GTI Study Tour Preparation Guide

Once you arrive in the Holy Land you'll have a lot of ground to cover, so to ensure that you're prepared, comfortable, and informed we've put together a series of videos as well as a comprehensive online preparation guide that contains everything you need to know in order to have an educational, memorable, and hopefully life-changing trip.

Overview & Packing List

  • Don't be overwhelmed and don't procrastinate! There's a lot to cover, but a typical Study Tour day is nothing more than a day of walking and learning.
  • Look over the packing list below to ensure you don't completely overlook something necessary or useful.
  • Remember to test out whatever you're bringing. What's easy to swap out or replace now could be near impossible once you've reached your destination.
  • So check out the rest of the prep videos, get started on your online pre-trip curriculum and don't hesitate to contact your GTI Travel Coordinator with any questions you may have!

3 months prior to departure...

  • Build stamina by walking everyday
  • Break in hiking shoes/boots
  • Begin GTI Online Curriculum
  • Read the Online Preparation Guide

1 month prior to departure...

  • Create a personal packing list
  • Buy all supplies and apparel
  • Choose a date to finish curriculum
  • Start the habit keeping a journal

1 week prior to departure...

  • Ask friends and family for prayer
  • Share the Online Tour Journal link
  • Begin the process of packing
  • Ensure you have your passport

Tips from frequent travelers.

  • If you get blisters or foot odor, wear hiking socks over liner socks.
  • Look for dry fit/wicking features for all socks, shirts, and undergarments
  • Bring a pair of old sneakers or light-weight water sandals with a strap
  • Zip-lock plastic bags are useful for a wide variety of travel needs
  • Take photos selectively and keep a journal describing each photo
  • Prepare each evening for the next day. Five minutes early is on time!
  • Use powdered drink mix or Mio if you have trouble drinking plain water
  • Melatonin or other sleep aids will help you regulate sleep patterns
  • Data-only plans from Talk-n-Save allow Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangout
  • Drink small amounts of water and eat snacks all day to keep energy up

How much and how many should I pack?

Because of the nature of international group travel, your best option for doing your laundry is using your hotel sink or bathtub. So, consider how many days your Study Tour is and how many times you’ll be able to do laundry. Laundry is most easily done at hotels where you’ll be staying for at least two nights. This allows you to do laundry the first evening and hang your clothes to dry around your hotel room throughout the next day. It’s best to pack enough for 3-4 days and plan on doing laundry at least once.

Need to plug things in?

You'll need to bring a three prong European style 220 volt adapter. Remember, an adapter is not the same as a converter.

The bus is safe & secure.

If you bring a secondary day bag or knapsack to carry extra batteries, clothes, snacks, money, etc. you can leave it safely on the bus while visiting sites throughout the day.

Temperature and Weather

Depending on the specific location and time of year, the temperature and weather conditions you'll experience will vary drastically. Use this average temperature table or the one below to learn more about what to expect on your study tour. You can also look up current conditions for Jerusalem, Galilee, Dead Sea, Golan Heights, Elat. The rainy season is November through April. May through October temperatures will be warm and dry ranging from the 90's up to 115 degrees with lows typically in the 60's.

Average Temperatures Across Israel

Cities Jerusalem Tel Aviv Haifa Tiberias Eilat Dead Sea
Jan 43-53 49-65 46-63 48-65 49-70 53-68
Feb 44-57 48-66 47-64 49-67 51-73 56-72
Mar 44-61 51-69 47-70 51-72 56-79 61-78
Apr 53-69 54-72 55-78 56-80 63-87 68-85
May 60-77 63-77 58-76 62-89 69-95 75-93
Jun 63-81 67-83 64-82 68-95 75-99 80-99
Jul 66-84 70-86 68-86 73-98 77-103 83-102
Aug 66-86 72-86 70-86 75-99 79-104 83-101
Sep 65-82 69-89 68-85 71-95 75-98 81-96
Oct 60-78 59-83 60-81 65-89 69-92 75-90
Nov 54-67 54-76 56-74 59-78 61-83 65-80
Dec 47-56 47-66 48-65 53-68 51-74 56-71

