- Cruise and kayak at UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay
- Learn about Vietnamese history on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City
- Get up close and personal with elephants at Thailand's Kanta Sanctuary
- Hop around the Thai islands on a speed boat from Phuket
|Day 1||Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 2||Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 3||Transfer to Cai Be, Mekong Delta Tour||Cai Be|
|Day 4||Cai Be Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Day 5||Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 6||Explore Hanoi, Water Puppet Show||Hanoi|
|Day 7||Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 8||Transfer to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|Day 9||Fly to Bangkok||Bangkok|
|Day 10||Grand Palace & Temples Tour||Bangkok|
|Day 11||Fly to Chiang Mai, Temples & City Tour||Chiang Mai|
|Day 12||Kanta Elephant Sanctuary||Chiang Mai|
|Day 13||Transfer to Phuket, Free Time||Phuket|
|Day 14||Phi Phi Islands Tour by Jet Boat||Phuket|
|Day 15||Depart Phuket|
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City
Welcome to Vietnam! After you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, a driver will pick you up from the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and how tired you and your kids feel after the journey, you may want to get out into the city to explore. Although Ho Chi Minh City is not Vietnam's capital, it is the largest city, and there's a lot to see and do here. A great place to get started is the central Ben Thanh Market, where you can find a variety of snacks and get a feel for the pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 2: Cu Chi Tunnels & Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Learn more about Southern Vietnamese history today on a full-day tour encompassing many of the region's highlights. Start at the Cu Chi Tunnels, just outside Ho Chi Minh City. Your tour guide will give you an overview of the tunnels and their dramatic history as a network of underground passages built during the Vietnam War. The construction of this underground metropolis—which includes living rooms, kitchens, hospitals, weapon factories, storage facilities, and a command center—took roughly 25 years.
The kids will love exploring the network of tunnels and learning about life underground during this important period in Vietnamese and international history.
After lunch at a local restaurant, head back to Ho Chi Minh City. Explore landmarks like the Independence Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Central Post Office, and Ben Thanh Market, where you can practice your bargaining skills while shopping for souvenirs and picking up some treats for the kids.
Day 3: Transfer to Cai Be, Mekong Delta Tour
Leave the big city today and head to the Mekong Delta, an enormous river delta surrounded by lush, flat farmland. Arrive in Cai Be town, and transfer to your accommodation, Mekong Lodge, by boat. Refuel after your journey with a delicious Vietnamese lunch overlooking the river.After you've had some time to settle into your bungalow and relax, in the mid-afternoon, ride a bike to Tan Phong Island to visit some local handicraft workshops. If your kids are too small to ride a bike, alternative means of transportation can be arranged. See where hammocks are made from banana leaves, taste some local fruits (many of which your kids might not have eaten before), and listen to Vietnamese folk music. Then take a small rowing boat up a narrow canal to get a more intimate, close-up look are rural life on the river.
Day 4: Cai Be Floating Market, Transfer to Ho Chi Minh CityTake a boat trip to Cai Be Floating Market, a lively local market that takes place on boats and is best visited early in the morning. This is a wholesale market rather than a market solely for tourists, so you'll get a chance to see a variety of goods for sale. After, visit some villages where handicrafts are made, an excellent place to pick up souvenirs. Check out of your lodge and be transferred by boat to Cai Be Port, where you'll be picked up in a car for the overland journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 5: Transfer to Hanoi
Leave southern Vietnam behind today as you fly north to the capital, Hanoi, which is around two hours away. You'll be met at the airport in Hanoi and transferred to your hotel. You might immediately notice the difference in climate, especially if you're traveling in the winter. If you and the kids want to get out into the city right away, head to the central Hoan Kiem Lake ("Lake of the Restored Sword") for a stroll and to admire the views of sprawling trees and the pagoda in the lake, or grab a bite to eat from a streetside stall in the atmospheric Old Quarter.
Day 6: Explore Hanoi, Water Puppet Show
Continue exploring Hanoi today, starting with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Complex, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum (you might want to skip going inside if you're traveling with young kids), the Presidential Palace, and the One Pillar Pagoda nearby. Then, explore the maze of streets and guilds in the Old Quarter, and walk around Hoan Kiem Lake. Continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university in Hanoi. Relax in the beautiful garden while your children play.
For lunch, consider some of Hanoi's staples: bun cha (a traditional pork dish of Hanoi) or pho bo (beef noodle soup). In the afternoon, treat your kids to a private water puppet theater performance, where you'll get the chance to go backstage. Meet Mr. Liem, a passionate seventh-generation puppet maker, and performer. Kids will love learning the basic techniques to move the colorful carved puppets through the water.
Day 7: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Cruise & Kayak
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Make an early start for the four-hour transfer from Hanoi to UNESCO-listed Ha Long Bay, where you'll board an overnight cruise ship. Take the most scenic route to Ha Long Bay across the Red River Delta, with its emerald-green rice paddies. On arrival at Ha Long Bay, cruise past limestone cliffs, islands, and karst grottoes. Sit down to a gourmet seafood meal on board your ship as you enjoy the views.
