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Need help around China -w/ 2 kids

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Embarking on a 13-day trip to China on July 18 with 2 children ages 9 and 11 in tow. Visiting the classic cities of Beijing, Xian, Guilin/Yangshuo and Shanghai. We are experienced travelers and have gone abroad many times on our own, but never to China. Would love to go around China ourselves - we're pretty internet-savvy and can book our own flights. We even know what we want to see. We just don't know how we're going to go about seeing what we want to see. We've read posts about people traveling on their own by just taking a cab. But what does one do once one gets to his/her destination without a guide? Just wander around? And what about getting something to eat if one does not speak the language? Our children have food allergies.

Also, has anyone used China Guide and their Sleeping on the Great Wall option? Sounds intriguing.

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