Clothing & Footwear

  • Bring clothes that are comfortable, light weight, durable, and easy to hand wash in a sink. Wearing layers of lighter weight clothing is the best way to quickly and comfortably adjust to a variety of environments and weather conditions. This is more than a walk in the park, and while you won't need specialized clothing, good gear can go a long way toward keeping you comfortable on your Study Tour.
  • The shoes make the study tour. Alright, not really, but the wrong shoes can really detract from the experience. Depending on your personal preferences and your itinerary you'll want anywhere from 1 to 3 pairs of shoes. A casual shoe for travel and evenings, a hiking shoe for day hikes, and a water shoe for Ein Gedi and the Jordan river. Some people prefer a simple quick drying hiking shoe that works for all occasions. It's completely up to you. Whatever your primary walking shoe is you must thoroughly break it in!

How many changes of clothes to pack?

Weather, itinerary and personal preference dictate how many of each article of clothes to bring. But it's fairly safe to say that if you plan on doing laundry at least once on your trip, you can really save a lot of weight and expense by only bringing 2-3 changes of clothes for hiking, 1 change of clothes for airline travel and 1 change of clothes for casual wear or evening dining. You'll want to be able to last at least 3 days without doing laundry.

Quick Changes & Multiple Environments

Multiple light weight layers most easily accommodate weather, modesty requirements, and personal comfort preferences. Keeping a baggy pair of pants or a light weight wrap/skirt in your bag means you're you'll never need to find facilities for a quick change. And a cool morning often turns into a blistering day which can give way to a dry and chilling evening breeze, so keep a light weight wind breaker handy to shield you from the elements—hot or cold. Each evening your Tour Leader will alert you to any clothing requirements for the next day, so you'll have an opportunity to plan ahead, wash, or layout the clothes you'll need.

Modesty Kits

Quick changes will be required at many of the religious sites which have modest dress standards and there's typically no time or facilities for changing. Heads, arms, and legs must be covered. For men, the easiest solution is a baggy pair of pants quickly pulled over shorts or a pair of zip-off pants that turn into shorts. For women, a calf-length wrap can easily be tucked into your waist band creating a modest dress, and a shawl or silk scarf can be wrapped around bare shoulders. While you might find these traditions and customs confusing or even offensive, remember that we are visitors coming to explore and learn not to make a point or cause a scene. So always strive to represent your group and your country well by being respectful and considerate in all your interactions.

Variable Climates and Weather Conditions

Most of the year is dry and hot. However between your own sweat and visits to various springs and water sources, moisture is always close by even when it's not raining. Breathable, quick-drying garments are best, but if you're used to working out in a cotton t-shirt, you'll probably be just fine. Keeping a spare shirt, pair of socks, and stick of deodorant on the bus is always a good insurance policy. Don't forget sunglasses on a lanyard, hat or visor, and sunscreen.

Lightweight is good for many reasons

Lightweight shoes and clothing are not only useful to wear, but they allow you to pack more while keeping your suitcase light—which is a good thing when you're repacking almost every day. It's also easier to wash and quicker to dry, which allows you to wash more and pack less! Light weight shoes may get wet more quickly, but they also dry more quickly too.

Comfort is more important than fashion

When you're wading through the inky blackness of Hezikiah's tunnel or wandering around the Wilderness of Zin, you'll care more about how you feel than how you look. At least we hope so. Embrace the adventure and find clothes that are comfortable, breathable, sturdy, and flexible instead of fancy or fashionable. Also keep an eye out for comfortable zipper pockets that can keep sunglasses, lip balm, smart phones and pens handy yet secure.

It's not all hiking and sweating.

You'll most likely want to dress "normally" or even nice for most evening meals. So bring an outfit or two that helps you feel civilized so you can join the rest of the group in the evenings for a meal and for fellowship. Also, some people prefer specific travel clothing that has useful and secure pocket, body-scanner friendly, and comfortable on long flights.

Try it out and break it in

Purchasing shoes and apparel online can often be cheaper than at a brick and mortar shop, however if you're not able to try it on you run the risk of buying things that are ill-fitting and uncomfortable. Whether you raid the back of your closet or hit up your local outdoors retailer, do more than try on your clothes—break them in and test them out. Go for a hike, crawl around in the dirt, and wash it in the sink. It's better to find out now how your shoes and clothes respond to harsh treatment than when you're depending on them.

