Hainan Airlines is a Chinese carrier with flights from as little as $450 roundtrip from north American cities to Chinese cities. I found some round trip flights from Chicago to Beijing for $460 recently (February 2017).
Spring Airlines is the premier Chinese budget airline carrier.
Ctrip is an excellent Chinese website for booking flights and accommodation. It is primarily for Chinese cities but you can also search for international flights.
Scott’s Cheap Flights sends out daily emails about great flight deals around the world. For example you might get an email alerting you of $350 round trip ticket deal to Germany from North America good for a couple days several months in advance. There are free and paid versions.
Hostel World is a website for finding and booking hotels and hostels all over the world.
Agoda is another site for finding hotels and vacation rentals around the world.
Airbnb allows users to rent our other people’s homes around the world, including cities big and small in China.
Couch Surfing allows you to find strangers in other cities to stay with for free. I have met some great people through Couch Surfing. I like to use it to meet up with like-minded people in the city I happen to be living in or traveling to.
Blogs and Social Media Sites
Trippy is a social media site dedicated to asking others unique travel questions about places. It’s good for asking questions about common travel destinations, but you may have trouble finding people who have been to your average city.
CNN Travel is one of the best sites for researching all types of places, popular and unpopular.
Far West China is a website dedicated to travel and living in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province.
The Land of Snows is a website dedicated to travel in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Ladakh.
The Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum is where travelers may ask about world travel. This can have some good information about different trips people have taken around China. Side note: Lonely Planet also produces decent phrasebooks which are great for learning the grammar of different languages.
WeChat is a wildly popular phone app (desktop version also available) like WhatsApp but much more ubiquitous. Since first released in January 2011, there are now over 700 million users around the world.
Everyone in China uses WeChat to chat and there is functionality to charge your phone, pay your bills, pay restaurants, and a lot more.
Grabtalk is like having a translator and virtual assistant in your pocket. It allows you to book travel, get food delivered, call a taxi, and more.
Didi Kuai Che functions the same way as Uber. You can use it to contact cab drivers around China.