Planning a Trip to Vietnam

Kai and I have been talking about going to Vietnam for more than two years. We had initially planned on going last year, but then – surprise – I took on a major apartment renovation project right around the time we had penciled in our Asia trip. So sadly, my time and money were prioritized elsewhere, and our Vietnam planning got put on hold. Thankfully, Kai wasn’t too upset about this at the time as he was training for an Ironman and had been a bit hesitant to take two weeks off of his training. So last winter and spring we focused on our personal projects, and were placated with a few long weekends trips together later in the year (here). But we continued to talk about our Vietnam vacation for the next few months, and just before Christmas we finally got around to booking our tickets to Hanoi! I’ve never been to Asia (unless you count the eastern half of Istanbul, which is kinda cheating ;) so I’m over the moon to finally explore a new continent! I really haven’t felt out of my comfort zone while traveling in many years (walking through the Spice Bazar in Istanbul during the call for prayer was probably the most ‘woah’ moment I’ve had in recent times) so I am really looking forward to feeling lost and confused and overwhelmed in a new country, in addition to discovering a new culture, dining on an exotic cuisine (spicy noodles every day!) and taking in a vast new landscape. To be honest, two weeks don’t feel like enough. There are so many beautiful cities and attractions in Vietnam, and we had a really hard time of prioritizing what to do on our trip!However, now that our vacation is a week away, I wanted to share some of the work that went into our planning process, and tell you about where we ultimately booked and why. I’ll also share my tips on finding great airfare and hotels, as well as my packing list, and how we accomplished some of the other admin-related tasks before the trip. And of course, I’ll share all of the fun photo highlights from our trip once we’re back, as well as any amends to the content here (never know if that packing list is reasonable until you’re there!)

Planning an Itinerary

Pick the most dreamy spot you can imagine, and start from there: My initial lust for a trip to Vietnam began about three years ago when I saw images of Ha Long Bay on Pinterest. The bay itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and from the photos, it’s not hard to see why. Tall limestone rock formations rise from what must be mermaid-ridden waters. The bay is a deep turquoise, and the lush green rocks look like something out of The Land Before Time. Sails speckle the bay, with wooden ships transporting visitors to remote beaches, hidden caves, and through the towering rock islands. I wanted to go to Ha Long Bay (below) in Vietnam, and anything else we could squeeze into the trip was just an added bonus.Consider how much ground you’re willing to cover: We thought about also exploring neighboring countries, such as Laos or Cambodia, but we decided to stick to one country only for this trip as the landscape in Vietnam is quite diverse and we wanted a proper amount of time to get acquainted with the country and the culture.

Think about what other interests you’d like to pursue: We then talked about what else we wanted to do on the trip in addition to Ha Long – we wanted a few active days hiking or camping, a few city days for eating and sightseeing, and some restful days spent on the beach. The great thing about Vietnam is that it’s so diverse, and we could easily do everything we wanted without leaving the country!

Research into major cities and travel hubs: Getting to know the geography of Vietnam really helped plan our trip. The two biggest cities in Vietnam are Hanoi (north) and Ho Chi Minh (south), so we decided to use these two cities as our hubs for flying in and out of, and do our beach, nature, and bay treks from there. Once we had booked our tickets into Hanoi and out of Ho Chi Minh (more on this in the next section) we started looking into where we might want to explore from these cities. We knew that Ha Long was close in proximity to Hanoi, so we planned our bay excursion for the first part of our trip while we would be in the north. We also decided to add a few hiking days onto this portion of our trip as well – getting all of the active stuff out-of-the-way and the relaxing on a beach for the remainder of our trip seemed like the way to go! So on our first week we would spend two nights in Hanoi, one night on a cruise in Ha Long Bay, and then four nights in Sa Pa (below), hiking in the beautiful, mountainous, rice farming region in Vietnam’s far north.We then looked into potential Vietnam beach excursions, and by far the most beautiful option that kept popping up time and time again was Phu Quoc, an island in the south of Vietnam, off of the coast of Cambodia. We didn’t need much convincing, and booked five nights on the island of Phu Quoc, followed by two final nights in Ho Chi Minh before flying back home!

