I love lists. I love making them and I love looking at other peoples lists. And I have a couple new friends who are soon to leave for China to get their babes, and I promised them I would make a list of what was essential and helpful to pack for their adoption trips, what can be left behind, and what is best purchased in China. I figured maybe some other people would also like to read it as well. I looked at a couple packing blog posts before our trip, and found them helpful. I also had a couple friends who have adopted internationally from Asia give me some great tips! The rest I learned through experience.
Essentials to pack for your babe:
Kids bento box/// We were gifted one and as directed by friends, we filled it up each morning at the breakfast buffet (in China hotels the breakfast buffets are massive) with food our child liked, and then that often become his lunch or dinner later that day. I like this one from Target and may get it so we have a second one in the rotation.
Toddler snack cup/// We were given this old stand by NUK Gerber, and it turned out to be so essential. The handle made it easy for our son to carry, and he ended up holding onto it a lot when we were out, we think partly for comfort. The removable strainer cup inside was also a perfect bath and pool toy as it creates a little shower when you pick it up out of the water!
Straw cup with handles/// Most little ones from China are still drinking from bottles or using straw cups. He could not use the popular Contigo/Camelbak style where you have to bite and suck at the same time (he figured it out a few weeks after we got home). We bought a couple cute straw cups in China that we are still using, but I would have liked to have it with us that first night with him. I’m thinking about getting this cute stainless one to replace one of the plastic ones we got in China.
Reusable snack/everything bags/// I love the Itzy Ritzy Everything bags! I picked up a couple on sale in the “diaper bag” end cap aisle at Target and have bought a couple more since then. In China we filled one up with dry cereal at breakfast every morning and on the flights home I used them to hold my secret travel weapon, chips! They have super fun patterns and I use them almost every day for snacks and sometimes other things. My favorite patterns, the tiger head and rainbow are no longer available through the Itzy Ritzy site or Amazon, but may be found on Ebay, or at a local Target store.
Ziplocks for all the things/// Trust me. I don’t normally use zip lock or plastic bags at home, but for travel, especially with kiddos, they were so helpful.
Some cute clothes/// Sizing is always hard, and yes you will be able to buy some clothes in China, but go ahead and bring some special things you have picked out! It was nice to have a clean set of cute jammies to put him in the first night, to have a special outfit to dress him in for Family Unification Day, and to have fun picking out his clothes each day. We did buy a few things for him in China at a little baby/kids store in a mall. I wanted some cute, wacky, different things from China.
Swim suits/// For the whole family, including your child. Also hats with brims if its warm, or beanies if it will be winter. Go ahead and bring your favorite adorable hat for your babe!
Lollipops/// Dum-dums specifically seemed to be perfect.. We did not bring these, but borrowed some from another adoptive family who did. Our son’s orphanage gave us a lollipop in his snack bag so that I could give it to him, and for the first 24 hours or so he kept that lollipop in his hand or close by, though I don’t think it ever went in his mouth. Lollies were handy at other times too, when you are out and about, or after the medical exam. There is also some research that sucking on lollipops can be soothing to children experiencing trauma.
A toddler carrier/// We borrowed a friend’s Tula, it was a life saver and I loved it. Our son wanted nothing to do with the stroller until part way through the second week, so when we went out, I could carry him on my back comfortably for long stretches, he would eat snacks up there, and even nod off. It was good bonding time, and sweet memories.
A few baby toiletries/// I brought a toothbrush and toothpaste, baby bath soap, and lavender baby lotion. I decanted the lotion into this adorable travel monkey bottle, it didn’t leak once, and I was happy to have the lotion for after bath times. It was soothing touch he allowed me to do, so another good bonding activity. (He still loves lotion, I have to give him a small dab on his own hand when I use it with him).
Small or travel size toys and activities/// We brought bubbles, small play dough jars, a TEGU magnetic block set, a magnetic activity tin, and a reusable sticker book, washi tape activity, and small toy animals. A little toy car would also be good. An inflatable ball would have been easy to pack-instead we bought an inexpensive ball from a grocery store in China and left it behind for another family.
