Once my Chinese visa was in hand I started making trip preparations. There were fewer details since my husband wasn’t going and all sight-seeing was included. But I still needed to make airport transportation arrangements and get everything on my packing list.
The challenge when booking the trip was how to get back and forth from Los Angeles International airport. I thought about driving, but the traffic and parking prices discouraged that solution. No sane friend or family member would want to drive back and forth — twice. Flying from San Diego would be even more expensive as was shuttles.
What I ended up doing was taking the train. Although the Metro runs to Union Station, I booked Amtrak round trip.
Since the Saturday morning train wouldn’t get me to the airport early enough, I needed to go up Friday afternoon or evening. I also decided to return the morning after my flight back to the States as navigating the train the day before Thanksgiving after a red-eye didn’t seem wise.
I used Hilton Honors points to book a room the night before my flight to China and the night after.
I searched the internet for China packing lists as well as got helpful information from TripAdvisor threads. Unusual items on my list included
- Face masks (for pollution)
- Toilet paper
- Pepto-bismol and Imodium
- Baby wipes
Then there were things more typical including cold medicine, outlet adapters, and snacks. Because I was going in late Fall, I also needed winter clothing. Being a San Diegan I knew I needed to beef up my wardrobe for outdoor touring in the cold. I bought a winter coat, wool socks and electronics sensor gloves from LL Bean.
Since getting laundry done might be difficult and I was limited to one suitcase, I also bought clothes I could wash and would dry in my room. This included several pairs of ExOfficio travel underwear and hiking pants from LL Bean. My wool socks were also quick-dry.
Items I took that were originally bought for our Italy trip included the footrest, packing cubes and money belt.
Many people exchanged their US dollars for Yuan at the hotels. I decided to just order enough for the trip from my bank. This way, I didn’t worry about my USD being in perfect condition or other things that could go wrong.
I exchanged $300 USD and had 7 Yuan left when boarding my return flight. If you like to shop, I recommend taking more money as a couple of ladies ran out of cash (US and Chinese).
One of the last purchases before leaving was for medical travel insurance. I wasn’t worried about losing the cost of my tour as much as needing an emergency medical evacuation and ending up owing someone thousands.
The policy I ended up with was from Blue Cross with very good coverage for just $33. I compared options and bought it via InsureMyTrip.com. Fortunately, it was not needed but I was able to travel with piece of mind.
Some of the people on my tour didn’t know that Facebook and Google were blocked in China and were not happy to be out of touch with family. (I was surprised at their lack of research!) I knew I was going to need a VPN app and account but didn’t have any experience with them.
After googling VPN for China, I ended up with a few solid recommendations and choose to go with Express VPN. It was $12.50 for one month and I had it set up on both my iPhone and iPad before leaving home. It worked beautifully and I recommend this company with no hesitation.
After all the preparations were complete, I was ready to go. Next up will be my travel to China.
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