When trying to plan a trip to a new country. It can often be overwhelming with all of the information online. I knew I wanted a Vietnam itinerary for 10 days but was not sure where to go first. If you are anything like me and wondering how to get the most of your 10 days in Vietnam, I highly suggest you follow our itinerary. Ours was put together by Signatures of Asia and it took all of the headaches out of planning and executing our trip. If you are looking for someone to arrange all of your airport transfers and tour guides, reach out to Tommy at Signatures of Asia. He put this together for us fast, and make sure we had a seamless 10 day Vietnam itinerary.
Our Vietnam Itinerary: 10 Days
Our 10 days in Vietnam itinerary saw us fly into Hanoi, spend 2 nights there, then travel to Ha Long Bay for an overnight cruise, then fly to Hue and tour the city, then drive the scenic drive to Hoi An for a few nights, then a flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) before flying back to Canada.
Overall I was looking for a first impression of the country and to see a little bit of everything. I did not have a lot of time as we were trying to miss minimal school and sports and were taking advantage of an extra long weekend. We managed to only miss 5 days of school for this trip!
If you are like me and want to be busy sightseeing without a lot of downtime, this Vietnam Itinerary in 10 days is for you! If you do not want to arrange the flights, airport transfers and getting around yourself, as I mentioned, Signatures of Asia put this all together for me!
Days 1 and 2 of our 10 day Vietnam itinerary was spent in Hanoi. We were met on arrival and had our visa’s on arrival done for us. We were then taken to our hotel for a few hours to rest before our afternoon at the market and cooking class! It was an off the ground running start, although I did nap for an hour, Mattias did not (I have no idea how he does it, but you will read the result later).
In the afternoon we were met at the local fruit and vegetable market where our chef picked our fresh meat, prawns, calamari and fruits and veggies to make dinner with. I love that everything was bought fresh. We really do not do enough of this in North America, instead, we buy too much, throw it in the fridge and then into the green waste bin it goes at the end of the week.
Instead, we bought just 4 eggs (instead of your typical dozen – or more) from the grocery store, and enough meat just for dinner, as well as small amounts of veggies and dried mushrooms.
I really wish that at home we had access to convenient markets like this. We do often shop at local vegetable stores and meat shops (versus Costco) but it is NOT a daily thing, I buy for the week, and like I said above, throw a bunch of it away at the end of the day.
After shopping, we went to the home of our chef. It was a beautiful countryside home, despite being in the city, with a large garden and an indoor/outdoor style kitchen (I WISH I had something like this in Canada).
We were involved in the chopping and cooking and Tommy from Signatures of Asia even brought his kids to hang out with Mattias. Unfortunately, without a nap and having been awake for close to 24 hours, Mattias crashed on the couch before dinner was ready.
Our meal was beautiful (one of the things I love about Vietnamese cuisine) and flavorful. This cooking class was one of my favorite things to do on our entire 10 days in Vietnam, and we did it on day 1!
Our Day 2 in Hanoi during our Vietnam itinerary we did a comprehensive city tour starting with a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. Mattias could not help but whisper “that’s a fake” as we followed a somber line of those paying respects to the former leader. Outside I assured him that it was not in fact “a fake” but an actual dead human being who had been preserved. He did admit that the hair looked really “realistic.” Gotta love traveling with kids! You never know what kind of reaction you are going to get!
We then visited Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts and the One Pillar Pagoda. Many women hoping to conceive come to this 11th century Buddhist temple. Although I climbed the steps, I was not one of these women haha.
Our next stop was Ngoc Son Temple on a small island on Hoan Kiem lake. Mattias quite enjoyed the stories of the turtle and the sword. We enjoyed Bun Cha, a must-try while in Hanoi, a cyclo of the old town and an evening water puppet show to round out our day!
Highlights of Hanoi: Cooking Class
Must Try local dishes: Bun Cha, Egg Coffee
Where We Stayed: Silk Path Hanoi Hotel
Ha Long Bay
Days 3 and 4 were spent getting to, and enjoying our Ha Long Bay cruise with Aphrodite Cruises. It is a bit of a drive from Hanoi and we had to be there in plenty of time for our 1 pm sailing. We had an adorable room with a balcony and our ship was quite large, with just a few rooms. The day was spent eating, lounging on the deck and then on an excursion to the Hang Sung Sot cave and boating.
We were well taken care of by the staff of the Aphrodite. My advice to those traveling with children is that there is only one set menu, and it is quite fancy. For those kids who enjoy plain food, you should bring lots of snacks if they do not like the meals.
Ha Long bay was stunningly beautiful and I wonder why people make comments about it being dirty. I am guessing it was where they were taken? I did not see a single piece of garbage and Mattias enjoyed swimming on one of our island stops! Ha Long Bay no longer allows single-use plastic bottles to be taken to the islands, which has reduced the garbage left behind from tourists. The ships who visit these places are now held responsible for the upkeep of the area.
In chatting with our guide, I do not suggest you take a day trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. You will spend most of your time on the bus, just an hour or two on a boat, and usually do not actually end up in Ha Long Bay, but an area nearby. When it comes to the prices of Ha Long Bay cruises, you do get what you pay for. My only regret with this cruise was that we did not do the two-night option. 22 hours aboard the ship was not enough time for us!
Day 4 ended with a return to port and driving back to Hanoi for our flight to Hue.
