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China Itineraries for Families: Top 5 Options

China Itineraries for Families: Top 5 Options

Written by Mike HoUpdated Nov. 29, 2023

China is an ideal travel destination for rich cultural experiences, adventurous activities, a safe environment, and numerous attractions suitable for families, making it an excellent choice for family vacations. This article provides travel info and sample itineraries to help you plan a perfect family trip with teenagers and younger kids, especially children aged between 10 and 17.

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How Many Days to Spend on a Family Trip to China

To explore China's vast range of regions and rich cultures in a little depth, it is recommended to spend at least 2 weeks on a family trip to China. With about 2 weeks in China, you can cover the most famous cultural and natural highlights in China while taking part in various activities to enrich your knowledge of China and keep your children interested.

If you have longer for your holiday, such as 3 or 4 weeks, you would be able to explore more off-the-beaten-path routes with your children. However, if your vacation time is limited, 7 to 9 days are needed to cover China's top highlights in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai.

Best Places to Visit for Families with 10–17-Year-Olds

For most first-time-to-China family travelers, Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, Hong Kong, and Shanghai are the top destinations. These cities offer great opportunities for teenagers to learn more about Chinese history and culture, undertake adventurous outdoor activities, and enrich their knowledge about modern China.

If you are planning a trip to China in the summer holidays, you can extend your trip to other summer holidays destinations, such as Inner Mongolia or Tibet. The following are some sample tours for families with teenagers and slightly younger kids.

1. A Classic 12-Day China Tour Itinerary for Families with Teenagers

This tour covers China's famous Golden Triangle — Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an — and the picturesque karst landscape of Guilin as well as the homeland of giant pandas — Chengdu.

Days 1–4: Beijing

Beijing

In Beijing, the Forbidden City is a must-visit, where teenagers can learn more about the history of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1912). To help you get a better understanding of the 'Former Palace', our guide would lead you to different representative parts and explain their significance fully. Then you would have a rickshaw ride through the narrow alleys, plus a visit to a local family for a truly Beijing-ese experience. Enjoy authentic Chinese dishes for lunch at a popular local restaurant.

Another iconic landmark of Beijing is the Great Wall. For a family-friendly experience, our guide would take you to visit a less-crowded and well-restored Great Wall section — Mutianyu. If your children would like Great Wall hiking, however, we can arrange the top hiking route for you — from Jinshanling to Simatai — with your own private guide.

To help your teenagers get a deep knowledge of Chinese culture, we recommend that you spend some time on a Chinese cultural experience, such as tai chi exercises in the morning with a master, watching the Kung Fu Night Show, or joining a Chinese calligraphy course.

Days 5–6: Xi'an

Xian terracotta warriors

In Xi'an, it takes a day for a good visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses. To help your teenagers gain a better understanding, our guide would take you to participate in a hand-made clay-warrior program, where you and your children would create your own unique warriors with local artisans and then take them home as a souvenir. You'd learn a lot about how the Terracotta Warriors were made over 2,000 years ago.

For the other day in Xi'an, we suggest you take a biking tour on Xi'an City Wall and a food tour in the Muslim Quarter to experience local culture and life. You can also join our Han-era (206 BC – 220 AD) clothing cultural activity. Put on traditional Hanfu clothing and take photos to give your young ones unforgettable memories and historical insights.

Days 7–8: Chengdu

Chengdu panda reserve

In Chengdu, seeing the pandas is a must-do activity. To help you get a close-quarters experience of these adorable animals, we would arrange a Panda Keeper Program tour in Chengdu Panda Reserve. There you would do typical keeper activities, such as cleaning the panda enclosures, observing pandas being fed, and making their favorite cakes. During the rest of your time in Chengdu, visit Jinli Ancient Street, where you can try delicious Sichuan hot pot, or have a rest at a teahouse...

Days 9–10: Guilin

Guilin landscape

Guilin is well-known for its beautiful karst landscape. You would take a Li River cruise from Guilin city to Yangshuo to enjoy breathtaking river-and-mountain views.

In Yangshuo, we have arranged many outdoor activities suitable for families with teenagers, such as kayaking, cave exploring, cycling around the villages, visiting local farmers, bamboo rafting, rock climbing, and more. Just let us know what you're interested in.

Days 11–12: Shanghai

Shanghai the Bund

In Shanghai, The Bund is a must, where you can see many skyscrapers built in the last few decades, and buildings of more-European styles dating back a century. To help you get a better understanding of Shanghai's impressive modernity and flourishing history, our private guide would take you walking around and inside the old buildings of the Bund.

For the rest of your time in Shanghai, you could take your teenagers to visit some of the huge range of themed museums and exhibitions.

2. A 13-Day Educational Family-Tour China Itinerary (Good for Young Mandarin Learners)

This itinerary is specially designed for children above 5th-grade (10-years-old), who are in a Mandarin Immersion Program at school. It is also good for families with teenagers who are interested in Chinese language and culture.

Days 1–4: Beijing

Beijing's Temple of Confucius

In Beijing, besides visiting the top attractions like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, we would arrange a visit to Beijing's Temple of Confucius to help your children understand more about Chinese traditions and beliefs. Then pay a visit to the Imperial Academy to learn about China's traditional education system and listen to Dacheng Rites Music.

In the morning, we would arrange a tai chi class with a renowned local tai chi master. To help your kids improve their Chinese language skills, our guide would encourage them to talk in Chinese, such as talking to the waitresses in Mandarin and ordering food from a Chinese menu, as well as conversing with a hutong family while practicing Chinese calligraphy.

