I am so fortunate to have a husband that is a planner and enjoys logistics/ train schedules and venturing off the beaten path. Although we planned our main itinerary together, he worked out much of the specifics. I had no idea the journey we were going to face in traveling with our children to Vietnam. I picked up a few essential tips for traveling with children while also trying to exercising while on the road.
Whether we were in the city or staying in a small village, we both appreciate a bit of spontaneity. However, as I've gotten older I realize there are certain comforts that are non negotiable: a bed as opposed to a hammock, warm water most of the time and, when traveling with kids, certain meds and remedies in case they get sick.
Our boys are 11 & 13 and this comes with certain pros and cons. Kids under 12 get half price at certain restaurants and are free for metro travel in many cities- bonus! The downside is that my older one is actually taller/bigger than me so many hotels we needed to pay for 2 rooms. Another upside? The WIFI was spotty at best in some locations which made for mandatory unplugged time which is always a priority for our family trips.
Getting it dialed and always assessing (was that a good call? Was it too short, too long? What would I do differently next time) never gets old.
Here is a list of things when we traveled to Vietnam as a family we nailed, would do over, or would leave out or modify in some way.
Packing clothes for family travel to Vietnam:
We brought too much stuff for sunny/hot weather & not enough for the cooler climate. You can buy t-shirts and lightweight clothing for a song so I would have left some of that at home and purchased as needed. Also, Laundry is provided at most hotels for a few dollars a kilo. and can be done in a few hours.
Yes! they pack small and I wore my REI long hooded down much more than I thought I would. Also, brought way too much sunscreen. We were in North and South Vietnam in December and although we were on the island paradise of PHU QUOC for a few days, one tube would have been plenty. Plus, the resort had some for guest use anyway!
I lived in my lululemon pants and lightweight t-shirts layered with long underwear if necessary.
Backpacks or Wheeled Carry On?
The jury is still out. I liked the idea of our Eagle Creek
backpacks/duffels but think wheeled for everyone would have been easier on the shoulders and back. The taxis are small in Saigon & Hanoi and could accommodate the wheelless duffles easily if we smoothed them just so.
Most airports ( except those in the US) have free carts so that was no a problem. However, once you venture out in the streets, walking blocks from the subway to the hotel in fine weather, wheels would be the way to go. My eagle Creek actually transforms from wheeled to backpack and I loved it. iT fit in the overhead + I banged those wheels all over Tokyo and beyond and the frame is still going strong.
Hanoi/ Saigon Street Food Tours:
Most definitely! Yes. My husband and I scheduled a street food tour w/a local and although a few of the stops the guide chose were ones we had already sessed out, a few were sneaky little spots that were delicious! We took our kids the next day to some of the same stalls which and made for a more efficient outing.
Exercising during travel:
Hell yes! My resistance band and core ball were my saving grace. I found that even though we were logging 4-8 miles of walking each day, taking 15-20 minutes a few times a week to stretch the back + hamstrings, open up the chest and sneak in a core workout was my saving grace. On a boat or beach, in a hotel room or train berth, you can always find space to move!
Carrying toilet paper, bottled water & handi wipes:
I'm Not a Micro phobe- but my boys put their hands on EVERY railing & handle. And, many of the street food is eaten w/ your hands- some served a handiwipe type napkins for a pre meal wipe down but many had nothing. Bring your own. If nothing else, at least your kids clothes stay cleaner a bit longer by not using their pants as a napkin. Toilets were easy enough to find but most did not have toilet paper or a sink for hand washing.
All in all it was a wonderful trip and I would highly recommend traveling abroad with your kids as much as possible before they hit high school. Encourage them to learn "hello" "please" and "thank you" with a smile as my husband says, they are an ambassador for their country! Look for my next blog with more of a detailed itinerary of our trip. Happy New Year!