KeeKee's Big Adventures Family Travel Podcast
KeeKee's Big Adventures Family Travel Podcast
China Tour with Travel Mom Trudi

We’re taking a China Tour with Travel Mom Trudi on this episode. Living in Shanghai for three years with her family, Trudi has tons of interesting adventures and tips to share.

For more family vacation inspiration, check out all the podcast episodes. Adventure Awaits!

China Tour: Yangshuo Yangshuo

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Trudi. I’m British and have lived all over the world with my job very. Currently, I live in Seattle with my Canadian husband and two American kids who are aged eight and 10.

We moved to China in, June of 2019. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We lived there for three years. We were originally supposed to be there for two years, and we ended up signing on for an extra year because we were enjoying it so much.

Before we moved, I organized a pinboard to get the boys excited about the move and adventures. I had it made for us specifically on Etsy and you could put different colored pins for all the places around the world you want to go visit and so we all got to put pins on.

And then as you travel together, you add a different color pen to where you’ve been. That was the plan. We had pins all over Asia because we were going to explore it while we were on the continent.

China Tour: Shanghai


China Tour: Zhuijiajiao

Our first trip, which was in the fall of 2019, was to Northern Thailand and that was amazing. And then we had lots more trips booked. We were going to go skiing in Japan and we had a Bali trip booked and all these things.

And then January 2020, we went to Australia and got stuck. We were luckily able to get back into China in March, but then couldn’t leave. The border closed and while we could leave, we wouldn’t be able to get back in and it was our home and where my job was.

So we then were like, okay, we can’t leave China. But as COVID was very tightly controlled within China, we had a lot of freedom within the country. So I would say the biggest silver lining of living in China during COVID for us was that we got to explore China in a way that I don’t think we otherwise would have done.

And we’ll go back to Asia at some point. But would we go back to these places in China? Probably not. And some of our favorite travel experiences ever were while we were living there.

Where did you live in China?

We lived in Shanghai which is great for travel as there are two good airports. One is more of an international, but then there’s a local airport. We live 15 minutes from Hongqiao airport, which is mostly domestic flights, but it meant it was easy for us to jump on a plane and go to places.

Also, the rail network is really strong in China to take high-speed trains. It feels like you’re kind of floating on clouds on that train. It’s one of the fastest trains in the world. So, traveling within China logistically is pretty easy.

China Tour: Shanghai


China Tour: Shanghai

China Tour: Yangshou

One of my favorite trips was to Yangshuo, which is very close to Guilin. It’s a picturesque area. You fly into Guilin, and Yangshuo is on the side of the Li River.

You’re in these beautiful mountains. The hotel we stayed in, which I recommend, is the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. It’s a National Geographic-recommended hotel. And one of the benefits is that the staff there can speak English as well as Chinese.

That’s quite different. That’s one of the biggest challenges of traveling within China. Even in Shanghai, it’s hard to find people that speak English. Once you get outside of the big cities, forget it. And the hotel was great. It was also one of the trips we were able to plan on our own.

Overall, I would say in China you need to use a tour guide. And there are lots of them and they’re well set up and they have someone who can speak English and they can customize tours. It’s not super expensive to do it that way. Every other trip that we did we always used a tour guide.

China Tour: Yangshuo


There are lots of outdoor things like hiking, but it’s very easy hiking in China. Hiking is very accessible. They tend to build steps and wooden platforms so it’s not like your wilderness hiking. It’s easy with kids. We also could rent bikes with kids’ seats and helmets and we biked up the side of the river. We also went rafting down the river.

There are mud caves you can go to, but I think honestly, one of the things I just loved about it was it’s just absolutely beautiful. The topography is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It was just really relaxing.

We saw this incredible evening light show on the water, which was stunning. The person who helped organize the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics is behind it. It’s stunning.

The hotel also had both a Western menu and a Chinese menu, which when you’re traveling with kids who are not the most adventurous, despite having lived in different countries is helpful.

China Tour: Yangshuo


China Tour: Harbin

China itself is so diverse, the landscapes, the geography, and the cultures, even within China are just phenomenal. At one point we were close to the Russian border in a city called Harbin. I think it’s like minus 22 degrees in the winter so you really need to be dressed for the weather.

They have this ice and snow sculpture park that they build every year for like two months and then it kind of melts and then they build it again the next year. And it’s just incredible.

China Tour: Harbin

China Tour: Harbin

China Tour: The Silk Road

And then, another trip we did that same year was riding camels in the Gobi Desert. And this is all in China. And that was part of my other memorable trip that the kids still talk about, the Silk Road trip. It’s the road made famous by Marco Polo which goes all the way through Eastern Europe into China. We just did a small section of it in 10 days.

We started in a place called Dunhuan. In hindsight, I would have stayed an extra night. Our tour guide took us through the whole thing, which was essential. We couldn’t have done this trip without a guide.

Dunhuan is where Marco Polo lived for some time. it’s interesting because there are no Western brands there at all. I’d say for half that trip we didn’t see any Western brands which is incredible. To us, it’s still a city with a couple of hundred thousand people, but by Chinese standards, it’s a village.

Your average city in China like Tanjian has 13 million people. Or Suzhou has 10 million people.

