1. Bring a guidebook and learn a few key phrases. (For example: "Do you have any drinking water?") Make sure you have these written down in Chinese characters.
2. The easiest way to travel between provincial cities: Fly on a budget airline, like Air China or China Southern Airlines. The flights are rarely booked, so you can show up at the airport the morning you want to travel.
3. Car rental in cities often comes with a driver and costs about $60 daily.
4. Don't visit without doing something to help earthquake victims. Give to California-based Operation USA (opusa.org), which helps build earthquake-safe schools. Or donate to Reporters Without Borders (rsf.org), which lobbies for media freedom in China. The Sichuan quake marked the first time in decades that coverage of a disaster wasn't heavily censored. This hastened relief efforts in the region.