Today’s Culture with Travel post is by Sarah Kearns
Getting my whole family to China seemed like an easy task when I started. Of course, there were lots of moving parts. By the time I’d made sure that all three of my daughters weren’t going to be missing school or important social events during the dates I’d picked, there was a lot to get started on. Here’s how I planned everything out, so it would all run smoothly.
The first thing I did – and this is something I’ve learned over many family trips – is to leave room for the unexpected. You can always count on the unexpected to show up! Whether it’s a disaster that means you have to change your plans, or the fantastic discovery of something you hadn’t found in your research that needs exploring, it can come from anywhere. I tried to keep this in mind when planning. I booked things with flexible dates if I could, and if I had to choose a date, I opted for booking when we got there. It’s safe to get on the internet and book things with your credit card so long as you use a VPN while you’re there.
Decide on priorities
It’s important to know your top priorities when you visit a new place. What are the landmarks you absolutely must see, or the experiences you just can’t miss? If you keep these top of mind, you won’t be disappointed and end up missing them. We were visiting Beijing, so there were some highlights to focus on: the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and a meal of roast Peking duck which is famous here. With those in mind, I could check the opening times and travel options to make sure everything else fitted around them.
Look up travel requirements
This was a trick I learned: if you travel from Hong Kong into China, you can do it without a visa. Well, visas are hard to get and tough to keep track of, so I opted for travelling into Hong Kong on our way in. We stayed there overnight in a hotel, which allowed us to see some of the city’s charms, before we then travelled on to our destination the next day. Make sure you check what visas you need as well as the other documents that may be required, and keep copies – I held the originals while my husband held another set just in case.
I don’t like going on tourist-centric tours, because they tend to be far too fast and only focused on getting your money. That’s why I decided to plan my own tours. It takes a bit more research, but it’s really worth it. You can read guidebooks and see what other visitors have said on sites like TripAdvisor if you want advice on where to go, how long you should stay there, and what to do. This is how I arranged our trip to the Great Wall of China, for example, so that we would have time to walk around instead of being rushed back to a coach. I also got in touch with a local family, who are used to showing tourists around and explaining the real highlights of Beijing from an insider point of view. They were so kind when we arrived and it really made the experience unforgettable!
Even though you have a lot of research to do and work before you’re ready to go, I always think that planning a holiday carefully is really useful. It makes all the difference to your enjoyment when you finally get there!
Sarah Kearns is a hard working mother of three daughters. She is a Senior Communications Manager for BizDb, an online resource with information about businesses in the UK. She loves cooking, reading history books and writing about green living.