Adoption Packing List

Adoption Packing List

Nothing makes me happier than a good list.



Last January, I shared my packing list for adopting Ashby, but since then…I’ve been back for round two…


…plus several of my friends have been over the last year (or are going to go soon), so I asked them and came up with an updated list.  I get asked all the time to share my favorite tips, tricks and ideas for how to pack for an adoption trip, so hopefully, this will help some of you out there embarking on the same journey.

Now, I’ve only adopted from China, so of course, my tips come from there, but when I asked my girlfriend who adopted from Uganda for her suggestions, they all overlapped, so I think it’s a solid list no matter where you’re adopting from.  Of course, if you’ve packed for this kind of trip, please chime in too!  We cannot have too many packing tips today!

We pack for overseas trips quite a bit here at the Shull house but packing for an adoption trip is a whole other ballgame.  It can


My kids in route to China.  They were about 24 hours in at this point.  And still not there.

The problems with packing for an adoption trip are such:
1: You don’t know this new person you’re about to meet, so you’re not exactly sure what they’ll need.  You also don’t exactly know how big they are, what size clothes they wear, what size their shoes are.  You just don’t know exactly what to expect when meeting them.  Do they like stuffed animals? To color?  To be left alone?  You don’t know!  So you have to pack creatively!
2: You live in fear of forgetting something.
3. Because you live in fear of forgetting something, you over pack.
4: Adoption trips are LONG!  We were there for three weeks the first time!  My friend with a son from Uganda was there for four.  That’s a long time to be gone!
5: You don’t want to have to lug 10 suitcases across to the other side of the world, so you really should pack smart.

Here are some of my random thoughts about my two trips to China before I share our list:
1: We traveled to five cities over two trips and really did not have any trouble finding things we may have forgotten/needed.
2: They have tons of stores/brands that you will recognize if you need anything (one girlfriend told me she just bought shorts at H&M while she was there), we bought Madeley shoes from Stride Rite in China (the store looked identical to the one here at my local mall!)…they really do have things you’ll recognize.  They also have a ton of big chain baby stores for all of those baby essentials (diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, etc), so if you run out, do not worry.  They have plenty of stores that provide that.
3: I had a major allergy attack this second time and my eyes were so itchy that I couldn’t see straight.  Since I wasn’t expecting that, I wasn’t prepared with the necessary drops…but there was a local pharmacy on my corner and they had me fixed up in no time flat.
4: Everyone I talked to that did a Chinese adoption said the exact same thing and I completely agree: THE LAUNDRY SERVICE THERE IS FANTASTIC!  We used laundry services in every city both trips and then we had them do one big load before we headed home and it was AMAZING.  We came home with suitcases full of CLEAN CLOTHES.  Hallelujah! This is a very universal tip for China.  Don’t use the laundry service inside the hotel, ask your guides and/or drivers for outside laundry services and they’ll connect you.  At one point, Andrew said we should just start shipping all of our dirty laundry to China to have it cleaned because they do such an outstanding job 😉 .
5: Because the laundry services are so great in China, my recommendation (and my friends all agreed) is to bring only a week’s worth of clothing instead of two or three.  This last time we went to China, that’s what we did.  We brought enough clothes for one week and then had them laundered three times.  Plus, we each only brought two pairs of shoes…and that was seriously all we needed!  We each brought a pair of tennis shoes and then one other pair (sandals for the most part), so that made things way simpler.
6: We traveled to China to get Ashby in December and January…so it was extremely cold.  In this instance, we packed a lot of layers that could be added to or taken away depending on the temperature.  Instead of bulky items, we brought layers because it was colder in some cities than in others, so this allowed us to wear the same things (just fewer layers) instead of bringing extra stuff.

Whew!  Okay, so this list is from me and four other girlfriends.  Again, if you think of some things that we should add to it, let me know!!

Adoption Packing List

Okay, allow me to further explain a few of these:

19. Ask your pediatrician or your family physician about an EpiPen.  One of my biggest fears was that one of my girls had a food allergy that the orphanages were not aware of and that we would feed her something one day and she would have a major allergic reaction.  All of my girlfriends told me that they brought EpiPens for this very reason. The orphanages tell you quite a bit about these kiddos, but not everything…so it’s better to be prepared in case of an emergency.

