Traveling with kids to China brings a whole new level to packing. When I first arrived in China at the age of 28, single and childless, my suitcase was filled mostly with hopes and dreams – oh, and clothes and toiletries and probably a few books.
I had no idea what I’d be able to buy there (boy, was I surprised to find McDonald’s!) but I knew I could live simply. Now I do know what to expect, and I know it’s a small world but I still pack what many might consider frivolous.
I used to pack cheap library sale books, although when those ran out, I downloaded audiobooks from the library to listen to at bedtime. This was my sanity after hours with family or making small talk with and listening to advice from neighbors. Books for the boys will also be a priority and while you would only need this for a long term stay, I also plan to take some Kindergarten curriculum my mom wrote years ago to keep up their reading and writing as they enter Chinese school.
For the boys, I packed lots of their favorite snacks to keep them from starving during the transition. This involved mainly granola bars type of foods. But they quickly took to Chinese-style bread and muffins and “bings” (pancake style food often made with eggs) and baozi. They also loved “paigu” or Chinese-style ribs. And of course, Chinese people eat plenty of rice, a staple at home already. So really, food needn’t be a big part of the suitcase, except for something familiar during transition and for the plane ride. More on food later.
Clothes will be my lowest priority. These are cheap and though you get what you pay for, can also be cute and certainly do in a pinch. I’m sure I will have to make some effort to make them look more like their classmates once they start school.
The short version is they kids proved highly adaptable and while I know what to expect I’ll probably still be the one over-packing my own things with mostly travel entertainment for the kids. Stay tuned to see how we do in actuality!