Packing for travel to a foreign country is a very personal thing, but long-time "veteran" travelers usually agree on the following:
Generally speaking, less is better than more. You will soon grow tired of dragging a lot of luggage around, especially if you are adopting very young children or babies. Vehicles are generally small, and may have much less cargo space than vehicles outside a foreign country. Try to pack softer clothing and other items around the outside of the luggage, with fragile or harder items in the middle. Wheels can make your luggage easier to move. Be prepared for all sorts of interesting obstacles that you would not face at home. Escalators, elevators and other equipment may be fast, jerky or inoperable, and might be dangerous according to our standards.
Try to prepare for the possibility of losing one or more pieces of your luggage before you arrive at your destination. Distribute clothing, toiletries and gifts between suitcases so that you still have something if one is lost. Additionally, carefully pack your carry-on luggage with important papers, medicine, toiletries and some extra clothing including one or two outfits for your child. Find the room for extra underwear. Include the locks on your luggage. Buy large locks that will fit on your luggage for added security. If you have a zippered piece of luggage, use packaging or duct tape to secure the luggage all the way around. This is a normal thing that individuals residing in foreign countries do, especially when flying in their country, so do not be uneasy about looking tacky. Lets face it, you need to make sure your items are secure, and you do not want things broken open or into. Also, know what the limitations are for the number of bags, their maximum sizes and weight for your in-country flights as well as your inter-country flights. Flights within a foreign country may have more restrictive limitations and have heavier fines for over-weight luggage. It's a safe bet that the less encumbered you are, the easier things will be for you. Try to resist bringing expensive items on your trip, so you don't attract attention nor have the potential to lose those items. Your wardrobe need not include dressy clothes; for almost any occasion, casual attire should be acceptable. If you plan on touring while abroad, be aware that some cathedrals and other places expect women to wear dresses and headscarves. But do remember to be prepared to dress up for your court hearing.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOU:
A good attitude: Remember that you are both a guest and an ambassador of good will for adoptive families who expect to travel after you.
Camcorder: Even if you have to rent one, a camcorder will allow you to capture memories that will last one or more lifetimes (if you do rent or borrow, test it out prior to travel to ensure you know how to use it). Bring several tapes to record on, and make sure you take along the battery charger and a "European" electrical transformer (two thin pins) so you can recharge the batteries.
Camera and plenty of film: Plan on putting together a life album for your child and prepares a list in advance of all the photographs and momentous items that you will want to collect. Write down information on note cards as you take your photos so that you collect a wealth of information to add as captions to each photo used in the album.
Zip lock bags: The possibilities are endless! Put a wet washcloth in one for general use when traveling. Also bring several inexpensive canvas bags and/or plastic grocery bags. You can give away excess bags of any sort to just about anyone overseas. These are great for storing boxes of food and drink in to keep away the uninvited guests (roaches, ant's etc.)
Wet-wipes: Again, endless possibilities, but cleanups are much easier with ready-made, disposable washcloths, especially if you are adopting smaller children. These also can be used to keep your hands cleaned when traveling.
Toilet paper: Take at least one roll (again, give excess away as you leave) unless you enjoy crepe paper which is indigenous to under developed countries. Be prepared. At some public facilities, you might have to pay to use the restroom and toilet paper, if you can find it that is!
Notebook or journal: You will probably come to cherish the memories of each entry you make, so try to keep track of what you do, and write down an entry at least each day. You will not regret it later. Start this notebook at home by listing all emergency contact information you might need. This includes names, phone and fax numbers of in-country facilitators, your agency, relatives or friends who have agreed to be emergency contacts, your physician and pediatrician, and the airline you are traveling. Also, include your calling card number and the dialing instructions needed to call home that you have obtained from your long-distance carrier. Keep a list of questions to ask your child's caretakers handy. Taking along family photos to share can be a real hit with the people taking care of you. Also, consider bringing a small map of your country and postcards to show and give to interested new friends. A small instant camera can also be used to "capture the moment" and leave a cherished new friend with a lasting remembrance of you and your visit. Older children will be especially fascinated at how Polaroid pictures develop themselves!
