How to Plan a Family Trip to China

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Jun. 25, 2021

China is one of the most popular destinations for family travel. However, there are some important notes for a good family holiday, especially when you are traveling with kids. We have gathered some data and reviews from our previous customers, and the bullet points below are hoping to help you plan a nice China family holiday.

Choose the Right Time for Your Trip

When talking about the right time, it doesn’t necessarily mean the off-season that the price is comparatively low. Some factors are to be considered: China’s best travel time, travel cost, and your or your kids’ vacation period.

Late spring to autumn, April to October, is thought to be the best travel time in China. So is the peak tourism time and travel cost can go up abruptly. Meanwhile, most of the school vacations fall into that time spa. A list of pros and cons might help you make up your mind:

Pros to travel in peak season

Cons to travel in peak season:

To sum up, it is wise to take safety and convenience into a priority for families with babies or young kids. A family trip during off-season, say early October, would probably bring easier getting-around, better services, and a nicer experience. Families with kids above 12 can easily get around in China in either span.

Another side of the coin is that off-season is off for a reason. Whether it is due to extreme weather or spiritless vistas, some trips during certain times should be avoided. So it is worth checking a good guidebook or a local about your dream destinations’ “NOT TO GO” time.

Choose the Right Destinations for Your Kids

Where to go comes after you decide the time. For first-timers, Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, and Shanghai are among the must-go list. Chengdu, Lhasa, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Hong Kong are good for coming-back travelers.

Most of the aforementioned destinations are brimming with kid-friendly attractions and activities. In Beijing, besides the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Great Wall, you can take your kids for an informative visit at the museums or laze about on the grass in a park. For a better natural touch, Chengdu welcomes your family with a close-up visit to the giant pandas while drifting on the Li River in Guilin is a sure hit for your kids.

It is important to keep your kids entertained. The 3-night Yangtze but your kids would be bored out shortly, especially for kids under 12. Your China family holiday should be a smart mixture of natural highlights, fun activities, and educational experiences. Try to choose one or two hands-on activities, such as making dumplings, flying kites, or learning Kungfu, on your family trip. Forums and travel websites have a great deal of information for that. If you are contacting a travel agency for a tailor-made holiday, their expertise is handy and you just need to tell them what you’d like your kids to experience.

Tips for an Enjoyable Trip

Safety and comfort are the keys to being on the way to China or in China. When you are traveling with kids, you should note:

1. Extra cares for flights with kids besides what flight attendants demonstrate. Pressure changes during aircraft take-offs and landings can cause some discomfort for kids. Try to flight directly and avoid transmit as possible. Also, you can ease it out with a nursing bottle: air pressure in the trachea can be balanced out by the baby sucking on the bottle. Allowing your kids to have candy or chewing gum in their mouths can also do the trick.

2. For overnight international flights, a bottle of baby lotion helps with the dry in-cabin air. Use a drop or two of saline solution in the nostril to avoid nosebleeds. Stay away from a cold or headache, put a small hat on your kid’s head while sleeping at night.
3. Don’t overfeed your kids before boarding, this can reduce the chances for stomach discomfort, sickness, and use of the lavatory. In case of sickness or fatigue, you can bring some dark chocolate.

4. The overnight train is not recommended for young kids. Sure, train travel in the Middle Kingdom can be awesome and cost-effective. But overnight on the train can bring more trouble than fun for the parents: one train cabin has six hard sleeper beds (four for soft sleeper cabins), the middle and upper ones are quite narrow and the room between the middle sleeper and the upper sleeper is a shy 60cm (24inch).

5. Hallway is clogged with people and their luggage, making getting around difficult. Kids tend to fall or get their fingers or feet pinched or get stumbled by others. No showers and the only two bathrooms in one cargo are filthy and narrow.

6. Luggage shelf on the train is about 50cm (20 inches) at both width and height, and won’t be ample enough for all your family luggage. Carrying large suitcases and watching your kids, just the very thought is stressful.

7. High-speed train or bullet train, nevertheless, presents your family a chance to experience. To note one thing, train ticket booking is now possible online with personal ID cards, passports for foreigners. Payment is done online, via online banking or Alipay (a payment tool similar to PayPal), too. If you don’t speak Chinese, the best way is to ask a travel agency or local for help. You can find ticket offices at the train station and some major hotels in big cities.

8. Ask for a baby in-car seat or stroller. The traffic situation is different in different cities, but one thing is the same: babies and young kids must sit in the back seat, best on a baby safety seat. If you find your car doesn’t have one, it is your obligation to ask for one from your tour guide or driver. While visiting an attraction or wandering in your free time, you don’t want to hold your 3-year-old daughter in arms all the time. Some hotels and travel companies offer free or low-fare baby strollers.

9. Shoes for walking. Either you’d have a hiking trip or traveling mainly by car, a pair of shoes good for walking is a thoughtful helper. Leave your high heels and boots at home, pack up Nike sneakers for good walking, Birkenstock sandals for leisure time, and a pair of flip-flops for a hotel stay. For kids, try to choose shoes with soft and thick soles, absorbent and ventilate fabric.

