I dug around for the packing list I used for our trip and luckily I found it. Here are the basics:
I recommend casual clothes with one outfit that is a little nicer for appointments with government officials and "gotcha" day. I took more clothes than recommended and ended up glad that I did. Our laundry in Beijing took 4 days so if I had only taken 3-4 outfits as recommended I would have been wearing the same thing for 4 days while I waited for the laundry to be done. It is going to be easier to rewear clothes if you travel in the cooler months because your clothes are going to get raunchy quick when it's hot out; especially in Guangzhou. Pack one outfit for each person traveling in a carry on so if your luggage gets lost you will have at least two outfits to get you by until the luggage is found. I packed two sets of undergarments in my carry on as well so I could change during the flight if I wanted to and still have another set if my luggage got lost.
Clothes for your new child
A lot of people say to take only a couple of things and then buy clothes in China after you have them so you have the right size. I didn't do that. I used the measurements I got and bought clothes according to size charts. The most helpful ones I found were Lands End and Children's Place charts. If the measurements you receive are during the winter, assume they are a bit bigger than what your child actually is. They layer on those heavy winter clothes and that adds a few pounds. The measurements I got for Claire right before we left were 44 lbs and 45 inches tall. She was really about 38-39 lbs and 43-44 inches tall. This made a difference of an entire size. So, I would estimate on the smaller side of clothes. I brought everything for her, clothes, panties, pajamas, socks, shoes, coat, mittens, hat, etc. I thought she'd come to us with a coat but I wanted to be prepared in case the orphanage wanted to keep it.
Also assume the foot measurement you get (if you get one) was taken with their shoes on, not of their actual foot. The measurement I got for Claire was 7.1" (after I converted the cm to inches) which was a size 12. This sounded right to me because my nephew was about the same size and wore a 12-13 shoe. So I bought size 12 boots and took them with us. Imagine my surprise when I saw the size of shoe she really wore! She actually wore a toddlers size 9 shoe and is just now in a 10 1/2 toddlers.
Goodies for your new child
I had to go back and find a couple of pictures to try and remind myself of the things we took for Claire. I took a lot of stuff but I'm glad I did because she moved from one thing to the next very quickly and I had enough to keep her occupied. Here is a list:
Calin Doll- I bought this doll long before we traveled. As part of our last care package I wrote a simple story book with pictures for Claire to introduce our family and also help her understand what was going to happen. We took a picture of everyone with the doll to include in the book and then I brought the doll with us when we met her for the first time. She immediately recognized the doll and got the book out of her backpack and showed us that they were the same. Definite hit! I took clothes for this doll too so she could change her clothes. She played with the doll and clothes a lot while we were in China.
Back Pack- Hello Kitty is huge in China so I got one with Hello Kitty on it. Now I think Dora would have been even better. We took this backpack with us when we met her filled with Teddy Grahams, M&Ms, sunglasses, small coloring book, crayons, little ladybug and her doll.
Leapster- We already had a Leapster (and lots of games) from Matthew so it wasn't something I had to buy just for her. But, if I had to I probably would because it was the most played with toy I took. Even though she really didn't understand the games, she enjoyed playing with it and was hearing English while she played. The favorite game was Mr. Pencil because it is coloring and drawing; even though she didn't know English yet she figured this game out really quickly.
Kids Meal toys- When we eat out I get a kids meal most of the time so I saved those little toys and put them in the suitcase. These were small and could be crammed down inside a shoe for packing and she liked a lot of them.
Hair brush- Bring one for the child just in case you run into an issue like lice.
Water bottle- the one I found had a snack container that screwed onto the bottom. We used this during our outings in case she got hungry or thirsty.