Give yourself enough travel time: We didn’t want to have to rush from Phu Quoc to catch our international flights home, so ending the trip with a few days in Ho Chi Minh made the most sense, as we would fly out of there and could be local and ready to go for our return flight.

It’s okay to save some things for next time: The only two places we didn’t manage to fit on our itinerary that I would have loved to see were Hoi An, which is in the middle of Vietnam, and Siem Reap (below), which is actually in Cambodia but has beautiful ruins and would have been an amazing cultural experience to add-on to our trip. If we’d had three weeks and not just two, these would have been added to our trip itinerary for sure (and perhaps another night in Ha Long). But as it was, we had two weeks mapped out, with two nights in Hanoi, one night in Ha Long, four days in Sa Pa, five nights in Phu Quoc, and two nights in Ho Chi Minh (not to mention a few nights on a sleeper train and on a plane!) for a total of 17 glorious days of Vietnam travel :)

Tips on Finding The Best Plane Tickets

Once we generally knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do, the first thing we did was lock in plane tickets. Here are a few tips we employed to get some great Asia airfare deals.

Book Your Plane Tickets First: I always book my plane tickets before I book hotels. There are so many hotels, and if one is too expensive or unavailable for your dates, it’s easy to find another that’s more suited to your travel plans. However, flights tend to be less numerous and more expensive, so we always book our flights first and let them guide our itinerary, remaining somewhat flexible on travel dates in favor of good deals. Kai and I knew we wanted to visit the north and the south of Vietnam, respectively Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, so I started by looking into what the options were for travel to and from these cities with my miles on KLM. We started the airfare booking process about five months prior to our trip.

Scope out what’s possible with award points: I have tons of award points banked, but often international award tickets have a high tax, and require travel with partner airlines that are more costly. In the end, it was more economical to save my award miles for another trip and book two regular tickets for our Vietnam vacation.

Use Google Flights to find the best deals: Once we’d ruled out award tickets, we started searching on Google Flights, which aggregates all potential airlines, to find the best combination – was it flying into Ho Chi Minh and home from Hanoi? Or the other way around? How long were layovers?What airline had the shortest travel time? Google Flights gives you a calendar overview with the cheapest ticket cost that day, so we could toggle around locations and dates to eventually find the best combination. If we don’t use Google Flights, we like to wait for our favorite airlines to have sales, such as KLM World Deals Week. Two of our friends, Jess and Katherine just went to Vietnam as well, and they booked sale tickets with Emirates – nothing beats a business class steal!!

Pick your dates wisely: It’s usually more expensive to fly on a weekend, so we prepared to leave on a Friday or return on a Monday if it meant we were able to save a few hundred euros – the cost of an extra day off of work was much less. We always pick our flights first, before requesting time off of work, to keep some flexibility with our travel plans.

Save the best options and review: I always explore all of the options, and screen shot anything that has good a good balance of dates, travel times, and the costs we are looking for. Then, I share the options with Kai and we make a decision together on airline and dates. We make sure to do this step fast, as often ticket prices jump within hours. If I see a flight that looks good, I always try to show Kai that same day, so we can lock in on the cost. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger if you see an awesome deal, it’s such a bummer to realize tickets are double the price the next day!

Watch our for extras that add up: Keep in mind that some of the flight options on Google Flights (or other websites like Skyscanner or Kayak) wont include a checked bag or a bespoke seat – airlines like WOW always look cheap in search the results, but when you get onto the airline’s website and add a checked bag for $100 each way, a meal, and a window seat, the ticket is usually $300 more than you’d initially thought. Not such a great value, after all.