What's the best way to get laundry done?

Most of the hotels you'll be staying at for only a single night. When you arrive at a hotel that you'll be staying at for two nights, do your laundry in the sink on the first night and leave your belongings hung up to dry throughout the following day. Most light-weight clothing will be dry by the time you return and only the heaviest of garments will still be wet by the following morning when you need to pack up and leave. Bring along a plastic bag in case you must repack slightly damp or wet clothing.

Hiking Shoes/Boots

If you're buying a new shoe or boot, your first decision will be how much ankle support you need. If you're not accustomed to walking on uneven surfaces, rocks, or dirt roads, a higher ankle boot will provide helpful support. Next up is traction. For some people, heavy rubber soles and thick tread provide comfort and stability. For others, a slimmer sole is better for balance and helps feel the ground. Except for during the wet months, a shoe or boot that breaths and drys more easily is best. During the wet months you may opt for a more water resistant shoe that will keep rain and puddle water out. Whatever your preference, test out your shoes by walking up and down stairs, unpaved inclines, and rocky trails. There's a good reason why some people refer to Study Tours as "Learning with your feet", and you'll thank yourself later by ensuring your feet are comfortable and cared for. Buying shoes online is not recommended. Saving a few bucks isn't worth the risk of getting something uncomfortable.

Water Shoes

Depending on your itinerary you may have the opportunity to wade, float, and even swim in a variety of water sources. While not required, a pair of simple strap-on water shoes allow you to enjoy the refreshing water without the scrapes, bruises, and cuts that hidden rocks might deliver. Flip-flops won't provide any protection, so bring something with a strap like Keens or Teeva's. Your trip leader and guide will be able to give you a heads up the evening before if you should bring along water shoes, giving you a chance to either pack a secondary bag to leave on the bus until you reach the site with the water, or allowing you to adjust your backpack to accommodate the shoes. Old gym shoes that you can throw away at the end of the day or end of the trip also work.

Casual/Travel Shoes

Sometimes after a long day of being on your feet, simply putting on a different pair of shoes can feel rejuvenating. Also, depending on the style of hiking shoe you've selected you may find a simpler shoe a better option for airline security checkpoints, plane travel, and evening meals.

Socks and Insoles

Liner socks are quick and easy to wash, so you only need a few pairs and the anti-friction and moisture wicking properties will keep your feet much more comfortable even if your outer layer is a standard cotton sock. For a truly comfortable fit, try out a pair of hiking socks. You can gauge the thickness you'll need based on how it feels in your hiking shoe and based on the season you'll be in the Holy Land. Paired with a good liner sock, some people can get away with wearing the same outer sock two days in a row. Again, you absolutely must test out whatever you're going to pack. Find out if your socks are too hot, too tight, or too uncomfortable while you still have an opportunity to find a different solution.

Zip off Pants: While a bit pricey for a pair of pants, these extremely versatile pants satisfy the religious site modesty requirements for men while quickly converting back to cool shorts. View on REI.com

Active Boxer/Briefs: specialize underwear that features moisture wicking, antimicrobial treatment, and a snug fit prevent chaffing and provide quick drying comfort. View on REI.com

Dry Fit Shirt: Sweat and water are wicked away keeping you dry and comfortable. Even if you don't sweat a lot, wearing your hydration backpack can lead to a surprisingly wet shirt. View on Target.com

Light Weight Rain Shell: These are great as they can fit in your backpack and will repel water when rain comes. Very helpful for trips during the rainy season. View on Sierradesigns.com

Buff: The buff as seen on shows like “Survivor” can be used as a bandana, hat, beanie, scarf and many other things. View on REI.com

Blister Kit: Blisters can happen while doing a lot of walking or hiking. A blister kit is nice as you can begin to treat the affected area the moment it starts to be a problem. Its best to buy the kind that does not require you to bring scissors. View on EMS.com

Liner Socks: These help reduce blisters (2-3 pairs would be plenty as they are easy to wash and dry fast) View on REI.com

Hiking socks: These help reduce blisters and wick away moister (3 or 4 pairs are good) View on REI.com

