I wrote down a few notes while we were traveling that I thought would make a helpful read for anyone planning an adoption trip (but also to remind myself before our next trip haha). I’m not going to do a full-on packing list because everyone’s list would be different. But I’ll just go through thing things that we tried that made a positive difference and also the things that we wish we would have packed.
–Travel pillow On the way there we both really liked using these travel pillows. I can rarely get good sleep on a plane, but I was watching movies on my Amazon app inside the pillow and it was nice to have some privacy (ish) on the long fourteen hour flight. For the way home when we had Nova with us, we were no longer able to use these larger pillows and a neck pillow would have been better.
-Amazon Prime Video. In advance I downloaded a bunch of movies (half old favorites I wanted to rematch and half newer movies I wanted to see) and I think I watched almost every single one throughout the trip.
-For the way home we packed several extra things for Nova. Wow Water Coloring Books are awesome. We got her her own headphones (she didn’t “get” the iPad or movies in time for the flight, but she enjoyed listening to Amy Winehouse with them- haha) The number one toy we used in China and in the airports for HOURS was her stacking cups. Stacking cups are an absolute must for traveling with a toddler. So many people recommended them to us and they were worth their weight in gold.
Besides that the main thing that helped us on our long flights and in the airport was food. We dragged out every meal for as long as possible since food is a great distraction.
Our advice for the long plane ride: Remember when you take off that no matter what happens the plane will land in 14 hours. Haha. It’s just a day. I had a lot of fears for our plane ride that never even happened. Also remember- drinks are free on international flights… haha!
-I packed tons on skincare samples. I had been hoarding so many skincare sample-size items for the trip. These were extremely comforting to me because when living in hotels in China for two weeks it’s nice to have things that are kind of a “me time” treat. Having time to do a face mask was one of the best possible treats (that and wine haha).
I also made my own essential oil room spray and I ran out, bringing two bottles next time. Living out of a hotel room for this long (even if you get the deluxe) room is challenging with a child in diapers and a natural room spray helped so much.
-I struggled a lot with what kind of clothing to wear. I definitely made some packing mistakes in this area, but next time I already know I can do so much better. First of all- check the temperatures in the cities you are traveling to. We visited three regions and the weather was drastically different between them. This is something to keep in mind.
Here’s the clothing I will pack on our next adoption trip.
-Two dresses. I did pack dresses 3 and I wore them all 2-3 times. Although 90% of the trip is very casual, it’s so nice to have something cute to wear for the first couple of nights out together (before you meet your child), for any nicer dinners you go to and for any group activities (like we went on a ferry ride with our group).
-4 versions of “fancy yoga” outfits with layers. Anything you could feel comfortable wearing on a plane (or even to sleep in) but also not embarrassed to wear to a restaurant. This is not the type of clothing I normally wear or spend money on, but for this trip it’s basically all you need! Focus on finding fabrics that don’t get stretched out (like yoga pants) instead of jeans and t-shirts that get gross after a couple of wears.
For Nova we packed one outfit for every day and two pairs of pajamas. We were fine on outfits, but I wish I had brought more like six pairs of pjs. She wore them so much. We ended up doing a lot of laundry (mostly her pjs and our underwear in the bathtub in our hotel room).
Note: A lot of people told us (or advice we read said) not to pack kids clothing, but to just to buy it there. I would NOT recommend this. Nova clothing barely took up two packing cubes (even though people thought we packed a lot- haha) and I hardly found anything in China I wanted to buy. I bought a couple things at Baby Zara and a couple silk dresses for her to wear for Chinese New Year, but other than that I didn’t buy anything for her and I was SO GLAD not to need to. In those early days we were so focused on playing with her and trying to create a bond, I can’t imagine having left to try to find clothing. It’s completely true that you CAN find anything in China if you forget something, I just wouldn’t do that to myself on purpose.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the province where you first meet your child and spend five days is different for everyone. Some people in our group said theirs was super nice, buy ours wasn’t and it wasn’t easy to shop for anything except basic groceries.
For the next trip I will definitely pack even more clothing for the kids (I’m assuming Nova gets to come with us, of course!). Even if I get lucky and find the best children’s clothing shopping, I won’t regret being prepared.
Ergobaby We used this SO MUCH for walks and when we didn’t have a stroller. It was recommended for us to help with bonding, but it made our lives way easier in those first few days and I highly recommend it to anyone adopting a toddler.
What to buy in China:
-We go overseas pretty often and we aren’t big souvenir people, so we didn’t buy much in the way of souvenirs. We did get a bunch of wooden Chinese dolls (real small, keychain size) for friends and family to have a little gift. I got a couple of silk dresses for Nova (which were a good deal- $10-$15 for super pretty traditional dresses for Chinese New Year).
Other than that, we only purchased diapers (check the pharmacy stores for these), snacks and wine (way cheaper if you buy it from a grocery store than from your hotel). Our agency let us borrow a stroller in Guangzhou to take walks with.
-Before you leave China ask your guide to help you download QQMusic and load it with kids songs. Nova LOVES hearing her Chinese songs every day.
Things we wish we would have packed:
-One plastic plate for Nova. We ended up wishing for this SO much, especially in our hotel room. You end up eating out a lot, and at a lot of hotel buffets and it would be so much easier with just one plastic plate to clean and reuse.
-More room spray. As I mentioned above, spending a ton of time in a hotel room (including meals and diaper changes) can be a lot. After I ran out of my homemade room spray I was definitely wishing I would have packed three.
-Download more ebooks. I didn’t realize how BORED I would be. I took a book with me and I finished it on the plane ride there. But two whole weeks is a long time and not every task is a two person task, so one parent is free a lot of the time. I didn’t pack my computer, so I felt like I was on my phone a lot. Next time I would download more books or even bring an easy to pack craft project!
Random notes: Download the app “Express VPN” before you leave for China. You have to turn the VPN on or sites like Instagram, WordPress and even google will be blocked.
ETA: (I forgot a couple things)
-Save photos on your phone of chinese food you like (we ordered fried noodles and green beans a lot, also fried dumplings) and anything else you know you will want to order. Not every place will have a photo menu, so it’s smart to kind of make your own incase you need it.
We had a really difficult time ordering just a plain black coffee- so these photos can help you a lot when you’re at a place where zero people speak english.
-Starbucks via (instant coffee) normally we would never drink this, but next time we will take it to China for SURE. All the instant coffee we came across in China was sweetened. So if you are particular about your coffee, take a back up plan.