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travelling with small kids from US in China?

travelling with small kids from US in China?

Mar 26th, 2007, 11:02 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 35
travelling with small kids from US in China?

My husband will need to spend 2-3 weeks in Shanghai in May and there's a chance that I can accompany him with our two kids, ages 4 & 1. Is this a good idea? My concerns are:

The long flight: I may need to travel home with them alone.

The food: I'm vegetarian - eggs & dairy ok - the kids aren't and are fairly adventurous, but my 1 year-old can't have peanuts

entertaining ourselves all day: my husband will be working M-F and I don't speak or read any Chinese dialects. I've travelled in Europe and Latin America, but never in Asia (my husband has been to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and India, but never mainland China) Can we get by with English and see things and is Shanghai and kid-friendly city with lots of things for us to do?

safety: how would we travel around? Can we use a subway system to avoid taxis? Can we put a carseat in a taxi if necessary? My baby hasn't had all of her immunizations yet, is that a big deal?

I'd love to see China and expose my kids (especially the older one) to this amazing culture, but I want the trip to be feasible and safe for us.

Any thoughts are appreciated!
-Ann in Boston
soxfanann is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,458
ttt for Ann. I sure wouldn`t take little kids on that long a flight. It would be torture for them and you. Plus they won`t remember the trip. I`d also be concerned about them picking up a bug, what with putting their fingers into their mouths, etc.
pat is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 02:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 24
My little cousin was in China at age one. Of course, she was born in China, and my aunt was adopting her...

The only advice I have has to do with flights, and anecdotal evidence from my aunt. Originally, my aunt thought to save money by taking my cousin as a lap child. Well, she was a very big one-year-old, and my aunt had never traveled with a baby before. By the time she got to Los Angeles she was exhausted, and ended up buying a (last-minute) ticket for the remaining cross-country trip home to Atlanta, so there was a proper seat to put the baby in. That worked a lot better.

I think some places also have bassinets for babies, but I don't know the weight limits on them. I know two-year-olds are generally too big, and that stewardesses frown on them being on the ground. Really, I think that a proper seat and proper child restraint device is the best place for a baby on a flight, regardless of duration. If you hit serious turbulence, the last thing you want is a hurt baby flying around.

As for babies in China, if it's anything like the rest of Asia (and I've only be in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) it'll be child friendly. Obviously there are lots of children in China already, but for health issues, Chinese babies will have a different immune system than American babies, so not sure how I can help there. I'd say "concentrate on keeping the little ones' hands clean" but I have no idea how you'd do that with two small children.

I suspect the answer to "would it be a good idea for China" would be very similar to "would it be a good idea for <other international destination you've traveled to>?" for you, but I can't be sure.

Mostly I wanted to comment on the "extra seat" issue.
rabidstoat is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 04:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 25
Having travelled with my son to Europe, Australia and Nepal, here's what I learned about flying with kids:

Avoid changing planes where ever possible, I try to get where we're going in one plane change or less. (If three legs are unavoidable, say Portland to LA to Bangkok to Kathmandu, I schedule a layover and stop in LA for a day or two. For some, this would be more hassle than it's worth, but it's worked well for me.)

Before you choose your flight route, check on www.seatguru.com to see if the airline/flight has personal entertainment units - these go a long ways in entertaining a four year old! Also check if they have bassinets available - if an airline does, you may not need to buy the baby a ticket. If it doesn't, I wouldn't risk having a lap baby for such a long flight (you and baby would be mightily uncomfortable!)

My son and I are vegetarians too and he's a super picky eater. I always bring our own food for the flight (sandwiches, tons of snacks) and I bring some snacks for our destination (z-bars, dried fruit, etc...). Once at our destination, I usually have a local write down a note explaining that we're vegetarian and what we eat. I take this to restaurants and show it to the waiter/waitress and ask if they recommend anything. (I started this after having been misunderstood so many times when I've said we're vegetarian and received what I though was understanding head nods, but then served meat dishes). In some countries we've visited, like Japan, vegetarians are very rare and it's not that they don't want to accomodate you, they just don't understand what you can eat and what you can't. A polite note in the local language has helped us a lot.

When my son was a baby and we were about to embark on our first overseas trip a friend told me that she loves long flights with her kids because it gave her a chance to spend time with them without the interruptions of daily life. I always try to remember that and to enjoy the journey.

Good luck with your trip!
PairofDiceLost is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 1,836
Hi Ann,

I have been travelling with my 5yo and 2yo so understand your concerns. The flight itself is manageable. There are no direct flights between Boston and Shanghai but I know UA flies into Shanghai, so you'll need to change either at Chicago or LA or SF. With 2 kids on your own, you definitely need seats for each of them. Travel back with your husband, and make sure HE looks after the kids ;-) I've put tips on flying with the kids on various other threads so you can search for them.

Send as much luggage (changes of clothes etc) with your husband. But make sure you have extra diapers and changes of clothes in case of travel sickness/loose tummies/flight delay. Toting a car seat may increase your luggage. I very much doubt most taxi drivers have patience to let the passengers install and take the car seats in and out.