10. Good health walks you a long way. For adults, you don’t need proof of inoculation to enter China, nor any vaccine shots. For kids, it is suggested to consult with your pediatrician for the necessity of Influenza, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), Pneumonia, and Chickenpox. In case of illness outbreaks, call up 120 or your tour guide and go to the nearest clinics or hospitals (often affiliated with medical schools). Travel aid packing should cover headache medication, Diarrhea/nausea medication, Diamox or other altitude sickness medication (for travel to Tibet), anti-bacterial ointment, Bandaids, Hydrogen peroxide, and aspirin.

How to Choose the Best Hotels for Your Family

Although most hotels in China claim themselves to be “family-friendly” or “kids-friendly”, it still takes time to search for your ideal stay. According to tons of our previous customers, a relatively perfect family-friendly hotel should be:

1. Location close to major sites or transportation hub (such as bus station, subway or at least easy to hail a cab). Away from pubs, clubs, restaurants, open-air night markets, and factories.

2. Has family room or joined rooms. For a family with one big kid and one little kid or baby, an extra bed is available in addition to a king-size bed.

3. Buffet breakfast offering fresh milk, burger, pasta, and other kids’ favorite. A buffet breakfast with limited choices for kids is not good as an MC. Donalds.

4. Non-smoking rooms and public space.

6. Has a swimming pool or backyard garden. Thus, the kids won’t stray out to the street during a free day.

7. Safety. Besides safety for valuable belongings, hotel safety for kids means more: hair-dryer keeping away from the electric plug, baby-proof corner guards on furniture edges, anti-slippery mat in the bathroom, and hotel security with a kind and keen heart for kids.

8. Helpful facilities such as baby stroller, wheelchair, highchair for dining.

Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott, and other big names set international service standards for their Chinese chains, which makes your stay comfortable. Other local brands, especially the ones in remote places and small cities, are not quite up to the mark. When you book a hotel online or via a travel agency, specific requirements are to be made.

Food to Your Taste

A China holiday is also an adventure for your taste bud. People in this amazing country use some ingredients that are odd to a western’s eyes and culinary skills are legendary (example: Ice cream hot pot). In your China family holiday with kids, there are some “problems” that you might confront when it’s time to eat:

Spicy food. -- This happens a lot when traveling in Guilin, Chengdu, and some parts of Yunnan, Hunan, and Guizhou. The solution is to emphasize “not spicy” twice before order.

No fork, just chopsticks? -- Ask for a spoon for young kids, and a set of fork and knife for yourself if you don’t know how to handle chopsticks. Another way to look at this, it is a good way to experience different dining.

Daddy, I want a taco! -- Not everybody wants to taste the local cuisine. If your kids miss a home taste at a Chinese dining table, you can order an extra noodle soup with tomatoes and eggs, your kids wouldn’t resist the yummy smell and taste. Another way to make it up is to get some fries or a burger at a nearby McDonald’s.

Chicken and fish with bones. -- Chinese people find pleasure deboning the chicken (or duck/fish) while eating. But not so much fun with westerners. A good way to avoid such an awkward situation is to ask them to pick out the bones. Most western travelers don’t order fish at their table unless it’s salmon or fish steak.

Food allergies. -- Common food allergies include peanut, nut, chill, shellfish, milk, crab, egg, beef, and some certain fruits (like mango, litchi, peach, and kiwi). Specific requests, “I am allergic to peanuts, so no peanut oil in my food” for instance, must be made before order. For fruits that your kids have never eaten before, try to give them a spoon portion at one time. These fruits might include mango, litchi, and kiwi, pineapple. pitaya, peach, rambutan, durian, jackfruit, banana and melon.

Relatively, a cooking class is a good way to learn Chinese kitchen skills if your family is interested. It can be arranged in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Guilin, local cuisine is the main course.

Shopping time

You gotta take home something after this China family holiday. Silk, tea, or china? Yes, they’re excellent choices and it is likely that you find our picks for you and your kids quite inspiring:

Clothes and accessories. Back at home, over 60% of shirts and jeans at Barney’s or Target are “Made in China”. And now you are in China, why not take advantage of shopping at a lower price and more choices? Remember the size standard in China is different and adults would probably have some difficulty finding their sizes. But it won’t be a problem for kid clothes. Purchase at a department store or chain brand guarantees the quality. If you are an experienced shopper or have insider’s help, you can definitely have a spree at a backstreet or wholesale market.

Toys for your kids and their little friends at home. Stuffed toys like Spongebob and Mickey Mouse are at every corner, with only half the price back in the states. Key chains and small toys are good presents for kids.

Books. Books in China are delightfully cheap, but a shame that they are in Chinese. In big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, you can find English and other languages bookstore with local’s guidance. In some back alleys, of Shanghai, you can even find used out-of-print books or first editions, which are the remnant of the semi-colonial era of the ’20s in the 19th century.

In private-run shops, haggling works, and make sure you cut down one-third of the initial price at haggling. And always remember: keep an eye on your stuff and kids while shopping.

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