China Tour: Silk Road
Silk Road

China Tour: Silk Road
Silk Road

It was just that this incredible place with a night market and food markets and the people were just so incredibly friendly. I would say traveling across China, the people are incredibly friendly and approachable. They’re fascinated by Westerners, particularly when you get to some of these out-of-the-way places because they’ve never seen a Westerner. They want to have photos taken with you. My youngest son’s blonde and he was a big highlight for photos but it’s all in a lovely, curious way.

Families are revered. Children are revered. I think this is a result of the one-child family policy that was in place for a while in that you think about you have grandchildren that have four grandparents and they’re the only grandchild.

And so, children are special and precious, and so wherever you go, people are happy to see them, like restaurants. They’re happy kids are there not annoyed, They get great excitement and smiles on everybody’s faces. That was very true on the Silk Road trip because we were really in out-of-the-way places.

China Tour: Taklamakan Desert Taklamakan Desert

China Tour: Taklamakan Desert Taklamakan Desert

We started the Silk Road Trip at the Taklamakan Desert, which is I think the third biggest desert in the world. It borders the Gobi Desert. And we were riding camels which was just incredible and there’s a crescent lake there. It’s like an oasis. There’s water in the middle of this desert. It’s stunning.

There were caves you can visit that are a couple of thousand years old with carvings and artwork that were all uncovered, maybe, 50 years ago.

And then, we went to Langeau, which is a slightly bigger town. That was the first time where we came across some Western Brands. I think the kids have never been so excited to go to KFC and Starbucks. And to be fair, the parents were excited as well by, this point.

China Tour: Terracotta Warriors Terracotta Warriors

China Tour: Xi'an Xi’an

Then we ended in Xi’an with the Terracotta Warriors which was an incredible end to the trip. It is amazing, although very busy and lots of people. One of our highlights was a little place, like a 20-minute drive away where the kids could make their own little terracotta warriors. Then we left them there to be fired up, and then they sent them to us in the post afterward. That was a highlight for us and it was very personal.

China Tour: Terracotta Warriors Terracotta Warriors

China Tour: Silk Road Silk Road

Travel with Kids Tips

My main tips are snacks, games & wipes!

  1. Snacks – My number one is snacks. there is nothing worse than hungry kids. This was especially important when we were in China because you never knew when you could get hungry and not have Western-style food. So it made me more intentional about having snacks the kind of snacks you want them to eat.
  2. Games – Games are my other. Is little games, like the matching games, little card games like Go Fish or Uno, or just a regular pack of playing cards. The number of amazing memories I have of playing little card games with the kids, on a plane, in an airport, a restaurant. They are moments together as a family, like in a restaurant, you’re waiting for food, just getting out a little card game. And I feel like the conversations we have are just fun, and it’s really easy to do. There’s a series called Top Trumps, which we grew up with in England. I’ve introduced it to my family. You can get them at well-known stores or on Amazon.
  3. Wipes – You always need wipes. When you’re traveling and some of these crazy places you don’t know if the bathrooms are going to have what you need. Very typical in China, when you’re traveling, the toilets are squat toilets, not regular toilets, and you need wipes.

Shanghai Shanghai

Why do you think it’s important to travel with your kids?

One of the things, I feel really passionately about, with my kids and for us as a family is that we want to raise global citizens. We already have three nationalities in our families. That’s probably a starting point for why we felt strongly about this. And it was definitely a driver of moving to China. We thought we needed to help them have a different perspective.

And I think travel is a huge part of broadening their perspectives, learning about other cultures, and developing curiosity. And them being adaptable to different situations. When you’re traveling and things don’t go to plan, it’s okay. It’s a good lesson in so how do we figure this out? Like nothing ever goes to plan perfectly when you travel.

You all learn to be good problem solvers, adaptable, deal with ambiguity, all those kinds of things.

The other thing for me that I hadn’t expected at the outset of starting to travel is the family bond is so strengthened. We have these experiences together that we get to talk about and then I document them and turn them into books.

Seeing the kids go back and look at those books, and the trips that we did, and then we talk about it and the memories. The family bond, and the bond between my sons. They’re each other’s friend.

It’s all of those things. I’m a huge fan. I will also caveat that, for the first couple of years, we didn’t travel at all because the thought of getting on a plane with two small children, and the jet lag and all of that was, quite frankly, a nightmare. But I think when they got to three and five, it was that kind of sweet spot of this is totally doable.

China Tour: Great Wall Great Wall of China

What’s the next trip you’re planning or dreaming about?

There are a couple. So, this is on the bucket list. When we were in China, we had planned for April 2022, a big trip to Yunnan and Tibet. We had it all planned out because you can do that easily in China. And it just looked incredible. And then we had the big Shanghai lockdown where we were locked in our house for 77 days. So, we were not able to go, and that’s a separate podcast.

The other thing on our list that, I think will happen next Christmas, we want to go to Lapland. I think it’s a British thing. You go to Lapland because that’s where Santa lives. Lapland at the North Pole.

Now it’s officially Northern Finland but in the UK, there are lots of charter flights where you can just jump on a plane easily and they even dress the planes up as reindeer and all kinds of crazy things. And there are different trips you can do.

So, if any of your listeners have top tips, I’d quite like to do a luxury version. You can go and see Santa at the North Pole and they have all these experiences like dog sledding and snowshoeing. You can see the Northern Lights too which is on our bucket list.

🇨🇳 🌏 🇨🇳

Thank you for joining us, Trudi!

For more family vacation inspiration, tune in to all the podcast episodes.  Adventure Awaits!