Books- I wouldn't take too many and I'd only take easy ones. The wordy books I took kept her attention for a total of 20 seconds; she had no idea what on Earth I was saying so she lost interest really fast. The toddler books I took were the best. Ones like First 100 Words (Bright Baby), My First Colors Board Book (My 1st Board Books), Big Board Books Colors, ABC, Numbers (Bright Baby) are the best, in my opinion. You can open it, tell the child what the words are and when they lose interest you can put it away until next time. We taught Claire all the colors in English before we left China and it was with a simple colors book aimed at toddlers. We also knew the colors in Chinese so we would show her a blue page and say "lanse, blue."
Crayons, coloring books, blank doodle books- Try to get one of the smaller, top bound books so it fits in a backpack easily for plane rides, etc.
Beach ball- a definite must have. I brought two and we played with them a lot. We also used it to help her learn the colors. We would point to a color on the ball, say it's name and then throw it. She started doing the same thing quickly.
Inflatable swim ring- She really liked this too; she thought it was fun to lay on it on the floor and we also used it to play beach ball basketball.
Bubbles- Don't forget bubbles! They brought the first smiles and giggles from Claire.
Bath toys- I bought small, cheap ones and then left them behind when we came home. Claire loved taking a bath so these were a good thing to bring. They could also help a child who is scared of the bath feel a bit more comfortable.
Pictures of your house, their new room, and family members.
Most of what I brought, except for the doll, backpack and Leapster were things I found at Target's dollar spot. That way if something got broken, lost or left behind it wasn't a big deal.
I dreaded taking up precious space and luggage weight by packing all the different medicines. But then I'd think, if I get XYZ in China, do I want to try and find a medicine to treat it? Short answer- NO! So, I packed all the medicines, just in case and I would probably do the same thing again. There are pharmacies in China and the pharmacists are very helpful so if you don't want to take all this stuff but find you need treatment for something there get your guide to take you to a pharmacy.
Pain relievers- Adult and child (If your child has a special need that compromises the liver, take only Tylenol,)
Sleep aid- Some people may feel as though they don't need this but having something to help you fall asleep is very helpful on the airplane and the first few days in China while you're getting used to the time difference. You could take a pain reliever PM, or something like Simply Sleep or Melatonin.
Cold medicine- Bring one antihistamine and one decongestant. You may need the decongestant if you will be in a large city with a lot of smog. Bring allergy and/or asthma medicine if you use it here. The air quality there is atrocious and will make asthma sufferers miserable. Saline spray would be helpful for pollution induced issues too. Bring a child version of cold medicine as well.
Acidophilus- the good bacteria in yogurt that helps "right" your digestive system. There is plenty of things in China that will mess up your digestive system so you can try and keep it balanced by taking Acidophilus regularly. Another help is to eat the yogurt there to help your system stay balanced eating food there. The yogurt there is very good; it has a thinner consistency than our yogurt and a bit sweeter.
Stomach settlers- Pepto Bismol and Immodium. We didn't need the Immodium but I did take Pepto Bismol for the first several days because my stomach just didn't feel "right". I never got sick but I did notice the Pepto Bismol took away that feeling of "oh my, this isn't headed in a good direction." When we ate traditional Chinese food I would take it before I ate.
Cipro- You will have to get this from your doctor. It is an antibiotic you will need to take if you get sick from the water. It is also a broad spectrum antibiotic so if you need one for something else it will probably work. My doctor wasn't comfortable giving us medicine to take just in case but this one she was OK with because it is a CDC recommended treatment for an illness related to water supply.
Band-aids, antibiotic ointment- bring fun ones for the child because you'll probably need at least one or two. Or you'll need a whole bunch if something like this happens to your child too.
Yeast infection treatment- hopefully you will not need it but this is one of those "do I want to be in China when I get this and not have a treatment box written in English?" Big fat NO.
Powdered pedialite- This may apply more to younger children but I took it just in case. The only store I found this at was Walgreens.
Lotrimin AF for rashes
Lice treatment- Again, one of those you probably won't use but if you need it the $10 box will be priceless.