Research into new airlines or airports you’re considering: I always research into any new airports or airlines I travel with before booking tickets. For the airline, I am mainly looking for any big safety flags, to understand a bit about their fleet (Boeing 0r Airbus planes are a must), and any other grumbles from recent travelers. Small things like meals and legroom matter, especially during a 15 hour travel day. I also look into any airports I may need to connect at, to see if connection times are reasonable, a visa is required, or another security check is mandatory (goodbye delicious champagne I bought at duty-free!) As this trip will take us to a new side of the globe, there were some airlines that Kai and I were inexperienced with popping up in our search results. The best date, flight duration, and cost option for our Vietnam trip was with Aeroflot, a Russian airline that neither of us had flown with before. If we went with Aeroflot, we would have a layover in Moscow, and Russia can be notoriously difficult with visas. So I did some desk research on Aeroflot and transiting in Moscow (SkyTrax and TripAdvisor are great for this!) The trip would be on Boing and Airbus planes, and the airline has a clean record as of recent, although I did discover that the flight for the first leg of our journey would not have any in-seat entertainment (will have to stock up on Kindle books!) Others had also warned of needing a visa to transit in Moscow, however I dug a bit more and found that to get from terminal D to terminal F where we would be transiting was only a 10 minute walk and you do not need a visa for this switch. The only other thing we were warned to expect was crappy food and lost bags, but hey, isn’t this a risk you run with all airlines? So we booked our tickets with Aeroflot, and fingers crossed all goes smoothly!

Pick your layovers and flight time accordingly: Our trip to Vietnam will be 14 hours there and 16 hours back, which includes a 2 hour layover in Moscow each way. On our outbound journey, we have a 3.5 hour afternoon flight from Amsterdam to Moscow, followed by a 2 hour layover, and then an 9 hour overnight flight from Moscow to Hanoi. This means that we will be able to sleep on the long leg of our trip from Moscow to Hanoi, hopefully arriving at our destination well-rested (thank you memory foam neck pillow and xanax!) This will be super appreciated on our first day of vacation. We wanted to avoid a layover in Asia or Dubai, which would split up the night or have us switching planes at an ungodly early hour. Keep in mind that while some tickets might look cheap, the inexpensive price tag can also come with a much longer travel time or a badly scheduled layover. Investing a bit more money for a shorter flight duration is always worth the extra time you get to enjoy on holiday, or even back in your own bed at the end of the trip. Be sure to weigh the consequences of a longer travel time before you spring for the ultra cheap tickets. Or, if you truly have the luxury of time, book a multi-day layover that brings down the price and lets you explore a new city! For example, IcelandAir is known for letting travelers add up to a 7 night layover in Reykjavik, free of cost!

Start with the most expensive tickets first, then book the rest: Once we booked our airline tickets to and from Vietnam, we then booked our domestic airline tickets within Vietnam. We wanted to stay flexible when booking our more costly international tickets, and once these were locked we had a well-defined playing field for our cheaper domestic tickets. We booked two other flights for our time in Vietnam – we plan to fly direct from Hanoi to Phu Quoc for €35 mid-way through our trip, and from Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh towards the end of our trip for €28.

Get your tickets in advance so you can save up for the rest of your trip: In total our airfare for the whole trip was about €750 each, and we decided to pay for this with some Airbnb cash we made while renting out our apartment over Christmas. So our airfare was done and paid for quite a few months in advance, which gave us the ability to shift our focus to hotels and other excursions in the months leading up to our trip.

Tips on Booking Hotels

Remain flexible on dates: The second most expensive part of any international trip is the hotel – and depending on where you’re going and choose to stay, hotels can be just as expensive as flights! Although Kai and I had booked our flights which did lock us in to some travel dates, we didn’t have any specific travel requirements for our time in the north, which helped us remain flexible on what days we would spend in Sa Pa, Ha Long, and Hanoi as we looked for hotels – we were willing to be flexible to snag the best deals.

