China was always one of those places that I wanted to see. Walk the Great Wall, eat authentic Chinese instead of my beloved Panda Express orange chicken, and submerge myself somewhere in a country of vast contrasts. I wanted to go, but always saw it more as a destination that I would visit later in life.
However, that was not the case. I frequent websites like Travelzoo.com constantly, always spotting the next big deal. There were always great deals until suddenly, there it was: $899 8-day trip to China. WHAT!? I had just gotten my tax refund and had money burning in my pocket. I immediatly sent it to my husband (by both text and email, of course) eagerly awaiting for his response. True to form, my husband took nearly an HOUR to respond. Um hello? What’s with you men? Yet, there was his response, “How?”
I knew that usually the roundtrip airfare ALONE is that much. It had sunken in that I hadn’t read the fine print yet, fearing the deal was too good to be true. So I got to reading and this is what was included: Round trip airfare from LAX to Beijing, 6 nights in 5 star accommodations, breakfast buffet each morning, tour guide and tours (which included all major sites), traditional Peking duck dinner and a visit to the old hutongs to have a lunch with a local family. So basically, it included everything. Plus it offered us enough free time to explore Beijing on our own.
When my husband got home from work, I showed it to him in more depth with much enthusiasm. We had the money and could take the time off in the next few months, so we were sold. We booked for mid-March, paid in full, and were all set for China. Well, with the exception of getting our Chinese Visas (which isn’t that painful, with the exception of battling the usual LA traffic).
China was incredible. It was unlike I had anything I had ever seen before. Up until this point, we only had Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada under our belts. So this was a culture shock for sure. Yet, I find that you come away learning the most from these trips. I will never forget the smells of walking through Wangfujing (the street market) and the negotiating in the silk markets. Plus, they love taking pictures with blondes!
I will post more about China, how I utilize websites such as Travelzoo, and finding the best deals possible on hotels, airfare and packages. I feel that traveling shouldn’t be a privilege, but as an experience that is affordable to everyone. I have seen the world both on a shoe string and extravagantly. I look forward to sharing my insights, tips, and everything else along the way.