Prescription medicines: Any you take on a daily basis, preferably in the original container, especially if it is a controlled substance. Take plenty in case you get delayed, and keep them in your carry-on baggage and near you at all times. Also, bring a second pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses. Take copies of all of your medical and optical prescriptions.
Bottled Water: Although there is disagreement on the quality of public water, you may want to take a commercial bottle of water along. There are many places where water is easy to get, but you may not find it convenient to stop. When in doubt, take a small bottle just in case. Remember DO NOT to drink tap water unless you relish gastrointestinal disorders.
Laundry detergent and small sewing kit: You may find a sink stopper of some use, as many foreign sinks have plugs missing or are non-operational. Plan on taking your own bath towels unless you want to rely on the thin, small towel that will probably be provided you.
Small flashlight and travel alarm. Make sure to carry extra batteries for all of your small appliances. The entranceways to high-rise apartment buildings in some foreign countries are unlighted and unheated. Plan on bringing your flashlight with you when you will be returning to the apartment after dark.
Small travel guides, Foreign phrase book and English-Foreign (specific language) dictionary. You should plan to spend some time before leaving familiarizing yourself with these books. Practicing on the plane will help you pass the time.
New currency: While you will be advised by your agency as to how much money you should bring, foreign countries insist on new or nearly new bills. You may discover your bank is unable to provide new bills on short notice, so it is best to contact them well in advance and explain what your needs will be. Don't forget to bring a money belt for each adult. Also foreign countries for the most part will only take crisp, new $100 or $50 dollar bills.
Color copies (or at least photocopies) of your passport and visa: Keep them in a separate location from the originals.
Some comfort food. You may consider bringing certain snack foods, especially if you have any dietary restrictions, but don't bring a lot. Peanut butter crackers, small can of pull top chicken, crackers, peanut butter, instant soup, cereals etc. are good items to take, if you do not want to try the food.
Gifts and donations. Since you will be leaving these behind, you will need more luggage coming than going. You may choose to use duffel bags to hold the donations or you can use two sizes of Pullman suitcases. When you return, place the smaller one inside the larger.
FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN:
Backpacks or other hands-free carrying device (a must). Many children take pride in having their own to carry and this can help spread the load a bit. A Snuggly or front pack for an infant is a good item to bring, not only will it free your hands, but encourage the bonding process.
Season-appropriate clothing. The weather is very changeable, so make your wardrobe flexible, regardless of season. Don't forget that planes can become quite cold and a small sweater or jacket in your carry-on luggage may be very useful. Extra underwear and socks are easily packed and can really help out if your departure is unexpectedly delayed.
Summer: Lightweight, water-washable coordinated outfits for women (maximum of 2) and a light jacket or sweater.
Winter: Layered clothing, such as the following: thermal underwear, wool or heavy pants, turtlenecks, sweater, jacket or overcoat. Make sure to bring two pairs of gloves, hats and scarves for each family member. For children, mittens are easier to size, easier to put on and warmer.
Fall and spring: Layered as appropriate (see above).
Court Attire.(if court hearing required) you must wear church like clothing to your hearing, Women-Hose, Dress-Closed End Shoes, Men-Suit and Tie, Dress Shoes. Limit Jewelry, make-up and perfumes.
Safety. For safety reasons, limit the jewelry you take and wear to just a wedding band. Showing extravagant jewelry makes one feel you also possess a lot of extra cash on hand. This is not required, but a recommendation.
Toiletries. You may not be able to buy personal hygiene items while traveling, so plan on taking what you'll need for the duration of the trip. Include antibacterial soap and tissues - plan on at least a travel pack that will fit in your pocket.
Shoes. Make sure the shoes you bring are comfortable and "broken in." You may do more walking than you have in a long time! Slippers and a light robe are advisable; many people residing in foreign countries do not wear shoes around the house, and you may not want to go barefoot, especially in winter.
