Do The Private Guide, Boutique Hotel! First, unless you speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, don't even consider planning a trip to China without a guide. You would miss out on so much, and waste lots of time searching about and waiting in lines. Second, go with China Tours! their tour guides were excellent -They are friendly, speak fluent English, and are very well-versed in their respective home cities and in general Chinese history and culture in general. And best of all, you can rely on them totally - from the airport through the respective stays, they not only coordinate the planned tours expertly but also go above and beyond, to not only propose additional activities but also purchase the tickets for you and assist in transportation to these additional locations. The hotels were fantastic - the hotel in Xian was as fine as I have ever experienced. So, in conclusion, for the experience of a lifetime, do the private tours, elect the boutique hotels and above all go China Tours!