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How to Plan Your First-Time Family Trip to China

How to Plan Your First-Time Family Trip to China

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Jan. 29, 2024

China is a great family-friendly destination characterized by rich history, exotic culture, beautiful landscapes, and fascinating culinary adventures. Read on for family trip planning tips covering recommended cities, popular itineraries, travel costs, hotel choices, and more.

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How Long to Travel for on a Family Trip to China

It is recommended to spend 12-14 days on a family trip to China.

This would allow you to cover the most popular cultural and natural highlights in China while giving you a chance to enjoy various experiences and activities with your children. This would also ensure a comfortable travel pace, and you shouldn't get travel weary.

If your time permits and you want to take advantage of the opportunity to explore more of China's landscapes and cultures, for example discovering some off-the-beaten-path routes with your children, it is advisable to spend three weeks or longer.

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.

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Where to Go for a Family Trip to China

Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai are the must-visit cities for first-timers. They provide a great introduction to China's history, culture, and modernity.

Besides these three cities, there are more recommendations for families:

  • Guilin is the best choice if you are looking for a fun and relaxing holiday with various outdoor activities and beautiful countryside views.
  • If you and your kids are adventure lovers and love nature, Zhangjiajie is recommended.
  • Chengdu is best for families who want to have an encounter with lovely pandas.
  • If you want to enjoy a more leisurely pace or if you are planning a multi-generational family trip, you could consider including a Yangtze River cruise in your journey.
  • If you want to explore bucket-list routes, Tibet and Yunnan would be good choices.

Alternatively, if you have your own ideas, you could also contact us. We would tailor-make your itinerary based on your preference and needs.

Top 5 Itineraries for a Family Trip to China

Here, we've selected five itineraries based on different family ages and interests. All our itineraries can be personalized for your family's travel goals, available travel days and dates, and other requirements.

1. 11-Day China Family Itinerary — Top Recommendation

This 11-day itinerary is our top recommendation for families, especially for families with teenagers. It is also suitable for a summer-holiday trip.

This itinerary provides fun ways for children to learn about Chinese culture and history in the top three classic cities — Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an, like finding the mythical animals in the Forbidden City and an exciting toboggan ride on the Great Wall.

It also includes interesting outdoor activities for parents and children to enjoy quality family time in the beautiful scenery of Guilin, such as farming experiences and cycling around old villages.

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, visit hutongs, and enjoy a tai chi class)
  • Days 5‒6: Xi'an (the Terracotta Warriors with a hands-on experience, cycling experience, visit museums, etc)
  • Days 7‒9: Guilin (countryside views, a river cruise, biking, and farming experience)
  • Days 10‒11: Shanghai (the Bund, Yu Garden, and some free time)

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2. 2-Week China Family Itinerary — Best for Adult Children and Parents

This two-week trip is recommended for a trip with parents and their adult children.

On this tour, besides the highlights of classic cities (Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai), you can enjoy more family moments amongst beautiful scenery and create lifelong memories together, like enjoying a nice and warm dinner by an idyllic river in Guilin and immersing yourselves in Zhangjiajie's splendid mountain views, some of which are considered to be the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar.

  • Days 1‒4: Beijing (sightseeing with iconic landmarks like the Great Wall)
  • Days 5‒6: Xi'an (visit the Terracotta Warriors, a food tour, Xi'an City Wall)
  • Days 7‒9: Zhangjiajie (enjoy splendid mountain views and visit the world's longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge)
  • Days 10‒12: Guilin (a river cruise, countryside lifestyle experiences)
  • Days 13‒14: Shanghai (the Bund, Yu Garden, and some free time)
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3. 2-Week China Itinerary with a Cruise — Best for Multi-Generational Families

This itinerary includes activities that are popular with the children and considers the comfort needs of the elders.

A Yangtze River cruise is added to this itinerary, which would offer leisurely family time and stunning views of huge gorges. The cruise would also provide several typical China-culture-related onboard activities that are enjoyable for all ages.

  • Days 1–4: Sightseeing in Beijing
  • Days 5–6: Sightseeing in Xi'an
  • Days 7–8: Visit Chengdu, including a panda volunteer program, during which your family could clean the pandas' enclosures, make panda-food cakes, and watch them being fed at a close distance.
  • Days 9–11: Yangtze River cruise with excursions
  • Days 12–13: Sightseeing in Shanghai

4. 2-Week China Educational Itinerary — Best for Culture Immersion

If you want to improve your children's use of Chinese and their cultural knowledge while exploring China's classic attractions, this itinerary is perfect.

