Oh, the packing. Some of us do it last minute. Some of us make packing list spreadsheets. Whether you glide into the airport with just a carry-on, or arrive with a trunk full of jumbo suitcases, packing is an essential aspect of your China bound prep.
Our No Hands But Ours contributors had fun reflecting on their adoption journey packing, and we hope you might gather up some practical packing tips from our varied experiences.
What shoes did you take to China?
Liberty: Chaco flip flops-super comfortable and easy to clean.
Desireé: Easy spirit slip on sandals. If traveling in the summer, take something that can withstand the, ahem, possibility of swollen travel kankles. It happens, just saying.
Mandy: I packed my favorite Nikes, ballet flats, and Keen sandals.
Whitney: Athletic shoes (wore the most in-country), flip flops for in the hotel room, 1 pair of ballet flats (which I never wore!), my purple Converse (for the traveling since they make me happy!)
Rebecca: Comfy Privo walking flats and sandals.
Amy A: Toms and Old Navy rubber flip flops.
Stefanie: Worried too much about it on my first trip to China and bought a pair of Chacos. Never wore them again and, on future trips, just took my favorite everyday shoes – Borns. I would recommend taking a pair of thick socks/slippers/flip flops for wearing around the hotel room.
Kelly: sneakers, flats that are good walking shoes
Katie: Tennis shoes and sandals. Depended on the season, but usually brought two pairs of comfortable walking type shoes. I broke the packing rule and did one brown and one black pair.
Amy S: athletic shoes, sandals (May), close toed flats
Carrie: A pair of lightweight Merrill tennis shoes. And that is all! In China, simplicity, comfort, and full-coverage rules for me!
Diaper bag or back pack and why?
Liberty: Diaper bag first time, learned my lesson and took back pack second time. Diaper bag takes up too much side space and is awkward to carry while holding a toddler.
Desireé: Large messenger bag. More functional that a diaper bag and more easily accessible than a back pack.
Mandy: I took the best of both! My Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag converts into an amazing backpack. I love it. It’s cute and functional. It still looks brand new. (I am super frugal, so I bought it second hand).
Whitney: Both… My bag is has a diaper bag insert and converts to a backpack. Loved the backpack option. Loved the diaper bag insert for keeping things nice and neat. Best was that I could put our money belt in a zippered pocket that was hidden under the insert, so very nice and secure without having something around my waist.
Rebecca: Backpack and a day pack. Having your hands free is a must. You need to enjoy, experience and hold lots of things and snuggle little people. My husband was our backpack Sherpa.
Amy A:. Backpack because my husband carried it while I had our son in an Ergo carrier.
Stefanie: Back pack. So much easier to carry when you’re traveling with baby in tow.
Kelly: Timbuk2 backpack that also has a laptop and iPad sleeve – always when I go to China.
Katie: Back pack because it leaves both arms free to use for kids.
Amy S: Back Pack and small diaper bag. We weren’t really sure what we would have access to and how long we would be out from the hotel room and it came in handy to have a small bag for when we would be in and out – and a larger bag that would hold all we needed for the day.
Carrie: Back-pack! We kept our hands free for wrangling two toddlers.
Jennifer: Back pack – 17 month old and a 6 year old and 9 year old.
What is an item which you packed that you were very glad to have and why?
Liberty: Pedialyte powder. A fellow traveling family had a child who refused to eat or drink anything. We were all so worried for her. They mixed up the Pedialyte powder and syringe fed it to her. So glad to have that! Also, wicking underwear.
Desireé: Baby MeiTei. PERFECT for bonding and super easy to pack. Fits every body type and very lightweight. It was a life saver!
Mandy: I was glad that I packed a travel size Febreeze spray. Non-smoking rooms don’t really seem to exist, and a little Febreeze really freshens a room up.
Whitney: Pepto Bismol tablets! Because… stomach issues happen.
Rebecca: Meds, melatonin, detergent packs for in room laundry.
Amy A:. Packing cubes – made it so easy to pack and repack our bags. Getting weight requirements was easy because we could move bags around.
Stefanie: I had taken antibiotics on our previous trips and rarely used them, but when we arrived in China for Clementine, we found out she was hospitalized with pneumonia. Never been more grateful to have an extremely thorough pediatrician. We were well prepared.
Kelly: Power strip for charging all our devices. Packing cubes.
Katie: My essential oils saved us many times.
Amy S: A hidden stash of chocolate – it was my secret little treat! A back pack with things for our new child to do! Tom and Jerry movies and Mei Mei movies for our children to watch on a little DVD player. (That’s probably old school now- they can play it all on the ipad instead 😉 We brought a sibling or two and it really helped our new child to have a friend, playmate, new sibling! And we dressed them alike- it was bonding!
Jennifer: Microwave mac and cheese
What kind of camera/devices did you take and were you happy with what you brought?
Liberty: IPhone and camera. Also, super helpful was an Eye-Fi SD card to transfer pictures wirelessly from camera to IPhone to be able to share with family back home.
Mandy: We bought a Sony RX100 – hands down, the best point and shoot camera that is small and takes great video and photos. My husband makes commercials for a living and is super picky, but this is the perfect camera for travel.
