China With Kids
I’m so excited to have Andie from One Daring Adventure guest post on China today! It’s somewhere I’ve longed to go my entire life! When Andie reached out I was so excited to hear how her trip went! What an amazing place China is! If you’re planning a visit to, check out the resources at the bottom of this post. Here’s Andie…
Hi! I’m Andie. My husband and I, along with our 5 children, just returned from our first family trip outside of the USA- to China. We are a family who loves traveling, with our home base in Minnesota. We have done many long road trips in the States and I believe those 12 hour days in the car prepped our kids wonderfully for the 13 hour flight to China! Our kids are still fairly young, ages 5-11, and two of them have cognitive disabilities. If we can do it, I think anyone can.
I recommend China to any families who love the adventure and the beauty of different cultures. In 2014 we adopted one of our daughters from China, so we jumped at the chance to go back. On this trip, we slept in a guest house by the Wild Wall at Gubeikou, visited friends in a high-rise Xining, stayed by the Yulong River in Yangshuo, spent 4 nights in a traditional wooden house in a Yao minority village, and finished off by taking an overnight train to Beijing where we stayed at a hostel in a hutong. We experienced many aspects of Chinese life both in popular tourist destinations as well as locations without many Westerners.
Because China can be an intimidating destination for families due to the language barrier and other factors, I want to alleviate a few common worries about traveling there.
We do not speak any of the Chinese languages. The language barrier doesn’t cause as many problems as you’d think. Many signs are in English, especially in the places one needs signs, such as subways, airports and train stations. You will find people who know some English in most of the places necessary, such as your hotel, or even at KFC in Beijing. For transportation, we planned major transfers ahead by email with each accommodation. We had drivers, who didn’t speak English, show up various places with our name on a sign and all was well. In the village with a local host, we dealt with the most language issues, which we expected. The English-speaking owner of the Airbnb property did a wonderful job of prepping us. He also communicated with the host during our stay for any concerns that couldn’t be cleared up with WeChat, Google translate, and Pleco apps. We found that shop owners and street vendors were always quick to show us a calculator with a total in CNY so we knew how much to pay. Overall, we managed just fine without speaking Mandarin.
I have noticed that many people traveling to China feel it is necessary to pack everything plus the kitchen sink. We traveled carry-on only and it worked out beautifully. Anything you might need in China, you can find there with some help from a translator app. We were able to find specific medicines we needed at the pharmacy by asking for the medicine by its translated name. We had a backpack and pair of pants that needed mending, and by asking our hosts we were able to hire someone to sew them. It is not necessary to bring tons of clothes because many places allow you to send out your laundry for a reasonable cost. We also brought laundry detergent sheets and a line for air-drying. We used down coats + packing cubes for pillows and made use of layering for wildly varying climates. Traveling light served us well when we fit the 7 of us with luggage into minivans with a driver, walked numerous blocks to the subway, and navigated many stairs in train stations with our hands free to hold onto younger children.
We were able to find roundtrip plane tickets to China from our home airport for $530, which is why we decided to go in the first place. The trip gets more expensive when you consider the cost of visas, though. The visa fee is $140 plus a courier fee per visa if you don’t live near a Consulate. Where you send your visa application depends on where you live- we live in Minnesota so we sent our visa applications to the Chicago Consulate. There are other Consulates in NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and then the Embassy in DC. Recently, most people are able to receive a 10 year multi-entry travel visa as opposed to the 2 year ones from a few years ago. For us, this means that to get our money’s worth, we definitely want to go back to China again in the next 10 years!
My kids LOVED the food 95% of the time, probably more than at home. Being able to purchase their own baozi (steamed buns) while walking through a hutong, pick their own vegetables from Li Ayi’s terraced garden in the village, or choose bizarre flavors of Pocky sticks or potato chips made eating in China a blast for them. The kids loved Jiaozi (dumplings), Chuan’r (seasoned kebabs), Lao Beijing Suannai (bottled yogurt drinks), You tiao (deep fried breadsticks) and of course, all the rice and noodles they could eat. The Chinese eat family style, so we found it worked well to order enough rice or noodles for everyone to share and then several main dishes to try. That way, you learn what the kids like for next time.
I hope I have answered some of your questions about what it’s like to travel to China with kids! If you are ready to plan your family trip to China, here is a post I wrote about helpful websites for China travel. I think you will love this beautiful country.
More RESOURCES for planning your trip to China:
Thanks Andie for that awesome post! I can’t wait to visit China with my kids!