Living & working abroad

Published on January 23rd, 2011 | by Paz


How to pack for a year abroad Part 1

It took us roughly 3 seconds to decide to move and it has taken us months on deciding what we are going to bring. What do you pack for a year away for a family of four? Well we have kind of figured it out. Check out Part 2 and Part 3!

I know this is a topic that everyone is excited about because this is the question I get asked the most….”How do you pack for a year abroad?”! There are many factors to consider when you are packing for a year abroad. We have researched, read, and followed other families and people that have taken similar trips and reviewed what they brought. However it is different for everyone and here are our main packing categories.

  1. Medical (medicine, baby medicine, hygiene products)
  2. Clothes
  3. Shoes
  4. Home items (things to bring that make our new house feel like it is ours)
  5. Education (It is extremely expensive to buy English materials in China)
  6. Electronics (This is going to be a long section!)
  7. Gifts (My mom taught me to bring presents to those that you will be meeting)
  8. *Toys* (We have given ourselves new parameters around what is a toy worthy of bringing)
  9. Books (This includes our guides, dictionaries and kids books)
  10. Baby Goods (Baby bottles, chopsticks, silverware)

Since we have been purging & donating everything that we didn’t use on a regular basis it made our packing process a little bit easier.  Still what to bring? What to leave behind? Oh how we pondered over these questions for months. We had a few set backs in our packing process related to clothing. Since I have still not lost all of my pregnancy weight and we have continued to gain weight due to our life change. (Unfortunately not a lot of time for calorie counting) None of our favorite clothes fit us. We also received mixed information on if we will find clothes in China that will fit us.

You may think everything is made in China so you could just buy all of it in China. People who we talked to that live there said that it is difficult to find clothing that would FIT us. He obviously knew that we were both bringing 20 lbs of extra body love with us. Some people said we could find tailored clothing really cheap there, but what do we do until we figure out how to get to the tailor? Could we scavenge the stores for days not finding a single pair of pants to fit my voluptuous behind? Lets face it, it takes me 25 stores here to find a pair of pants that I like. So we did have to do some shopping.

Our luggage! In the picture above you see ALL of our luggage that we are bringing! That is it. This is another huge topic of conversation. How does one find luggage that not only fit your needs but are great quality and not a million dollars. We are very please with what we have purchased to carry all of our goods. Our main luggage pieces are the High Sierra 28-Inch Drop-Bottom Wheeled Duffel. We bought one when we when to Italy and it performed so much better than our other luggage. Our favorite part is that it has the option to turn into a backpack. A couple of years ago Zeek and I went on a trip to Mexico and we bounced around the Pacific Coast where there were no even walking grounds to be found. We wish we had a backpack. Zeek literally dragged our luggage through gravel paths multiple times. So now we have the best of both. This one in the picture is Lupita and Abe’s Luggage.  Abe technically doesn’t get a seat so he doesn’t get a bag. Good thing they still like to share and their clothes are small.

Our most expensive luggage purchase was Zeek’s bag to carry his music equipment in. If you know Zeek you know that this is near and dear to his heart and he wouldn’t go anywhere with out it. So we found this bag SKB  it is extremely heavy duty. The case cost $200.00 but it is well worth it if Zeek’s equipment gets to China in one piece.

It will work as his carry on. I don’t trust myself with it.

Our next purchase for luggage was not only important because it was for our new Nikon D3100, but because we needed it to function as a day pack in China as well. Depending on if you are on child #1 or child #2 you have lots of things that you need to bring along with you for your day pack. (I don’t like the term diaper bag…if all I had was diapers I would bring a plastic bag) When considering what would be our day bag Zeek made a very important observation, he said it needs to double as your purse as well. Huh? What? PPfft! He was right. Having a purse and a day bag is silly. It is not living minimalistic and is plain annoying. It is just one more thing that I would need to worry about. So now it needed to be camera bag, day pack, and purse. Geez! Well I found it. Please meet the Lowepro Fastpack 100

This bag is awesome! We did a test run with it on our trip to South Carolina and passed with flying colors. It holds our new Nikon D3100 (with a side entry) it also has enough room to be our day bag and also is my purse. I bought this one because I was amazed at the flexibility the bag has. It can be worn as a back back, but is small enough that it feels like a purse. It has room for a water bottle/baby sippy cup and fits our binoculars, diapers, wallet, point & shoot camera as well as a pack of wipes. I will do a post on this bag alone next week. That is how much I love it.

What else are we bringing? Our luggage will include:

Zeek- One blue 26″ American Tourister suitcase, his SKB carry on, wallet, and boarding pass/passport holder.

Paz – One Green 26″ High Sierra Expandable duffle with straps, a High Sierra Carry On wheeled back pack, of course my Lowepro Fastpack 100, and boarding pass/passport holder.

Lupita- One plaid 28″ High Sierra Drop Bottom Wheeled Duffel, an American Tourister carry on, and her Chicco umbrella stroller.

Abe – One back pack carry on  and an umbrella stroller that we brought back from Italy. (never leave home with out one).

Find out what we packed in them here.

In the mean time check out this totally cool post on packing ultra light by Karol from Ridiculously Extraordinary. I don’t know if we could ever go this light. But I think we are on our way. I have to say it is totally liberating to think that we will have everything we need for a year in our few suitcases. Rock On!

How many bags would you need to get up and go? What could you not live without?

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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.

10 Responses to How to pack for a year abroad Part 1

  1. tofa says:

    Paz, the only thing that I want to tell you is: “you are my hero”
    I wish to visit you.. least now you´ll be farther away than ever.. jaja.. stay in touch plis.
    good luck and wait for me!
    love you prima

    • Paz says:

      Prima- you are too sweet. You are my hero! We will always stay in touch. After China…we will have to go to Mexico. Thank you for reading and love ya mucho!

  2. Rachael says:

    GREAT packing list….. I remember those days when backpacking Europe…. One quick thing…

    I didn’t sse any coffee in your lists…..hehe


  3. Betsy Talbot says:

    I can’t wait to see how your packing list changes over the next few weeks/months as you settle in – ours certainly did! And we’re anxious to see how your daypack works out – that is still the thing we haven’t gotten just right.

    Happy travels!

    • Paz says:

      I can’t wait either! We did buy the Steri-pen based on your blog post. I am going to do 2 more posts…could be over kill… about what we are bringing. With two kids I thought it would be good to show what we are packing for them. Also we have household and sentimental things that we are bringing. I am also interested in seeing how the daypack works. I know i love my new wallet…but will I use the daypack as much as I hoped. Thanks for posting a comment! Love your blog!

  4. Janette says:

    Please carry your camera to the front and not on your back.
    Luggage is something that you will find quite common in China- but the quality is questionable. We bought backpacks like your duffel- but smaller- and traveled with them all the time.
    I am really excited for your journey!

    • Paz says:

      Good points. Good to know luggage is common to find..incase we need to change up what we have brought with us. Thanks for checking out our site.
      Take Care,

  5. Pingback: How to pack for a year abroad Part 2 | International Cravings

  6. Pingback: Living in China Reality Check – 6 months in China Report – International Cravings

  7. Pingback: How to pack for a year abroad – 6 month update – International Cravings

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    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.

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