Input on China itinerary? (4/1-4/12)

Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 07:08 AM
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Input on China itinerary? (4/1-4/12)

Hi all,

My wife and I and our two kids (8 and 7) will be going to China in April (overlapping with the Qingming festival, go figure...) - we are based out of Southern California and will be flying into PEK from LAX. My wife speaks conversational Mandarin and our kids are learning it at the immersion school they're attending. I can't speak and maybe can contextually understand 5-10%? Hahaha....

We have the airfare and hotels [tentatively] booked - the domestic China plane and train tickets we don't have booked yet (I hear it's best just to wait until around 3 weeks out to look for domestic flights and to book the train tickets closer to the travel dates?)

At this point we are just trying to plan/pre-plan everything else....

We are a bit anxious A) because my kids have never traveled internationally or this far and B) it's been almost 10 years since my wife and I have travelled internationally ourselves. So we just don't know what to expect.

This is what our itinerary currently looks like (and yes, it's pretty packed and rushed, especially with Beijing I feel... but the driving reason behind this trip was so that my wife could meet her extended relatives in Yantai/Shandong and visit the area in which her grandparents grew up and lived before migrating to South Korea. Also, we are already pulling our kids out of school for a full week and don't want to take *more* time off than that. We were leveraging their time off during spring break originally).


3/31/24 Sunday LAX to PEK Flying to China (leaves just after 12am on this date)

4/1/24 Monday PEK Arrival (arriving just before 11am. Staying at Hilton Wangfujing) - Beijing Bell and Drum Towers & Hou Hai

4/2/24 Tuesday Beijing Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven?

4/3/24 Wednesday Beijing - Great Wall (Mutianyu), Summer Palace

4/4/24 Thursday Beijing to Xi'An Bullet Train or Flight in the afternoon or evening (Staying at Holiday Inn Big Goose Pagoda or possibly HIX Bell Tower - Big Goose Pagoda and Everbright city in the evening)?

4/5/24 Friday Xi'An -Terra Cotta Warriors & Mausoleum (not sure with private tour or just audio guide)

4/6/24 Saturday Xi'An - Xi'An City Wall (bike ride), Xi'An Bell and Drum Towers, Muslim Quarters & Great Mosque

4/7/24 Sunday Xi'An to Yantai - flight in early afternoon (likely staying at HIX in Yantai Yeda but also have Hilton Yantai Golden Coast booked)

4/8/24 Monday Yantai -Family Time

4/9/24 Tuesday Yantai - Yantai Mountain Scenic Spot

4/10/24 Wednesday Yantai to Shanghai - flight in the morning (staying at Hualuxe 12 in French Concession area - explore the Bund & WaiBaiDu Bridge after arriving and settling in)

4/11/24 Thursday Shanghai - Shanghai Tower, Huangpu River Cruise

4/12/24 Friday PVG to LAX (departs at 8pm - Oriental Tower before flying out)


For Beijing, we are deliberating over hiring a private guide or not, and especially for Forbidden City. I've heard mixed things from people where some are fine just doing audio guides but others want a private guide. I think my wife and I are more the type who are OK just walking around with or without audio guides. The kids might be bored though...
For Xi'an, there is one private guide we reached out to who offered the 'full package' at quite a reasonable cost ($600-700?) - this includes all transportation from the point that we arrive (so they would get us to the hotel) and leave (and drop us back off at the airport)... they would also meet us each day and take us around to see all the places we're interested in. But again, it goes back to whether or not we want the 'freedom' to operate on our own schedule and figure out the transportation on our own. I suppose we could do a 'hybrid' approach and hire a guide and or private driver for certain things and not for others? Does anyone have suggestions on how to go about this and if there are certain things listed above that we should definitely DIY or that we should definitely hire a private guide for?


Also, for any city we're in, it *seems* like just walking around to many of the sites (that are within city boundaries) isn't the most practical. From what I read and hear, these cities are HUGE so my assumption is that things are spread further apart than I probably think? I know there's the metro/subway, but even walking between those points it seems may not be as close as what we might think. Is it a better option then to hire a Didi/taxi?

Last edited by jeremylee1049; Feb 23rd, 2024 at 07:37 AM.
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Old Feb 24th, 2024, 12:49 PM
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Beijing is huger than huge and looking at distances on maps can be deceiving. Definitely take advantage of subway and taxis. If there's an app you can use, definitely do so.

It's fine to have a plan, but don't worry too much about getting to see everything on your list. It's ok if you miss something.
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Old Feb 24th, 2024, 04:32 PM
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I would be surprised if you can meaningfully combine the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven on the same day. Likewise, I think visiting the Great Wall and the Summer Palace on the same day would be very difficult. I could be mistaken.

I found audio guides sufficient and very informative.

You should be able to get a sense of distances (and public transportation options) on google maps

For a very old trip report, see Thanks for helping make my trip to China amazing! The relevant sections on Beijing are posts # 13 (Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace), # 27 (Xi'an), and # 46 (section on my 5th full day in Beijing for the Forbidden City).

Best wishes for a great trip!
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Old Feb 25th, 2024, 07:50 AM
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I agree with kja on the itinerary, too much for available time.
Enjoy your trip!
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr
I agree with kja on the itinerary, too much for available time.
Enjoy your trip!

Do you have any specific suggestions as far as narrowing the list down? Do you think it's a better idea just to go with a private guide for at least one or both of the full days that we will be in each area? I know for sure Beijing is going to be packed and that the itinerary is quite aggressive. Xi'an seems a little more manageable though from my preliminary research.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by kja
I would be surprised if you can meaningfully combine the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven on the same day. Likewise, I think visiting the Great Wall and the Summer Palace on the same day would be very difficult. I could be mistaken.

I found audio guides sufficient and very informative.

You should be able to get a sense of distances (and public transportation options) on google maps

For a very old trip report, see * The relevant sections on Beijing are posts # 13 (Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace), # 27 (Xi'an), and # 46 (section on my 5th full day in Beijing for the Forbidden City).

Best wishes for a great trip!
For Beijing, we were considering just focusing on Forbidden City and Jingshan Park (and we may be willing to cut Temple of Heaven and even Tiananmen Square). My wife's *absolute must-dos* in Beijing are pretty much the Forbidden City and Great Wall at the moment. Although, the Summer Palace looked like a really good place to visit as well. I've heard of people visiting Great Wall as early as it opens, spend roughly half the day there, then stop by Summer Palace in the afternoon on the way back to Beijing city center.

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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 06:51 PM
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No need to skip Tiananmen Square -- you'll be right there and it's open 24/7.

The Temple of Heaven is spectacular. I hope you get to see it. And if you can see the Summer Palace and Great Wall on the same day, good for you!
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by kja
No need to skip Tiananmen Square -- you'll be right there and it's open 24/7.

The Temple of Heaven is spectacular. I hope you get to see it. And if you can see the Summer Palace and Great Wall on the same day, good for you!
I've heard Temple of Heaven is really nice to visit early in the morning I'm just not sure the kids would be up for that hahaha.
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