Book the highlight of your trip first: Sailing in Ha Long was the destination we were looking forward to the most, so we booked this first. Turns out, a lot of the nicer cruises in Ha Long are quite expensive, and the schedules are jam-packed, so we decided to only do one night of cruising in the bay. We are excited to see the bay itself, but being herded around for multiple days with a big group from attraction to attraction is not for us. We decided to spend the majority of our time in the north in Hanoi (where we plan to gorge on food) and in Sa Pa, where we will be more rural and get a chance to enjoy some nature.

Check multiple websites for reviews and traveler photos: For our time in Ha Long Bay, we booked one night on Aphrodite Cruise (photos below). We chose them because they were a little more than €300 including transfers, meals, and excursions for two days and one night. The food looked amazing, which was one of our big considerations (when you’re stuck on a boat with one food option, you want the option to be good!) and they offered kayaking and cave tours which were the top things we wanted to do in the bay. They also have a luxury limo service that takes you to Hanoi and back, which was a big plus since we didn’t want to spend 5 hours on a non-air-conditioned bus. The only hiccup here that I learned after our booking, is that one of their ships burned down in the bay in 2016. LOL. Hopefully what they say about lightning not striking the same spot twice is true, and our boat will be free of flames while we’re on the trip. The value and ambiance on their tours looks spectacular, so the recent fire explains why their boats are quite premium and the prices weren’t as hefty as some of the other options. Our second choice was Alisa Cruise, who were unfortunately sold out all six nights we would be in the north, so although we were happy to go with Aphrodite, make sure you book your Ha Long cruise at least two months in advance if you have specific dates and cruise lines in mind.

Think about what your ‘musts’ are for hotels as you research: Next, we looked to book our hotel in Phu Quoc. After Ha Long, Kai and I were the most excited to relax on the beach in Vietnam, and we would also be spending the most time here, so we wanted to make sure we got in early and picked the right place to stay. The two most important things we looked at were rating and the style of the hotel – we knew from experience that we wanted to book a place with above an 8.5 rating on Booking.com, and we also wanted something that felt more rustic, like a bungalow or a villa, versus a big resort-like hotel. Some secondary considerations on our list were air conditioning, a big pool, ample beach front real estate, and decent food. Our top three choices were Mango Bay, which was by far the most beautiful, had daily yoga classes, and was very reasonably priced, Chen Sea Resort, which was more up scale and known for amazing food and impeccable service, and Eco Beach Resort, which had great ratings, a lush landscape, and a huge infinity pool. Kai and I discussed all three, but when we saw that Mango Bay didn’t have a pool, we crossed it off our list despite both being excited about the free daily yoga classes. Chen Sea Resort was also incredibly dreamy, but was double the cost of Eco Bay Resort by the time we got around to booking – it had been €200 cheaper two weeks before, so the lesson here is always book early! We settled on Eco Beach Resort (photos below), which was by no means our third choice, but there were a few negative reviews about the food, which made us weary. However, the resort has a 9.0 rating on Booking.com, so it can’t be too terrible ;) And when we learned that there were local shops and restaurants that were walkable from the resort, we pulled the trigger on the booking knowing that we had some nearby backup options if the food sucked. Eco Beach Resort also offer free airport transfers, bike rentals, and rooms that are fitted with Balinese decor, ocean views, terraces, and private outdoor bathrooms – hello showering with the frogs a lizards, here we come! I think our five nights at Eco Beach Resort came to €300, which was incredibly reasonable considering airport transfers and breakfast are included!

Branch out and try something new: Next, we moved on to booking our accommodation for Sa Pa. To get to Sa Pa, we will take an over night train (more on this in the next section!) so despite being in Sa Pa for 3 full days, we only had to book two nights, as we will do another two nights on the train! Kai suggested we book a homestay in Sa Pa, which is akin to an American bed and breakfast, where you stay in your host’s home, enjoying a private room, shared common spaces, and often one brilliant Vietnamese kitchen. We’ve never done this before and are totally excited to check it out! We looked into a few options, but the one that popped out immediately was Luckydaisy Buffalo House – how cute is that name?! The homestay is located a bit outside of Sa Pa, but is reachable by taxi, and the house itself is remote, clean, and welcoming. We will stay at Luckydaisy (photos below) for two nights, and will have three full hiking days in the mountains. We splurged on a villa at Luckydaisy, which was still only €50 a night.