25. It’s next to impossible to download movies once you’re there on an iPad or iPhone, so make sure your devices are fully loaded before you come.

26. The Slingbox saved us on both trips!  You buy this device called a Slingbox here at places like Best Buy and install it on your home TV and then download the app on your phones/iPads and then that way when you’re in the other country, you can watch what’s on your TV at home including LIVE TV AND YOUR DVR.  Praise the Lord!  Unless you want to watch CNN on repeat in China (because that’s basically the only English channel you’ll find), you need the Slingbox.  Andrew was able to watch the Cowboys play live (it was the middle of the night in China but he woke up to watch!), we watched shows at night while we were in bed on our DVR at home, the kids watched their Disney shows or the Disney channel…it was so nice to turn on the app and get a little bit of home way over there.

27. In China, the internet is highly restricted.  No Facebook, Instagram, blogs, Google, etc.  So, if you want to turn on your phone and see any of that, you have to VPN through Wifi.  We used the VPN app called Betternet and this allowed us to look at/post in Facebook, Instagram, google something, look at blogs, it allowed me to blog, etc.  Without it, you cannot look at those sites.

28. We learned the first time that unless you bring a laptop with VPN, you might as well leave your laptop at home.  Andrew and I each brought our laptops the first time and mine was useless because I don’t have a VPN, so I used Andrew’s the whole time.  The second time around, we just brought Andrew’s.  Because again, the internet is so restricted that you must VPN through the States to get on so many popular sites.

And I always get asked about flying home with your new one.  Sigh.  I’m not going to lie.  It can be a challenge.  A 15 plus hour flight with a new child that doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t understand what’s going on, has never seen/heard of/been on a flight is complicated.  A lot of these items will entertain them (stickers, suckers, small toys, etc.).  I found that neither of my girls were interested in watching movies/iPads/shows on the flights because they didn’t understand them, got frustrated that when they touched the screens, it paused/turned off…they just didn’t care…so, we just survived.  We walked up and down the aisles, we played silly games, we tried coloring, we.survived.  Repeat that to yourself…because that’s probably going to be what you do…survive :).  And it will be so worth it when you arrive!


What I love most about this post is that I’m having to update it because so many of you are traveling abroad to bring home kids. PRAISE THE LORD!  How awesome is that?!?!

Will you remember everything?  Probably not.  Will you survive?  Absolutely!

Happy packing friends!  If you adopt (or have recently adopted!) a new little one, please email me a picture!  Nothing makes my heart happier than to see new families built through adoption.

Sending you lots of love this Tuesday!

If you have extra ideas, please comment and share!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog May 2, 2017 at 4:46 am

    It was interesting to read about your experience. The VPN thing is a huge hassle when travelling to China!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • ELizabeth May 2, 2017 at 5:21 am

    Such a helpful list for those traveling!
    Xo, Elizabeth

  • Katie Cameron May 2, 2017 at 5:42 am

    We traveled to Seoul, South Korea to adopt our son this past January. One thing I recommend for the flight is window gel cling ons. My son played for over an hour with them on the window and the TV screen on the seat. He took them on and off, rearranged them, opened and closed the window…it was great! The child sitting in front of us asked to use one too, so we shared.

    • Lina May 2, 2017 at 6:20 am

      Great tip! We just got our home study approved for Korea. ? Excited to hit this milestone. Any other tips?

    • Elaine May 2, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Our neighbors just adopted from there!

    • Emilee May 2, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      That is a great tip! These all are! We are currently waiting for EP from South Korea 🙂

      • Lauren Bounds May 3, 2017 at 9:29 am

        How exciting! We brought our son home from South Korea in December. I recommend some type of sleeping aid for the plane ride over there. That way you aren’t too exhausted when you arrive.

    • Brittany May 4, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      That’s a great tip for flights with kids period! Thank you

  • Courtney May 2, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Interesting tips about the internet when traveling to China, I had no idea. And the Slingbox – how awesome! Thank you (and your dear friends) for sharing!

