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iamles Sep 27th, 2007 10:57 AM

Please Help With Packing For 3 Week China Trip
I leave October 9th and am determined to pack in a carryon size (22 inch) suitcase. This is a challange for a woman who usually throws in something "extra", "just in case"!

My route is Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Yangshuo and Hong Kong. Any suggestions so that I'll be warm enough and cool enough? Will black jeans with a "dressy" top be OK for nice restaurants?


rhkkmk Sep 27th, 2007 11:00 AM

why only carry on, esp with all the recent regulations....??

Marija Sep 27th, 2007 01:03 PM

You shouldn't have any problems with just a carryon. (We packed for 4 weeks in Africa in a carryon!) We went to all of the places and your list and found China to be very casual. Black jeans are good for everything. Wear a warm jacket on the plane for the cooler days. If you get tired of your clothes you can pick up some more tops in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I took three pairs of pants (all black!) and several knit tops and a couple of jackets. I made sure almost everything was hand washable. Have a great time.

Cicerone Sep 28th, 2007 01:28 AM

I also don't understand taking just a carry on. You really won't be allowed to take any toiletries then, as you are only allowed very small sizes on flights, and these same regulations are in place on virtually all flights everywhere now, including the PRC. That means you will be buying new toiletries every time you fly. I assume you are flying between Beijing and Xian and them from Xian to Shanghai, etc. I don't know why you would want to spend time in drugstores looking for the items, only to then have to throw everything out each time you leave a city. While your hotel will most likely have shampoo and conditioner and perhaps body cream, it won't have toothpaste, shaving cream, anti-perspirant, hairspray, sunscreen, night cream, baby oil and I don't know what other myriad of things you may use which contain liquids or gels, including cosmetics (i.e., a good face cream and liquid foundation). Also, most items you are looking for won't be labeled in English, and more than likely won't be brands you are used to. You may spend more time looking for anti-perspirant than you really want to. (Small point, anti-perispirant is actually hard to find here, there is deodorant which does not actually do quite the same, to find an anti-perispirant takes some looking and you often have to buy men's brands like Addidas in my experience.) Razors, nail clippers, fingernail scissors also can't be packed in your carry on.

Your luggage won't be lost or broken into, if that is your concern. I don't know what shoes you are planning to wear with the black jeans and "dressy" top, so its hard to say whether that would work for a nice restaurant. The nicer restaurants in Shanghai, Beijing and here in Hong Kong can be quite dressy, esp something like Jean Georges in Shanghai or Felix, Caprice, Nobu, etc here in Hong Kong. You don't need a dress or anything, but if you are going to wear jeans, you certainly need some dressy shoes with that. And then there goes your one 22 inch suitcase as you can't tour the Forbidden City in your Jimmy Choos.... I also think you may encounter cooler weather in Beijing and Shanghai than you may be prepared for, take a look at I also don't understand why anyone would want to travel for 3 weeks with the same few clothes but that is another issue.

Chinatourguide Sep 28th, 2007 04:53 AM

My suggestion is : less clothes , less luggage, more better since you can buy everything in China . Also jeans are ok for good restaurant.

Just go ahead to enjoy your trip!

iamles Sep 28th, 2007 06:19 PM

I really appreciate all the replies and questions, too.

To clarify, I will be traveling independently. When I've gone on an organized tour, suitcase size is not a concern - put your luggage outside your hotel room door and you don't have to handle it. Since we will be handling our own luggage, I thought that it would be much easier to have a small suitcase (wheels) and a bag for camera, mecine. So now I am rethinking this plan. I'm undecided.

I guess that I use to be more concerned about being "fashionable" when I travel. I manage to look "presentable" but do not try and replicate how I dress at home while I'm away.

I just flew domestic in the states and some rules have changed. Nail clippers are allowed. Toothpase comes in travel sizes. Solid stick deoderant does not have to fit in a quart size bag. Speaking of those bags, they can hold quite a bit.

iamles Sep 28th, 2007 06:34 PM

Oops! While editing and fixing typos I accidentally submitted the post above. Here is how it should read...

I really appreciate all the replies and questions, too.

To clarify, I will be traveling independently. When I've gone on an organized tour, suitcase size is not a concern - put your luggage outside your hotel room door and you don't have to handle it. Since we will be handling our own luggage, I thought that it would be much easier to have a small suitcase (wheels) and a bag for camera, medicines, cosmetics, etc. So now I am rethinking this plan. I'm undecided.

I guess that I use to be more concerned about being "fashionable" when I travel. I manage to look "presentable" but do not try and replicate how I dress at home while I'm away.

I just flew domestic in the states and some rules have changed. Nail clippers are allowed. Toothpase comes in travel sizes. Solid stick deoderant does not have to fit in a quart size bag. Speaking of those bags, they can hold quite a bit. None of my cosmetics are liquid, including my foundation. Only my mascara has to go in the plastic quart bag.