Splurge on the private bathroom: One of the most important tips I’ve received about traveling to Asia, is always make sure you have a private bathroom. Because food poisoning, which can and most likely will strike, will make you really appreciate your private bathroom, really fast. I can’t imagine anything worse than having gut wrenching food poisoning while sharing a bathroom with 30 other people. I like to slowly die on the bathroom floor in peace, please and thank you ;) As I write this, I am now thinking about how horrible it would be to get sick on the sleeper train – dear travel gods, please protect us from this scenario!!

Hotels in big cities and busy areas can be saved for last: After booking our bay cruise in Ha Long, our island getaway in Phu Quoc, and our Homestay in Sa Pa, the only other hotels to book were for our city trips in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. We intentionally booked these hotels last as cities tend to have the most hotel inventory, so we weren’t worried about finding a good deal, where as in some of the more remote destinations, demand can make prices soar as there are fewer options.

Location, location, location: The biggest consideration in booking our city hotels was location. Sure, Uber is ultra cheap in Vietnam, but we wanted to be in walking distance of great bars, shops, and restaurants. So we looked for hotels in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh – some desk research revealed this areas were highly walkable and in the heart of everything!

Consider potential weather related factors before booking: The next consideration was the weather – with two weeks to go until our trip, we are starting to notice the temperature in both the north and south of Vietnam rise rapidly, so we booked The Light Hotel in Hanoi which was cheap and cheerful but with a rooftop pool, and The Myst Dong Khoi in Ho Chi Minh City, which was by far the biggest splurge of the trip, but if the weather was going to be smoldering, we wanted to have a pool and a trust worthy air con unit . . . and a private outdoor spa tub never hurt anyone ;)

Go out with a bang: We decided that after sleeping on a plane for two nights, a train for two nights, a boat for one, and at an eco resort for five, splurging on a real comfy bed at the end of our trip was within reason, and would be something to look forward to at the end of our trip, when we otherwise might be sad to leave. 

Transfers, Trains, and Tours

Once our plane tickets and hotels were worked out, we then had to book a few final bits and bobs before we could sit back and relax.

Pre-book any big transfers or tickets: If you need to travel for more than an hour from one place to the next, it’s usually best to do some research ahead of time on how you will get from here to there, and maybe even pre-book in a transfer or guide for peace of mind. Our Ha Long Bay cruise came with an optional luxury limo transfer to and from Hanoi, which was great, but we had to book this in independently with the cruise line and in advance. It was only $40 each, which was a steal considering it’s a 4 hour journey each way and you’re essentially in a limo-van with wifi and big comfy seats. There’s nothing worse than waking up on the day of your cruise, only to realize you’re 4 hours away from the bay and have no guaranteed transport to the harbor. Our hotel in Phu Quoc also offered free transfers to and from the airport, and we’ve heard that in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Uber is an easy method of honest transportation and very affordable, so we are all set for transportation in and out of the big cities as well.

Research into the best transportation methods: The only thing left to book at this point was our sleeper train to and from Sa Pa. We chose to book the train as there are way too many deadly bus accidents on the route from Hanoi to Sa Pa for our comfort. We would not have known this if we didn’t research into the best transportation methods to and from Sa Pa ahead of time on TripAdvisor. The bus options are definitely cheaper and shorter, but there’s a reason for this, and we’d prefer to spend a bit more on the train, which is much much safer.