  • Alicia May 2, 2017 at 6:18 am

    Shay, I have 2 friends who are right now on adoption trips to bring home their children! One family in South Africa for 6 weeks (!!!) and one in China for about 2 weeks! This post is great! <3 <3

  • Sheaffer Sims May 2, 2017 at 6:23 am

    This has to be so helpful to so many! I don’t think I ever knew about your allergy attack?!?

  • Narci Dreffs May 2, 2017 at 6:30 am

    These are such good tips! This is going to be so useful for families going!! And, that picture of y’all at the airport brings back so many sweet memories of your airport arrivals! What special days!

  • Hanna May 2, 2017 at 6:39 am

    How about cell phones? Any options to use them? How did you communicate to family back home?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 2, 2017 at 7:54 am

      You can facetime and audio facetime when you’re hooked up to wifi (and text too!), so that’s how we did it!

  • Nikki - Speak at Home Tonight May 2, 2017 at 6:42 am

    GREAT advice! The language barrier can be especially tough. If you or anyone is looking for any language learning tips, I am happy to help! I speak 7 languages fluently. <3

  • Amber May 2, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Leaving Thursday for China. Thanks for the tips!

  • Megan May 2, 2017 at 7:01 am

    This post makes me SO thankful I kept my packing list from our last adoption trip. We thought our family was most likely complete only to find ourselves unexpectedly heading back for our new Peanut in Aug/Sept. One seemingly silly item that I always suggest is a pop-up hamper from the dollar store. It folds down to fit in a ziplock, can be used to keep the hotel room dirty clothes clutter free, and works great as a basketball hoop (to use with the blow up beach ball you suggested), and all other sorts of fun games.

  • Melissa May 2, 2017 at 7:54 am

    These are great tips! Does anyone have tips for domestic newborn adoption? Do you just bring “regular” baby items? Gifts or momentos for the birth mom? I would appreciate any suggestions or tips.

  • Becky May 2, 2017 at 7:59 am

    I LOL’d over Andrew’s sending laundry to China comment!! BRILLIANT!!!!

  • Natalie May 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Thank you so much for this!! We are traveling to Colombia in a little over a month to adopt a 2 year old little boy!!!

  • Lisa Molnar May 2, 2017 at 8:38 am

    We adopted a teenage girl from the Ukraine in November. In the Ukraine, adapters and tissues (tp) are a must. Hotels have toliet paper but you need your own everywhere else. Playing cards keep Masha and I busy for hours and I also brought a new pack of colored pencils and a few adult coloring books. My husband and I went to a book store in Ukraine and bought two chapter books that a teenage girl would like so Masha could read on the plane in her own language. Google translate was our gonto for months and I made a set of picture cards that had a cartoon pictures of what we would be doing once we got home. I translated the descriptions in English and Ukrainian. So one card would say “we are taking a hike”, “we are going on a plane”, “I feel sick”, “you need to brush your teeth”, etc. I laminated them, put them on a ring and made a set for each of us. Those cards worked great because I could say, “we are going to church”, and then show her the card. The language barrier is tough at first, but it’s so worth it!!!!

  • Alexis deZayas May 2, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Such a great idea to make a post about this Shay!!

  • Beth Salas May 2, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Shay! I just read your devotional in P31 website! So cool how God is using your trials for His Glory! Amazing!

  • Laura @ Laura Likes Design May 2, 2017 at 9:30 am

    That’s so interesting about China blocking a lot of websites! I was surprised to learn that!

  • Jen May 2, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Love this post and all the sweet photos. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something down that I’ve already done just so I could mark it off. #listmakersunite

  • Jennifer May 2, 2017 at 11:02 am

    This is a great post, thank you! But I have to ask…what is the beach ball for?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

      It’s easy to pack (because it’s flat) and fun for kids to bounce around in the hotel room and/or outside :).

  • Lindsay @ Lindsay's Sweet World May 2, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I would have never known about the internet there… I would have assumed that hotels would provide wifi that would allow you to get on all of those American sites so thank goodness you told us about VPN! Not that I”m planning any trips anytime soon or anything, but it’s good to know for the future. ;o)

  • Angela Ellingson May 2, 2017 at 11:38 am

    This is an incredible post! I know this will bless so many families! I will definitely be referring friends to your adoption posts, as usual!

