Moving Abroad

Published on July 29th, 2011 | by Paz


How to pack for a year abroad – 6 month update

A little more than 6 months ago we were freaking out about what we should pack for our family of four to move to China for a year. We only were bringing one suitcase a piece for one year. You can imagine my anxiety. I did hours of research and scoured consumer reviews of hundreds of products so that we would have what we needed in China. Six months later, what was worth bringing, what did we forget to bring, and what could have been left at home. Find out here!

If you forgot what we packed…see our detailed packing list in How to pack for a year abroad Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Lets start with…

Things NOT to bring to China!

In general I think most people always pack too much. When we saw our four suitcases for one year we had no idea what we should expect. After being here for 6 months here is what we know for sure! We could have brought one suitcase less…and so can you. Trust me!

  1. My coffee cup! You guessed it, it broke!
  2. Clothes:even though when we were packing we felt like okay this has to last us a year. We could have left a lot at home. Remember where ever you are moving to they also wear clothes (hopefully) and so they will sell clothes too. Now you can’t expect them to have your favorite brand or style, but don’t think that you will only find togas. They should have clothes too. A nice bonus is that most likely you will lose that extra 10 lbs you have always wanted to. Because you are finally experiencing life and not stuffing your face out of anxiety, worry, or stress. You are focusing more on living and everyday is an adventure so the pounds just melt away. I haven’t read one blog about a family or couple moving abroad that has not lost weight. All of our clothes are too big now too! We are not complaining. Good thing China has very cheap tailors. We are now having all of our clothes tailored to fit our thinner bods…it will cost us roughly $10.00 USD to have our clothes alterred. Totally worth the price.
  3. English books/workbooks: we brought many books and workbooks for our daughter. They weighed a lot! We found two bookstores in Guangzhou that sell the exact same workbooks for only $2.00 dollars more expensive. I would gladly pay the price to not have to carry them in our suitcases again.
  4. Dress clothes: You don’t need to bring dress clothes to China. I do recommend a pair of black pants and a couple dress shirts. In case you need to go on a job interview or a formal occasion, but leave the stilettos at home. You can find them in China and there are also loads of shops that sell dress clothing. It is much cheaper in China to buy that perfect black dress and their are a million of them for you to try on. People don’t dress as much as they do in the states. It isn’t uncommon for people to go to weddings in jeans. I would have died at the thought of people coming to my wedding in jeans. Many jobs also require an uniform, so check with your employer.
  5. Coffee: I brought coffee for a drip coffee maker and we still haven’t seen one. I know you can order one online, but at the moment we are getting our coffee fix just fine with instant coffee. They actually have really good instant coffee imported from all over the world.
Lupita on the airplane…trying to get some shut-eye!


Things TO bring to China.

There were a few important things we didn’t bring when coming to China and we have asked family members to ship them to us and we have ordered some on-line as well. It is good to know that delivers everywhere.

  1. Calcium We didn’t take into consideration the lack of calcium in the Chinese diet. Although we eat healthier now than ever before we don’t eat as much calcium as we did in the good old Dairy state of Wisconsin. So we had to put our 1.5 yr old on back on baby formula and get more Flintstones vitamins for our four year old.
  2. Baby formula in China is NOT safe to buy. I am sure that there are some stores that you can trust, but I have not met a person in China that would recommend buying baby formula in China. So what does one do? Baby formula can be purchased online from many reputable western retail stores. We have had grandma’s send care packages full of vitamins and baby formula. They love sending yummy treats for their grand-kids.
  3. Shoes…China has a thing against shoes. It tears them up and spits them out. We bought quality shoes for the kids, but went cheaper on the shoes on for ourselves. We are now looking at how to buy shoes from abroad. Zeek wears a 10.5 and cannot find shoes in China big enough…even at the Nike store. Don’t be cheap on shoes for China.
  4. BPA free bottles/sippy cups for Abe I never realized how fast he goes throw bottles and although there are lots of bottles for sale in China I don’t buy them. We have bought a few from Hong Kong when we go and also our family has sent us a few from the states. Most of the beverages are served hot and I am very careful about his bottles.
  5. Laptop for the kids:Check this one out! You may be asking why would a four year old and a 1.5 yr old need a laptop. Well they obviously don’t need anything but food, water, and love. We are firm believers of that. However we have been debating if we should have a laptop shipped to us for them. Mainly because the laptops we currently have are being used for work and we can’t risk them being ruined by the two rugrats. We also have been doing a lot of homeschooling with Lupita. Her computer homeschooling has included researching online where we are going or looking up things after we have been there to find more detail.  We find that this not only encourages her to dive in deeper to a subject, but has increased her knowledge of working around a computer. Obviously a skill that she will need. She loves to Skype and wants to start her own picture blog to share all of the pictures that she has taken in China with her Nonna Penny & Nonna Ginger back home. We do not promote buying a computer and sticking your kid infront of it like a video game or television. This should also be limited and used as a tool and not a babysitter.

What we use everyday in China.

