Adopting from Russia - What To Pack - General
Pack lightly! This is repeated over and over again by folks when they come home. Many disposables can be bought in Moscow or the city you will be traveling to.
Distribute everybody's clothes into all suitcases so that if one suitcase doesn't arrive, no one person will be without clothes.
Money Your agency will tell you how much you will have to pay your facilitator the day you arrive in Russia. It will be a few thousand dollars. In addition to that, you will need cash to convert to rubles to pay for just about everything outside of Moscow. You need almost all the money to be in brand new $100 bills, with a small amount in $20s and even less in $10s, $5s and $1s. You will need to call your bank and let them know you need brand new bills. You will need passport/money carriers to be worn inside your clothing and/or a fanny pack. Airport security will make you take off the fanny pack but not anything worn inside your clothes. [5/97] We got rubles before we left, with difficulty. [11/98] We didn't bring any rubles; instead the facilitator took us to a money changer.
Bring a few crisp $1 bills for the coke machine at the US Embassy in Moscow. The machines only take dollar bills and the Embassy workers don't make change. Small bills can also be used for tipping at the airport in Moscow.  The new procedures are so fast, some say they don't have time to buy a coke at the embassy.
Credit cards We have one report of MasterCard not being accepted. Bring a Visa card for charging your Moscow hotel. Make sure to call your credit card company and tell them you are going to Russia. otherwise they might think your card is being used fraudulently and decline your charges.
Shoes for the child You must bring shoes for the child, no matter what the age. Otherwise you will offend Russian sensibilities. Since adoptions through most agencies and in most regions require a trip where you meet and accept a referral and a second trip where you adopt and take custody of the child, you can make outlines of the child's feet during the first trip to have an idea what size shoes you will need.
Extra clothes for the child In case you have the child for more days than you expected.
'Appropriate' winter clothing Again, in order to not offend Russian sensibilities, you must bring clothing that the Russians deem appropriate. They will scrutinize what you are wearing and what you bring for the child. If you live in the South or it isn't winter when you're buying the clothes, use mail order places like LL Bean or Eddie Bauer. [11/98] We never stopped hearing about how worried the Russians were about how Texans dressed their children!!
A good book to read.
A journal and camera to record your trip(s) for your kids to see and read about in the future.
Dark clothes When in Moscow, do as the Muscovites do. If you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, wear dark clothes. You can't go wrong with black or dark gray. Other dark colors are pushing the envelope. Even in the summer. If you wear a light colored shirt, wear a dark sweater over it. Blue jeans don't count as dark clothes!
That being said, a number of people have said they were dying to put on a comfortable pair of jeans by the end of the trip and didn't care if people noticed. Also, a few people report that jeans are fine in Moscow.
Dress clothes for court A suit or good dress. As a volunteer put it,
"I was surprised to find how well most Russian women dress. They take great pride in looking their best. The first time we traveled, we took casual clothes. I was embarassed that I didn't have something more presentable to wear in Moscow, especially at the Bolshoi.
"Don't be stingy with gifts, and take some nice looking clothes. Remember that you are an ambassador from your country and we (Americans) already have a pretty bad reputation out there for being slobs."
A day's worth of food Depending on your facilitator, you may drive around town from one office to another all day - without stopping to eat. Therefore you will want to bring enough food and water to make it through the day. For example, the last time we went to Yaroslavl, we arrived in Moscow, left the next morning at 5:30AM and checked into our hotel at 7PM without ever having stopped to eat. Only bring enough water to get from the airplane to the hotel - you can buy it anywhere. Pick some up soon after your arrival.
Sweet-n-low or your artificial sweetner of choice if you must have it.
Freeze-dried food, snacks Again, depending on your facilitator, you may be running around until mid evening and not feel like venturing out to eat when returning to or checking into your hotel. Also, if you already have your child, waiting at a restaurant may not desirable. It is very convenient to have everything you need with you and eat in your hotel room. Don't bring water - you can buy it anywhere. You can share these foods with toddlers and older kids.
