Helen’s Travel Corner

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My To-Do List for China

In case this can be useful to other travelers, I’ve left this page here.  Originally this was to help prepare for my 3 month China trip for the summer of 2008.  Please share any other suggestions or pre-travel to-do items that you always consider! And also feel free to ask any questions about what I have posted.

China Pre-Trip To-Do List

_ Get plane ticket and finalize travel dates

_ .Create budget

_ Get the recommended shots for ChinaSince I was up-to-date on Tetanus and Hep B for school, I got shots for Hep A and Typhoid. There were a couple other ones recommended for rural areas but not necessary for me.

_ Doctor’s travel appointment to get prescriptions for medicine that can’t be bought over the counter but will need

_ Register my trip with the U.S. Department of State

_ Paperwork for my China visa

Make multiple copies of all important documents and leave with mom or someone usually marked for “in case of emergencies”

_ Scan travel documents into .pdf files and email them to my “travel email” address (ie: Yahoo or Hotmail) (courtesy tip from Joe Ehrlich )

_ Cell phone:

_ Put cell phone on reduced rate suspension, right before I leave

_ Email myself updated list of cell phone numbers

Take battery out of cell phone, right before I leave unlock phone, since I’m now taking it with me (I wasn’t able to use my US phone there due to the different signals so I ended up buying a new one there)

_ Get insurance on my laptop with safeware

_ Arrange for accommodation

_ Purchase International Student Identity Card if applicable

_ Get someone to sublet my room while I’m gone + packing room up before sublet

_ Purchase any supplies I may need (all month)

_ Write a packing list

_ Double-check flight luggage requirements (

_ Pack

_ Get a hair cut

_ Let my banks know that I’ll be abroad (so my debit and credit cards don’t get canceled due to security measures)

_ Get someone to watch my aloe plant

_ Back up my entire laptop to my external hard drive – in case something does happen to my laptop, I’ll have everything pre-departure saved.

_ Change mailing addresses so mail is sent to my parents

_ Make sure I have emailed myself any passwords I may need or may forget while there

_ Download my pics and files off of my camera’s memory card and thumb drive so I start with a clean slate

_ Let everyone know my itinerary

_ Double-check that I have everything I need a couple of days before departure

_ Medical and Travel Insurance if needed (If you have a credit card, see what type of travel insurance it covers.  Also double-check what your medical insurance’s international policy is.)

This list has been compiled partially from experience but also referencing Doug Lanskey’s First-Time Around the World book which I find very thorough.

My China Packing List

In hindsight, I definitely overpacked.  Afterall I went to CHINA where it seems like all products are manufactured anyway! (updated)

This is more extensive than previous packing lists because I have to work while in Beijing and my stay is for 3 months.    I’m taking extra medical precautions that I’m usually pretty relaxed about because I can’t afford to be sick while there. Please feel free to make more recommendations! I’ve really taken all of the ones people have told me to heart and incorporated them into the list below. The list is compiled from personal experience, recommendations from friends, family and travel message boards and Doug Lansky’s First-Time Around the World which I find is a very thorough guide. I’ll add more content to the following sections when I have more time.

The sections covered include:

  • My luggage
  • Travel Specific
  • Food Related
  • Toiletries
  • Medical
  • Eletronics
  • What I’m not packing
  • What I’m buying in China
  • Clothes

My luggage

This varies from each person, but I prefer to throw everything on my back. And for packing, less is more.

Kelty women’s backpack – My backpack’s style is no longer featured since I bought it in 2005 but the feature that is most useful is that you can pack it like a duffel bag which makes getting into it extremely easy vs. only able to pack from the top opening. From a specialist I was also told you should pack backpacks like a duffle bag in the sense of distributing weight and not piling everything heavy at the bottom of your bag.

Laptop case I have the Tekmod model from Tekstyl.com and got it because of the waterproof quality. It’s okay. It’s selling point is that you can use it directly from its case which does come in handy but can be a bitch in airport security lines. Overall I’ve been happy toting my laptop around in it. I did decorate the outside of the case with sharpe markers to make it look quite unattractive and very used to detract thieves from thinking it’d be a valuable steal.

Travel purse –I have a small old thing that has a flap and tucks under my arm so no one can get into it.

Carry-on bag – nothings special but big enough to hold a change of clothes a book and necessities I may need while en route or in the case I land and my luggage doesn’t arrive with me which usually is the case.

Travel Specific

-Multiple copies of all important documents:

-Passport and visa

-Credit cards

-birth certificate

-letter of invitation

-Waterproof bag to hold all important documents

-Passport – don’t leave home without it!

