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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. :-)

lynclarke Oct 4th, 2007 04:48 AM

iamles-We are planning a China trip next Sep. My husband and I usually pack a 22" suitcase and a backpack each for all our stuff. We have learned from European trips that it is best to be independantly mobile. BUT, we are definitely not fashion minded and if you work in the business then you have a different standard to maintain, especially if you are meeting with other people in the business. I love Chico's clothes and I have also picked up a couple of pieces of Mirasol. One of the Mirasol jackets is reversible and much warmer than it appears. Both companies make clothes which pack beautifully. We will probably pack only zip off/ convertible pants because we are only going to Beijing, Xian, and Yangshuo. It sounds like you have a good packing plan. Please come back to the boards after your trip and tell us how your clothing choices worked. I am wondering if we need to pack a fleece and a rain jacket to overnight near the Great Wall. Have a great trip.

Cicerone Oct 4th, 2007 05:34 AM

I don't know how you people do it. I have 7 books in one of my suitcases for the trip I am leaving for tomorrow. This is for a 2 week trip. Reading on planes and in the evening is one of my true pleasures, and more so on holiday when I can relax by a pool with a book, or while waiting in airports or on long train trips. And in some places it's hard to find good ones so I don't want to be left high and dry. (Airport bookstores can be a wasteland). OK, perhaps the 600 pages Pepys diary is not completely necessary for this trip, but I haven't read it since I was in my 20s and I saw it in a bookstore in Bangalore last week for US$3.50 and could not resist.

Then I have hiking boots and hiking pole, and then hiking clothes for going to various altitudes on various hikes. Scuba and snorkel gear, sneakers and workout stuff. That's a pretty typical vacation for me, and even for business trips I often bring some of it along just in case I get time at the end. No way could I get all that in a carry-on, nor would I want to. I really don't worry about what to wear to dinner so much. But I do need room for when I hit an Indian book store (last week: 12 books; prices are so good).

Nutella Oct 4th, 2007 05:39 AM

Shanghainese, I've been debating the down jacket as I know it will be overkill for half my trip. But I've been reading reports that Lijiang and Zhongdian are pretty cool this time of year, especially in the very early morning and after dark, when I'm likely to be out with my camera. But I do realize I'll be carrying it during the day. I suppose I can always buy something else cheap when I'm there. As for the turtlenecks, I'm afraid that those two are the only sweaters I own! They're very lightweight and silk blend knit, so I think they'll be okay. Oh, I think Jade Dragon Mountain is out, after seeing Anthony Bourdain's program where his brain nearly exploded from the altitude!

Les, yes, a FL GTG would be great!

Shanghainese Oct 4th, 2007 09:12 AM

iamles -- Yes, we have Chico stores in northern California and a City of Chico too. Btw, if you come to San Francisco, please post on the California board, there are GTGs whenever an out-of-town Fodorite visits and calls for one.

Nutella -- I didn't mean for you not to bring turtlenecks! Don't give up on JDM yet, you can rent waterbottle size oxygen canisters.

rkkwan Oct 4th, 2007 09:58 AM

There are different style of travel. No one is right and no one is wrong. Even for myself, on some trips I pack light, on others I pack more.

No need to criticize others how they travel. My 72-year old dad went to Germany in April with just a backpack. Would I do it? No. But it's his trip, his problem.

Anyways, the OP is only going to 6 places, and I don't think she's changing hotels everyday and need to carry everything she has everywhere she goes. And the places she's visiting has both good transportation as well as taxis/hired cars. So, she has lots of options - take more, take less, no big deal!

iamles Oct 4th, 2007 07:55 PM

rkkwan- what does OP stand for? I agree that everyone has different styles of travel. To each his own. I think that where you're going and what you'll be doing there also impacts what one might bring.

lynclarke- I googled Mirasol clothing and couldn't find any info.

Shanghainese- thanks for the invite. I love SF and it's been too long since I've been there

There are so many great things about this board. For me, one of the benefits is to be able to throw out a question, get different points of sometimes get confirmation and sometimes change my mind...

rkkwan Oct 4th, 2007 08:26 PM

OP = Original Poster (i.e. YOU), or Original Post (that post you wrote at the top).

janeos Oct 8th, 2007 02:52 PM

Of course you can take just a carry-on. My husband and I went to Australia and New Zealand for three weeks with a carry-on and tote each, and that included packing the hiking poles. OK, I wore the boots. I don't even own a larger suitcase. Layers is the answer. For plane; hi-performance black jacket with hood, weight depending on how cold it will be; black knit pants, long-sleeved knit shirt, cashmere v-neck. In suitcase: black jeans, black dress pants, short knit skirt black or navy; three T's, polyester sport fabric; three long-sleeved T's, same fabric; couple of cashmere sweaters, one of them black; two silk scarves; undies; nightie & robe; tights, socks (tights under pants if it's cold); toiletries & make-up; throw in a dressy top if there's room; and of course a couple of books.

janeos Oct 9th, 2007 06:04 AM

Forgot the shoes. Wear one pair Sesto Meucci walking shoes (very smart looking); pack another; plus one pair pretty ballet flats.

