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I’m presently in New York, the greatest city in the world (next to my Chicago, of course), and it feels like the perfect time to show off my new City Carryall bag by BUILT NY. BUILT offers a collection of industrious, stylish and protective goods ranging from freezable lunchbags and essential tote bags to kids backpacks and kitchen accessories. BUILT’s products combine form and function, like this City Carryall, which is made from durable neoprene, that wetsuit material which protects against spills, splashes, bumps and drops–perfect for a busy mom on the go! I love the chic granite print here, but this bag also comes in a classic black. It has an interior pocket, which easily fits my keys, phone, wallet, and more.

BUILT’s products are designed in New York and inspired by the city that never sleeps–and like a native New Yorker, this City Carryall bag makes a bold statement at first impression, don’t you agree? Follow along with my New York adventures on my InstaStories!

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I can honestly say I love traveling with my kids. It pleases me to no end to watch them soak in and explore a new destination, particularly a foreign country where they have to be resilient and adaptable to a new culture, foods and language. Of course, it’s also a ton of work – from the car rides, to the family friendly restaurants we had to hunt down.  In general, it’s just harder schlepping them all around, but also so much worth the experiences as a traveling family.

There are some things you can do to make traveling with kids easier. We just returned from a three-week long vacation in Vietnam with our three kids. If I can haul 3 young kids on 7 flights and across 3 cities overseas, you can do it, too! Here are my top travel tips:

Invest in a JetKids BedBox–the world’s only portable in-flight bed and ride-on suitcase. Yes, seriously, someone made this! My boys had so much fun zipping around the airport on their carry-ons. People stopped to take videos! It’s a great time-killer when you have active children who need to run off some steam before boarding.

The luggage converts to an in-flight bed that can be attached to the seat. The only downside was that my oldest two are just too long for it, but we made the most of it because we were seated in a bulkhead row and their feet could dangle off the edge.

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traveling with kids to vietnampinthis

Keep them on the same daily routine you have at home. It’s so important to have consistency with little kids, even when you’re on vacation. When it’s naptime, it’s naptime. Don’t skip it! If you need to adjust the time a little bit, go ahead. But you may be surprised to find that they have little trouble falling into their natural schedule.

Pack as little as possible. Not even a single toy. Since we’re traveling to a major city, we know we can always pick up whatever we need there. Need diapers, SPF lotion, bug spray? Buy it at a local grocery store, or send via Amazon Prime if you’re staying domestic. But even foreign countries like Vietnam carry major brands such as Huggies and Pampers!

You can rent car seats if you plan to do a lot self-driving, but car seats are not required in taxi cabs domestically and are not used at all in some overseas countries, like Vietnam. In Vietnam, we took about six Uber rides a day on average. (All the locals get around on mopeds and they even carry infants and small kids on their laps without even batting an eye!)

Approach eating new foods with confidence. I believe that a lot of what our kids do, and how they act, is because of how we as parents project to them. For example, if bedtime was a major struggle the night before, chances are you are probably going to approach tonight’s bedtime with the same apprehension remembering yesterday’s shenanigans. Same with trying new foods–be confident and act nonchalant about it!

One other important thing I want to point out regarding eating out while on vacation, is food safety. Just because you’re on vacation, don’t forget to be overly cautious if your littles have food allergies, especially while traveling in a foreign country. My oldest has a peanut allergy, which made eating in Vietnam a nightmare. This is a country that eats peanuts in or on everything! They leave it on tables for snacking and street vendors walk around selling them. Peanut allergy awareness is basically nonexistent here! We had a bad scare in Nha Trang because I ordered a soybean drink for myself. I never would have thought to ask if the drink had peanuts in it, which it turned out, did! Roman drank some and immediately his throat swelled up. Thankfully, there was a pharmacy a couple blocks away and I was able to grab an antihistamine. All this happening as a local lady selling peanuts approached our table.  Fortunately, Roman is only allergic to peanuts when ingested.

Lastly, enjoy yourselves! There’s nothing as worthwhile in life as traveling and exploring in a new place, especially when you are making memories with your loved ones! Just do it! Don’t overthink it. Otherwise, you’ll never step outside your comfort zone.

 

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post on my Vietnam Travel Guide.

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I created this video below via iMovie on my iPhone 7+. Took me 30 minutes tops. If I can do it, you can! It’s sooooo easy. Enjoy it and let me know what you think!

I love this quote here…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover”

-Mark Twain

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Vietnam is such a culturally rich and vibrant country, and to say that it has my heart is an understatement. It was my birthplace before my family fled the war when I was a baby during the Fall of Saigon, seeking refuge in a Thai camp. (You can read more about my story here.) Recently, my family and I, including my parents, spent three weeks exploring Vietnam–seven flights total, three cities, and we’re now back on U.S. soil. We strolled the bustling markets, hopped on a few mopeds (the city’s main mode of transportation), and I even went prawn fishing at Câu Cá Kỳ Anh with famous food blogger, Kyle Le.

Already I miss Vietnam and am itching to go back. This trip is the second time for The Giant and me, but the first with our children. I strongly urge everyone to visit this humble yet boldly colorful country at least once in your lifetime, and if you’re considering taking a trip there, I hope this Vietnam travel guide will be helpful!

Pro tips: I recommend hiring a private tour guide for the duration of your stay. My friend recommended a local named Cường, and while we didn’t hire him to show us around, he did help me plan this trip in advance. I couldn’t have done it without him. Turns out, he’s also a photographer! We hired him to follow us around for two days of our trip and I love how the photos turned out! Also, Uber everywhere in Vietnam! It’s cheaper than calling a cab. For an example, we drove around for over 20 mins one time (long story) and our bill was $2!

