Vietnam with a Toddler

Jasmine travelled to Vietnam with her young toddler Eduardo.

Here is Jasmine and Eduardo’s story:

While I can’t speak for my son, who was only fourteen months when we travelled, I loved Vietnam. He seemed to enjoy himself, though: relaxed on the flights we took, enjoyed sitting without the constraints of high seats in the taxis (my feelings on this were entirely different), and was more than happy to interact with the many people who flocked to say hello to him.

In terms of child-friendly destinations, you won’t find a more welcoming country than Vietnam. Not once we were met by frowns or suggestions that catering for a toddler would be an inconvenience. The one time my son cried on the plane, there were no obnoxious exclamations from the rows behind us or people glaring at us as I collected our luggage upon landing.

Everywhere we went, employees eagerly volunteered to entertain my son. Waitresses held him while I ate, and the children of tailors often whisked him out back into their homes to play while I was being measured for clothes. I can’t imagine this happening anywhere – anywhere – in Australia, where even a family restaurant down the road from my home forbids the presence of prams on the premises. While taking a child out in Australia seems to inconvenience a lot of venues, in Vietnam it simply opened doors, allowing us into people’s homes and – pardon the cliché – their hearts, as they introduced Eduardo to their own small children.

As for holidaying in Vietnam: you won’t lack for things to do. The Cu Chi Tunnels, near Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC), make a fabulous day trip for the whole family, albeit at times gruesome with its displays and paintings of booby traps used against foreign soldiers (there were plenty of appreciative sounds from the boys there the same day as us). You can’t help but pity the Australian soldiers whose job it was to enter those tunnels – my size 8 sister could barely wiggle her hips through some of the tunnel entrances, and I certainly wasn’t game to try!

Eduardo was quite content to soak up the sights as we wandered through the Ben Thanh markets, and he was particularly rapt in the evenings as we walked along the Saigon River with its many brightly lit restaurant boats and the ferries crossing to and fro.

From HCMC we travelled to Hoi An, an old South East Asian trading port. The town looks much the same as it did 400 years ago, with paved streets (glad I only took a baby sling to Vietnam, as it would be challenging with a stroller – you’ve been warned) and an eclectic mix of Japanese, Chinese, French and Dutch influences in its architecture, cuisine and shop wares. Hoi An was definitely a highlight for me; a much slower, more peaceful pace than HCMC, and a bit of a shopping paradise.

From Hoi An we also did a day trip out to My Son, a cluster of long abandoned Hindu temples – often referred to as the Vietnamese equivalent of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Aside from the ruins, there are also performances of traditional dance and music, and the views on the drive out are spectacular.

We finished up in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Stroll through the city’s beautiful old French Quarter with its distinct colonial feel, enjoy the oasis-like Hoan Kiem Lake with its dragons and lush gardens, and a visit to see water puppetry is an absolute must: kids of all ages will enjoy the often chaotic music and the way the puppets dance across the water. Be sure to make time for at least a day trip out to beautiful Halong Bay: the sight of traditional junks floating across the emerald waters against a backdrop of islands and tranquil grottoes will make you feel like you’re in another world entirely.

And now for the nitty gritty: how did I make this trip work with my toddler along for the ride? Flexibility, and being sure to work with, rather than against, my son’s schedule. Eduardo was an afternoon napper, so I always chose the earliest morning tours, and when we went sight seeing we left first thing in the morning, which meant we were able to relax by the pool in the afternoons when my son was taking a nap by my side.

I also opted for day tours rather than overnight stays to provide a little stability with regards to sleeping arrangements – we returned to the same bed each night, and we spent quite a few nights in three destinations, rather than one night in many different destinations.

Also: snacks. Pack familiar snacks and do not forget your child’s comfort item, if they have one. The number of times Eduardo was getting tetchy but was immediately settled by the offering of a familiar snack and his blankie? At least two to three times a day.

Thanks so much for sharing your story Jasmine and photos of your gorgeous Eduardo! We look forward to hearing all about your next adventure - TWT