-Insurance card and credit cards

Calendar printed on paper- I live by my agenda book here but have no intentions of bringing added weight with me so I find printing monthly calendar pages for the time I’ll be abroad as a nice compromise and way to stay organized while there. It also is a nice way to keep days straight and record basic activities.

-Earplugs (used once)

-Water bottle

­ -Cheap sunglasses

-Eye masks – (used ALL the time!) These are great for the plane, hostels or just to help sleep in or nap whenever you want.

­ -Lock and key – (didn’t use) I didn’t actually use this in Thailand like someone recommended but am bringing it anyway. If I don’t use it for anything this trip, it’s getting knocked off this list for future trips. I guess if I wanted to lock my stuff in hostel lockers it may be useful…not sure when I would actually use this.

-Matches – put in a plastic bag (pretty much I put everything in plastic bags!)

-Chewing gum for the plane

-Tide To-Go Stain remover – This is only because this trip will have some occasions where I’ll have to be presentable for the program and I don’t really want to deal with stains if I have to look put-together.


-Nylon string for a clothes line + clips to hang it from (can be bought in China)

-Money belt

-Sharpe markers

-Extra shoelaces

-Suction hooks for the accommodation and shower (can be bought in China)

-Travel poncho

-Deck of playing cards

-Travel Journal and extra pens – I bought a ton of my uniball pens I love more for the reporting aspect of my trip.

-Bandanas to help with the sweat from the climate

-Backpack cover for rain – (didn’t use) This is something I bought for a previous trip and isn’t necessary for most people who are just staying in one city and at one accommodation.

-Travel towel – this will be great because it’s so small until I purchase bigger towels while there

-Travel pillow – again this is something I already have which may come in useful there but not an absolute necessity

-Travel purse – same as the one mentioned in the luggage section

-Sleeping bag and Coolmax sleeping bag liner I already have this and if I can fit them, will bring them as just-in-case items for hostels and other random accommodation I may run into

-Sarong – this proved itself extremely useful in Europe as a skirt on the way to the beach, to an extra sheet while sleeping in trains so this is something I always bring with me.

-Extra plastic bags and ziplock bags – These are great for keeping organized, for wet clothes, for packing dirty shoes and whatever else may arise.

-emergency sewing kit

-Mandarin pocket guide

-One city-guidebook

-A book to read on the plane and during downtime

-Address book to use when sending family and friends postcards

-Trading items to hand out with people I meet (Olympic-specific)

-A couple of pictures of family so my accommodation isn’t completely bare for 3 months

Travel size tissues to keep in my daypack

-duck tape

Food Related

A handful of Cliff bars— Cliff bars are great for travel days when eating habits are thrown off and you’re at the mercy of the airlines meal schedule. Also, it’s nice to have some familiar food at your side when you first enter a new country regardless of your open-mind towards the local cuisine.

A portable coffee and tea strainer and a bag of coffee – (one of the most popular items coveted was my professor’s French press; coffee there isn’t cheap to buy by the bag) This was recommended by a friend who just got done traveling in China for a month and didn’t find the coffee there quite up to her standards. As a coffee drinker, I’m going to take her advice and bring my own coffee and individual cup strainer too. I’ll wait and buy a cheap mug once I get there. REI has a one cup strainer for around $5 in their camping section.

A wine and bottler opener – I remember buying a wine bottle from a grocery store in Bangkok only to tip a close by restaurant to open it for me since the hostel I was staying at didn’t have a wine opener. Since then I’ve found this very handy. Also I’m bringing a cheap keychain bottle-opener for the same reason. Both are light and small and may come in handy.

Utensils – Chopsticks, a spoon, fork and knife will be brought. This will be more for my accommodation for snacking but may prove useful at food stalls if utensils aren’t readily available. I’d rather be prepared than not.

Grapefruit Seed Extract to clean food and water – (didn’t really use) One of my relatives recommended bringing diluted 1% chlorine to wash food in before eating. I went to Whole Foods looking for the fruit and vegetable wash Fit as an alternate but was then introduced to grapefruit seed extract. It seems to have multiple purposes but what caught my attention is that I can use it to clean food and also help treat water. I wasn’t excited about the $20 price tag, but I think it will prove invaluable while in Beijing. Click here to learn more .

Misc. Food Items For me this is stevia – my sugar substitute. While it may be weird, I doubt I’ll be able to find it there and it’s a daily ingredient for my coffee. Other travelers may have other food quirks that can be brought over and solved in the packing process too.