An iPad or tablet if you have one/// We used ours to play Baby Bus Chinese Children’s music videos during the day as needed, and soothing music at bedtime and naptime. A few apps, like Peek a Boo Barn were entertaining for a little while on the plane, but mostly for short periods like during the wait to take off, etc. Don’t bother bringing a laptop unless you have a specific reason.
Lightweight baby blanket (or two)/// I brought our Little Unicorn cotton muslin quilt. Our friend gave us a sweet one with a pineapple pattern last year that I adore. The pineapple pattern doesn’t seem to be available, but I love the tropical leaf, planetary, or summer poppy patterns at Target right now. This blanket is soft, breathable, but has a little weight to it when doubled up which can be nice sensory input. We needed the blankets for bedtime as our little one preferred a little bed nest on the floor to the crib or adult bed. And we of course used it on the plane ride home, where he miraculously slept almost the whole time!
A special stuffed animal/// While not essential, but can be a nice soft thing to have around and begin a bond with. We brought a JellyCat brand brown bunny, (i love all the JellyCat animals!) But our son chose to bond with this special Maileg panda, after we got home. Though we did play some fun games with the stuffies we had with us in China, like tossing them back and forth, and piling them on top of him when he was waking up. He would give us sleepy smiles and push them off.
A couple picture books/// Wild Baby by Cori Doerfield (board book version) is one of our current favorite board books, and it is small. I brought a paperback Maisy Goes on a Plane book, I like this one because the images have bright colors, high contrast, but also have fu and cute details. We didn’t spend a lot of time reading books, but he did enjoy looking at them sometimes, and I wanted to start the ritual of reading with him right away. One of his favorite “books” to look at was actually the photo album we had sent him in his care package a few months before we went to get him. If you didn’t send one, bring a child-friendly album with photos of yourselves, your home, family members, pets, etc.
Kids headphones/// If it is at all possible that your child is old enough to wear headphones, bring them. You can practice using them in the hotel room. We didn’t end up using them on the flights (mostly bc our little dude just ate chips, played with the tray table and then went to sleep), but he did start to get the idea and in theory they could buy you some valuable time of peace and entertainment. We were gifted these ones, from Kids Travel Boutique. They have safe volume levels and an adapter for international planes, plus super cute! I do also want to try CozyPhones at some point.
Kids size backpack/// Kids like bags and containers, and places to put things! If you’re lucky they may also love wearing the backpack! Plus little backpacks are just so cute!!! I love the bear luggage set we got from Kids Travel Boutique, which included the backpack, along with the trolley bag.
An inflatable foot rest or foot hammock for the plane. This is something I wish I had for the flight home. Our little guy rolls around a lot in his sleep, so we were having to prevent him from rolling and sliding himself right off his leather plane seat. Thankfully he didn’t really wake up, but I would have loved having a little hammock or flat surface for his legs, as the backpack and pillow just didn’t hold up. *Pro-tip. Everyone is different, but I found that skipping that night of sleep when traveling to and from China helped with Jetlag a lot, I just watched a lot of movies on the plane, and listened to audiobooks or music when I needed to rest my eyes. I just kept myself up for a few more hours after arriving in China or the US and went to bed at a slightly early/late time. I found that about the fourth day I would feel really tired, but it wasn’t really that bad!
Essentials to pack for yourself:
One universal voltage and plug adapter with USB ports/// We borrowed one from our friend’s parents who were on an extended stay from Australia. It was similar to this one, and was perfect for both of us. Also all three hotels we stayed in had at least a couple direct USB inputs for charging devices.
A power bank for each adult coming on the trip/// This is essential, especially if you are planning to mostly or only use your phone to take photos and video. You don’t want to miss anything. I ordered this one in black and it worked great. It’s slim and had about 3 full phone charges on it. Pro-tip: China and the US have different rules about which bags they can be packed in, and I couldn’t keep it straight, so just ask at check-in!
A small tripod for your phone/// Great if you want to set it up to take video when you are meeting your child, or just to take video of sweet moments of the whole family together.