  • Laura avery May 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Posts like this let me daydream about the day we do finally get to pack for that trip! Waiting about 4 years but now have a referral of a sweet baby girl in Ethiopia.

    I’d love to take my three older kids (6,4 and 1) Is it possible to concentrate on adopted baby’s needs with them there? You obviously did it but I question taking a helpful grandparent. Being gone from them would be hard on me but I do want to be able to attend to little one’s needs as a priority. Any thoughts on that would help. Thanks!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 3, 2017 at 4:56 am

      Taking our kiddos was the best thing we did. It really bonded us as a family immediately.

  • April Caddis May 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    These are awesome tips! We just traveled to China in December to get our little girl! It was FREEZING in Northern China(We spent a few days in Beijing) and super warm in Southern China where our daughter is from! I mainly only packed long sleeved shirts so we found an H&M and were able to get plenty to last the rest of the trip! Oh, and the laundry service is AWESOME!

  • Caitlin Cooney May 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    A future post should be about how you started your own business or when you decided to start a blog! Coming from someone who wants to own her own business one day!

    Also, you should write a book (other than cookbooks which were wonderful!) about your life or motivation!

  • Ashlea Ruff May 2, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Hi! We are waiting on TA to get our little boy from
    China! Hopefully we will go in June. Laundry question…I don’t put a majority of my clothes in the dryer, did you have anything washed in China by the laundry service that couldn’t be dried?? Thank you!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 3, 2017 at 4:55 am

      I only packed stuff that could be washed and dried. I wanted to keep things simple!

  • Caroline Burke May 2, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this. We are almost done our home study. So even though we are a solid 12-20 months away this is one thing I’m nervous about.

  • Maria May 2, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Such good tips!!! When traveling to Uganda, I had someone give me a packing list for my own clothes and at the time I thought it was silly, but IT WAS NOT! The lessons she learned from her first few trips there saved me from making the same mistakes.

    Any idea how to find out about other country’s internet restrictions?

  • Sharon S May 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    * Swim suits & swim caps! They require swim caps in china and we had to pay over $20 a piece for them at the hotel. Of course, you could just not swim, but in province we were looking for things to do to pass the time. So if you plan to, bring a swim cap!
    * I also loved having wet wipes…
    * We brought a ton of medicine – probably overkill…
    * and a good money belt for all that cash!
    * Cross body purse made traveling so much easier.
    * And skecher’s go walks for all the walking!
    * And a little backpack for your new little one. Loved being able to put all her gear in that bag and she loved having her own little backpack to tote around…. And she loved having her own little sippy cup.
    * Agree about the VPN’s. My girlfriend went and didn’t get one setup. I thought she was crazy! I installed two since they aren’t always reliable. We used PandaPow and ExpressVPN
    * ziplock bags… Useful in general, but was also useful to grab some cereal from the breakfast bar, put in a ziplock bag for snacks throughout the day. We also always snagged a couple of those yogurt drinks and fruit from the buffet. Our daughter loved those yogurt drinks.

  • Jessica Murphy May 3, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    A couple tips I can share! We adopted our daughter almost 3 years ago (, and are heading back next year for our 2nd adoption! 🙂 🙂

    *We installed two different VPNs, which turned out great, because when one wouldn’t work sometimes the other one would. We also used PandaPow and ExpressVPN
    *Also the app Pleco is awesome for Mandarin translation. It also has an add-on for scanning and translating Chinese characters.
    * A baby/child carrier is awesome, even if you think your new child will be too big for one. Our friends adopted a 4 year old little girl who felt the most comfortable being held by her new momma and wouldn’t do the stroller, and they were wishing they had brought one!

    Random tip: If you aren’t adventurous with food, check out the Pizza Huts in China. They aren’t like the Pizza Huts here – they have a huge menu with lots of choices (including meatloaf and wine)!

  • Elizabeth May 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    We have been accepted into the China program through our agency and getting ready to begin the home study! I’ve saved so many of your posts through the years of praying for this day and now we actually need them- SO excited!!!