Preparation for 3 weeks in China and Japan

Now where are they going?

Here is the very basic itinerary overview:

Guangzhou – 5 days
Hong Kong – 3 days
Kansai Region, Japan (Osaka/Kyoto) – 10 days
Guanzhou – 3 days

The primary objective of this trip is to attend a wedding in Hong Kong. However, the wedding is only a day. Once the wedding is over, we are using geography to our advantage as an opportunity to travel to Japan.

Traveling light

When the wife and I have traveled to China in the past (her family is from Guangzhou), we normally stay for about 3 weeks. It’s a long (and expensive) flight and we try to get the most out of it. Plus we are going in October which is probably the best time of year to travel in China and Japan.

One caveat: we are traveling on budget airlines while we are in Asia, so we will not take any checked bags (unless we pay unreasonably high bag fees). Challenge accepted!

Worst case scenario: our bags will eat into our budget if we have too much stuff and are forced to check bags. Unsurprisingly, our goal is to travel with only carry-on bags while we are in Asia. However traveling light can make things easier; assuming you ensure you have everything you need. Also, this will be more of a “traditional” trip so we won’t be camping in a tent anywhere. Therefore we will not be weighed down with camping gear.

The essentials for international travel

Boxes shipped to China
Maximizing our checked luggage to China at the Guangzhou airport

Below is our abbreviated packing list. We are flying from Washington DC via Beijing to Guangzhou, China. Most of our checked bags (and boxes) will be filled with items that the wife’s family is shipping back to China. No problem! That just encourages us to pack light from the beginning.

Packing List

Travel Documents

  • Passport
  • Itinerary
  • Tickets (planes, trains, etc.)
  • Maps/locations of hotels and sites to see

Little Things

Yep, I’m starting with the small stuff. It’s the little things in life that make the difference, isn’t it?

For a lightweight pack, this list shouldn’t be long. A lot of this stuff you can pick up at your destination if you forget, but things that come to mind are:

  • ziploc bags
  • packable daypack
  • some snacks
  • water bottle
  • travel tissue packs
  • wet wipes/hand sanitizer
  • concentrated soap (for showering or laundry)
  • carabineer(s)


  • Clothes (duh!): For international travel (not backpacking), 5 sets of clothes is probably the maximum to be considered lightweight. I like to pack some “multi-purpose” clothes, such as a polo shirt that you can wear to hike or walk around town in. But it can double as semi-formal attire if you need it. It’s good to have something that doubles as sleepwear too.
    • Rain layer: At least bring a rain jacket. I am packing waterproof pants as well, but probably not needed. We are visiting a monsoon climate, but the rainy season should be over while we are there.
    • Sun stuff: Sun hat or baseball cap, and sunglasses. The sun hat can make you look like a tourist depending on where you are going, but near the tropics, the sun is intense. Sunscreen of course if you are going to be outside a lot.


Here is where you can save a lot of weight. I give myself all of the space of a quart-size Ziploc and fill it with:

  • toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • deodorant
  • basic first aid (e.g. tweezers and antibiotic gel)
  • travel size soap/shampoo (concentrated soap is good to have to wash clothes on the road too)

On the other hand, I am a guy so it’s easier to get away with minimalism here. The wife has a slightly larger packing list in this department, so a couple of years ago I purchased a wallaby toiletry organizer from Eagle Creek for her. It is very versatile and convenient for security at the airport (there is a removable transparent portion for liquids). They have a hook to hang it up, a mirror, multiple pockets, and it packs nicely. She takes it every time she packs a suitcase now. Highly recommended!


Combination wall outlet in China
Many newer buildings in China have multiple outlet types (in this picture: A, C, and I), including the familiar Type A used in the US
  • International power converter: Check the outlet and voltages for the country you are visiting before you go! Sometimes you will get lucky and certain establishments will cater to westerners with multiple outlet types. But one shouldn’t expect this, so it’s best to bring an adapter. We got our power converter set also from Eagle Creek. We purchased it for our first international trip and it is still working well after many trips. Our set has plug adapters for the 5 major outlet types and and the voltage converter in separate pieces; although I have seen a set from Swissgear recently with a universal converter that is only one piece. In a more technologically advanced country like Japan, you can probably get by with just a USB plug and no converter, but better safe than sorry.
Outlet shapes and sizes, Japan and China use different types so the adapters are good to have – credit:
  • External battery/portable charger: This is more of a luxury item. However in my case, with a phone, tablet, and cameras, it is a good idea to have a little reserve power when you need it. Five years ago, I would have left this off the list completely. But now there are small, lightweight batteries that can charge a phone several times over that the cost-benefit ratio is too good to pass up. They range in price ($20-$100) and size depending on what you need to charge. The larger battery that I have from Anker can charge a phone fully about 6 times and can charge two devices simultaneously. External batteries are allowed on airplanes (at least in the US) up to 27,000 mAh and should be packed in your carry-on bag.

And they’re off

OK, time to go. This is just about everything I packed. Did I forget something? Probably. But I have everything I need, especially when traveling light.

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