Once again, thanks for the comments.

rhkkmk Sep 28th, 2007 07:25 PM

this is all true, but have you been on an overseas flight recently....putting things in the overhead can be a real problem...often there is not enough room....or if the ground staff feels your suitcase is too big or you have it and the rollie, they may take it from you and there may be things in there that cannot be checked safely...

for these reasons i try to limit what i carry on and put as much in checked luggage as possible...

Cicerone Sep 29th, 2007 02:52 AM

Well, I have always traveled independently, and always bring at least two large suitcases (and often three), and never have had a problem, either in Asia or in Europe where I lived and traveled by train extensively and often by myself. (OK there I use two duffel bags which can be thrown from a train onto the platform and vice versa.) Pulling them off the baggage carousel is the worst 3 minutes of any trip, after that its easy, more so in Asia, where service standards are very high in hotels, train stations, etc.

In hotels, they have these human beings called bellboys who will come to your room and take your bags downstairs and/or to your waiting taxi and they don't charge anything (you are supposed to tip them, but really in Asia don't tip very much). Even better, there are FREE luggage carts in every airport in Asia (unlike the US which to the best of my knowledge is the only country in the world which charges for them), and you can take the luggage carts right to a taxi, bus or train and in some cases, like Hong Kong onto the train to drop off your luggage (and you will find them outside the front doors of the airports to take them inside with you for check-in). There are also porters in airports and train stations in China should you need them. You have to tip them, but again, not a lot and well worth it.

Rules in Asia about what you can bring on board are pretty strict and changing all the time, I would not assume that they will be the same as the US. They will also be different from airport to airport.

The ability to pack light is a skill admired only by the possessor IMO, not by his travel companions who have to see him in the same shirt for 3 weeks...

I also don't know what you are planning to do with stuff that you buy on the trip, at some point you won't be able to fit everything into one suitcase, and anything fragile of course you won't want to check.

Nutella Sep 30th, 2007 05:30 AM

I'm about to start packing for a 2.5 week independent trip too, and I'll be checking a carry-on size roll-aboard, and carrying on a maximum carry-on size shoulder bag.

While I'm of the same mind as Cicerone regarding toiletries - 3 weeks worth of contact lens solution and toothpaste is reason alone to check a bag - I only travel with what I can carry myself. I don't always stay in hotels that have porters or elevators, and I've rushed to catch a train at the stazione dragging a huge suitcase down and up the stairs of the sottopassaggio enough times that I've finally learned my lesson.

The only reason I need a big shoulder bag is for my photo related gear, otherwise a small tote or day pack carrying my necessities, flight comfort items and other non-checkables would work. My clothes are taking up the least amount of space of all I'm packing. Since I'll be doing a good deal of hiking - great wall, Huangshan, etc - I've decided on two pairs of convertible pants, which are actually rather contemporary looking and won't look out of place in the city and are easy to wash and dry in the hotel sink, paired with several long sleeve crews, and one or two pairs of jeans, which I can dress up with the only other pair of shoes I'm bringing aside from my hikers and a couple of nice tops. I see this as a casual trip and from past travel experience of returning home with unworn clothes, this should serve me well. And besides, most of the time my repeating outfits will be hidden by my rather stylish outer jacket :)

So, bottom line, I think the 22 inch suitcase is perfectly doable for this trip, good luck!

TC Sep 30th, 2007 11:45 AM

I did find while spending three weeks in China that laundry is quite easy and cheap to have done. In addition, I would never pack jeans of any color for a trip like this when space and weight are so precious. There are so many other choices for travel pants that take up far less room and would do double duty for casual or dress.

iamles Sep 30th, 2007 01:25 PM

Many thanks to rhkkmk, Marija, Cicerone, Susan, Nutella, TC and in advance to any others who may reply.

I have weighed the pros and cons and decided to take a medium size suitcase to check.

As for taking jeans, at one time I was of the same mindset as you, TC. Only on a recent trip to Peru did I revert back to including them. By layering and rolling and using spacesaver bags, it isn't an issue for me, although I know that many agree with you.

Nutella, you brought back a memory of many years ago when my husband and I, with baby under one arm and with luggage in tow, ran to catch a train, up and down stairs in the Stockholm train station. It amuses me now but it did not at the time. I am looking at this trip as one which for the most part requires casual clothing. For special restaurants in Shanghai and HK, I have no doubt that a few packable, dressier tops which coordinate with either black jeans or black pants will be appropriate.

Cicerone- I have benefited from your many contributions to this forum. You are so well informed and generous with your time in participating as often as you do. I must say, however, that your traveling style is quite different from mine. I can't imagine ever traveling with 2 or 3 large suitcases unless it was for a trip which my appearance was the focus. No, even then, I would manage with far less and I believe still be well dressed. BTW, I have used luggage carts when they were not FREE, as well as tipped porters and bellboys to assist me. I am not a backpacker. I work in the fashion industry. I have found that assistance is not always available at the moment it is needed. Bottom line, I simply prefer to travel comfortably, with comfortable clothes and especially with comfortable shoes.