-Insect repellant with a really high percentage of DEET – I’m going to use Jungle Juice found at REI with 98.11% DEET

-New toothbrush


-Retainers if applicable

-Dental Floss

-Travel toilet paper (always make sure to carry your own TP while there)

-Extra chapstick

-3 months supply of tampons and pads

-Laundry detergent for 5-6 loads of wash ended up not packing due to weight; easily found in Beijing

-Baby wipes- got left out last minute because it’s a little heavy but I’ve found them useful at music festivals to use as a mini-shower and feel a little cleaner.

-Extra deodorant – Deodorant can be bought but if you’re picky, bring your own

-Baby powder – I know I’ll be sweating a lot in Beijing’s heat and this is one thing I use here at home to help stay a littler dryer.

-Hand sanitizer, travel size

-New 50 proof sunblock that’s also waterproof – sunblock gets outdated so for big trips I always buy new stuff to take extra care of my skin

-New Face sunblock stick – I’m using Coppertones Water Babies

Pocketsize mirror

-Minimal make-up

-Minimal jewelry – Can be definitely be bought there! I usually buy some jewelry as souvenirs and never bring anything that I don’t want to lose nor makes me a great target for pick-pockets.

-Travel size hair gel – can be bought there

-Q-tips – will throw a handful in a plastic bag

Travel size hand lotion


-Bar of soap – This is part of roughing it while traveling for me

-Extra hair ties and clips

-Nail clippers, tweezers and scissors

Eye drops

-For those sexually active, condoms should be packed

Face mask and face cleanser – I’m not going to bring these items and may buy them there but this was recommended by a friend who was there and found it helpful to protect and keep her facial skin clean despite the pollution.


This list varies for individuals and usually I don’t get too caught up in having enough drugs to open a pharmacy, but want to take extra precautions since I have to perform in a stressful and highly polluted environment. Of course people with specific medical needs should be extra prepared.

-A list of Western hospitals that BlueCross BlueShield endorses

-Pollution related – I went a little overboad when I was scared about this.  It wasn’t as bad as all the press built it up to be!:

POD While not medically endorsed it will be nice for fresh air

Bandanas Again not medical but a change from doctors masks, listed above too.

Doctor’s masks – didn’t wear once!

-Prescription inhaler – used once or twice, more for psychological comfort

-Other things I would like prescribed

-Penicillin / General Antibiotic

-Multi-Vitamins and extra vitamin C – I usually count out one multi-vitamin for every day of my trip and throw them in a plastic bag. I’m bringing extra vitamin C to help boost the immune system while there, even if its more a psychology placebo pill for me!

Water purification tablets – (didn’t use; drank bottled water) I plan on drinking from approved bottled water but just in case I got these tablets which purify water in 30 minutes. I have Potable Aqua found at REI for $10 and treats up to 25 quarts of water. It may add a funny taste to the water but its for emergencies and I can get over it if I really need water.

Melatonin pills for sleep aid, recommended by John Powers from the Boston Globe (didn’t use)

Systane gel drops or Visine drops for eyes

Tiger balm – I found works great to alleviate bug bites among many other things.

Band aides

-Hydrocortisone Cream for itches

-Acetaminophen for muscle pain – this is something I usually use while on my periods


-Anti-diarrheal pills: loperamide hydrochloride tablets



-Chewable pepto bismal tablets – John Powers from the Boston Globe recommends taking the bulk-size box of these

-Bonine for motion sickness and plane rides

-Nyquil cold/flu caplets

-Something like Beano for gas

-Benadryl or other antihistamine

-Antiseptic cleansing wipes

-American Red Cross Basic Emergency Preparedness first aid kit –(didn’t use but still recommend) Found this at Target

-Other recommendations I’m not going to include in my pack:

-Compeed for blisters

-Iodine to sterilize cuts

-Rehydration packet


-Laptop— Unless you absolutely can’t live without your laptop, I suggest not bringing such a big and expensive item. I’m bringing mine since I’ll be in China 3 months and will be in one place. I’m getting insurance on it from safeware.com. For accessories, I’m bringing a mic and earpiece so I can use Skype while there. I love my wireless mouse and will be bringing it along too.

-Laptop case— When I bought my case, I was looking for something waterproof. The one I have from tekstyl.com…it’s okay. It’s selling point is that you can use it directly from its case which does come in handy but can be a bitch in airport security lines. Overall I’ve been happy toting my laptop around with it but wouldn’t suggest buying it just for this trip if you already have a laptop case you can bring. I also decorated this with a sharpe to deter thieves from thinking its valuable…and must say the case does look quite unattractive.