Once you know how you’ll travel, look into logistics: Some digging on TripAdvisor revealed train times, cabin logistics, different carriers, and typical delays, which helped us pick the best train for our schedule. Most trains have 4x beds per cabin, so if you book all 4x beds, you are guaranteed a private cabin. This might sound glamorous, but the cabins are very small, and they get really stuffy in the night. And if you’re stuck with strangers who snore, you’re basically screwed. So we booked 4x beds on the Vietnam Express train each way, which is sold as a local train versus a more expensive tourist train (such as the Victoria Express or the King Express). The Vietnam Express train doesn’t come with complimentary water and some of the other frills, but we’re saving more than €100 each way by traveling ‘local’, and don’t really expect a good night’s sleep either way ;)

Cut out the middle man: We booked our train tickets on 12GO which is one of the local train sites. They don’t add an agency fee onto their prices which is a plus, and they send electronic tickets within 24 hours, so you save some money and you don’t have to hunt down an agent at the station to find your tickets. This seemed risky, and the fewer logistical things we have to worry about when getting from one place to the next, the better. I’ve heard mixed things about sleeping on the train, but goodness knows it must be better than an air plane, and if I can sleep sitting up in turbulence for 11 hours than I think lying horizontal for 8 hours in a rocking sleeper train will be a breeze. Ear plugs, an eye mask, and a xanax will be my best friends on this ride! This image below is the posh Victoria Express train, which was about €450 for a private cabin round trip, so we are curious to see what the Vietnam Express train will look like considering we didn’t splurge at all here ;)

The last thing we will do this week is look into a potential guide in Sa Pa. We want to go on a couple day-treks and would love an expert to take us around the region. Other than that, we are remaining pretty flexible, and playing the rest of our vacation by ear!

Taking Care of Other Travel Admin

Getting our visas: The only other thing we still have to do in preparation for our trip is visa-related. Tonight we will apply here for a 30 day Vietnam visa, which is valid starting on the day of issue. This is an e-visa and should come in 2-3 days, so we were not worried about doing this super far in advance. We both have American passports which makes the process easy – the visa is around $25 and is delivered within 3 days. We did research into this a while ago, just to make sure we didn’t need to go to the embassy or send away our passports.

Keep an eye on the weather: In preparation for our trip, I also added Hanoi, Sa Pa, Ha Long, Phu Quoc, and Ho Chi Minh City to my iPhone weather app, and have been checking the temperature every now and again. It has gotten much hotter in the past two weeks, and I will keep an eye on this up until the day we depart, to make sure I have packed appropriately. If I notice a lot of rain is in the forecast, I may stuff in a rain jacket. If it looks really hot, I will swap out my long hiking pants for shorts. It’s also good for setting expectations – if it looks like rain the whole time we are in Sa Pa, I can do a bit of research before we leave on fun and local non-hiking alternatives.

Prep your tech in advance: I also got all of my electronics charged up and ready to go this past week. I just got a new camera which can send photos to my phone wirelessly (woo!) and I wanted to make sure this worked before I embarked on the trip. I also made sure I had a few converters that would be suitable for the outlets in Vietnam. Getting all of my tech ready to go at least a week ensured I had one final weekend to hit the shops in case something didn’t work or was missing. milie-del_photography_vietnam

What to Pack

This part is hard to write, as I haven’t actually been on the trip yet! Therefore, there might be some things I plan on packing that are better off left at home, or some essentials that I accidentally forget! However, I have scoured several blogs, trying to figure out the best items to cram along my very small backpack. To be fair, it’s actually a pretty big backpack (my mom very thoughtfully got me this North Face backpack for Christmas) but I’ve never traveled without a big suitcase and am a super heavy packer. Narrowing down my favorite summer clothing to 4-5 outfits and then mixing and matching for two weeks will be a challenge, especially with the climate differences in the north and south of Vietnam. In the north, it can drop down to the 40’s at night in March, while Ho Chi Minh is usually 95-100 degrees fahrenheit every day . . . and Hanoi and Phu Quoc are somewhere in the middle! So we are packing layers for sure :) and a lot of items that can mix and match. I will bring enough shorts and dresses to last a week, and will have to do a wash when we get to Phu Quoc mid-trip. After digging around on various Vietnam travel blogs, this is my packing list:

