is if you typically fly through Europe for your short term mission trips, you may want to consider scheduling your trips to avoid the dates around London 2012. If you do need to travel during that time, ask your Ministry Travel consultant about missionary flight options that avoid London. Also, you should make your flight reservations just as soon as possible, knowing that the longer you wait the more you can expect to pay.

We do have clients that take ministry teams to serve at the Olympics. If that is you, our advice is to recruit your teams right away and book your travel just as quickly as possible. Remember that with many of our special airline missionary contracts you can reserve space now and not have to pay anything until 45 days prior to departure. This is a definite advantage to help you save money during next summer’s busy travel time.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore: Managing the Field Ministry of Short-Term Mission Teams

The plane hits the dirt runway, slows and then begins to taxi toward the small brick building that serves as the airport’s terminal. As the plane comes to a stop, you and your ministry team duck your heads and exit at the back of the turbo-prop before stepping onto foreign soil. The moment that you have planned and prepared for has finally arrived. Your international ministry has begun. Now it is up to you as the leader of this short-term mission team to make sure things go right and the outreach is a success. Here are seven key items to tackle that will enable you to effectively manage your group’s field ministry.

1. Think 24-48 hours ahead. As the leader, you need to anticipate what is in store for your team and plan ahead. By thinking in terms of what will be needed tomorrow, you will have the necessary time to make the appropriate arrangements.

2. Coordinate logistics. This will be ongoing from the moment you arrive to the time that you leave. The “big three” in this category include transportation, lodging and food/water. With transportation, you will want to not only make sure that you have it lined up for all of your activities, but also that there is enough to accommodate your team and any supplies or materials that you are carrying.

If your team is staying at a hotel or similar accommodation, be sure to write down each team member’s room number as you check-in your group. Also, be sure that they have your number in case there are any problems. If you are staying with host families, be sure to get a name and phone number for each home.

When it comes to food, you will quickly discover that meals need to be planned well in advance, especially if you have a large team. So always be thinking 2-3 meals ahead to ensure that you will have what you need and when you need it. Also, check with your team members each day — even multiple times during the day — to see if they have enough bottled water. Dehydration is one of the biggest health issues we see with mission teams.

3. Conduct field orientation. Even if you did extensive pre-trip training, there still needs to be orientation once you reach your ministry destination. Your team may or may not have been listening in previous meetings — but I guarantee they are listening now that you are on the field. You will want to cover three areas in your orientation: logistics, health and safety.

For logistics, make sure the team knows their way around the hotel or lodging facilities and how to get in touch with you and other leaders. Remind the team about handling valuables such as their passport, and make sure each person has a business card or something with the hotel’s address on it.

Health topics would include food items that can and cannot be eaten, as well as instructions about bottled water. Safety includes things such as not venturing out alone, what to do in case of an emergency, and other concerns that you might have.

4. Conduct daily meetings. The primary purpose for these briefings is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Many teams find that the best time to meet is during a meal — usually breakfast. Keep the meetings concise and focused, but still allow some time for questions and a brief recap of the previous day’s events. You will want to review the schedule for that day, troubleshoot any problems that have surfaced, and give a brief look at what to expect the next day. Some ministry teams also use this time for worship and a devotional message.

5. Take the team’s pulse. During the trip, try to spend a few minutes with each team member to see how they are doing and to help them process events. Whether a member is a veteran or a newbie, look for ways to maximize that person’s trip experience. Are there things that you can do to help him or her better utilize their gifts and abilities? Are there personality conflicts between team members or with national workers that would necessitate a change in work groups? What about fatigue? Do you need to work in some down-time so that your team can recharge a little?

As team leader, you will want to make sure that you do not isolate yourself or spend time with just a couple “favorites” with whom you feel comfortable. Instead, talk to everyone and try to observe everyone at work. If your team is spread out, make it a point to visit each work site some time during the trip.

6. Plan for future ministry. It is easy to get caught-up with the activities of the moment and fail to look ahead. If you plan on working there again, take some time during your trip to prepare for your next team.

On the last evening of my last trip to Africa, our team went to a pizza restaurant as a special treat. As we were walking up to the building one of our national hosts commented that the hotel across the street was new. Knowing that we would return in a couple months with another team, we decided to visit the hotel after dinner. It was beautiful — much nicer than where we were staying, and it was less money! Needless to say, we booked it for our next group. That team will be very glad that we planned ahead!

7. Prepare for re-entry. As your ministry abroad begins to wind down, there are a couple items that need to be addressed. First, verify your return flights with your airline 48 hours before departure. Also, discuss with your team the travel logistics such as flight plans, filling out customs forms, reclaiming luggage and so on.

As you address these seven items during your mission trip, you will find that the trip is more manageable and runs smoother. I would encourage you to develop a checklist around these issues and work through it during your time on the field. This will keep you on task and help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Preparing Emergency Sheets for Mission Trips

What happens if there is an emergency back home while you are on a mission trip in the middle of Timbuktu? Will your family or friends know how to get in touch with you? What if you experience an emergency or run into a snag in your travel plans—will you have at your fingertips the phone numbers to call for help?

Whether you are alone or leading a group, if you are serving abroad it is a good idea to maintain a single-page sheet of contact information that can be left with family at home as well as carried with you. While there are obvious things that you will want to include on that sheet such as telephone numbers where you can be reached, there are some other important items not as obvious but equally important. Here is a list of items to consider including on your emergency contact sheet.

How to dial an international number. From the U.S. you must dial 011 plus the number for international calls. Since most people do not make international calls, leaving this out can create confusion and make it more difficult for people to reach you.

Time difference. You don’t want a 3 a.m. non-emergency call!

Airline phone numbers including the numbers for the country you will visit. This is so that you can reconfirm your return flights or contact the airline should your travel plans change.

U.S. Citizen Emergency Center. This is the number in Washington D.C. your family can call to find out about arrests or your whereabouts abroad should you be unreachable otherwise. That number is (202) 647-5225.

Hotels/lodging plus the dates that you will be staying there. Dates are especially important if you will be moving around a lot on your trip.

Cell phone number of a local contact who will be with you during your trip.

U.S. Embassy telephone and address for the country you are visiting. Make sure to also note the after-hours emergency number.

Travel insurance emergency numbers. You should also include your policy number. If you book your insurance through Ministry Travel, which uses Travelex Travel Assistance, the phone numbers are (866) 930-9806 toll-free within the U.S. Outside the U.S., call collect (603) 328-1965.

Other key local contacts. Include the numbers for any organizations you are working with or key leaders at your destination.

Again, this emergency contact sheet is both for you and those who stay behind. So make sure a family member or friend has a copy and be sure to keep a copy on you (not in your checked luggage) at all times.