As baggage allowances shrink, we have had to get pickier and pickier about what takes up our precious 50 pounds per person. Here are 7 items that easily made the cut.

1. Shoes for me
I wear a women’s size 10 or 11 (thanks, pregnancies) in the U.S., which is roughly equivalent to a size “NO FLIPPIN’ WAY” in Asia. Women’s shoes don’t go above U.S. size 8 ½ here, so I’m smack-outta-luck. That means having to bring all my shoes from the States. Shoes take up a lot of luggage space, so I narrowed my footwear down to just a few Mega-Mutli-Tasking pairs that will take me through mud-filled rainy days, dressier occasions, winter winds, hiking in the tropics, everything. I guess I’ll just have to live with not being the  typical American woman with 27 pairs of shoes.

IMG_20140929_1808172. Photobooks
A few years ago, I started doing an annual family yearbook of photos. Expat life means a constant flow of faces and locations, and having the river of memories captured in a book seems extra-important here. I’ve been touched and surprised at how much my husband and kids cherish these books. And, although we have our photos stored digitally, it’s just not the same to cuddle on the couch with the kids and flip through a laptop.

IMG_20140929_1804333. Children’s acetaminophen and antihistamine
Though we don’t use these often, it is SO GOOD to have them on hand when you do need them! Like the time a few years ago that my daughter suddenly got red, itchy bumps on her hands and forearms from the gloves she put on to help Mommy clean house. (It turns out she’s allergic to latex.) If we had tried to get treatment here, it likely would’ve meant giving the antihistamine intravenously in a hospital, and we try to avoid IVs and hospitals when we can. We’re weird like that.


Hey, look, there’s room for a few more!

4. English books
We are a family of voracious readers, so this one tops the list for all of us. Yes, we can get books electronically, but as with the photobooks above, it is just nice to have a real book to read sometimes. Real books can also be passed on to other English-speaking expats, who are often just as eager for English reading material as we are.

5. Sharpies
I’m not sure there’s a functional equivalent for Sharpies here, and the real ones have not made it to China yet, so if we wanted them, we had to bring them ourselves. We sure do love them for homeschool, crafts, labeling things, and much more. In particular, a silver Sharpie has been great for marking electronics.


I can now use Chinese preschool posters to decorate my home with wild abandon.

6. Sticky tack
Living in concrete apartments means that hanging stuff on the walls can be a challenge. Sticky tack has been great for posters, maps, holiday decorations, etc. At times, it’s been available on Taobao, but it’s cheaper to buy it in the States, and small and lightweight enough to throw a pack or two in the luggage.

7. Command strips
For heavier things like framed pictures, 3M Command Strips and hooks have been wonderful. No need for a concrete drill! (No, seriously, that’s what we’ve had to use on the walls here to get nails and screws in.) We can get these in the provincial capital or on Taobao, but they’re much cheaper in the U.S.

Well, there you have it. We haven’t always been great about deciding what can and cannot be taken overseas with us, but we are learning. And getting better at it each time we return.


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