When to Go:
If you have a choice, definitely go to Vietnam during the Lunar New Year! It’s such a special time to experience Asia. About 95% of businesses close to celebrate. And celebrate they do! We were treated to an hour-long street performance, which was put on by a local business and cost over $1,000 to make happen. Chinese dragons are believed to chase away bad spirits so people often have them perform on special days like the Lunar New Year and weddings (The Giant and I did!). It is believed these dragons have special powers to bring luck. Needless to say, the kids LOVED it!

Where to Stay:
We stayed at this Airbnb rental. It was in a high-rise building with a doorman. And the pool, oh the pool with those gorgeous rooftop views. Best part, it also had a kiddie pool and was just a five minute drive from the popular Ben Thanh market.

What to Eat:
Banh Mi Sandwich at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
Not just any banh mi, but the one at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa restaurant. It is hands down the best I’ve ever had, totally living up to its reputation. There was a huge line out the door. What made this so exceptional was that it contained 4 or 5 different types of meat, especially the pate which sealed the deal. Many locals whom we spoke to said they’ve never eaten at this restaurant because it’s “too expensive.” $1.55 USD a sandwich!! My mom and I gave sandwiches to two of our doormen from another popular sandwich shop and they thanked us for days. They were so happy because it was their first time trying that sandwich, which was about $1.30 each.

Bun Rieu Soup at Bun Rieu Ben Thanh
The Bun Rieu soup at Bun Rieu Ben Thanh, across the Ben Thanh market, is incredible. We tried to eat here three times prior to actually making it in. That’s how popular it is! Twice it was closed and the third time it was sold out at 6pm.

Snails at Oc Quanh Q4
Our first meal in Saigon in the Backpacking District with my parents and other family members. It was a seafood feast! The snails were crazy good and are prepared in different sauces. Pro tip? Just ask the chef to pick whatever is most popular.

Dining in the Dark at Noir
Most of the staff are deaf, mute, or blind. It was hands down THE best dining experience, ever. Because you’re eating in the dark and you don’t know what you’re eating, you have to slowly savor your food and guess. I appreciated what I was eating so much more because I was forced to slow down down and taste, rather than scarfing down food like I normally would. There were so many memorable dishes I can’t even remember. Pure perfection. I exited the dining room, in pitch black of course, with a jasmine flower bracelet.

What Not To Eat:
Jollibee
Jollibee is a Filipino chain similar to McDonalds. They have one in Chicago that is wildly popular with a typical hour long wait, for some reason. I figured it’s worth a shot to try it out in Vietnam. Verdict: Kids loved it. I felt like we wasted a precious meal eating there. The sacrifices we make for our kids!

What to Do/Where to Go:
Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon)
Visit the Mekong Delta floating market from Saigon. You can buy fruits and vegetables from local production, directly off the boats. It’s an incredible experience, not to be missed.

Halong Bay
This trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Halong Bay, has been beyond majestic. Go kayaking in the bay and also take a vintage boat through the floating homes and see how the locals live. We booked our excursions through this company. They’re one of the few that sail the furthest away from all the boat traffic (there are over 600 boats in around Halong Bay on any given day!) Definitely stay at least two nights to REALLY soak in the quiet beauty of this place.

Hanoi
We basically ate our way through Hanoi and the most memorable is the Old Quarters where street vendors sell nitrous oxide balloons by the hundreds. Just your average night in Hanoi.

Nha Trang
This place is like a combination of Maui and Honolulu. Go to Vinpearland Nhatrang, the “Disneyland” of Vietnam. Go when the park first opens. Most hotels will give you a coupon to this place, even some Airbnbs. The line for the cable car is about an hour long, so expect a wait time. Don’t bring a stroller. The park has many stairs there and it’s quite steep. Bring swimwear! I wasn’t prepared so the kids all went swimming in what they wore to the park. The water show at 9pm was spectacular. Pro tip: Leave halfway into the show, so you can beat the 1.5 hour long line for the cable car going home.

Get a mud bath at I Resort. Don’t worry, they fill your empty tub with new mud when you get there. I had no idea this place is like a water park. I went there with my parents thinking it’s just for the 20 min mud bath, but people spend all day there because there’s so much for kids to do.

Enjoy the photos from our trip!

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Boy, time flies when you are on vacation for three weeks in another country. We came back from Vietnam to unseasonably warm temps in Chicago. Before you know it, summer will be here and school will be out of session–and this also means summer camp season! When I consider options for summer programs for my kids, I look for those that offer highly rated, educational yet creative curriculums. Also very important to me is lots of quality outdoors time. Kids should be allowed to be kids, especially in the summertime!

While we were in Vietnam, I got a friendly camp registration reminder from Galileo, an educational company with several locations in Chicagoland that offers an innovative approach to the camp experience. There’s one location in Arlington Heights minutes from our house! Galileo values and builds curriculum that nurtures the creative confidence and innovative spirit within each child. PreK-5th graders explore art, science, engineering and the outdoors. 5th-8th graders take the lead in exploring their own interests. It checks off all my musts!

Because we will be traveling a bit in the summer, Roman won’t be going to camp this year but we are really excited to look ahead to next summer and to share Galileo’s offerings with Chicagoland readers who have young children. The Early Bird promotion is ending tomorrow on February 28. You can save $25-$50 per week (depending on location) until 2/28, and even more when you enroll in more weeks!

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