Nutella Oct 1st, 2007 03:21 AM

Iamles, I had totally convinced myself about my packing, hence my small suitcase diatribe, but now that I hear you're taking the medium suitcase you've got me doubting myself LOL.
Would you mind sharing your ideas of what you'll be packing? ;)

iamles Oct 1st, 2007 04:00 PM


Here are my ideas so far: 4 short sleeve tees, 1 tank, 1 camisole, 3 long sleeve tees, 2 turtleneck sweaters(thin, ribbed knit), 2 jeans(1 black, 1 blue), 1 capris, 1 nice black pants in travel fabric to wear with 3 dressier tops also made in a travel fabric. Shoes: walking shoes, teva sandles and nice black shoes. My outerware is a water repellent black jacket (I wear it on the plane). Everything is lightweight and can be layered. I always take a pretty scarf to dress up a plain top or turtleneck.

Don't hold me to this EXACTLY :-), but it will be pretty close. On the overseas flight I wear black sporty travel pants with matching jacket. It's very comfortable, and dries quickly if it gets a spot or spill.


Kristina Oct 1st, 2007 04:26 PM

Wow, I'm shocked at how much luggage some people say they bring on this board! Over on the Europe board it's ALL about traveling light, "carry-on only". You'd get flamed if you said you traveled with two or three large suitcases! :-)

Personally, I think you could do the 3 weeks in a 22" plus small bag, given what you said you'd pack. If you wanted to check it, you could, if not, then it can go with you on the plane. Better to be able to carry everything yourself than be beholden to porters, etc. Yes, you'll have to have laundry done. But I'd rather do that than carry around two suitcases, including one filled with just dirty clothes for the last week of my trip.

I've done similar trips, carry on only and I consider myself fairly fashionable. I'm also able to fit all liquid toiletries I'll need in a 1 qt bag. I really don't understand Cicerone's comments about having to throw everything away before every flight. I can find sample sizes of just about everything I use and it's plenty for a few weeks.

For my next trip (to Thailand and Cambodia) I'll have to check my 22" bag, but that's because Thai air has stingy carry-on allowances. I'll still bring the same amount, whether I carry on or check.

As for jeans, I always bring them to Europe. Not to south east asia however, just too hot to wear them there. If it's going to be cold in China, I'd bring them.

Nutella Oct 2nd, 2007 03:22 AM

Les, thanks for your response. I see you're only a week ahead of me, but will be staying in some warmer climates (Yangshou) - but I've got a similar list, minus the capris and sandals. I'll be visiting the upper reaches of Yunnan, so I'm bringing my down puffer jacket and gloves and hand warmers, and am basically dressing more for winter. Wishful thinking, maybe, as I live in Miami and can't wait to wear cold weather clothes, even if I sweat in them! But you've made me think that I should also bring a lightweight jacket too. I also have the thin ribbed turtlenecks - I had thought they'd serve as my evening wear, but on second thought maybe I'll bring one other nicer top. Dare I admit, on the plane I'll be wearing the dreaded Juicy velour tracksuit - soooooo comfy, sorry to whomever I offend LOL! Packing for multi-climate travel is a gamble, decisions decisions. I've got my small and medium suitcases laid out on the floor - I probably won't know for sure until 5 minutes before I leave for the airport :)

Kristina, I'm with you about trying to pack light, but if someone wants to bring their entire wardrobe, this is a flame-free zone... unless of course they expect me to help them carry it ;)

iamles Oct 2nd, 2007 03:01 PM

Nutella, we're almost neighbors. I live an hour north of Miami!

I also wear the turtlenecks in the evening, sometimes dressing them up with a scarf.

Kristina, I'm with you- you can find travel sizes of almost everthing these days. BTW, have great trip to Thailand and Cambodia. I certainly agree about not bringing jeans to southeast Asia. For that climate I brought lightweight only.

For me, packing well is an ongoing learning experience. I'll just have to keep on travelling to keep getting better at it... ;-)

Shanghainese Oct 3rd, 2007 10:28 AM

iamles -- your packing list is very sensible, just a tip for October you might not need turtlenecks, the scarf over a nice long sleeve crew will do. I leave 2 weeks after you and I usually bring 2 cotton twinsets. Btw, what kind of dressier tops in travel fabric do you bring?

Nutella and I are GTG in Shanghai on 11/3, sorry to miss you.

Nutella -- Perhaps a wool/cashmere turtleneck with a lightweight warm cardigan, and leg warmers? Not sure of you lugging that puffy jacket, if you don't feel funny about it, they rent long down coats in Lijiang to go up the Jade Dragon snow mountains.

Shanghainese Oct 3rd, 2007 04:17 PM

Oops, the Fodor's GTG is 11/2 (I have another GTG on 11/3).

iamles Oct 3rd, 2007 07:07 PM

Shanghainese- the dressier tops that I'll bring are from Chico's. Are you familiar with this store? I'll take your suggestion and compromise by taking 1 turtleneck, just in case.

I am disappointed that we'll miss the GTG in Shanghai. :-(

Nutella- maybe we can have an after China GTG in south Florida. :-)

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