Hilights: Luxury Cruise, Hang Sung Sot Caves, Scenery
Lowlights: Wish we had spent 2 nights, food options were limited on board. Half a day was wasted due to late evening flight.
Cruise Ship: Aphrodite Cruises
Hue Day Tour Itinerary
Day 5 started early with a tour of the imperial city of Hue. Because it was rainy, we skipped the perfume boat tour and went straight to the Thien Mu Pagoda and then onto the UNESCO Imperial City. Mattias loved feeding the fish! Make sure you have small bills to buy some fish food.
After the Imperial City we visited one of the former 19th century emperors tombs. There was a second one on our itinerary but we decided to skip it. Traveling with kids, we always like to be flexible and after seeing one, the other one was going to be pretty similar we were told.
The benefit of a guide on a day like this is to hear all of the folklore and history of all of these places without having to rely on a guidebook or to read all of the signs inside. Talk of gold buried deep in the tombs always grabbed Mattias’s attention as we talked about grave robbers and ways people have tried to get to the gold in the past.
After Hue, our driver took us to Hoi An on the Hai Van Pass. The weather was not great, but it was still a nice scenic drive. Some of the highlights were the traffic situation and watching trucks trying to navigate the hills.
Highlights: Seeing the archetecture of the Imperial city in Hue
Hotel: Saigon Morin Hue
Arriving on day 5 of our 10 days in Vietnam we had three nights in Hoi An. We stayed on the beachside with a beautiful infinity pool and sandy beach. The waves were huge and stormy so we did not venture to the beach, but when the sun was out, it was pleasant enough to swim and relax by the pool.
On Day 6 our guide picked us up for a bicycle tour of the nearby farms and all of the sights in Old Hoi An. It seemed like a perfect day, until we got onto the street. At home, my kids still ride on sidewalks and are not accustomed to cars passing them so closely. It was a very nervous first kilometer for Mattias, and just when we thought that visiting the farms would be ok, not only scooters, but farm vehicles wanted to go down the road as well, essentially meaning Mattias needed to move his bike into the ditch.
But, we managed! After the farm tour and getting to plant some fresh produce, we abandoned the kids bicycle and our guide, Key, took Mattias on the back of his bike for the rest of our day (because we had a lot of biking to do!) Disaster averted!
We rode the 5km into Old Hoi An for lunch and explored the river front and all of the side streets. We then rode over to the water coconut farms for a basket boat ride. Mattias was a little nervous about getting on a small boat (he constantly reminds me of tipping the kayak in France), but once settled this was a highlight for him today!
Day 7 left us with a free day to enjoy the pool and explore the area. This is one of my favorite parts of travel. getting time to really immerse yourself in a place. I would have spent a week or more here. There is a certain vibe in Hoi An. It is not suprising why so many people spend a lot of time here.
Yes, it is busy with crowds coming in for the day, but there is still a charm about the place. Feeding off that charm, we took off on bicycles to find good food, warm coffee and maybe some souvenirs.
It was pouring rain, but warm, so we did not care! We spent the day meandering through the old town and nearby neighborhoods. We found excellent pizza (yes I have a kid who wants some western comforts), Bun Cha (the local dish) and fruit from the market!
Highlights: Exploring Hoi An by bicycle, Basket boat
Must Try Local Dishes: Cao Lau
Lowlights: Too much traffic for kids to safely cycle
Hotel: Hoi An Boutique Resort
Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon
After three nights in Hoi An, we drove to Da Nang for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. We had two days (day 8 and 9) here before our flight back to Canada on day 10.
We visited Chu Chi Tunnels, which is about 2 hour drive away. It was eye-opening to see the former headquarters of the NLF and their intricate tunnel system that the American’s were never successfully able to infiltrate. Watching plenty of movies about the Vietnam War, it was surreal to actually visit the country and see the places featured in these movies.
Our tour of Ho Chi Minh City visited the War Remnants Museum, more French Architecture shown in their Notre Dam Cathedral and post office, the Re-Unification Palace. Our hotel was very close to Ben Thanh market which gave us plenty of food and shopping options.
Highlights: Hotel location, shopping, Chu Chi Tunnels
Hotel: Grand Silverland Saigon
Vietnam Itinerary 10 Days Conclusion
For those who are short on time and want to get a quick immersion into Vietnam, this Vietnam itinerary in 10 days is perfect. I mentioned the highlights and lowlights of each place, hoping to give you some insight into what to avoid or what to expect or even how to modify this 10 day itinerary to fit your specific needs.
- Fly into Hanoi and out of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – This is relatively easy as many international airlines service both cities.
- Try and keep small bills as much as possible for shopping etc. (read about popular Vietnam souvenirs here)
- All of the tourist places seem to have a one way in and one way out type setup. I am assuming this is for crowd control. If you see something you want to buy, stop and buy it, as you will not pass the same souvenir shop again before you exit the premises.
- If traveling with kids, the city tours can get a bit boring, consider mixing it up with something they will enjoy. Every kid is different but mine really love the opportunity to run around and play or have free time. They also love a free afternoon to spend at the pool.
- Pack bug spray
- Bring comfortable shoes / sandals and a good day bag
- A portable battery pack is helpful to keep your phones charged during the day
- Check out my post on mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Vietnam.
Lindsay is the founder and editor of Carpe Diem OUR Way. She is passionate about sharing her experiences of traveling with children on adventurous family holidays around the world! She resides in the suburbs of Vancouver when not jet setting abroad.