photo: Michelle Obama

source: Washington Post

In just a few days, the first lady – or, shall we say, first ladies – will depart on a week-long excursion to China. Michele Obama will be taking her daughters, Malia and Sasha, as well as her mother, to Beijing, Xi’an, and Chengdu to learn about the country’s standards and methodologies for education. POTUS won’t be tagging along.

American citizens are already gearing up to hear about the trip when the family returns on March 26th, but just because it’s a vacation for some of the most important women in the United States doesn’t mean it’s a far-off dream for everyone else.

Taking a tour of China can be affordable if planned carefully, but if you’ve never been there before, the planning process can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips for traveling to China to ensure you get the most out of your trip!

Make an Itinerary

China is absolutely massive, and it would take months to really cover the entire country. The mountains in China are among the tallest; the deserts are the vastest; the jungles are incredibly secluded; and, needless to say, the cities are the most densely-populated. So, unless you have several months at your disposal, it’s important to create an itinerary and stick with it. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Go through a travel company that offers pre-packaged, organized tours. For example, the tours at smarTours allow you to pay a flat rate (including international airfare) to see Beijing, Xian & Shanghai or go for an extended trip that allows you to sample even more of China’s hotspots, including the Yangtze River and Hong Kong.
  • Choose a specific region and explore within. For example, if you want to see historical landmarks like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and ancient hutong alleyways, visit Beijing. If you want to experience small Ming-Dynasty villages and bamboo forests, visit South Sichuan.  Focusing on a specific region can be much more manageable than trying to tackle the entire country!

Know where to Go

Unlike Michele Obama and her daughters, you’re not likely going to meet the wife of the Chinese President, but you can visit some of the country’s other well-known landmarks. If you love nature and scenery, make it a point to visit the Yangtze River, or stop by Mt. Everest. If you love to absorb history, visit the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army, a collection of 2,200-year-old, life-sized soldiers that guard the tomb of China’s first emperor. If you love culture, check out the Labrang Monastery, and the Jokhang temple. And don’t forget to eat! The Peking duck is a local specialty you’re sure to love, and you haven’t had Dim Sum until you’ve had it in China.

Save Money

Of course, you’re going to want to plan carefully ahead of time to make sure you stay within your budget. Regarding hotel accommodations, if you’re not buying a pre-packaged tour that provides affordable access to high quality hotels, you may find less expensive options, including hostels. However, if you do go with lower-priced accommodations, make sure you do your research ahead of time, since quality and reliability can vary. And as with any international travel plan, try to avoid traveling during peak season (notably, the summer) when everyone else is looking to travel overseas. Significant savings can be achieved by even going slightly off-peak.

Of course there are many other things to consider if you’re thinking of traveling to and touring China. We’d be more than happy to provide more China travel tips or answer any questions you might have. Click here to contact us or call 1-800-337-7773.