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Packing List - 18 Days in Vietnam

View Vietnam (2015) on heather.goodin's travel map.

As I reflect on our recent whirlwind trip to Vietnam, I think it would be helpful to revisit our packing list and comment on what we brought, what we wish we had brought, and what we didn't need.

We accomplished the whole trip with only backpacks; no actual luggage. I carried a 45+10L bag, Rick carried a 55+15L, Maggie carried a 40L, and Cary a tiny little thing that was only large enough to hold his buddies and a few small toys (Rick and I carried his clothes and things). Here is what we packed, along with commentary on some items:

First Aid

  • Chewable Melatonin. Our pediatrician recommended 3mg for Cary to help him sleep on the flight, and also said it could be helpful for the adults to take when we arrived in our destination to help us sleep to avoid jet lag. We didn't use it at all on the flight. We all took one when we arrived in Saigon to help us sleep, but we felt no effect. Would not bring again, especially given the size of the bottle.
  • Children's Benedryl. If the melatonin didn't work, the pediatrician recommended Benedryl for Cary. We tried it ahead of time (yes, pre-drugged our kids!), and it did work - but we never actually needed it on the trip. Since it worked, I may bring it again next time just in case.
  • Children's Tylenol. Didn't use, but good to have.
  • Immodium caplets. A must have, just in case.
  • Azythromycin. Another must have, just in case. Prescribed by the travel doctor in case of traveller's diarrhea. Only Maggie took hers, and I'm not really sure she needed to.
  • Band Aids. Used them. Must have.
  • Neosporin. A good idea.
  • Adult Advil. For hangovers, mainly. :)
  • Thermometer. Didn't come close to using, but still good to have when traveling with kids.
  • Chewable Pepto Bismol. Would probably bring again.
  • Hand Sanitizer. We brought 4 bottles. Would probably only bring 2 next time, 3 tops.
  • Insect repellent. First of all, we sprayed our clothes with Permethrin before leaving. It took 3 bottles to cover all of our clothing (for 4 people). We then brought Natrupel wipes for actual insect repellent. The wipes were nice because they aren't counted as liquids and therefore easier to pack in a carry on. However, we found that one wipe pretty much only covered one adult leg (and maybe an arm). We brought 8 12-packs of the wipes, and used half of them (and, really only used insect repellent on 1/4 of our days there.) Given how expensive they were on Amazon, I'm not sure they were the most economical option. If I had extra liquids room, I may just opt to bring some pump spray next time.
  • Sunscreen. I brought one 8-oz bottle of high SPF, "very water resistant" sunscreen (of course, split into separate 3oz travel-sized bottles), along with one 4 oz bottle of special no-tears face sunscreen. The face sunscreen was enough volume-wise, but the 8 oz "body" sunscreen was really only about half of what we needed. It was very expensive to buy in Vietnam, too. I would bring more next time, even though 6 little bottles of sunscreen seems ridiculous. It's actually necessary.


  • Soap. For some reason, I brought three little bars of hotel soap. One was plenty. Most hotels had soap anyway.
  • Lotion. Brought both a travel-sized body lotion and Eucerin. Not sure why. I don't even use lotion at home, let alone Eucerin.
  • Nail Clippers. You never know when you'll need those.
  • Kleenex. I brought one little travel-sized packet with like 10 Kleenex in it. I would bring three times this much next time. You never know when you're not going to have access to toilet paper.
  • Shampoo/Conditioner. I brought 2 3-oz containers of shampoo and 3 3-oz containers of conditioner (given that both Maggie and I have long hair and use tons). I would bring the same next time. Shampoo was readily available in the hotels, but conditioner was not, so definitely wouldn't bring less than 3. (Not sure if it was available in stores.)
  • Contact Solution/Case. I brought one travel-sized bottle of contact solution. That was enough. And two cases, but one was enough.
  • Glasses. A must have, especially on the plane.
  • Extra Contacts. I brought two pairs.
  • Deodorant. I brought 2 travel-sized deodorants (knowing that Maggie would use it as well). We only needed 1.
  • Makeup. I brought one thing of foundation, one loose powder, one mascara and one chap stick. I'd bring it all again, but the thought of wearing foundation still cracks me up. It's way too hot. Maybe for a special occasion.
  • Q-Tips. Brought about 40.
  • Hair Clips. Brought 2. Would bring 2 again, because I lost one in Saigon.
  • Razor. Brought 1.
  • Hair Rubber Bands. Brought a ton, between me and Maggie. 10 or so.