Electronics & Other Junk

  • Kindle / Kindle Charger
  • DSLR Camera / Camera Charger / Memory Card
  • Under Water Camera / Underwater Accessories (this is my Go Pro)
  • iPhone / Charger / Portable Charger / Headphones
  • Power Adapter
  • Padlock for Backpack

Clothing

  • 1x Hat for Hiking
  • 1x Jeans
  • 3x Shorts (1x jean, 1x white, 1x blue cloth)
  • 1x Sunglasses
  • 3x Dresses (1x below the knee, one black dress, one beach throw over dress)
  • 2x Skirts (one white linen, one jean skirt)
  • 2x Tank Tops
  • 1x Long Sleeve Shirt
  • 4x Short Sleeve Shirts (1x black, 1x white, 1x grey, and 1x colorful wrap shirt I can wear over a dress or with any other outfit)
  • 2x Sets Hiking Clothes (1x warm and 1x cold)
  • 2x Sets Pajamas (1x warm and 1x cold)
  • 1x Beach Cover Up (this is a light kimono I can also wear over a dress or with shorts)
  • 1x Leggings (for plane)
  • 1x Sweatshirt
  • 1x Light Jacket
  • 5x Socks
  • 8x Underwear
  • 4x Bras (2x regular, 2x sport)
  • 4x Bathing Suits (overkill here but whatever :)
  • 1x Small Backpack
  • 1x Crossbody Purse
  • 1x Travel Pillow
  • 1x Flip Flops
  • 1x Sneakers (for hiking)
  • 1x Sandals (comfortable for walking but can dress up)

Toiletries & Other Things

  • Small shower case with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair treatment, tooth paste, toothbrush, and aloe (anticipating bug bites!)
  • Make up bag with foundation, blush, lipstick, mascara, nail clippers, tweezers, baby wipes, and moisturizer.
  • Travel first aid kit with bandaids, ear plugs, a sleeping mask, stomach remedies, hydration salts, sleeping pills, Advil, and my inhaler (if the humidity is bad I will realllllly need this last one!)
  • Quick dry mini towel – Kai got me this for our anniversary, and I am sure it will come in handy while hiking!

Buying Locally

While I will pack everything I need, I do plan on buying a few extras while on the ground in Vietnam: a straw hat for the beach, a new tropical dress, and scarf I can wrap around my shoulders and wear into religious buildings. I intentionally didn’t pack these, as I am hoping to find them locally :) We will also get sun screen and bug spray once we’re in Vietnam, as these items will be too big for a carry on.

We’ve read that you can really save on packing space by buying full-size toiletries once in Vietnam, and while we would have loved to have done this, we have 2 other flights during our trip, so it made the most sense for us to pack travel sized items or else we would have to ditch our full size travel items each time we got on a new flight.

Our Recommendation List

I am usually loaded up with a long list of tips and recommendations prior to a big trip, however this time around Kai and I agreed to be a bit more exploratory with our vacation time and do more stumbling than planning ;) That said, my friends Katherine and Jess were just in Vietnam last week, so they gave us a few hot tips we plan on checking out. This is our little Vietnam list:

So this is a directional list, that we may add a few more things to in the coming week. I plan on plotting these out on a Google Map, and if happen to be nearby one of these spots when we want a meal or a drink, great! And if not, we are so excited to eat noodles from street carts and drink coffee at little unknown cafes, and relish in the discovery!

Wow, this is turned out to be a long one! I am super stoked for this trip, so I hope my tips can also help in your planning :) I can’t wait to share my Vietnam photos with you – coming late in March! And if you follow my Instagram account in the meantime, there will be Asian updates coming soon! I am so excited for this!!

xo Ali

*Note: while I typically take most of the photos on Amsterdam & Beyond, this post features a collection of photos from around the web and from Booking.com. I will update this post with my own travel photos following the trip :)

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