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Days 5–6: Xi'an

In Xi'an, you would visit its iconic landmark: the Terracotta Warriors. To help you get a better knowledge of the awesome clay warriors, we would arrange a visit to a local cave dwelling, where you can make a little warrior of your own, with local clay and your local host's help.

On the second day in Xi'an, enjoy a bike ride on its City Wall, and then visit Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which is regarded as the starting point of the Silk Road. To help you engage in local life, we would arrange a visit to a local family home where you would learn how to make dumplings and have a family meal with them.

Days 8–10: Chengdu

In Chengdu, besides seeing pandas at the Breeding Research Base and the Giant Buddha in Leshan, we would arrange a little adventure at the last remaining farmer's market in Chengdu. You kids would learn to use Chinese to purchase some produce from the locals.

Days 11–13: Shanghai

In Shanghai, the final stop of this itinerary, you would visit the Bund and wander through alleyways to catch a glimpse of the lives of locals. Sit down for a break in a Michelin-starred restaurant and enjoy some delicious Shanghai snacks.

To keep a nice surprise for the end as a reward for your kids, we would arrange a visit to Shanghai Disneyland, where you could have some memorable family moments and enjoy fun experiences for a whole day and then fireworks in the evening.

3. 2-Week China Family Itinerary with Tibet

If Tibet is what your family and children dream of, then this tour itinerary would be good for you. In this 2-week itinerary, we would help you get excellent exposure to the Tibetan Buddhist culture and unspoiled plateau scenery.

  • Days 1–4: Beijing (Visit must-sees such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.)
  • Days 5–6: Xi'an (Have a visit to the Terracotta Army, a clay-warrior-making experience, and a food tour.)
  • Day 7–11: Lhasa (see below for details)
  • Day 12–14: Shanghai (Your exploration activities include a visit to the Bund and free time to explore on your own.)
Potala palace

In Lhasa, you would visit the Potala Palace. To help you get the best angles to shoot awesome Potala photos, our private guide would use his rich experience, and he'd help you find the best ways to explore and get to know the Potala Palace.

Spend some leisurely time wandering around Barkhor Street — see devout Buddhists praying and experience the buzz of local Tibetan life. If you are interested in rural Tibetan life in remote areas, we can arrange a visit to a Tibetan village in the hills, where you can take part in their daily activities, including horse riding, milking yaks, printing prayer flags, and other things that the nomads do.

4. A 10-Day Imperial-and-Scenic China Family-Tour Itinerary with Hong Kong

This itinerary would allow your family to have experiences that would make the stories from history books come alive: see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. Then relax on Yangshuo's nature-filled trails before enjoying exciting Hong Kong's Ocean Park amusement area and other world class attractions.

  • Days 1–4: Beijing (Visit the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, hutongs, and Great Wall.)
  • Days 5–8: Guilin (Visit the highlights of Guilin and nearby Yangshuo county.)
  • Days 9–10: Hong Kong
Hong Kong Ocean Park

In Hong Kong, you would visit Ocean Park and Victoria Peak. In Ocean Park, you can take a raft ride through a jungle landscape. The park also has a lot of animal exhibits, including a giant panda habitat, a shark aquarium, and a sea lion show.

From Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island, you can have a bird's-eye view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong's captivating skyline. For most children, it would be a happy ending to finish with Hong Kong Disneyland, where you can view spectacular fireworks shows, parades, and live performances featuring beloved Disney characters.

5. An 8-Day Inner Mongolia Summer-Vacation Itinerary (Good for Summer-Holiday Trips) — Off-the-Beaten-Track

If you are planning a summer vacation and are interested in nomadic life on the grasslands, then this summer tour itinerary would be good for you. With this 8-day private trip from Hohhot to Ordos, you would have the chance to experience local nomadic life and fantastic views on Huitengxile Grassland, then hike on majestic mountains and a volcano!

Days 1–3: Hohhot and Huitengxile Grassland

Hohhot and Huitengxile Grassland

Take a 2-hour drive from Hohhot to Huitengxile Grassland and visit Huanghuagou ('Yellow Flower Valley') to appreciate multifaceted natural beauty — peculiar stones, unique peaks, and colorful alpine meadows. On the grassland, you would have the chance to enjoy Mongolian singing and dancing, and you could try Mongolian archery and wrestling. After an ethnic-flavor bonfire party in the evening, stay overnight in a traditional Mongolian yurt.

Days 4–5: Daqing Mountain and Baotou

Daqing Mountain

Enjoy sunrise on the grassland. Then head to Daqing Mountain, where you would have a hiking tour for about 5 hours. You would pass ancient birch forests on the way to the top of Daqing Mountain, where you'd have a panoramic view of fantastic natural beauty. On the way to Baotou, spend some time to visit Intangible Cultural Heritage Town, where you can learn about Mongolian folk arts and handicrafts by experiencing Mongolian yurt building and erecting, dough making, paper cutting, and leather painting.

Days 6–8: Kubuqi Desert and Ordos

Kubuqi Desert and Ordos

In Kubuqi Desert, you would visit the desert's 'Singing Sands' and enjoy a satisfying camel ride as you venture deep into the hinterland of Kubuqi Desert. With our special arrangements, you can enjoy a desert barbecue dinner while appreciating the stunning views of the desert sunset, followed by camping in the desert, and seeing an incredibly starry sky for an unforgettable wilderness experience.

In Ordos, you would visit Kangbashi District and enjoy the pleasant planned urban environment of Ordos City. Then spend some time at the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan — not his actual place of burial, which no one knows, but the impressive cenotaph devoted to the worship of the Mongols' hero.

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