This is a list of what I packed, with changes made based upon my experience. I was in Kazakhstan from the last few days of March through the first week of May, 6 weeks. I saw snow three times, and days into the 70's. In Moscow it was snowing, windy, and cold. So in other words, unless you are traveling in the summer or the dead of winter, be prepared for anything. The summer hints is a combination of personal travel experience and recommendations from other adoptive parents.
Should you take hard or soft side luggage? They each have their advantages and disadvantages. Hard side luggage is heavy, but it protects the contents better and is easier to secure with locks and duct tape. Soft luggage and duffel bags are very light and expandable, but they are easier to break into by cutting material or zippers. Either way, wheels are great for navigating through airports and hallways.
A few hints about packing:
- Distribute everyone's clothes among the suitcases, so that if a piece of luggage does not arrive everyone will still have something.
- Roll clothes to decrease the space taken and to decrease wrinkling.
- Use plastic bags (food type such as ziploc) or specially made bags that you roll to get the air out: Pack-It Compressor Set (1 medium and 1 large ); also comes in jumbo .
- There are storage type bags that you use a vacuum to get the air out, but you would need access to a vacuum.
- The best alternative for shirts is a packing envelope made by Eagle Creek: the Pack-It 15 Folder holds up to 6 shirts and fits in a briefcase (15x10), the Pack-It 18 Folder holds 8-12 shirts, blouses, pants (18x12), and the Pack-It 20 Folder holds larger items such as dresses, suits, coats, and sweaters (20x14). I have recently discovered these, and they really do significantly reduce wrinkling and use less space; my daugher and I use the 15 each, and my son and husband both use the 18, and they hold 1 week worth of clothes for us. There are other packing aids available, including mesh bags, liquid containers, and various sizes.
- Look for clothes that don't wrinkle. I crunch it in my hand to see how it wrinkles. Generally, synthetics wrinkle less than cotton. Magellan's and TravelSmith both offer excellent travel clothing.
- Use earrings and scarves to give you variety in your wardrobe.
- Pick 2 colors and have everything you take coordinate. For example, I took navy and black pants and the shirts I took all went with both colors.
- Take a pair of slippers. The floors are too dirty to run around in bare feet or socks.
- Dark colors show less dirt and you will blend in with the crowds a little better.
- They dress very nicely, you rarely see jeans and sneakers. Women were in short skirts and high heels, even when it was cold.
- If you live in the south, or are traveling out of season, try catalog/online shopping with stores such as Lands End, Campmor and Sierra Trading.
- The heat is controlled by the government. It is turned on in mid-September, and turned off in mid-April. The timing does not necessarily correspond with the temperature. Also, as I learned first hand, if there is a significant cold spell after the heat has been turned off, they will lower the natural gas pressure to keep people from using their stoves to heat their apartments.
- Skirts can be cooler than shorts, which may be frowned upon. Wear the shorts only in your room. Find out from your coordinator what is acceptable in the town where you are going.
- Try skorts and capri pants as an alternative to shorts.
- Microfiber materials are good for light weight clothes because wrinkles hang out and they are easy to hand wash.
- Materials such as seersucker really are cooler.
- Tencel fabric is a denim look-alike that is lighter and easier to pack.
- If you have room, pack a small fan.
- Several people have recommended taking stroller/crib or mosquito netting as there are no screens on the windows.
- Take a bathing suit in case there is a local community pool or one in your hotel.
- You can easily adapt the lists below for summer.
- Layer, layer, layer. Some public buildings can be very warm, so dress to take layers off as necessary.
- Lined wool is good for cold weather because it sheds stains and water; lining makes it less itchy.
- Polartec is warm, light weight, doesn't wrinkle, and compresses well.
- Waterproof boots are essential, as snow and slush are not regularly removed. They need a good tread for walking on ice.
The winter list for adults
- ☐ dress clothes for court: suit/tie (don't forget the belt) and dress shoes for men; nice dress for women. I wore wool pants and a dressy sweater and felt appropriate; others have felt underdressed.
- ☐ 2 pair wool, lined pants, navy and black
- ☐ 2 pair jeans, blue and black (I never wore the blue; make sure it is a darker blue and not "stonewashed")
- ☐ 5-6 shirts, go with either blue or black
- ☐ long underwear: I used "Cuddleduds" but silk also packs lightly
- ☐ sweats or polartec pants for your room
- ☐ 2 nice, dressy sweaters
- ☐ velour or light polartec shirt, good for layering
- ☐ 2 T-shirts
- ☐ PJs (I put this here because I actually forgot them!)
- ☐ 6 sets of underwear (cotton takes longer to dry, especially the socks)
- ☐ gloves, hat, scarf
- ☐ lighter weight jacket or sweater
- ☐ ankle, water-proof boots, black
- ☐ sneakers (I should have taken a different pair of casual shoes). Put in Shoe Bags (two pair) to protect your clothes.
- ☐ london fog style coat with liner
- A lot depends upon how long you will have custody of your children. The longer it is, the more tiresome doing laundry becomes and the more variety you wish you had.
- You can find children's clothes and shoes over there; the quality won't be as good, but you need it for only a short time.
- You should take at least 1 outfit (or more in a variety of sizes if needed) so that you are not caught without anything.
- Children's sizes are no more uniform than women's sizes. If possible, go by weight and height. I have links to charts on the FAQ page.
- ☐ 5-6 PJs
- ☐ 5-6 outfits or separates
- ☐ for infants and young toddlers: 5-6 play type outfits (onesies) are easier to wash (I didn't take these and wish I had.)
- ☐ shoes for older infants and up
- ☐ socks, tights, underwear
- ☐ hats: beware of the "hat police babushkas" and always have a hat on your child. Baseball hats don't count. I took both the infant style knit cap and a polartec one.
- ☐ gloves and jacket/sweater as age appropriate (even in summer you should have a jacket)
- ☐ bunting, snow suit, snow boots
- ☐ for infants and toddlers: blankets in varying weights. I took 1 standard receiving blanket, a waffle design, and a polartec. I was able to layer them depending upon the temperature.
- ☐ plastic pants to prevent diaper leaks; take on plane to prevent bad mishaps
- ☐ bathing suit, swim diapers
- ☐ 2-3 T-shirts
- ☐ take two or more changes of clothes with you on the plane; in case of accidents you want to have a spare outfit.