  • USB Port and iPad/iPhone USB cords (1 per device). Man, was that thing ever useful. Probably one of the best things I packed.
  • Power Converter. Brought about 3-4 of them, but really didn't need them much in Vietnam. Most plugs were universal and accepted both US and European plugs.
  • Wireless Keyboard. Wouldn't have blogged at all during the trip without it (as I only brought my iPad; no laptop).
  • iPads. Each of us had our own. I take back what I said above - THIS was the most important thing I packed. Never underestimate how long you can keep a 3 year old (or a 11 year old, for that matter) entertained with an iPad. It's amazing. Whenever we stopped for a meal (or just a beer for the adults), all we had to do was give the kids their iPad and we could sit as long as we wanted. As a matter of fact, on the few occasions we didn't bring all 4, the one who didn't bring theirs wished they would have. Most restaurants, coffee shops, etc. had WiFi. Very, very, very useful.
  • Clothes Line. Also very useful. Beware, however: cotton clothes take multiple days to dry... even small little boy underwear. Most hotels did have laundry service, and we did laundry twice during the trip. But this was nice for just a few items - underwear, hang up a sweaty shirt, bathing suit, etc.
  • Sunglasses. Necessity. I brought 2 pairs for me, 3 for Cary, and Maggie brought 1. 2 for me was necessary. 1 for Cary and Maggie was probably enough.
  • Camera AND CHARGER AND EXTRA BATTERY. Camera necessary. So is charger. Next time, I'll try not to forget it IN THE SOCKET AT HOME. The spare battery would have been nice to have too, if I hadn't left it at home in the charger.
  • Cord to connect camera to iPad. Very useful for backing up pictures to iPad (provided you have enough free space).
  • Flash Lights. Brought 2 small ones. Used them a few times to look under beds for lost items.
  • External USB-Charged Waterproof Speaker (and power cord). I envisioned sitting on the beach and wanting to play music. We didn't use it, but it may still be nice to bring next time, since it's so small.
  • Vacuum-Sealed Nut Mix for Snacking. HAHAHAHAHA. Brought WAY too much of this. It was the bane of our existence the entire trip, schlepping around a bag full of nuts. Skip it next time. PLEASE. We came HOME with at least 10-15 bags of it.
  • Toys for Plane. I brought coloring books, crayons, play doh, a magic erase pad, some watercolor paints, card games... you name it. The bag took up about 1/5 of my backpack and weighed about 4 lbs. NEVER OPENED THE BAG. I carried it all through Vietnam for no reason. Never underestimate the power of an iPad...
  • Drain Plug. Whoever suggested I bring this - THANK YOU. Used it several times, both for sinks to do laundry and even a bathtub at one place. A must have, for the amount of space it takes up.
  • Pens. Brought 2.
  • Cards. Brought 2 regular decks and one UNO deck. Only needed one of each (and could get by without UNO). Not sure why I brought two regular decks in the first place...
  • Caribeaners. Brought 2, but one was broken. Would bring a few more next time. Good for hanging stuff off your backpack and for clipping drawstring day packs in the front for security/comfort.
  • Earplugs. Very necessary in some hotels in Vietnam. 1 pair per person, minimum.
  • Bose In-Ear Earbuds, and Over-The-Ear Headphones for Cary. Also very necessary. The Bose in-ears are very comfortable and can easily be worn for a 13-20 hour flight (unlike the Apple ones, or the free ones they hand out on the plane).
  • Extra dishcloth. We used this for everything. Wiping sweat, cleaning up spills - you name it. Came in handy time and time again. Rick carried it every day in our daypack.
  • Easy Mac. In case the kids refused to eat the food. Only ate one packet. Didn't have a problem with the food.
  • Blankets. Each of us brought our own blanket. I'm glad we did. They were big and bulky, but well worth it so you could curl up on the plane or bus or train. Cary slept much better having his own special blanket from home. Well worth the bulk.
  • The McGyver Bag. Contained extra quart- and gallon-sized plastic bags, some duct tape, safety pins, sewing kit, twist ties, rubber bands, plastic silverware, and heavy duty garbage bags (in case of rain, to cover backpacks). Didn't need it, but glad I had it.
  • Drawstring Bags. Brought 2. Very useful. I would bring 2-3 again next time.
  • Day Pack. I brought a PacSafe day pack. It's a neat backpack - RFID safe, interior slash-proof mesh, detachable shoulder straps that can be clipped around table legs, etc. I did use it some days of the trip, and it was very useful for filling and using on the airplane (carried all of our iPads in it, Cary's headphones, etc., which would have been hard to fit in a drawstring bag)... but in all honesty I would have been just fine with just the drawstring bags. It was very hard to manage both a backpack AND the day pack, and the day pack didn't roll up enough to fit inside the backpack. I was forced to wear one on my back and one on my front, which was unnecessarily uncomfortable. It was also very hot to carry around town on your back, where the daypack gave more ventilation.
  • The "Nut Bag" day pack. Rick brought his own separate day pack, an easy cross-body one (much smaller than mine). The lack of inner mesh meant it could be rolled up and packed inside the backpack - well, it could have, had it not contained 100 lbs of extra nut mix. Rick carried this as a daypack most days with an iPad or two in it. It was the perfect size, and you got much better ventilation on your back when carrying it. I would bring this one again, but not mine.