Basic hiking shoe: You want something that breaths well, is comfortable and you have time to break in. Depending on the type of tour you are participating in will dictate how much hiking you will be doing and help you make a decision on a good hiking shoe. Here is a good example of a shoe that could work well for a trip with a little hiking to a lot. If more ankle support is needed the boot style is recommended. Never buy shoes or boots online as it is best to try them on to make sure they fit well. View on REI.com: Men's / Women's

Snacks, Health & Hygiene

  • All meals are provided, however you'll want to pack something to munch on in between meals, on the bus, or in the middle of the night.
  • Always refill your hydration pack when you return to the bus. Unless you frequently check and refill your pack, you run the risk of finishing your water in the middle of a hike and becoming dehydrated. It's critical that you stay hydrated by regularly drinking small amount of water throughout the day.
  • If you frequently drink water in small amounts and use the restroom whenever you get the chance, you'll be fine!
  • Keeping a travel pack of sanitary wipes, tissue, and hand sanitizer in your backpack will not only be a lifesaver for you, but it'll probably make you a few friends as well.
  • Be sure to bring sunscreen, topical ointments, pain medication, sleep aids, and any other critical medicine you think you may need.

Why will I need snacks?

Although most meals are all-you-can-eat, longs days and lots of exercise can keep your appetite. Also, when you're adjusting to a new timezone, midnight snacks can be a lifesaver! Depending on your metabolism, having a protein or carbohydrate rich snack handy throughout the day can provide a much needed boost to make it up the next hill or to the next site. Non-melting snacks that aren't crumbly or messy are best. While it's ok to bring candy or treats, be sure to bring snack food that will help fuel your body in a healthy way.

What will our meals be like?

Almost all breakfasts and dinners will be all-you-can eat buffet's served at your hotel, while most lunches will be served picnic style on-site to avoid wasting precious time traveling to and from restaurants and waiting in line. Hotel buffets feature a wide variety of breads, salads, vegetables, and meat. Lunches tend to be various styles of pitta sandwiches with hummus, baba ganoush, tuna, or sliced meats. Some lunches will be stops at roadside vendors or restaurants serving traditional Israeli fare.

What kind of dietary needs can be accommodated?

If you have significant dietary needs, contact your GTI Travel Coordinator right away. You'll be fine for most breakfasts and dinners, however for lunches you may have to plan ahead and pack a special meal for yourself each day depending on your needs. Your guide and driver will do their best to accommodate your needs as long as it doesn't detain the group.

How can I stay hydrated all day?

You'll end up refilling your GTI issued backpack with hydration pack at least once per day using bottled water available on the bus. Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated and keep your energy up. Be sure to check how much water you have each time you return to the bus and top-off whenever you're less than half-full.

Are there adequate restrooms?

You'll have several opportunities to use the restroom throughout the day. Take advantage of each one! While most sites have a restroom, there will be longer hikes or walks where you'll be glad to have a travel pack of sanitary wipes, tissue, and hand sanitizer just in case.

Medications & Comfort

Be sure to bring bandaids, sunscreen, topical ointments, pain medication, sleep aids, and any other critical medicine you think you may need. Check the online preparation guide and more importantly, check with your doctor to ensure you're bringing what you need to have a safe and healthy Study Tour experience.

Travel Tips & Money

  • GTI Study Tours are a group experience.
  • Be prepared, on time, and supportive of each other and your tour leader.
  • Stay at the front of the group if you want to take photos so you don't get left behind.
  • Your guide and driver are wise and experienced, so don't hesitate to ask questions!
  • The bus is a very safe place to leave your belongings while visiting a site.
  • The best souvenirs are small rocks and sand from significant locations.
  • Small bills are best.

Respect your fellow participants, leader, and guide.

It's the little things like being on time, wearing your name tag, and following instructions that make a group study tour successful. Groups that don't stick together often have to shift their itinerary because of lost time, so while it may feel like you're rushing through some sites, remember that this isn't a vacation for relaxing—it's a Study Tour for learning and experiencing the land!

Be prepared and plan ahead.

