Why I Loved Being a Tourist During My Whirlwind Family Trip Around Asia and Europe

Feb 25, 2018

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Normally when I travel, I avoid the major tourist attractions. Often it’s because I’m traveling for work and don’t have time, or I’m visiting friends and we tend to do more local activities. However, every once in a while, it’s fun to geek out and be the ultimate tourist, especially with family.

During a recent round-the-world trip with my parents that included stops in London, Ghana, Dubai, Beijing, Bali, Singapore and Hong Kong, we decided to indulge in some of the most cliché tourist activities, and it ended up being really memorable. Here’s a snapshot of all the times I played tourist — and loved it!

My parents and I in China.

1. The London Eye

I’ve visited London countless times, but I’d never actually gone up in the London Eye. The cool, spaceship-style capsules were intriguing. While it’s not cheap (prices start at £26 per person, or $35) the views of London and the River Thames are spectacular. I went during sunset with my parents, and we had a great time chatting and observing the sun set over the river.

Tip: Book your tickets online, because you can save 10%, and you’ll avoid the long lines.

Sunset views from the London Eye.

2. High Tea at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Although I was in Dubai just a few weeks prior to the trip with my parents, I didn’t have time to do anything touristy then. So, when we were all there together, we decided to do the most touristy thing we could think of: Tea at the Burj, the tallest building in the world.

Although you have the option to go to an observation deck, we opted to skip the long lines and instead nibble on sweets and sip tea while taking in the panoramic views of Dubai’s larger-than-life skyline and pristine sandy beaches from At.Mosphere on the 122nd floor of the building.

Prices start at about $114 per person for an inside table, but I would recommend splurging for the window table, which costs about $133 per person. The menu includes brut Champagne with berries; finger sandwiches and other delicate appetizers; a main course; and pastries, scones and homemade desserts paired with tea.

Tip: Don’t bother trying to walk there or enter via the Dubai Mall, even if your hotel seems close. Instead, take an Uber and get dropped off at the Armani Hotel entrance. Also there’s a dress code — no shorts or sandals at high tea!

3. The Forbidden Palace and Great Wall of China

Seeing some of Beijing’s most famous attractions with a tour guide isn’t something I’d normally do, but my parents and I decided it would be a great idea to have someone explain the history surrounding these incredible and historic structures. We ended up hiring Summer, an absolutely fantastic guide who had such wonderful energy and was a great storyteller. It was also special to see Beijing without all the smog — if you’re visiting and it’s a beautiful clear day, reach out to Summer via email. She can be reached at 1024536649@qq.com, and her tours cost about $120 for a full day.

Tip: Bundle up, because Beijing is chilly in the winter! The ideal solution is the panda hat-and-mitten combo I’m sporting.

4. The Merlion in Singapore

Although we only spent 12 hours in Singapore, what’s a visit to this Southeast Asian city without taking classic tourist photos in front of one of the world’s most famous hotels, Marina Bay Sands? If we’d had more time or another night there, of course, we would have taken the typical photos from the infinity pool on the rooftop.

On an unrelated note, isn’t my mom beautiful?

 Tip: Give yourself an extra hour at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) — it’s rated the best in the world! While there, you can explore the cactus gardens or go down the 39-foot-tall slide.

I have the Benjamin Button of moms ❤️❤️

A post shared by Brian Kelly (@briankelly) on

As a frequent traveler, I understand the desire to always see new and exciting things and have local experiences. But sometimes visiting all the typical tourist attractions can be fun — I definitely enjoyed doing this with my parents.

Images courtesy of the author.

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