Shampoo, conditioner- I bought the bottles in the travel section and filled them with my own shampoo, conditioner. That gave me enough stuff for the 20 days but also took up less room than a full size bottle. I brought child shampoo as well.
Hair products that you can't live without
Razors (make sure to pack in your checked bag or it will be taken away at airport security)
Nail clipper and nail file
Travel packs of tissues
hair clips, rubber bands
Misc. Items to pack
Travel sewing kit
Locks for your suitcases- make sure you get the TSA approved locks. It is very important to lock your suitcases when taking domestic China flights as well. We went with combination locks even though they were a few dollars more. I can't imagine losing the key to my suitcase half-way around the world.
Food- Dry snacks, something you can cook with boiling water like oatmeal, easy mac, etc. I forgot to pack our instant oatmeal and was so bummed because there were many times it would have been a welcomed lunch or dinner in the room. Also pack a small thermos so you can have something to make your food in and then eat it. We bought plastic silverware there but I'd throw a few in your suitcase as well.
Peanut butter and you can buy crackers there. Since I forgot the oatmeal, peanut butter on crackers became lunch and dinner sometimes. I bought the individual peanut butter containers so I could only use a little but at a time if I wanted.
Gum, mints- this will help keeping you from tossing your lunch when hit with the many smells of China
Ziploc bags- a MUST have. Bring different sizes. I packed a lot of stuff in ziploc bags to keep it all organized and then I could use them for other things I needed in China. I packed Claire's clothes in ziploc bags, by outfit, so I could get them in the suitcase in the best way to take up less space. The most useful bags I packed were the x- large ones with a handle. I found them at the dollar store- 2 for $1. We used them a ton! We used the snack size bags along with a thin piece of cardboard to transport our money within our money belts; that way the money wouldn't get wet if we got sweaty.
Travel size detergent- Powdered is the best for traveling. I make my own detergent so I placed enough for 2 loads in a ziploc. I washed many clothes in the bathtub of our room. See?
Hand sanitizer- squatty potties don't have sinks usually
Travel alarm- find one that uses batteries
Magazines, books- something to occupy all the time you will sit on a plane
Plug adapter- This worked great until I tried to plug in the hair dryer with it and POOF, it blew a fuse. That happened on the second or third day there so we didn't have the rest of the trip. That was OK because we took things that were dual voltage and the hotel had a plug (usually on or around the desk) that would accommodate western style plugs. It was not a voltage converter so you still have to make sure what you plug in will handle 220V.
Laptop- Some people are able to travel without one but we couldn't. We skyped every day with our 3 other children back home, and updated our blog. We bought a cheap netbook that was lightweight and small.
Plastic zippered envelope for all your adoption papers. I bought two, one for papers we needed to carry with us (USCIS approval, travel approval, etc.) and one for documents and receipts we received from officials. Make sure you write on the receipt what it was for and the amount because it will all be in Chinese. That way when you get home and organize your receipts for tax purposes you know what each one was for. I also took along a separate folder that had a copy of all critical documents, our entire dossier and several copies of our passport. Just about every official visit in China will require a copy of your passport and Chinese visa.
Gifts- We needed 4, orphanage director, nanny, civil affairs official and the notary. Make them small and don't stress too much about it. They don't open them in front of you and it is seriously just a formality and not personable. I included: lotion, lipstick and hand sanitizer (travel sized and bought during clearance time) from Bath and Body Works (made in the US), a postcard from our city with Chinese on the back thanking them for their role in our adoption, and a package of Jelly Belly jelly beans (also made in the US). They can't buy Jelly Bellies there and they like them. I packed small red bags (like a lunch bag) and gold tissue paper and assembled the gift bags there.
Try not to let packing stress you out. It IS stressful but the most important things are your passports, visa, money and adoption paperwork. If you have those then you can wear the same clothes every day and buy shampoo and a toothbrush when you get there. It will all be OK.
Good luck! Pretty soon you will have your bags all packed for the biggest trip of your life, just like this.