Don't assume you'll have time each morning to prepare for your day. Take the time each night to wash clothes, repack, layout tomorrows clothing, recharge batteries, etc. When you're given a time to meet the group give yourself extra time before hand to ensure you've used the restroom, packed your day bag, and taken care of any other personal needs. Most days you'll simply be wearing your hiking/walking outfits. Your leader or guide will tell you the night before if you'll need to bring water shoes, bathing suits, modesty kits, or anything else.

Keep your Passport safe.

While you're traveling to and from the Holy Land you'll need to keep your passport handy&emdash;either on your person or in your carry on. Depending on your itinerary you'll potentially need it to cross various checkpoints while on the ground. Always keep it in a safe, secure and known location. Also, keep a copy of your passport on your person or in a secondary safe location in case your passport is lost.

Your carry on is your friend

Baggage rarely gets lost, however it's wise to keep 1-2 extra sets of clothing plus all critical medication, sleep aids, and documents in your carry on. Once on the ground, both your primary luggage and your carry on will be stowed under the bus during the day.

Sturdy luggage is the best luggage.

You're allowed one 50lbs bag, one carry on, and a personal item. In addition to the usual wear and tear an international flight can cause to your luggage, you'll also be repacking your luggage and stowing it under the bus almost every day. Be sure you bring luggage that is sturdy and up to the task.

Be Aware and Respectful

There is a difference between being an tourist on vacation and a traveler on a journey. Be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of the culture and presence of people around you. The Holy Land is a gathering place for people of the entire world and you never know what background or beliefs the person next to you holds, so conduct yourself and your conversations accordingly.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance?

Most people's medical insurance does not work in foreign countries. We highly recommend that you look into getting a small plan through Travel Guard or other insurance companies to cover you while you are away from home.

Will I be able to use my credit card in Israel?

US credit cards are accepted by most hotels, restaurants, and retailers and usually provides the best exchange rate (view currency converter). Notify your credit card provider before traveling to avoid the potential of having your card temporarily suspended due to suspected fraudulent activity. To learn more about Israeli currency, visit http://www.inisrael.com/tour/money.htm

Can I bring and use cash?

United States currency is almost universally accepted in Israel. Small bills are best, allowing you to keep only the cash you need at the moment on your person. Keeping a small bag on the bus for extra cash and other items you want access to, but don't want to carry is a great idea. The bus is safe and secure.

The bus is safe and secure

Since the bus is always monitored or locked, you're encouraged to bring a small, collapsable, secondary bag that you can hold on your lap and leave on the bus for extra items you might need throughout the day such as a clean shirt, extra batteries, snacks, and money.

Shopping and Souvenirs

If you study tour allows time for shopping, it will be a very specific time. While there are gift shops at many hotels, remember that the best souvenir is something you can give to someone from a particular site to help tell the story, such as a rock from where David fought Goliath, or a polished marble chip from beach at Caesarea Maritima.

Postcards are sometimes the best photos.

Instead of assuming you'll be able to get the perfect shot of a location or building, considering buying a few copies of a postcard to keep in your journal and to share with friends and family once you return home.

Photos, Phones & WiFi

  • In regards to electronics, be present in the moment and be courteous to those around you.
  • Share the link to the GTI Online Tour Journal at gtitours.org/follow
  • Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts over WiFi is an easy way to stay connected to home using only Wifi.
  • Don't snap photos of everything. Take fewer, more intentional photos and keep a journal with captions for your photos.
  • Check out Talk-N-Save for voice/data SIM cards. Be sure to order your product at least 10 days prior to departure to allow adequate time for shipping.

Calling Home and Keeping in Touch

If you're planning on calling home, consider using Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts on your mobile device or tablet. You'll be able to purchase Wifi at most hotels, use the limited Wifi available on the bus, or use your own Israeli SIM card you can purchase from Talk-N-Save. They also have voice plans that provide you with a US and Israeli phone number.

Sharing the Group Experience

There's a good chance your group will have a Media Volunteer who will be helping GTI coordinate the Online Tour Journal&emdash;an online blog that is updated daily. Tell your friends and family to visit http://gtitours.org/follow, select your study tour from the list and subscribe to updates via email. If you would like to contribute some of your daily photos, videos, thoughts, or reflections keep your eye out for an email from GTI Tours with instructions on how to participate.