-Cooling plate— I bought this for my Thailand trip and find it a great way to take a little extra care of my laptop in extremely humid environments. They can be purchased at best buy for around $20-$30. Mine plugs into my laptop’s usb port and uses my laptop’s energy to run it.

-USB thumb drive – I’m going to use this to back up new documents I create while in Beijing. I’m going to back up my entire laptop onto my external hard drive before I leave so I won’t lose any current documents.

-Digital Camera don’t forget the memory card and a cord to connect to computers to load pictures to computers.

-Digital Camera battery charger – I have two batteries so if one dies, I always have a back-up.

-Current cell phone – (It didn’t work due to different signals so I ended up buying a new, cheap phone there for Domestic use; used Skype to call back home to the states) It may work with a Chinese sim card, if not it will still serve as an excellent alarm clock and way to keep track of time and have a calculator for bargaining in the markets

-Plug converter/power adapter

-Plane headphones – I’ve kept these from a past flight. Will save a couple of dollars on the flight so I can watch all the movies shown

-ishuffle/ipod – I personally can live without this but I know most people swear by theirs

Webcam – (didn’t use) for skyping

Ethernet Cord – for the room accommodation

What I’m Not Packing


-A lot of make-up



What I’m buying once there

Anything can really be bought in Beijing if you want to find it!

-Shower flip flops

-Cheap shower towels

-A mug for my coffee

-Shampoo, Conditioner and other hair products – I’m not really picky in this department and this item falls under “roughing it” while traveling along with my bar soap.

Pot to boil water if one isn’t provided

Cell phone if mine doesn’t work

Sim card

Power strip for my laptop



I loved the shopping in China and recommend not packing much and leaving plenty of room to buy clothes! I was there during the summer and lived in dresses going out in the evening.  Beijing is an international city and attire is like any other city.  Just remember to pack comfortable shoes and clothes for long treks through the city and on The Great Wall.  Wear closed-toe shoes with traction on The Great Wall too – a lot of people fell due to flip-flops.  Remember not to pack too much!


10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rosie Mellion // Jun 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    You might also want to check which of your credit cards charge a currency conversion for every international transaction. More charge for purchases abroad now and not just for foreign currency advances. I think I’m going to look into opening a new credit card that doesn’t charge on international purchases if my current ones charge.

    Also, will you tell me how you predicted the costs of things for your budget?

    Can’t wait for the trip!

  • 2 Laura McLam // Jun 4, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Do you know if gmail works abroad/in China? I wasn’t even thinking about ‘travel email’ . . . . how do you know what works where?

  • 3 ryan // Jun 6, 2008 at 1:29 am

    the ISIC card is a real disappointment, as far as discounts, etc. but it is at times useful as ID in lieu of carrying your passport…

  • 4 Paul Niwa // Jun 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    gmail might not work. It depends on how strict China feels like tightening up the firewall. But, I would be almost certain that your emerson email will work. you can login anywhere on the net at owa.emerson.edu (no www.)

  • 5 My China packing list is up and I have my visa in hand! « Helen’s Travel Corner // Jun 18, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    […] To-Do […]

  • 6 Sean Beier // Jul 11, 2008 at 1:37 am

    gmail worked just fine for me back in March. I’m headed back for 5 weeks starting July 19th so I definitely hope it still works.

  • 7 Mark H // Feb 5, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I also typically email myself credit card numbers (+ expiry dates), key phone numbers and other important numbers etc that can get lost or stolen on a trip. You can encode them if you are really paranoid. Also used to send traveller cheque numbers but I don’t use them any more.

  • 8 Linda Thomas // Jun 23, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Hi Helen!

    Sarah is heading to New Zealand on Saturday, so I’m checking out your packing list!
    She’ll be on her own for the trip over/back (DFW, LAX, Sydney, Wellington). We have close family friends currently living in NZ that will host Sarah for 3 weeks. She and their 16 yr old son will attend a sleep-away choir camp, the family will go skiing one weekend, and they’ll take a side trip to Christchurch as well. It should be the adventure of a lifetime!
    Love, Aunt Linda

  • 9 Jami // Jun 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

    great list! i am going to China for about 6 months and this list was awesome! i have been to China before for about 3 weeks, and 6 months is definitely not 3 weeks :) thanks for keeping this up!

  • 10 Helen Todd // Jun 13, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks Jami – glad it was useful! I’m slightly jealous that you’ll be there for 6 months – have a wonderful time. If you forget something, you’ll be able to buy it over there too!

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