The second time I went to China, I traveled with a Thai friend and his 10-year-old daughter. It was my second trip and his first to China, so before he left he made sure our Chinese friends told him how to pack for easy traveling around China with a child and what to do and not do. Once we got to China, because of our friends’ advice, traveling with his daughter was no problem and she had a blast. If you’re visiting China with children, make sure you follow these quick tips and your trip will be easy and fun for both you and your kids.
Consider Attention Span and Interests of Children When Planning – If you’re taking a tour in China or even if you’re traveling by yourselves, make sure when you plan your trip you take into consideration the attention span and interests of your kids. Tours of China can involve a lot of historical sites, museums and archaeological digs so, if your kids are too young to enjoy these, or not remotely interested, a classic tour of China or a trip involving ‘high-brow’ attractions may not be for you.
In that case, you’re probably better traveling alone, so you can arrange your vacation to include sites kids will like – amusement parks, fun historical sites, shopping at markets with lots of things for kids, toy stores etc. There’s tons of things for kids to do in China, so why burden them with a boring trip. It’s their vacation too.
Educate Your Kids About China – Before you leave, if your kids are old enough, tell them a little bit about China. Read some books together, watch a DVD or a movie set in China and talk about Chinese history and typical Chinese food and clothing. That way, when you and your kids get there, they’ll already be curious about the country and wanting to learn more.
Packing for a Child’s Trip to China – While, of course, baby formula, chlldren’s medication, supplies and toys are readily available all over China, to make sure your child is comfortable and happy, you’re better taking your own supply.
Take enough baby formula and baby food to last your trip (China has had problems with tainted milk and baby formula, so you may feel happier taking your own), but be aware you might have to pay import duty on it upon arrival in the country.
Also, take any medication your child uses regularly (make sure you take it in the pharmacy-dispensed bottle), and baby or children’s supplies like wipes, first-aid kit etc. The last thing you need is to have a sick child and be forced to find a pharmacist that speaks English in the middle of China at 3am.
Use copious amounts of baby wipes while traveling too. China isn’t always the cleanest of countries, so keeping your kids hands and faces clean while out during the day will go a long way to preventing picking up bacteria that might make them sick.
Packing for the Plane Ride to China – Don’t forget, from the US and Europe, plane rides to China take are a long time. Average plane travel is 15-20 hours, so make sure your kids have plenty of toys, books, computer games, drawing supplies etc. to keep them busy on flights and at airports during layovers.
Also, book flights starting in the evening if possible, as that will usually mean your kids will sleep for a good 6-8 hours while flying.
Eating in China – Much of the food eaten in China is ‘weird’ to westerners and particularly to kids. If you have picky eaters on your hands, make sure you take some western snacks or small packaged kids’ meals with you for the first couple of days, until you can find suitable food at a Chinese restaurant or supermarket.
Plus, if all else fails, in the bigger cities there’s always fast food places like McDonalds, although it’s a shame to go all the way to China and then subject your kids to that. Believe me, any Chinese food is a lot healthier.
Don’t Make Your Kids Nervous – Some parents have their kids so wound up about overseas trips that, by the time they get there, the kids are nervous wrecks and the parents are worse. China is a fascinating country, the Chinese are friendly and lovely and love kids and, especially if your kids are younger and fair-haired, they’ll get a lot of attention. Overall in fact, your kids will be safer in China than in the US (the crime rate is much lower).
So, while making sure they know the rules about speaking to strangers, don’t put the fear of God into them. It’ll ruin their vacation and yours too.
Write Your Child a Note – One thing my mother always did when I was a kid and I’ve always done with kids I’m responsible for is, when traveling, always have a note packed somewhere in the clothing of the child.
The note should include your hotel information, telephone number and any information that will help your child get back to you if they get lost. Also, when you arrive at your hotel, get a hotel card in both English and Chinese showing hotel information, and staple that to the note. That way, if your child gets lost, even a Chinese person who doesn’t read English can help get them home safely.