Good backpacks/// I brought this backpack purse/mom bag/diaper bag, and it was awesome! I am using it as a purse/diaper bag at home as well. John brought one of his daypack commuter backpacks and we used that as the catch all/diaper bag on outings when I was carrying our son in the carrier.
Family travel wallet that zips closed/// AND an easy access bag on your person to take it out of like a fanny pack/hip bag, or lightweight cross-body back. You need access to your passports ALL THE TIME, like to check in to the hotel, for your guide to get your ticket to the museum, through what feels like the millions of security checkpoints in the airports. I had a travel wallet, but on the way home kept the passports in one of those dorky security neck wallet things because it was so easy to pull them out, and they were safe on my body. Doing it again, I would do a travel wallet that can hold all or most of the family’s passports and a fanny pack for the airports. I love my LeSportsac bags and would love this classic one in white or black. But there are so many cute ones around right now, or you can pull one out of your 80s/90s childhood closet.
A sturdy document envelope for all the paperwork you have to bring/// We brought ours in a paper folder and manilla envelope, both of which started to fall apart towards the end of the trip as we continued to access it and pack it, and were given additional items etc. Something like this or this would have been better.
Packing cubes/// We shared a set from Amazon, but it would also be great for each family member to have their own set in a unique color/pattern so you know whose is whose. I love the Oh Joy! ones, but there are tons of great deals in different colors/patterns on Amazon, like these.
Long flight essentials/// Eye drops, chapstick, socks, travel pillow, sleep mask, audio books/podcats, headphones for yourself, a scarf that doubles as a blanket.
Sanitizing wipes and small tissue packets/// Chinese bathrooms are something else, and most often a BYOTP situation.
Things to wait and buy in China:
A stroller/// Strollers in China are super cute and inexpensive. Buy one there and you can use it on all your outings and then in the airport for the trip home, plus you will be able to gate check it for those flights. Also, you can hang your dozen bags and things on the handles! If you really don’t want to bring it home, the hotel we stayed in had an adoption agency office that you can donate it to for other families to use in the future.
Shoes for your child/// Sizing for shoes is so hard, they take up space in the suitcase, and your child will come to you wearing a pair of shoes. Our son woudln’t wear any other shoes besides the little SuperWing sneakers he came to us in. But we bought a cute pair of red and white sandals that he wears now at home. When we got home he slowly expanded to wearing his hand-me-down converse hightops, then the red sandals, then the vans slip-ons, so he’s working his way up to being a real shoe guy, with a little help from his mum. I did bring some socks to China for LoLo and was thankful to have those, so DO bring some socks.
Diapers/pull ups and wipes/// Again these take up top much room to pack, and you’ll want to be sure of size etc. If your kiddo is wearing undies, you might pack some. Pro-tip, I used an empty packing cube once we got there to hold diapers and wipes to have a little changing station in the hotel rooms.
Snacks your child likes/// Once you know what your babe likes, load up on those snacks, they will get you through the busy days, travel days, and some of the meltdowns. I have lots of gratitude for Oreos and Pringles.
Other things not to pack:
Laptop as mentioned
Slippers (Chinese hotels love to supply you with slippers!)
Anything on the “buy in China list”
Sign up for a VPN to be able to access Instagram, Facebook, etc. We used Express VPN and it worked well.
Make sure you know how to turn on international data use for your phone. We found we needed it most days to be able to communicate with each other, our guides, other adoptive families, and while WIFI was decent, it was not always reliable.
Bring a carry-on bag for the long flight filled with supplies for your babe, and a change of clothes for yourself as well.
Decide how you will communicate with your family and friends back home. I had a set of family members and friends sign up for WeChat and I then created a group message thread so I wasn’t having to text different people so much. I also did an Instagram update almost every day.
Make sure your phones have lots of storage space available so you can take tons of photos AND video. Don’t forget to take video, little snippets here and there, they will be such precious memories.
If you are reading this with travel to China for an adoption in your future, I am so excited for you!!! THIS IS HAPPENING!!! The best is yet to come.