  1. Pictures & our Shutterfly book this is a great conversation starter and lets people see our life before China. Especially when their are language barriers pictures make it easy to “talk”.
  2. Keen shoes I cannot stop talking about how much I love these shoes for kids. We love them! They are very easy to clean, are water proof and have great support. They also cover their toes, which on a crowded train station can be very important.
  3.  See how cool they are!
  4. Nikon D3100 If you don’t believe how great it is, check out this review!
  5. Lowepro Fastpack 100 This was something I obsessed over and I am so glad that we ended up with the Fastpack 100. I can safely carry my SLR in the bottom compartment and I fit all of the kids stuff in the top area. I normally have a bottle, band-aids, mosquito spray, sunscreen, 2 diapers, wipes, hand santizer, notebook and pens, cell phone, iPod Touch, wallet and any important maps/books with me. So you can see that it we use it a lot and it still looks brand new! If I want to take some amazing pictures I just swing my bag around and grab my camera. Smiles all around.
  7. Water bottles 
  8. Two strollers
  9. Catch Phrase
  10. Medicine/Excedrin
  11. SteriPEN although we have never used it. I am still happy we have it. Later this year we will be taking a trip off the grid and I know that I can have clean water for us to drink in no time. Clean water is important no matter who you are.
  12. iPod Touch We use our iPod Touch every day. There are many things we use our Touch for, some of our most favorite features are the camera, translator apps, calendar, and Skype abilities. It is very useful and versatile! Use it every day!


What we have realized is that if you keep quality and not quantity in mind you will be fine. This is actually a change of mind that we made back in 2010 when we were busy packing and purging. It is a lot easier to take care of two pairs of pants that you love versus 10 that you don’t fit into and hate wearing.
When packing for a trip across the world it is important to think about the things that you LOVE and use everyday.
The second thing to make sure you bring to China is any medicine or vitamins that you need. It is very important to remember that in China there is very little quality control so anything that you need to digest you should bring with or have shipped to you.

Shipping to China

Every big retailer will ship to China for a reasonable cost. For us to ship two pairs of shoes to China it cost $33.00 in shipping. This is not a crazy amount considering they are shipping to our front door. How do you ship to China? Find out here!

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

12 Responses to How to pack for a year abroad – 6 month update

  1. kimberly says:

    Great to read… I packed a lot of dress clothes/shoes because I saw some where that chinese people think a lot of “face” and dressing up is important. No matter, next wek we are puling out our cases and I’m going back through them all one more time. Paz, thanks for posting this and being so helpful!
    J/c did ya’ll purchase international insurance?

    • Paz says:

      Kimberly- So sorry for the delay! I am glad that the commenting section is working again. 🙂 yes we did purchase insurance. The insurance that you get from your teaching job…normally is just the mandated accident insurance that the Chinese government requires employers to provide. It is free…but doesn’t cover much. Let me look up the name of who we bought insurance through and get back to you. It was very inexpensive. We haven’t had to use it…but I am so glad we have it. Isn’t that always how insurance works. lol

      On the packing…face is important but you don’t need to dress up. Seriously in China you don’t know who has money and who doesn’t because they all wear the same kind of clothes. You need one outfit…just in case, but people don’t dress up like we do in the U.S. We have gone to a few “events” and I wear black pants and a dress shirt and I am way over dressed. So no ball gowns needed. If you do have to go some place where you need a ball gown you can find one really cheap and really cool. The stuff you need everyday being quality is much more important. Good shoes! I can’t over emphasize that!
      Thanks for reading!!!

  2. kimberly says:

    Sorry for the typos, I am posting from my phone

  3. Angela White says:

    After our travels we also have yet to find a country that has a drip coffee machine…I think it’s an American thing. At least you’re still getting your coffee fix.
    Miss all of you,

    • Paz says:

      Funny huh! I guess it is an American thing…some days I am so glad to be American. heheehe
      Did you say you were from the U.S., America, United States of America, or the states. I find I give a different answer every time someone asks me. Funny huh!

  4. Erin says:

    Metro has drip coffeemakers. It is a German version of Sams. I bet higher end malls have them in the appliance section.

    • Paz says:

      Erin- Metro is the one western store I have not been to in Guangzhou. I will now have to go! Thanks for the information. Hope you guys are doing great.

  5. Julie says:

    Great info! I’m interested in the insurance you got for your trip. Do you recall the name? I’m heading to China to teach in about a month and haven’t solved the insurance dilemma yet.

  6. Julie says:

    Thanks so much Paz! One other question is about getting a VPN account. I see you used to provide instruction on it, but it looks like you don’t do that anymore. Do you have any resources you could share?

  7. Paz says:


    Having a VPN is very important. Here is one article about setting up a VPN.

    However you can also contact Andrew he is at Andrew (at) hoyosconsulting dot com and he is who we have our VPN with and can set you up. He is also very friendly and could answer your questions.

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge
Back to Top ↑
  • About Us

    We are a family of four: dad, mom, sister, brother, who decided to leave our job, home, and community to live life in China. After a year abroad we decided to become permanent nomads. We road school our children and try to enjoy every minute.

  • Learning With Lupita

  • Contact Us

    We would love to hear from you. Have a question about China, or living and working abroad? We are here to help.

    Skype: paz.chentnik
    Connect on Facebook