A first aid kit: Suggestions include the following:
Acetaminophen (fever and pain reducer). Bring both adult and child dosages
Decongestant, Bring both adult and child dosages
Baby shampoo (and possibly Nix or another lice-killing shampoo)
Topical rash ointment, usually hydrocortisone. Bring both adult and child dosages.
Vaseline, for moisturizing and lubrication.
Thermometer, preferably not glass.
Dosage syringe, spoon or cup
Band-Aids, you probably won't need more than a few, not the whole box)
Diaper rash ointment
Pedialyte, or other oral re-hydration liquid (or powder). Alternately, you can create a cereal-based ORS when needed by mixing 1/2 cup of infant rice cereal with 2 cups boiled water and 1/4 teaspoon of table salt
Alcohol swabs (in case someone needs injections)
Syringes w/needles (if needed to give injections)
insect (mosquito) repellent and sunscreen might be necessary depending on the season and locations
Broad spectrum antibiotic with instructions from your physician for when and how to use it
Small first aid handbook
This is not a complete list of items required to take, but it is a general guideline. Please use your own judgment on what you think you and your child (ren) will need for the trip.
FOR YOUR CHILDREN:
Clothing. The younger the child the more clothing you may want, due to the probability that the clothing may become soiled. For older children, one or two outfits are all that's necessary, but it depends on personal taste (and how much you want to carry). Take several changes of underwear in case of diarrhea. Pull-up-type diapers may be advisable if the children have been recently toilet trained or even for slightly older children. Stress and schedule disruption may cause accidents, especially at night. Fitting the children is always a concern. Typically, our children are small for their age with a one-month delay for every three months of life in children's home. It can be easier if you take several sizes of clothing and shoes and donate what doesn't fit to their caregivers. Also, to help accommodate for the child's unknown size, choose clothing that has elastic waists and cuffs and use your travel sewing kit to make spot adjustments.
If you are adopting an infant you will need:
Diapers: Assume you will use 7-8 per day. You may wish to get at least two different sizes.
Formula: Bring powdered formula in one pound cans. Assume you will need 3 cans for every week there with your child. One can will yield about fourteen 8-oz servings soy-based formula is your best bet, to start the child on, it is lactose free. . When making a bottle is sure the formula is reconstituted only with safe (boiled or bottled) water.
Baby food: Bring rice (can be used as emergency ORS, see above) or oatmeal cereal along with some baby food. Baby spoons and sippy cups will come in handy. Some older babies may have lost their ability to suck, and sippy cups with straws may not work.
Bottles: Bring a selection of different types of nipples and four 8-oz bottles
Snacks: Animal crackers, cereal, juice boxes, raisins, and many other snacks are usually a hit.
Towel: Consider taking a small towel for emergencies. It could be used to warm your knees, or in case your child gets motion sick from their (possibly) first car ride. I almost got sick myself in Moscow traffic! It's a good, lightweight insurance policy, although it is a bit bulky.
Airline sickness bags: Assuming you can explain to the kids, the kids could use these (or you could too). They can also be used to carry a diaper until a waste container is found. Lightweight and small, the uses can be endless.
Tape player: Children typically love music. If you are adopting a toddler or older child, consider bringing a tape player that the child can operate along with a few tapes. The Teach Me Foreign tape is available through most bookstores and has been a proven favorite with both children and parents.
Toys: Most institutionalized children appreciate toys that are below what is "normal" for their actual age. Bring a few to pick from, and if appropriate, leave the "extras" with the caregivers. With toddlers and older children, save a couple of special toys as a surprise gift for the flight home to help combat boredom.
It's easy to over-do your preparation for bringing home a child. Think necessities over preferences, as the more you carry over to the foreign country, the more difficult the journey can be. The journey will be over very quickly. Inconveniences experienced while traveling will soon be forgotten as the joys of parenting push the old memories aside. So, relax, enjoy the journey and HAVE A GREAT TRIP!!
Contributed by Building Blocks Adoption http://www.buildingblocksadoption.com/
Samantha was adopted from China nearly twenty one years ago. Read about her life as an adoptee, her connection to China and the role that her family has played in helping her become the woman she is today!
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