When we were adopting our first daughter in 2007, I had a grand plan to travel carry-on only. I travel frequently and pack light, so I felt this was a reasonable goal. Then, in what can only be described as an onslaught of new-parent jitters, I overpacked instead. The result was three large suitcases, two carry-on bags and a laptop — for two adults and a fourteen-month old! This past spring, we returned to China to adopt our five year old, and I definitely had my packing mojo back. While we did check our bags, we brought fewer of them for four people than we did for three. Here are some tips for you as you prepare to go to China to adopt your son or daughter.
The first thing to think about are items that you can get easily in China and things you will definitely want to pack and have on hand in your first days. During our first trip to China, we overpacked clothes for all of us and diapers for our daughter. We could easily have had our laundry done at the hotel more frequently or washed clothes in the sink by taking individual packets of detergent. The second time around, we each had about four outfits for us and used both strategies to wash them. We also didn’t feel pressure to pack many clothes in a wide range of sizes for our new daughter as we knew we could buy additional clothes in China. The same holds true for diapers: you can buy them in China. Items you should consider bringing from home are easy-to-make foods like oatmeal, cereal or granola bars and other snack foods. Living out of a hotel is hard with little children who need to eat every few hours, and having food that they like on hand helps. Hand sanitizer and wet-ones are very useful for quick cleanups and keeping germs at bay. Make sure you have all of your chargers and adapters for any electronics you might be bringing. Our first adoption trip was in January, so this time around it did not occur to me that sunscreen and bug spray would be important. While I was able to purchase these, they were harder for me to find.
The next thing to consider is taking care of your health needs. It goes without saying that you should pack your prescription medication in your carry-on, but don’t forget common cold remedies as well. For my first trip, I packed over-the-counter medication for my baby girl for every possible contingency from diaper rash to head lice to allergic reactions. Unfortunately, I did not plan the same for myself and ended up nursing a head and chest cold the entire two weeks I was in China with nothing stronger than herbal tea. Needless to say, I was more prepared the second time and packed for the entire family’s potential health issues. If you don’t feel like bringing all of these supplies back home, you can always leave them with your guide for the next families that might be traveling.
Finally, make sure to pack things to entertain your new child. Even if your child is older, they may act younger, so try not to worry too much about what will be interesting to them. If it is new, it will be interesting. Of the things I packed for our baby daughter, the inflatable beach ball, rattles, and stickers were her favorites. We entertained her for hours on the flight home by sticking stickers on her nose or her belly button. We also hid small objects (or cheerios) in our hand and played “pick which hand.” For older children, stickers, coloring books, and crayons are all safe bets. In addition to these items, we brought picture flash cards with Chinese characters (in both pinyin and English), fingernail polish, hair accessories, a doll, magnetic paper dolls, and yes, the beach ball. We also brought LEAP pads for both girls to pass time in airports and planes. We made sure that our new daughter had her own bag and her own things. The girls appreciated having the same things, but separate.
This is an exciting time for you and your family. Try to relax and have a safe trip!
~Kerry Palombaro is LWB’s Huainan Foster Care and Tuition Assistance Co-coordinator and mom to two girls from China.