Clothing (per person)

  • Sandals/Flip Flops. Brought one pair per person.
  • Tennis Shoes. Brought one pair per person, mainly because we were hashing. If you aren't planning on hiking or running or anything, definitely skip these. They are a pain to carry around, even tied to the outside of your backpack. (That being said, I couldn't have hashed without them.)
  • Lightweight Pants. I brought one pair of lightweight gaucho pants (which were annoyingly too large), and one pair of my PickPocket Proof Pants. I wore the gaucho pants all the time and the others only once (it was just too hot). This was the perfect pants selection. Cary brought one pair of warm up type pants. He never wore them, but it was good to have them.
  • Shirts. I brought about 3-5 T-shirts per person. For me, this was the right number. For Rick, he wished he had brought 5-7, as he was constantly sweating and having to change shirts. The one change I would make next time: ALL DRY FIT. They are so much lighter, dry so much faster, are so much more comfortable... I brought one dry fit shirt and wore it about 40% of the time. So comfortable.
  • Shorts. I brought one pair of jean shorts and one pair of black running shorts. This too was perfect. Cary brought 3 pair, but wore his dry fit shorts the most often (just because you could wash them overnight).
  • Swimming Suit. Brought one. One is enough.
  • Quick Dry Long Sleeve Top. I brought one long sleeved top. Didn't use it much, but would bring it again.
  • Underwear. Brought 3. Would bring 5 next time because they are so small and I wouldn't have to do laundry so often. Cary brought 3 pair, but they were cotton and wouldn't dry overnight. Kind of a pain. Rick brought dry fit travel underwear, and they were very convenient to wash/dry overnight.
  • Socks. Brought 3. Perfect number for me. Rick said he may have brought more. Once again, wouldn't dry overnight.
  • Lightweight Rain Jacket. As I didn't have an actual rain jacket, I brought the outside shell of a waterproof ski jacket. WAY too big and bulky! I need to find something much smaller and more lightweight for the next trip. Cary's was much smaller, and Rick just brought a rain poncho. I'm not sure I would go that far, but we didn't need them for this trip.
  • Fleece/Pullover Jacket. I brought a zip up jacket. It was nice to have on the plane and other places where the A/C may be turned up too high, or for cooler nights. I wouldn't bring anything too heavy/bulky, though. I didn't use it much.
  • Bras. Brought 2. Good number. Was kind of annoyed I didn't bring a strapless to wear under tank tops, though.

So, that's really about it. All in all I think we did pretty good packing. There are really only a few things I would do differently. Glad I captured this so I don't pack too much crap on my next trip. Now if I can just stick to my own advice.... :)

Posted by heather.goodin 04:35 Archived in Vietnam

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