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Planning a trip to China with kids

Beijing, China

A China trip with kids is guaranteed to be memorable! Having an action camera like GoPro or smartphone handy allows you to easily capture cute moments throughout your travels to look back on.

China is an amazing country to visit with children. There are so many unique sights, sounds, food, and experiences that make for a really fun family vacation. As parents, my spouse and I found a few things that helped make our China trip with our 8 and 10-year olds go smoothly. Here is my personal guide for visiting China with kids based on what worked well for us during our 2 week tour of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.

Booking flights and hotels
We looked for direct flights to minimize the stress of worrying about missing connections with young kids. Non-stop flights tend to be a bit more expensive but worth it in my opinion. We flew into Beijing and out of Shanghai, which allowed us to see the country from north to south.

In terms of lodging, we opted for western-style hotels for comfort and familiarity. Language barriers can be tough with children, so choosing hotels geared towards English speakers made the transitions between places less overwhelming. We made sure they had pools and other amenities like games and kids clubs to keep them entertained.

Learning some Chinese for kids
A little bit of Chinese can go a long way. We taught our kids some basic phrases in Mandarin before the trip like “hello”, “thank you”, numbers 1-10, etc. During meal times, we played games trying to count dishes in Chinese and learned the words for common foods. Even just being able to say simple things like asking for the check or telling the age of your child is helpful.

The best part was seeing their faces light up when they were able to successfully communicate with a shopkeeper or server. Kids pick up foreign languages extremely quickly, so even just spending 15-20 minutes a few times a week learning Chinese before your trip can make their experience more fun and engaging.

Experiencing Chinese culture
There are so many amazing cultural experiences to be had in China that will really excite and educate kids. We made sure to see the Great Wall, as riding a toboggan there and seeing the sheer magnitude of the ancient structure is something they will never forget. We also visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City to learn about Chinese dynasties and imperial history.

Making Chinese crafts like lanterns and fans, learning Tai Chi moves, and sampling unique fruits are great hands-on activities for kids abroad. Taking high speed trains between cities is also a cool way for children to experience China’s modern advances. No matter your itinerary, soaking up centuries of rich Chinese culture will be impactful for kids of all ages.

Trying new foods
Chinese cuisine is so diverse and flavored, making it extremely fun to try new dishes with kids. Our children love dumplings of all kinds, especially when shaped into cute animals and characters. Sampling dim sum, with little plates being wheeled past in carts, was also fun for them to pick and choose their favorites.

While more adventurous things like Peking Duck, congee porridge or street food may be an acquired taste, kids tend to enjoy sweeter snacks like egg tarts or red bean buns. When all else fails, Chinese McDonald’s always satisfies too! Having young children attempt to use chopsticks also provided lots of laughs. Exposing kids to unique foods abroad expands their palates and openness towards different cultures.

Being flexible
With kids in tow, it’s always smart to overplan activities but expect to tweak things day-of based on moods and energy levels. Jet lag and transitions between busy tour days left our kids exhausted at times. Having back up indoor options like malls and movies allowed for lower key afternoons.

We also learned to take meals back to the hotel if the kids were feeling overstimulated. Packing familiar snacks, tablet shows and games are great to use as distractions too. Travel days inevitably hit bumps with children, so staying flexible and having contingencies is key.

Utilizing a tour group
For our first big Asia trip with the kids, using a reputable tour group proved extremely beneficial. They planned all transportation and guides for a seamless experience getting between cities and attractions.

Having our hotels, most meals, attractions and domestic flights booked ahead of time was also less stressful with young kids. The guides kept things lively for the children while taking care of logistics and sharing local history that enhanced our experiences. Tour groups specializing in kid-focused activities are perfect for families.

Precautions & safety
Before an international family trip, be sure everyone’s passports are current and you have proper visas for entry requirements. We also got our kids an ID wallet card with our lodging details and emergency contact info in case anyone got separated from the group.

Discussing basic safety like not wandering off alone or talking to strangers is important too. Remaining vigilant in crowded areas and utilizing child harnesses if needed prevents stressful situations. Researching cultural norms with your kids ahead of time also ensures proper etiquette abroad. Following basic precautions makes new destinations secure for little explorers.

Capturing memories
A China trip with kids is guaranteed to be memorable! Having an action camera like GoPro or smartphone handy allows you to easily capture cute moments throughout your travels to look back on. We tried to snap pics of the kids with iconic landmarks, but also made videos of simple things like train rides or nightly dim sum that showcased fun daily activities.

At the end of the trip, it was adorable rewatching footage of them marveling at the Great Wall or practicing Chinese phrases. Photos help cement foreign destinations in children’s minds for years to come. Plus you’ll appreciate having priceless documentation of their reactions exploring an amazing country like China!

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash