One day in Beijing. Fewer words, more photos

When I booked my flight to Beijing, many thought I was crazy.  My flight was scheduled to arrive in Beijing Wednesday evening and returning home Friday morning.  In other words I was flying to China in order to spend just one full day there.  I had taken advantage of a mistake fare: the round trip flight, in business class, cost me only $462.  Of course, that was just the beginning of my expenses.  I needed a China visa (which is fortunately good for 10 years). I needed a positioning flight to get to DC, where the trip began.  I needed a hotel in Beijing for two nights.  I needed (wanted) a guide.  And, I had to pay transportation, food, and entrance to attractions while in Beijing.

Sure, I earned a boatload of miles and got significantly closer to top tier AA status for 2016, but I actually think that the trip was worth doing anyway.  It turns out that you can cram a full sightseeing trip into one day.  What follows is my trip report with few words, but lots of photos…

Travel

My 30,000 miles to nowhere mission paid off.  I used AA systemwide upgrade certificates to fly first class rather than business.  The seats were comfortable and the crew was great. The food, though, was barely edible.

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The Beijing airport was like a modern, beautiful, ghost town when we arrived.  It would prove to be much more crowded on the return.

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A shuttle took us from the international terminal to the main terminal where I took a taxi to the hotel.

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Hilton Beijing Wangfujing

Based on recommendations from multiple readers, I used about 48,000 Hilton points per night to book a Deluxe King room at the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing.  The room was gorgeous and comfortable (once I found the thermostat and turned it way down)…

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My Hilton Gold status (thanks to my recently acquired Hilton Surpass card) was enough to get admitted to the hotel’s executive lounge.  The breakfast spread was very nice. The evening happy hour was underwhelming.

One day in Beijing

Tiananmen square

My guide, Jason (from Beijing Tours by Coco), and a driver picked me up at 8 in the morning.  The first stop was Tiananmen square.  Fortunately, the expected crowds failed to appear.

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Forbidden City

Our next stop was the Forbidden City, across the street from Tiananmen square.  A pedestrian subway made it easy to cross over.  Again, we were very lucky. It wasn’t crowded at all.

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One day in Beijing

Summer Palace

Next, we drove to the Summer Palace.  Traffic was light.  And, again, we were lucky that most of the crowds stayed away. It was a hot day in Beijing, but the Summer Palace grounds were comfortable thanks to a breeze blowing across the lake.

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Mutianyu Great Wall

Next, we drove away from the city to the Great Wall at Mutianyu.  Along the way we stopped for a delicious lunch of authentic Chinese food.  At Mutianyu, Jason and I rode the chairlift up to the wall.  We had hoped to ride the toboggan run down afterwards, but that option was closed due to a light drizzle.  Perhaps due to the threat of rain, we were almost completely alone on the wall!  If memory serves (it probably doesn’t), I think we hiked the wall from Tower 6 to 14 and back.

 

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One day in Beijing

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Beijing

On the return drive to the city, reality set in.  Traffic was heavy (as is usual in Beijing, I’ve been told) and it took us 2 hours to get back to the hotel.  I napped for most of the ride.  And, thanks to the nap, I had energy to explore the city a bit that evening.  I had hoped to eat The Best Dumplings in the World, but I couldn’t find the place that Miles to Memories wrote about in that post.  I thought about texting the author (Shawn) to ask for directions but realized that it would have been around 5 in the morning his time.  Rather than risk waking him up, I ate street food.  The Peking Duck was good, but I’ve had better.  I spent a couple of hours walking around, watching people line dancing, and avoiding women who claimed to want to practice their English with me (a known scam).

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One day in Beijing

Wrap up

I had a great trip to Beijing! Despite having only one full day to explore, I feel like I experienced as much as many others do during much longer stays.  Sure, I would have preferred a longer trip if I could have worked it out, but this was all that my schedule and the mistake fair allowed at the time.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. […] Early in the year, when AA mistakenly offered a business class round trip fare to Beijing for only $465, I jumped on the deal.  By the time I learned about it, some blogs had already declared the deal dead, but I found a few dates still available.  The harder part was finding dates where I was also available to travel.  That didn’t leave many options, but I found one.  It was a very short trip: I would arrive in Beijing on Wednesday and depart on Friday, but I booked it anyway.  My adrenaline clouded thinking suggested to me that 2 to 3 days in Beijing would be enough.  In reality, I ended up having only one day to explore Beijing.  I arrived in China late Wednesday night and flew home Friday morning, so I had only Thursday available for sightseeing.  Still, with a little planning, I was able to cram in a pretty full tour of Beijing into that one day, and I was very happy I did it.  You can read more here: One day in Beijing. Fewer words, more photos. […]

Comments

    • How many flight hours approximately and overall travel hours (from home to hotel)?

      Greg, good for you! I know it sounds like a crazy idea going all the way to China for one day, but on the other hand you now have visited China; who knows when you’d otherwise have gotten to do that on a “normal” trip.

  1. Sounds like a great trip! I think you are motivated to get more done on shorter trips. For us anyway, a long trip sometimes leads to procrastination and we end up missing half of what we wanted to do.

    • Jessica – so true!
      FM – Sounds like a great trip. I love how so often (at least for non-planners like me) fate sort of steps in and sends you somewhere, and then you take the reigns and it’s a wonderful trip. Disappointing to hear about the food on AA first class 🙁 I’d be pretty bummed about that.

  2. Sounds very much like my trips spread over multiple of runs on the Beijing mistake fare. You did it right hiring a private guide and car because you can see so much more, plus in my case, I was able to talk to the guides about cultural differences and changes in Chinese culture over the years. People thought I was crazy too, but I thoroughly enjoyed my trips. The one downside is the barely edible food on American.

  3. So many times we put off these type of trips waiting for the time when we have two weeks available and the resources to go–and then never end up going. This just shows that we can have amazing experiences in short periods of time and maybe that is what this hobby allows us to do. Next time, I’m going to think about the experiences and not the time.

  4. 1. Summer Palace = zero frogs in the pond, supposedly b/c the Queen beyatch got startled when one jumped in her boat…still none to this day. She presumably killed the king and put her 4 or 6 yr old son into power…and of course…he suspiciously died later in life when she was going to lose power…good story…the dragon lady needed to be killed off sooner, imo.

    If you hire a car to tour you around instead of a tour, you can do a LOT more in shorter amt. of time.

  5. This puts a smile on my face. Sure, it’s a little crazy but heck, why not if you can, and now you have a visa good for the next 10 years so you can do another trip! Love the photos!

  6. Traffic was crazy everywhere when I was in Beijing in 2007. The tour guide claimed there were 1200 new cars per day in that city.

    • Yeah. That’s why government has not allowed freely car buying anymore since 2010 I believe. One had to ‘win’ a spot first before buying a car.

  7. And when I was in Shanghai, I walked outside alone for all of 30 minutes, before going back to the hotel, due to that scam you speak of. I couldn’t make it 50 feet before another group of people literally surrounded me trying to “practice English.”

  8. Glad you had a great trip at Beijing (my hometown!). The pics make me want to fly back so bad. And it was a crazy busy schedule you had and luckily you did not run into crowds.

    Checked Shawn’s blog about the best dumpling, it is more like a random dumpling restaurant at Wangfujing (lol). But definitely better than U.S’s I guess. 🙂

  9. One of the benefits of hiring a guide is that the scammers ignore you. You can relax and enjoy all the sites without being pestered by touts, or language and art “students”. Great trip and pics.

  10. Never heard about the English practice scam (Why would I… I am a Chinese…) but not surprised. Just keep in mind that Chinese girls are generally shy and humble. I would not talk to you much even though you start a conversation with me, especially when I have never been to U.S.

  11. Wow! You had such great trip in Beijing! That’s the city I lived for 8 years. The places you visited all look familiar to me. You made me want to visit Beijing too!

  12. Sounds like a carbon copy of what I will be doing since I’m there for only a day and a half. Great resource for my trip!
    Would you be willing to email me Jason’s contact info and rate you paid? I’ll be sure to mention you recommended his service!

  13. On a business trip to Beijing, I had one “free” day and did exactly what you did. Hired a driver and guide and pretty much followed the same itinerary. It was awesome! And really showed me you can pack an amazing amount into one day. Having the driver/guide was key. IMO, the Great Wall is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.

  14. When you first started posting about this mistake fare, I thought you were completely nuts for doing it. I thought chasing the elite status not worth the pain and trouble. But now that I see all that you were able to see in a day, and the scammers that seem prevalent I am now interested in going for a day trip myself, since it looked like you were able to cram in everything I am interested in seeing in a day. How much was the tour guide and transportation? Also interested in total cost of all incidentals, such as local transportation, taxes/visa and food costs for the time you were there. Please pass along if you are willing to share.

    • I don’t remember the cost to get the visa. I used Allied Passport & Visa service. Maybe $160, something like that?
      I do know how much I spent while in China including all food, taxis, tour, entrance fees, etc. since I can look at my ATM receipts. About: $320. The biggest part of that was about $230 for the guide and driver.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I have been thinking of going to China for decades, hadn’t considered the tour guide and driver. But in reading your trip report with cost, that seems like the way for me to go. Thanks for reporting it!

      • Meant to add ATM receipts??? Why not reward credit card lol? I heard they at least take Discover over there.

        • Discover is ok, only problem is PIN, In china people use card with PIN or cash only, So hundreds cash in wallet is normal. In USA I only has 20 bucks in wallet, buy everything by cards.

  15. FM – Your trip was right on the Tiananmen Square Anniversary, luckily, the Square wasn’t blocked, the air quality seemed pretty good that day.
    The price in China’s major city is so inflated, 2.5 decades ago, when I left hometown Shanghai, I’d never imagine the inflation would go up so rapidly.
    Beijing is so widely spread out, and as it said the traffic is like in LA, your touring Beijing within a day even with such long To/From flights was super.
    It’s shame that always some scams played around in China. I had lived in Japan for few yrs, nothing like that. Glad you were not tricked by the scammers.

  16. OH,man.I wanna go back after see your photos. My hometown,miss you for 3 years. Only busy work at USA, wanna back so much.

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