Good suggestion about asking someone there to write you what you/your children can/cannot eat. I happen to like oriental/chinese vegetarian food (even the airline version tastes better than the normal veggie meals).
You really have to go through the whole list. I also don't eat meat, and had many close calls when they bring innocent looking veggies cooked in meat broth or with sprinkles of meat ("to add flavour"). In general, Shanghai is quite cosmopolitan/ westernised.

Make sure you stay in a comfortable hotel. It will take longer for the kids to get rid of jet lag, so you may find them napping during the day.
As for attractions, I'm afraid your children would be old enough to appreciate temples and arts and that kind of attraction. Zoo (pandas!) and parks are always a safe bet. Chinese acrobat/circus may work. Shopping malls and department stores may have indoor playground.
W9London is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 01:35 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 411
I would first head to a medical travel clinic to find out about whether your 1 year old is ready for China. I had to get a dpt booster myself before going last fall, so check with a doctor first.

As for the flight, it is long, but people do it all the time with their kids. There are many threads on how you can keep the 4 year old occupied (or asleep as some do). If you can fly one way with your husband, it will make your life much easier!

I would bring a bunch of the snacks they like from home. I still do that with my kids and they are quite a bit older than yours. If it is not a convenient time or place to hunt down food, at least something they are used to eating will ease the hunger moans.

If you concentrate on no more than one destination per day, a park or a site or a show, you will all have a lot more fun.

If the doctor says the 1 year old is safe to go, I would definitely do it.
poutine is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 06:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,689
Do your children already have passports? If not, I donít think you can make a May trip, as I understand that the US passport office is quite backed up and passports are taking up to 10 weeks to be issued. You have to have a passport before you can even apply for a Chinese visa, and the visa itself takes some time to process. That is the first thing you should look into. You may be able to get an expedited passport, but even that takes 2 weeks (and you have to pay extra) and then expedited Chinese visas. For US Passports, go to http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. You can find downloadable forms on the the Chinese Embassy website at www.china-embassy.org. On the main page, click on "Visa and Passport" on the left, and read and follow the various instructions. You want a tourist visa, which is an L visa.

Also, would you spend the whole 2 weeks in Shanghai? That is a lot like spending 2 weeks in New York City with 2 very young children, and I also assume you will be in a hotel room the whole time (you might really consider a serviced apartment like Marriott Shanghai Tomorrow Square with a kitchen, living room, etc). Shanghai is of course even bigger than New York (about 15 million), and green areas are thin on the ground. It is also much dirtier in terms of air pollution and just street dirt. If you wonít be able to get out to other areas of China, I am not sure how much ďexposureĒ to Chinese life your kids will get (or enjoy) in 2 weeks in a huge, quite polluted, hectic, and traffic-filled city. However, unless your husband can travel with you, I donít think you would have a lot of fun with two young kids on your own in places like Beijing or Xian or the countryside. I agree that the 1 year old will never remember it, and I have my doubts that the 4 year old will remember much. ( My nephew lived in Singapore from when he was 2-4 and spoke Mandarin and Tagalog, and now at age 13 has only the vaguest recollection of it, and of course no longer speaks either language).

I donít know that I would worry overly about the vaccine issues. You yourself and the kids should be immunized for tetanus (would be in the dpt shot mentioned above) and Hep A and if possible Hepatitis B before you leave, you should speak to your doctor (there are some rules about this for very young children).

Some other health issues would be that the children cannot drink water from the tap, including brushing their teeth with it (although in many good hotels the water is potable from the tap) and you would have to monitor this, and you need to be careful of fruit that they eat, ice, ice cream, etc. Itís not quite like taking a vacation elsewhere. I would not be afraid of everything they put in their mouths, but you do have to be vigilant.

Vegetarian food is readily available. I would definitely have something written in Chinese about the peanuts, however, because peanuts are used in Chinese cooking (including peanut oil sometimes), and if your child cannot have peanut oil, the restaurants will need to know this. Peanuts are often places on the table in restaurants as a snack when you first sit down, you will have to train your child not to reach for them...

I would not worry about the language issues in a place like Shanghai. You will be able to get along in English. You should be able to strap a car seat into the taxi, albeit I donít know that all 4 of you will fit comfortably into one taxi, they are generally small Toyota-size cars. Shanghai, like virtually all cities in Asia, is very safe in terms of crime, etc, so I would not have any concerns on that point.

I personally would not want to make a flight by myself with an infant and a 4 year-old, but I am sure you can live through it. It will certainly be memorable. I agree on trying to not change planes. If you canít find a non-stop into Shanghai, look into non-stops to Hong Kong, you can then connect to one of the many flights (virtually hourly) between Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Cicerone is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 06:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,943
BI Deaconess has a good travel clinic in boston....that is where we go...

i see tons of kids on every asia flight i go on from usa....most are well behaved....one time i did see a father tip over the edge, but never a kid...

get right on the passports...

veggie is ok....
rhkkmk is offline  
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