From Beijing’s Forbidden City and Great Wall to Xian’s incredible Terra Cotta Warriors and the metropolis of Shanghai, its record-breaking high rises illuminated like Disneyland, China is a mesmerizing destination for families. But a truly unforgettable trip to China goes beyond the sights to deliver authentic insider moments the whole family can enjoy. We tapped Abercrombie & Kent local expert and Young Explorers Guide Coco Tian for tips on how to have an amazing family trip in China.
1. Look for the New in the Ancient
Do take the time before you arrive to share at least the highlights of China’s history with your children. Then, tell them to look for the surprises when you visit in person. China is legendary for its ancient dynasties and epic legends, but also for the way they coexist in what is also a hyper-modern country.
“There is always something thrilling to find,” says Coco, “be it a toboggan sled ride at the Great Wall or a walk on a glass skywalk on top of one of the world tallest buildings — the World Financial Center — high above centuries-old Shanghai.”
2. Take a Yangtze River Cruise
China’s longest river is fringed with mountains, magical streams like the bright green Shennong and ancient river villages learning to adapt to the changes created by the Three Gorges Dam, a fascinating feat of power all its own. “On Abercrombie & Kent family trips on the Yangtze, children can also join in on exciting, age-appropriate activities,” says Coco. “They receive a lesson in the Mandarin language, learn the art of paper-lamp making, explore the Chinese Zodiac and play mahjong. There’s even the chance to take a martial arts lesson.”
3. Let Food Be an Adventure
Whether daring one another to try an adorably animal-shaped dumpling in Xian or a fried scorpion in Beijing, let food be a place for children to experience the many layers of Chinese culture. Even the less adventurous will likely find themselves tempted. “On our family journeys, for example,” says Coco, “families will see noodle making and also have the chance to make traditional dumplings together during a dinner.”
4. Plan for Downtime
China is big and often bustling, so expect long drives and internal flights to be a part of the adventure. This is a great time to reward children — and parents! — with free time to read, play on their tablets or listen to music. If you venture into cities, walking will be one of the best ways to explore and tire little ones out. Plan for stays in comfortable kid-friendly hotels with added luxuries like pools and spacious rooms.
5. Travel with an Experienced Tour Operator That Gets Children
While traditional itineraries do not necessarily include child-centric activities, our itineraries are packed with age-appropriate fun. “My whole role as a Young Explorers Guide is to cater to children with activities that let them get the most out of the journey,”explains Coco.
“We plan daily experiences that connect young guests with each destination, such as making their own terra cotta warriors in Xian at a pottery factory or watching a fast-paced kung fu show. We’re constantly looking for ways to expose them to nature, culture and our local people in meaningful ways.”
This article originally appeared in Journey Into the Ritz-Carlton.