In this tour plan, we have designed in some interesting activities for children to practice Chinese or better understand Chinese culture, such as exploring Beijing city using public transport, practicing Chinese calligraphy with a hutong family, and using Chinese to purchase some food specialtie from locals.

  • Days 1–5: Beijing, including classic attractions, a visit to an ancient Chinese academy, a tai chi class, and a visit to a local family.
  • Days 6–7: Sightseeing in Xi'an with a dumpling-making experience.
  • Days 8–10: Visit Chengdu for a panda tour and food tour.
  • Days 11–13: Sightseeing in Shanghai with a trip to Disneyland.

5. 2-Week China Itinerary with Tibet

If you want to explore more unique cultures and scenery with your children in China, then include Tibet in your itinerary.

With this 2-week itinerary, you could immerse yourself in the Tibetan Buddhist culture and vibe with the unspoiled plateau scenery as the backdrop. Create unforgettable memories with your children at 3,650 meters above sea level!

  • Days 1–4: Arrival and exploration of Beijing, visiting must-sees such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
  • Days 5–6: Sightseeing in Xi'an, including a visit to the Terracotta Army, a clay-warrior-making experience, and a food tour.
  • Days 7–11: Lhasa, including visits to key cultural sites and monasteries, and a picnic visit to Yamdrok Lake. (If you are interested in visiting Everest Base Camp, you would need to add at least 2–3 days to the trip).
  • Days 12–14: Exploration of Shanghai, including a visit to the Bund, and free time to explore on your own.

Family Trip to China Costs

For a high-quality travel experience, we recommend booking a private tour.

For a 2-week China tour for 2 adults and 2 kids, you can expect to pay about US$11,000–15,000 (US$220–350 per person per day; kids under 10 get 30–50% off).

This cost includes flights or trains within China, accommodation at 4-or-5-star hotels, lunch, admission fees, English-speaking guides, and private transportation. International airfares are not included.

The cost of flights from the U.S. or Europe to China varies depending on the season and airline you use, ranging from US$1,200 to US$3,000 for an economy round trip.

Costs for Peak Season Travel

The peak tourism times in China are in the first weeks of May and October (China's two golden weeks), the summer holidays, and Christmas and New Year holidays.

The biggest price difference between the off and peak seasons is in the price of hotels and airfares. Prices can go up by 50 to 100% in the peak seasons.

Our refund policy minimizes the monetary risk to you when booking: you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to three weeks before departure. (See more details)

Best Times for a Family Trip to China

Weather-wise, the best times to visit China are spring (April–May) and autumn (September–October) when most of the popular places have their most tourism-friendly weather.

For the vast majority of families, we realize your available travel time is relatively fixed, mostly during the winter break or summer vacation — to fit around your children's school timetables.

No matter what season you visit, we will carefully customize your itinerary to ensure your family enjoys the many charms of China without any hassles.

Summer in China

June to August is the best time to visit China's mountain destinations, like Zhangjiajie, due to the greenery being at its lushest and the weather at its warmest. It is also the time with most things to do: from city sightseeing to festivals to outdoor activities.

Although it will be hot, it is not a problem as long as reasonable planning arrangements are made (indoor/outdoor activities arranged according to weather conditions, air-conditioned car pick-up, etc.).

June could be a good travel month for a summer holiday trip (if you can get the time off school) for not-too-hot weather, fewer tourists, and more reasonable prices.

Recommended summer destinations

Winter in China

A winter trip to China can be relatively cost-effective, except during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Winter is great for enjoying snow scenery and activities, as well as experiencing the wonderful festival atmospheres, such as the Chinese New Year's and Harbin Ice Festival's.

Accommodation Tips: Choosing Hotels for Families

In China, most hotels, particularly 4-or-5-star hotels, have spacious family rooms with either bunk beds or extra beds, as well as adjoining rooms that can accommodate at least two adults and two kids.

When looking for a hotel, internationally-renowned hotel-chain brands or well-known domestic hotel brands are typically your best bet and offer a universal standard in comfort and service.

Alternatively, boutique hotels with unique local characters are available in many Chinese cities, offering a special accommodation experience.

For example, in Beijing, you could choose a hotel with the old-Beijing architectural style, known as Siheyuan (courtyard residences). In Huangshan, you could stay in a boutique inn that was transformed from an old oil press mill, as another example.

If you're traveling during the peak seasons, you really should book your accommodations two to three months in advance for price and availability advantages.

If you need help finding the perfect hotel for your family vacation, we can suggest and arrange all the hotels on your itinerary based on your preferences and our experience serving other family clients.

Popular China Family Tours

All our tours can be adjusted based on your family's interests, hotel preferences, dietary considerations, and other requirements. Just contact us.

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