Q. My wife and I are contemplating a trip to China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong) and are wondering when is the best time to travel there and to buy airfares. This would be our first trip to Asia. Is there are website that has the cheapest fares? Should we book a package deal or travel independently? What's the best airline to use? Also, my wife has respiratory problems and has to fly with a portable oxygen concentrator so we're wondering what the airline policies are about bringing oxygen on board the plane.

A. Let me address your last question first. If your wife has respiratory problems, I would seriously reconsider a trip to China's major cities. Due to industrial expansion and other factors, the air quality is horrendous. Even people with healthy lungs find it intolerable some days. Friends of mine who moved to Beijing for work with their two small children quickly asked for a relocation to Singapore when they discovered how bad the air quality was in China. For a first visit to Asia, I'd follow their lead and visit Singapore instead. (Singapore is fast becoming the tourist hub of Asia with excellent hotels, infrastructure, attractions (they even have casinos and a Universal Studios theme park now), excellent shopping and cuisine.) But if you insist on visiting China, I would fly on an airline with clearly stated rules on traveling with a portable oxygen concentrator, such as United or Singapore Airlines. This spells out United's policies, and here are Singapore's rules. And wherever you decide to go, definitely look into package deals since they often save money over buying hotel, airfare and tours a la carte. Sign up for Singapore Airline's frequent flyer program (Kris Flyer) to get first dibs on special promotions, which are often sent to members before they general public.

Beijing image via Shutterstock

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