Nutella Oct 9th, 2007 06:56 AM

Time to be humble and eat my words... there's no possible way I can fit everything in my rollaboard! :( I did a packing test run over the weekend, and it looks like I'll be going with my medium sized suitcase. Not too many clothes, but add guidebooks, toiletries, doodads, tripod, etc, all combined they take up LOTS of room!

TC Oct 9th, 2007 08:57 AM

Regarding packing for cold (cooler) climates, I layer a black silk long sleeve tee (from the long underwear dept. of LL Bean)under a cotton tee + a very thin fleece (Fitness fleece zippered jacket - LL Bean)on top + my rain jacket if needed for wind or water. The three total take up hardly any room or weight and can be used together or separetly for any climate. I've found this to be the perfect travel combination.

As for "dressy", in warm climates I've found the best to be simple black capris (or skirt) + a black silky cami + fancy flip flops (from Target) and a pair of big glitzy earrings. If needed, I can add a lightweight silk shawl/scarf around my shoulders for a little more glamour and warmth without much packing weight or space.

Girlspytravel Oct 9th, 2007 12:02 PM

iamles-I'm not one of those who sees a benefit in packing light, and never have done it in decades of traveling around the world, as an independent traveler, and otherwise-I believe you're definitely making the right decision to check a suitcase-it's actually a lot less hassle than bringing a heavy carry-on and trying to find a space for it in the overhead, getting it on and off the plane, dragging it around an airport between gates, and or having to guard it while waiting in an airport, etc. I also like to have a variety of clothing when I travel-and I can't stand it if I don't have with me what I want. Last year, I spent 6 weeks on the road in Europe-and I had a 30" suitcase plus a smaller handbag tote, and I managed to get it on and off trains, buses, boats, ferries, vaporettos (Venice) cars, taxis, and airport baggage carrels without a problem-you'll get a lot more help in China with luggage than you will in Europe, that's a fact-and I'd rather be with, than without, on a trip.

And yes, black jeans with a dressy top will be just fine for nice restaurants-however, a pair of non-jean black pants could be packed as well.

lynclarke Oct 11th, 2007 04:16 AM

iamles- I buy Mirasol pieces at Macy's. I do not know if it is their brand or not. I found a black printed sleeveless blouse this week on clearance. YAY!! TC- I agree with your laying advice. I love Cuddleduds for a base layer in chilly areas. By the way, as a nurse, I pack a pretty extensive first aid kit and as a realistic, I pack a smoke detector! I have not found walking poles which will collapse to under 22" in my price range. (cheap) Any suggestions?

shangrila Oct 11th, 2007 11:05 AM

I realize that it is a little late for Les' trip to China... but some awesome products are available at they carry solid shampoo and cream rinse as well as body gel's.

Also powder toothpaste is available at most health food stores.

Shanghainese Oct 11th, 2007 11:38 AM

What type of knit pants (assuming elastic waistline) do you wear on the plane? Are they sweat pants, yoga pants? Please help.

TravelingGal Nov 6th, 2007 07:53 PM

The most comfortable traveling pants I have found are from the LLBean catalog..they come in black, are totally stretchy with elastic waist and the original ones have great deep pockets for an ID or some quick tip money. I use these pants for everything, including yoga, and new ones (not too washed out) could pass for dressy with a nice top. Also I use the silk LLBean top and bottoms underwear for extra warmth as needed.

I am enjoying this thread as I always pack too much and then promise myself I won't the next time. HaHa.

toobusytoday Nov 10th, 2007 08:30 PM

I've been reading this thread with interest and wondering what I'll be packing for our trip to China in April and then I got to the last post by Traveling Girl about LL Bean stretchy pants - I'm wearing them now! I like to wear them with a long sleeve tank and a fleece jacket for plane rides.

When my daughter left for China (she's there for a YEAR) she took a backpack, one 28" rolling suitcase and one 28" rolling duffle. She's pretty petite so I'm sure she will be buying things and then mailing things home next summer so she can get by with the same two bags on the return trip.

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