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China with grandson

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Jul 8th, 2015, 10:07 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Apr 2007
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China with grandson

We are planning an 11 day tour of Beijing, Xian, Guilin, longji terraces, Shanghai with our 13 year old grandson in March of 2016. I have read posts here discouraging the use of guided tours by Chinese companies. I've also read very good reviews of China Highlights, and in the interest of time, efficiency and providing an educational experience, we are strongly considering signing on with them. Would appreciate feed-back. Thank you.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 05:31 PM
  #2
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I found it surprisingly easy to visit China on my own, and I went to a number of places that are (or at least were then) rarely visited by Westerners. With these cities, I can't imagine that you would need a tour.

One thing I would note: It sounds like you are trying to do a LOT in a short amount of time. If you do decide to visit all of these places, I would encourage you to think through your priorities in advance so you can both your time efficiently and so that you can adjust things a bit on the fly if necessary.

Your grandson is lucky to have this opportunity for a great adventure with you!
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Jul 8th, 2015, 07:32 PM
  #3
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Thanks kja. What is the down side to doing a tour? If I have to hire drivers and guides piecemeal for the transportation and education part, then why not do the whole thing and have it organized, thereby saving time? I realize I could get hotels and drivers cheaper by bargaining and will do that if I can get a good idea of what I can save. I would love the adventure if it were just my husband and me.
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Jul 8th, 2015, 08:15 PM
  #4
kja
 
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"What is the down side to doing a tour?"

It sounds like you've read some of the relevant posts on this forum. Since I took the advice to avoid tours when possible, I'm not necessarily the best person to respond. I can, however, offer the following comments:

- Taking a tour anywhere in the world, even a really good tour, means that you are giving up some degree of independence and flexibility. For example: if you sign up for a tour, you go WHEN they say for AS LONG as they say, whether that works well for you or not, and they control the amount of time you have at any site. THEY control what sites are included on the tour; THEY control whether you stop at shops (NEVER a good option, as I understand it!) or at restaurants (unlikely to be your best option for a good exposure to the wonderful foods that China offers).

- Visiting the places you mention would not necessarily require hiring drivers or even bargaining for anything -- you can easily book your own hotels (for example, check booking.com ) and in the cities you mention, you should be able to reach just about all major sites easily by public transportation. And given your time frame, which will force you to be selective in your sightseeing, you might even give priority to sites that are more easily reached by public transportation than other sites. (You might be able to save by bargaining -- that doesn't mean that you are REQUIRED to bargain!)

- You might actually get more accurate information by going on your own, relying on guidebooks, than working with guides. I know that seems counterintuitive, but maybe not if you think about the Chinese educational system, in which access to information is -- or at least has been -- not exactly unrestricted. My trip report is a bit out-if-date (I went in 2010), but in that report I give an example in which I actually knew more, from the reading I did before my trip, about the place for which I hired the guide -- the Eastern Qing Tombs -- than the guide himself knew. As another example, one guide with whom I spoke had no idea that visits to China by Westerners had EVER been limited (oh no, he said, we have ALWAYS welcomed foreigners).

- Taking tours may mean giving up some invaluable opportunities. Some of my most memorable experiences in China (and elsewhere!) have taken place while on public transportation, where I have had the chance to see locals doing what they do and have interacted with some people who I would NEVER meet if on a tour. And I will always treasure my memories of working with restaurant staff in China to decide what to order, and working with the staff of specific sites to help plan my visits. interchanges that took almost no shared verbal language, but proved not only informative, but absolutely unforgettable.

- Going on your own could also be an invaluable lessen for your grandson. What incredibly different messages follow from your choices!

So, even with my very limited exposure to guides, it would seem to me that you can see what you want at your own pace with greater informational accuracy and with greater flexibility in terms of your other plans for your time in these areas at a lower cost than if you were to choose a tour.

Hope that helps!
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Jul 8th, 2015, 10:14 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
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If you sign onto the TOUR, you will certainly deprive the grandson of any choices on 'what to do'.
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Jul 9th, 2015, 11:49 AM
  #6
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I'm sorry, I wasn't clear that this is a private tour with China Highlights which we can tweak, invent and reinvent as we wish. Naturally we'll travel from city to city on our own. Good point, though, about having exposure to better information that tour guides. However, since our grandson is not a dedicated reader and our aging retention abilities are nil, it would be good to have both prior reading and guide input.
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Jul 11th, 2015, 12:25 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
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When you say private tour with China Highlights, are you doing their "Create My Trip"? I agree with kja that visiting 4 locations in 11 days is quite a rush, you'd only scratch the surface of this vast country.
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