Overshadowed in recent years by its Olympian sister city, Beijing, Shanghai is worth a visit of its own. No doubt you've heard about China's explosive economic growth in recent years, and this is the center of the activity. If you want to see where China is headed in the coming decade, start your vacation here and see for yourself.
At publication time, one U.S. dollar will get you just over six Renminbi (e.g. "the people's money") or yuan. As with any major world metropolis, you'll need to work for your bargains, but you may just find them hidden in plain sight. Affordable excursions include visiting the Old Chinese City, taking in the view from the observation deck of the Jinmao Tower, and seeing colonial architecture in the French Concession. Exploring on foot will quickly show you the contrasts between old and new, with ancient homes and storefronts intermingled with shiny skyscrapers. Frommer's has put together four self-guided walking tours, targeting a variety of interests (e.g., the commercial center, the Old City, etc.), that won't cost you a dime.
Expect the bulk of your vacation funds to go toward accommodations, although the city does have a wide range to choose from. Save on meals by having a large lunch (many restaurants have cost-effective fixed-price menus), instead of going all-out for dinner.
For those wanting to venture beyond Shanghai, SmarTours is offering a 10-day "China Sampler" to Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai from $1,299 per person, including airfare, eight nights' accommodations, all in-country flights and local transfers, 12 meals, and sightseeing tours with an English-speaking guide.