After lunch, visit a famous limestone cave, where your kids will be amazed to see the rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites illuminated by colorful lights. If the weather's good, spend some time kayaking and swimming in Ha Long Bay or checking out floating villages and shops. Return to the boat for an early dinner in the evening as you watch the sunset. An entertainment and activities program will be offered on the cruise boat, so take advantage of that and choose some activities that your kids will enjoy.
Day 8: Transfer to Hanoi
Let the kids sleep in this morning, but if you like, you can rise early to catch the sunrise and take part in Tai Chi on deck. Then enjoy a hearty breakfast as you sail through the bay admiring the views one last time. Return to the port, where you'll be picked up for your overland transfer back to Hanoi. Have a last meal of Vietnamese food in the Old Quarter tonight, as tomorrow you'll be flying southwest to Thailand!
Day 9: Fly to Bangkok
Say goodbye to Vietnam today as you fly to neighboring Thailand! Upon arrival in Bangkok, you'll be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel. Spend some time settling into your hotel room before heading out into the city to get your first glimpse of the Thai capital, a true Southeast Asian metropolis very different from the Vietnamese cities you've just visited, despite being so close. Grab your first Thai meal and see how different the food is from that in Vietnam; you might want to ask for your kids' meals to be made without chili, as Thai food can be extremely hot!
Day 10: Grand Palace & Temples Tour
Get to know Bangkok better today with a lively tour of some of its most culturally and historically important sites. Kids will be dazzled by the gold, sparkles, and bling on many Thai temples and palaces. Start at Wat Traimit, a stunning temple in Chinatown that houses a huge solid gold Buddha statue. Continue to Wat Po, home of the famous 147-foot (45 m) reclining Buddha, as well as the original school of traditional Thai massage. Parents might want to stop for a relaxing massage here.Continue to the impressive Grand Palace, a national landmark where some of Thailand's most revered royal monuments are kept, including the Emerald Buddha (actually made from jade). Visit various parts of the palace, including the Coronation Hall, Funeral Hall, and Royal Guest House. These days, the Thai royal family doesn't live at the Grand Palace, but it's still used for ceremonial occasions and is a must-visit destination in Bangkok.
Day 11: Fly to Chiang Mai, Temples & City Tour
Fly north today to Chiang Mai, a city surrounded by mountains that used to be the center of an independent kingdom, the Lanna Kingdom. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, your driver will transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, waste no time getting out to explore. If you or your kids found Bangkok rather hot and steamy, you'll enjoy the cooler mountain air.
Take an informative city tour to get to know Chiang Mai. Head first to Wat Pra Singh, one of over 200 ancient Buddhist temples in the city and one of the most well-regarded examples of Lanna architecture. Continue to Wat Chedi Luang, where there's an enormous pagoda that used to be even bigger but was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. Check out Warorot Market to get a feel for local life in Northern Thailand and to see the different items for sale. Recharge with a tasty bowl of khao soy, a famous local dish that combines coconut cream, crispy noodles, and spices—perfect for family members with an adventurous palate!
Continue the tour to the hilltop Doi Suthep temple. If you and your kids feel energetic, you can climb the 306 steps to the cloister. On a clear day, there are wonderful views over Chiang Mai from here. If you like, make an offering to the monks and receive a blessing from them, a memorable cultural experience for the whole gang.
Day 12: Kanta Elephant Sanctuary, Waterfalls
Kids generally love animals, and there's something incredibly appealing about enormous but gentle elephants. The Kanta Elephant Sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to spend quality time with elephants in their natural home and gain insight into their history and behavior. Kids will enjoy getting close to these animals in a safe and controlled setting.
Head to the Mork Fa waterfalls in the afternoon, not far from Chiang Mai. It's an impressive 100-foot (30 m) waterfall in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, surrounded by lush forest, a short walk from the parking lot to the falls. Your family can enjoy swimming and relaxing at the falls and in the pools, a great way to cool off.
Day 13: Transfer to Phuket, Free Time
Leave northern Thailand behind today as you fly two hours south to Phuket, a gateway to the tropical Thai islands in the Andaman Sea. Your family will all collectively exhale as you settle into your accommodation and spend the rest of the day relaxing poolside or on a gorgeous white-sand beach.
Day 14: Phi Phi Islands Tour by Jet Boat
Make an early start today, so you have plenty of time to luxuriate on numerous gorgeous Phi Phi Islands. After hopping aboard your jet boat, your first stop will be picturesque Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Le, where you can swim and play in the turquoise waters. Continue to Phi Phi Don, where you and your kids will love searching for colorful tropical fish on a snorkeling trip. Have lunch here, then spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on Ko Pai ("Bamboo Island"), where you can swim or play on the sand, depending on the ages and interests of your kids. Depart for your trip back to Phuket in the mid-afternoon.
Day 15: Depart Phuket
It's time to say goodbye to Thailand today. Depending on your departure time, you may have time to spend the morning on the beach or beside the pool or go last-minute souvenir shopping. You'll be transferred to the airport for your flight at the appropriate time. Sa wat dii!