Antibiotics for yourself, so you can self medicate if you get sick. When you have your physical, ask your doctor to write you a prescription. We took Cipro.
Hand lotion, sanitizer
Scabies cream If your child has it, you can begin treatment immediately.
Winter clothes Russian winter is colder than in most places in the US. Although it was admittedly a cold spell [in 11/98], the Russians laughed when we told them that -15F at night and 10F during the day is as cold as it ever gets in Eastern Massachusetts. Cars and hotel rooms are not heated to levels we found comfortable. Make sure to bring boots and coats that are rated for the temperatures you may encounter.
Electric fan in summer For your hotel room.
Sunscreen in summer.
Insect repellent in the summer.
Pot for boiling water / heating room in winter.
Voltage converter This one is the lowest cost I have found ($21.99). It looks just like the one we bought. Make sure to get one that can put out 1600W for your hot pot.
Woolite, Bungee cord clothesline
Bath towels Russian hotel bath towels are miniscule. You can always ask for more or bring your own. Some folks have suggested giving away bath towels that you bring as gifts.
Kids' water wings or other inflatable swimming aids, if you will be staying in a hotel with a pool.
Stopper if you want to use the tub as a bath or wash clothes in the sink. Since you can't know what size in advance, bring a flat stopper that will cover the top of the drain.
Zip lock bags to hold things, keep sippy cups from leaking all over the place, store clothes that get poop on them.
If you will be traveling on an overnight train (which you will know by looking up the city you're traveling to on the Cities page), bring sheets to put on the mattress, toilet paper, soap and food.
Gifts This varies a lot, depending on the facilitator. Some facilitators give detailed instructions on what to bring, ranging from cosmetics to fax machines and leather briefcases. Some facilitators take care of the gifts themselves and you won't be encouraged to bring anything. Some people recommend buying orphanage gifts in Russia. But, it is a good idea to bring some gifts for the facilitator, driver and hotel staff. The facilitators seem to be women and the drivers men. We have given cosmetics, American liquor and money. A suggestion for homestays is to bring bath towels.
A volunteer to Adopting from Russia put it very well: "Although it seems like graft to Americans, everything in Russia is done not only by who you know, but by what he/she has done for you lately. This often takes the form of "gifts" which look suspiciously like bribes to us, but are just part of the Russian way of life. When you go to Russia and see how the people live, you begin to realize that the gifts you bring may not have a great dollar value, especially to those of us who have so much stuff, but they mean a great deal to the recipients who lead fairly meager lives compared to ours. In retrospect, I wish that we had taken more gifts, especially for the people who were really helpful to us, and for the people at the orphanages who took care of our children."
You may hear suggestions to bring medicines or clothes. The problems with buying these items are: the labels are in the wrong languages. The medications may be unfamiliar to the staff. The clothes may be completely out of style or otherwise deemed inappropriate. If you want to or are instructed to give medicines or clothes, plan on buying them in Russia.
Don't bring candles or anything made in China as a gift.
Post cards of where you're from in the US to give away as gifts.
Evacuation Insurance This supposedly gets you out of the country in case of an accident or other emergency. We used International SOS Assistance and don't have any idea how well their service works, because we never used it.
International SOS Assistance, Inc.
[7/99] We have heard that some companies providing this type of insurance coverage have stopped writing policies for Russia because of current events.
Pictures of any kids you have, especially any adopted from Russia, again to give away as gifts. Your Education Ministry and hospital officials may be especially appreciative.
Children you already have - people seem to be divided about 50/50 on whether to take a child or children from your family with you. In the two trip system, bringing a child on the second trip (the court date) can make your new child's transition easier.
Address book with phone numbers of tour agency, the embassy. Email addresses of family, your adoption pediatrician, etc.
Repeat after me: Pack Lightly! If you can't carry your suitcase(s) around the block, take things out until you can.