Sheila at the Forbidden City, Beijing, ChinaEven after a lot of years as a traveler, there are still plenty of times when I stop during a trip and think, “Gosh, why didn’t I bring *XYZ* with me?”

My recent trip to Beijing and Shanghai for the China 2.0 blogger’s tour was no exception.

For your own trip planning reference, here’s the gear I forgot:

  • Eyeglasses prescription. Did you know that you can have high-quality eyeglasses made while you’re in China, for a fraction of US “Pearle Vision prices?”  I normally wear contacts, so forgot to pack my written glasses prescription, and in Shanghai I could have gone bananas getting US$20 glasses, including prescription sunglasses.
  • Web-enabled phone.  I’m almost ready to jump in and get a smartphone (I’m a T-Mobile customer lying in wait for the next Android phone) but seeing my travel companions effortlessly emailing, uploading photos to Facebook, etc. on their Web-enabled phones gave me major Shiny Object Envy. The iPhones were all jailbroken, however, like millions of others already operating in China.
  • Small gifts from home, for people I met. Nothing fancy, but I wish I’d brought a bunch of something small, flat and packable as a presento – a little gift with a unique US or Texas flavor.
  • Snail mail addresses for postcards.  I’ve gotten out of the habit of sending postcards from other countries, so I was lazy about bringing enough addresses from family and friends (don’t lug an address book; just write ‘em all on one sheet of paper and tuck it in somewhere.) Finding local stamps and post offices is half the fun.
  • Small radio. I have one with AM, FM and shortwave, and there are lots of great ones for travelers. Why didn’t I bring mine and see what interesting local tunes the antenna could pull in? Duh.
  • My photo on my business cards.  I met so many folks in China, and often wished that their business card had a small photo so I could remember them better. That made me think, why doesn’t MY card have my face on it? Using photos of me traveling in various places (uploaded from my computer) I recently ordered exactly that from the UK-based Moo.com printing company. Love ‘em.
  • Tampons.  Let’s just say that the Chinese don’t seem to be into tampons down at the corner Watson’s drugstore chain, and I WAY prefer them over bulky pads, which were very easy to find.
  • Energy bars.  I’m a breakfast gal, but a couple of times, breakfast was not easily available other than paying big bucks for the hotel spread.  There were mornings when I didn’t know any locals to help me find a good place nearby, so I wish I’d brought more Power Bars.

What am I glad I brought? An inflatable neck pillow for the plane, Immodium anti-diarrheal (didn’t need it but always feel safer having it) and Oral-B Brush-ups for getting that icky feeling out of my mouth after a flight.

What did I not have to worry about? Most electronics are dual-voltage up to 240 volts, and I only occasionally needed a plug adaptor (which I’d brought.)  My camera, phone and laptop etc. all plugged in and juiced up every night without any problems.

China and Asia travelers, what are your best tips for handy-to-have gear?

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