The Wonders of China

China is an old destination for family travel. After all, it was the destination of choice for the Polos, two merchant brothers who dragged a child along on an incredible journey that still resonates some 800 years after the fact.

Young Marco, his father and uncle spent 24 years in Asia. The youngster who left his native Venice returned as a grown man to relate tales of wonder that were scoffed at by some who dismissed his stories as something akin to far-fetched science fiction.

There were stories about startling kingdoms, incredible wealth, unbelievable inventions like printed currency, food, animals and plenty of adventures to keep readers turning the pages even as they shook their heads in disbelief.

Marco Polo never returned to China. He died insisting that he had only related half of what he’d seen, a fact that gave those who thought he had made up the whole thing more ammunition to shoot down his narrative.

Today, China is so readily accessible that even Marco Polo would be astounded. The journey that took him decades to complete can be made in hours and even though China was hermetically sealed to most foreigners for a large part of the 20th century, the country now receives visitors in numbers like never before. Today, as it was in Marco Polo’s time, the magic of China is its most saleable point.

The sights and customs that made the Polo party swoon in the 13th century remain as alluring as ever, and travelers—especially those with children in tow—could easily be embarking on the vacation of a lifetime.

There are a large number of tour companies specializing in family-oriented travel to China, as the country rapidly becomes the most visited destination in the world.

Still, many Americans probably wouldn’t consider China as a vacation spot when traveling with youngsters, but that would be a considerable disservice to both parents and their children.

Clients wanting to expose their children to the glory and grandeur that is China would do well to consider Adventures by Disney’s tour of China. After all, the Magic Kingdom is synonymous for stimulating the imagination of children, just as China is with enthralling even the most jaded visitor.

The tours offered by Adventures by Disney are as well planned and intricate as any of the attractions of its signature theme parks, the cornerstone of its multi billion-dollar international hotel and cruise empire.

After all, the company revolutionized the vacation business in the ‘50’s when it inaugurated Disneyland in California. Two decades later it took it up a notch when it opened Florida’s Disney World, followed by the successful Disney Cruise Line in the ‘90s. Today, with participatory vacations so popular, the company has once again expanded with Adventures by Disney—a company dedicated to take families to remote places that once were almost the exclusive domain of adults.

Bruce Austin, manager of trip development and operations for Adventures by Disney, is convinced that China is an extremely attractive destination for families and has the potential of growing even more as a profitable destination for the travel industry.

“We operate in 19 countries, where we have a dedicated effort to create exciting adventures for travelers, and in China we have designed an itinerary for people of all ages,” he says. “Our China tours all feature clean and safe hotels; the restaurants we use appeal to the Western palate. But most importantly, we have created a number of activities that allow the destination to come alive by mixing creative stories and activities that are apt for the entire family.”

China is part of what Adventures by Disney labels its Exotic Collection of tours.

Its Enchanted China package consists of either a 10- or 12-night itinerary. Rates for the 10-night trip runs approximately from $4,819 to $5,469 for adults and $4,339 to $4,939 for children, including international airfares, while the 12-night package costs $5,699 and $6,439 for adults; $5,129 to $5,809 for children.

But the trips show the promise of being the trip of a lifetime.

There are side trips and activities that even Marco Polo missed: detailed explanations of the terra cotta warriors in Xi’an, instructions on tai chi from local masters undertaken against the mountains of Guilin, in-depth lectures while touring the Great Wall, private guided tours to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding devoted to the preservation of the enigmatic animals, tours of Beijing and Hong Kong specifically designed for the young, and opera and acrobatic performances in various stops.