Wifi & Internet

Wifi is available to purchase at most hotels and limited Wifi is available for free on the bus. If you wish to purchase you own data plan from Talk N Save be sure to double check your device compatibility and order at least 10 days prior to your departure date so that your SIM card can be shipped to your home.

Photo Tips and Etiquette

You don't have to be an experienced photographer to take great photos. Whether you're using a point-and-shoot, DSL, or a smart-phone camera, you can take great photos by following a few simple rules.
#1 Choose Context or Detail: You'll be happier with your photos if you back up or zoom out enough to show the context and surroundings of your subject. If you want to capture a close up of a face or a flower, then get close and get the detail. Don't try to compromise, then you'll loose context and detail!
#2 Get High or Get Low: Everyone see's the world from between 4' and 6' off the ground. So stoop down low, stand on something high and capture a perspective that is not often seen. We can all use a fresh perspective!
#3 Take Purposeful Photos: You can't take a photo of everything on your trip, nor would you want to. So work on being able to articulate to yourself the reason you're taking each photo. Also, try limiting yourself to 20 photos per site. This will make you really choose what's important and save you from hours of sorting photos later. Most people complain about having too many photos rather than not enough.
#4 Stay at the Front of the Group: If you stop for a moment when you're at the front of the group, you'll simply drift to the middle or back as you stop to take a photo. If you're already in the back of the group when you stop to take a photo, you'll get left behind—especially in more crowded locations such as Jerusalem.

Physical & Spiritual Preparation

  • You'll get as much out of your study tour as you put into it.
  • Test out your shoes, clothing, backpack, and other gear.
  • Start daily exercise habits and study habits.
  • Start your online pre-trip curriculum as soon as possible.
  • The more you build up your stamina, break in your shoes, and test your limits, the more confident and prepared you'll be to tackle each day.
  • Get in touch with other nearby participants and find a time to go for walks, discuss the curriculum, or just grab coffee.
  • Don't hesitate to contact your GTI Travel Coordinator.

Test your cloths, shoes, and gear.

Go for a several mile hike wearing all your shoes, clothes, backpack and other gear. Where will you put your camera? Does your backpack fit comfortably? Do your shoes give you blisters? Do your clothes allow adequate mobility for stooping, crawling, climbing, and sitting? It's better to know the answers to these questions now than to wish you had something different once you've arrived in the Holy Land.

Know your limits

While in the Holy Land you may encounter intimidation physical obstacles such as stairs, ladders, and caves. In addition to preparing by regularly walking and hiking 1-3 miles every few days, try stooping, crawling, and scooting around your living room to remind yourself of your capabilities. It's better to make an informed decision to not participate at a particulate site than to sustain an injury or unnecessarily slow the group.

Treadmills and Rocky Paths

While a treadmill can supplement your exercise habits, remember than uneven and rocky paths require much more ankle strength, balance and stamina. So in addition to working out in a gym, get outside and find trails and paths that more closely resemble the uneven paths, walkways and trails you'll encounter in the Holy Land.

Study Tour Curriculum

Completing the Study Tour Curriculum is the best way to ensure your not overwhelmed by the information you'll be absorbing on your Study Tour. The foundational knowledge you'll gain will help provide a context for your experiences so that they're easier to understand and remember. No amount of pre-trip study can ruin the experience of actually being in the land of our Lord.

Read Your Bible

Most people don't read Scripture with geography in mind. Go back and reread portions of the Text asking yourself, "Where did this happen?" and "How far from Jerusalem did this take place?" and "How long would it have taken for them to get there?" It will amaze you how much geography affects our understanding of the narratives in the Bible and Biblical history.

Ask for Prayer

Share your upcoming study tour with friends and family who will partner with you in prayer before, during, and after your study tour. Your experience may be life-changing, but ultimately it's the Holy Spirit working in you that brings about change and growth. Ask friends to join you in prayer for physical strength, spiritual receptivity, and opportunities to build community with your fellow participants.

Consult your Physician

If you have any medical conditions at all you should consult your physician concerning these requirements and any medications or conditions which may have an impact on your ability to fully participate. We suggest you bring along a written prescription as well, it can be filled if needed. Please contact your health provider to check your coverage when traveling outside the United States. Traveling to the lands of the Bible requires no immunizations though you’ll want to be sure your tetanus shot is current.