For China, we felt like we will need some hand-holding. We don’t speak the language, and we are fish out of water, so we looked into private tours offered by China Odyssey Tours which came highly recommended by a colleague. We also looked at private tours offered by China Advocates which runs many of the alumni travel tours. Another recommended private tour company in the states is called Gate 1 Travel.
We started with an itinerary from an alumni trip as the basis for our travel in China that included stops in Beijing to see the city sights, Forbidden City, and Great Wall, Xi’an for its Terracotta Army and walled city, Chengdu for its pandas, and Shanghai for its prowess. We opted to drop Shanghai in favor of Hong Kong (one of my favorites), and sent this itinerary to these tour companies. One of them suggested a stop in Tibet for a few days, so we ended up adding Lhasa to the itinerary to see the massive monasteries.
- Beijing (2 days)
- Xi’An (2 days)
- Lhasa (3 days)
- Chengdu (1 day)
- Hong Kong (2 days)
The tour companies were very helpful and offered to book hotels, air travel, and all local travel, as well as organize any local events, but at a fairly steep price for a family of 4. If this were our only trip, it would have been considered reasonable, however, we had 3 other major stops to make. Also, I personally wanted a hand in the travel planning (adjoining rooms or one big room for all four of us, seats, flight times, etc.).
So, in very short order, based on some fairly well fleshed out itineraries, I booked hotels (Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, or direct through the hotels) and booked some flights around China. I’m especially excited to fly Hainan Airlines which was recently certified as a 5-star airline by Skytrax.
When I visit China (I’ve been a few times to southern China for work), I’m always a little nervous about food and water, so when I can, I like to stay at good well known brands. In Beijing, we are staying at the Grand Hyatt Beijing which will accommodate a family of 4 in one room. It is also conveniently located nearby the Forbidden City. In Xi’An and Chengdu, we’re staying at Shangri-La Hotels in standard rooms with an extra bed. And in Hong Kong, we’re staying one night on