Whitney: I brought my Canon “real” camera & was VERY glad to have it. We also had phones, and got our videos that way. Worked well.
Rebecca: We brought our IPhone and mid-size Nikon DSLR. It was sometimes in the way when carried, but no regrets.
Amy A:. I brought my nice camera, but only used a standard lens. I had taken my bigger lens but never needed it. I also took my MacBook, my iPhone, and my iPad (for my 7 year old son).
Stefanie: I took my Nikon DSLR as well as an iPad to download pics and to post to my blog. It was SO much easier than bringing a laptop… just bought a little card reader for my iPad and downloading pictures was a snap. I used some editing apps to edit my pictures and then loaded them onto my blog. Very pleased with how that worked.
Kelly: iPhone and then a digital SLR
Amy S: A good pocket camera (Canon) and it was great!
Carrie: Took tablet, good camera, and iPhone. When we went a year ago, T Mobile offered some free international data!
Jennifer: Yes, mostly iPhones.
What meds did you take for you and your child and which (if any) did you need?
Liberty: Ibuprofen, Antibiotics- needed them for deep chest cough, Pedialyte powder, diaper rash cream, Aquafor
Desireé: Tylenol, ibuprofen, Benadryl. Antibiotics for ear infections–recommended to take by our international adoption clinic before the long flight to protect his ears. Excellent recommendation.
Mandy: For Lydia, we needed head lice shampoo, Benadryl, Motrin, Zarbee’s cold reliever, Melatonin, and an Rx antibiotic for an upper respiratory infection. Do not leave home without Melatonin. We needed allergy meds, Rx pain meds, and when I got home, I needed treatment for giardia.
Whitney: Tummy problem meds were helpful. We also took the normal range of meds… pain relief, allergy relief, sleep aids (melatonin) etc…We brought some homeopathic jet lag tablets, and I don’t know if it was that, or the fact that we didn’t sleep on the trip home, but we had no jet lag problems between the four of us!
Rebecca: Kid antibiotics, scabies cream (used on two trips by other families), hydrocortisone cream, Miralax, Immodium, pain reliever, pediatric ear drops for the plane, Zarbees cold/cough meds, hospital grade diaper rash cream, and melatonin.
Amy A:. We took essential oils, scabies cream, ibuprofen, phenigran, Imodium, adult melatonin, children’s Motrin, children’s Tylenol, Zarbees cough syrup, and children’s melatonin. We used lavender, on guard, adult melatonin, phenigran, Imodium, and children’s melatonin.
Stefanie: Ibuprofen and stomach meds for me. Have used antibiotics, and Advil.
Katie: Tylenol, motion sickness meds for myself, oils. Used them all.
Amy S: We took Nix and didn’t need it except for the one time we didn’t bring it… that was the time we needed it! Dramamine is a MUST (life saver) – especially if you find out your new child get motion sickness/car sickness. We also brought children’s acetaminophen and ibuprophen. Also bring cortizone cream for bug bites!
Carrie: Nebulizer and a portable oxygen concentrator. I wouldn’t take the POC again I don’t think – it made for some hair raising airport situations and a very angry mama when they wouldn’t let us have it in one province. The batteries were cumbersome and caused problems.
Jennifer: I know I’ve probably mentioned Benadryl too frequently. Haha. Outside of ibuprofen, we needed prunes, or some kind of medicine to get things moving for our daughter, as even though we tried to keep her diet the same, she suddenly got pretty constipated.
Tips on best way to most efficiently pack a suitcase?
Desireé: Unzip the lining of your suitcase and pack diapers/underwear/socks between the bars of the case. Use EVERY available inch.
Mandy: Packing cubes. If you can’t carry your own luggage up and down a flight of stairs while wearing a toddler, leave it at home.
Whitney: I packed last minute, and without a written out list! Having Ziploc bags is helpful.
Rebecca: Use cubes, or roll your clothes, place in Ziplocs and press the air out. We packed full outfits in bags. If taking more than one suitcase, mix up the contents so that all of one person’s belongings aren’t in one suitcase that could get lost or arrive late.
Amy A:. Packing cubes by Ebags.
Stefanie: Resist the urge to overpack. Only take the essentials that you can’t find in China. Honestly, China has just about anything you could possibly need for your child, short of western medicines.
Kelly: Packing cubes for sure and a luggage scale.
Amy S: You’re talking to the wrong person!
Carrie: Roll as many things as possible and pair outfits. Pack a little for each person in each suitcase so if one goes missing you still have some clothes. Take your personal things in your carry-on.
Jennifer: I packed for our family of four for 3 weeks in two medium roller suitcases! My biggest tip? Don’t take too much stuff! You have to handle your luggage with some frequency, and big suitcases can be so stressful! You don’t need to take a lot of diapers, cups, snacks for your child, or things to amuse them. Keep it really, really simple. Make sure your clothes are casual, yet not sloppy, interchangeable, and dry easily so you can do laundry in your room. (Laundry service is crazy expensive!!) You can easily buy almost anything in China, so you do not need to take your kitchen sink.
— special thanks to K&R Photography for the photos
Up next in our Contributor Q and A we cover General Travel Questions: which provinces we travelled to, how to survive the lack of sleep, our favorite provincial sites and more.