Chinese people generally dote on children, which means you can drag your youngsters to swanky restaurants and hotels without staff rolling their eyes.
Nonetheless, be prepared for surprises -- like how everyone and their mother will want to pose for photos with your kid.
And what should you do if your child gets sick? What about the awful stories about poisoned baby formula?
Here are some tips on what to expect and how to cope.
1. Prepare in advance for medical issues
Many pharmacy staples that are easily available in your home town are tough to find in China, so pack accordingly.
Dr. Carenia J. Kuan, chief pediatrician at Parkway Health in Shanghai, recommends bringing oral hydrating salts or electrolyte solution, an anti-colic product, anti-itch cream, hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl syrup, and children’s sunblock and mosquito repellent
Don’t forget enough medicine for existing conditions. Anti-fever medicine is widely available in China, but bring your favorite brand.
Check with your pediatrician or travel clinic to see if kids need extra vaccines or anti-malaria pills, depending on the exact destination.
For parents and children, shots for rabies and hepatitis A are strongly recommended.
Also note emergency contacts for a major hospital -- preferably an international one -- in each destination city.
2. Infant formula:
Despite the watchdog efforts by the Chinese government in the aftermath of the September 2008 milk scandal, I strongly advise you to bring enough formula for your child from home. If you've run out, go to upscale supermarkets like Carrefour or an import food store (ask your concierge). There are many joint-venture companies producing formula in China. Import grocery stores may also carry fully imported formula.
3. Squat and bear it
If you stay in the bubble of luxury hotels and restaurants in Shanghai or Beijing, you may never see a squat toilet.
Otherwise, don’t panic when the restroom door swings open and you spot the hole in the ground. Small children probably won’t care. Older kids might.
Squat toilets do have advantages. With no skin-on-porcelain contact, in theory they’re more sanitary (though perhaps not for your shoes).
Carry tissues, since many Chinese restrooms don’t have toilet paper. And don’t count on McDonald’s in times of need -- not all have bathrooms.
On a related note: disposable diapers used to be hard to find, but now many big-city supermarkets stock them (rural areas usually don't).
4. It may be time to invest in a kid leash
That’s only partly a joke.
Traffic in China can be truly frightening. Previous horry stories include two-year-old Wang Yue getting run over by two vehicles at a market, with passers-by ignoring her plight. (People in China are often afraid to help accident victims for fear of being held liable.)
Chinese drivers don’t seem to follow clear rules. You never know when a silent electric scooter with its headlights off is going to zoom out of the dark and burn a red light.
Keep your toddler immobilized in a compact umbrella stroller that will be easy to bring into the subway and taxis. For infants, baby carriers are the simplest option.
Most taxis unfortunately don’t have seat belts, so there’s no point in bringing a car seat unless you hire a car and driver. Subway or walk is sometimes better options.