What to pack for Vietnam for moms, Tim Gunn style

Dear Tim, you need to know that I consider you my tv BFF. So I tell you out of love that your 10 item capsule wardrobe has its limitations. You need to expand those stylish wings and translate your capsule wardrobe rules to other climate zones and other day-to-night occasions. Like traveling to a country in South East Asia. Like Vietnam. But don’t worry, I got your back.

One warning to those not Tim Gunn, this is NOT a packing list for the very trendy travelers. Nor is it a packing list for die-hard hikers. This is for Moms like me, that love window shopping, hate over-packing and loathe polyester fabrics.

But now, the list. Or as Tim Gunn would singsong it: Carry on.

1. LBD becomes Little Black Jumpsuit

What to pack to Vietnam - LBD alternative
LBD becomes Little Black Jumpsuit

I love a LBD for office-to-night occasions, but dresses aren’t my fave on a active holiday with kids. Especially when going to warmer climates. Bending needs attention, and so does sitting on plastic chairs. And don’t get me started on those little kids’ hands playing with the skirt. So for Vietnam, I’m thinking about a little black jumpsuit that looks like a LBD, but is more functional and modest. With some glam flip flops, it could be my go-to item for the city or a fancy night out.

2. Trenchcoat becomes poncho

What to pack for Vietnam - Trench alternative
Trenchcoat becomes poncho

School holidays makes for traveling during rain season. That means you need some serious rain gear. Like in full-on functional rain gear. Now I feel sorry I didn’t shop for stylish rain jackets back in Bergen, the rainiest city in Norway. Anyway, I saw pictures of Hanoians on their scooters is big ass ponchos. I think I’ll do the same, to keep my back pack dry.

3. Dress pants

What to pack for Vietnam - dress pants
Light colored dress pants as dress pants.

For cities like Hanoi, Hoi An and Hoi Chi Min it’s nice to have a more chiq (and less touristy) option. In my mind, I already packed my linen cropped pants which I had for years. But yesterday I ripped it beyond repair. UGH. So I ordered a new one online. I like my dress pants tapered and a little cropped. It looks better on me and the hem stays cleaner that way. But really, pick a style that fits you best. Just don’t go for skin hugging styles or for dark colors. Why? Light colored pants that don’t hug your legs will keep mosquitos from biting. Because just like you, they just looooooveee your legs in those thight black leggings. Hate me now for recommending to leave your skinny pants at home, thank me later when your staying in a near a mosquito infested mountain. Banff (Canada) taught me that.

4. White shirt becomes a colored shirt

What to pack for Vietnam - white shirt alternative
White shirt becomes coloured shirt

Tim, I with you on the white shirt thing. I LOVE a white shirt. But I’ll be traveling to a tropical climate. Just to say it bluntly, my armpits will be like Niagara Falls. And I don’t need to tell you how that looks on a white shirt. So foregoing our favorite white shirt, I’m taking a colored one in a natural fiber (linen, lyocell). A shirt is a great option for visiting temples when modesty is appropriate. And on hikes, to protect your shoulders against sunburn and your arms against mosquitoes. And if pack a longer shirt, you can use it as a dress too!

5. Jeans becomes (jeans) shorts

What to pack for Vietnam - jeans alternative
Jeans become shorts

Bring lyocell jeans look pants that are light weight and dry quickly if you must. Regular jeans are too bulky and too heavy and too hot for a tropical climate. More over, they dry too slowly after a sudden rain shower. You could bring jeans shorts as an alternative, but I’m packing khaki travel shorts instead.

6. Sweater becomes cozy

What to wear to Vietnam - sweater alternative
Sweater becomes cozy

No matter the climate, I always pack my DKNY cozy. It’s a knitted shawl with sleeves that can be turned into a cardi, a sweater, a wrap, a shawl in multiple ways. On the plane, I use it as a pillow or a blanket. It’s made of a silk blend, so it’s cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather.

7. Skirt becomes short culottes

What to wear to Vietnam - skirt alternative
Skirts become short culottes

Shorts are so much more mum friendly than skirts. Back pockets for my phone, maps; front pockets for keys, tissues and back in the day: pacifiers. They’re also more discrete when kneeling down on the beach, picnicking or playing horsey. I pack a more functional one for hikes and beach (see: jeans shorts) and a flowing short for city tours and hot nights out on the town.

8. Tops

What to wear to Vietnam tops
Tops that cover the upper back

Depending on my destination, I either bring more sleeveless tops or more t-shirts and long sleeves. For Vietnam, I’m bringing mostly t-shirts and sleeveless tops that cover the upper back and shoulders. I brought racer back tops to Costa Rica but it wasn’t a good idea. Sunburned shoulders and a backpack don’t blend well. I like them loose too. Body hugging tops are hot and get awkward. Because it’s rain season in Vietnam when we go, it’s hot and humid. I’m keeping my packing strategy: 2 t-shirts, 2 sleeveless tops, 2 camis. Wear one, wash or air the other. I’ll probably need more, I know. Don’t tell my husband, but isn’t that the greatest excuse to go shopping in Hoi An?

9. Blazer becomes kimono

What to wear to Vietnam
Blazer becomes kimono

This was a great idea from (insert blogger) that I’ll adopt immediately. A chiffon or silk kimono adds color to your travel wardrobe, can be used as a beach cover, and as a jacket during temple visits or fancy nights out.

10. Sweat suit alternative

Yoga pants as sweat suit alternative

The travel version of the sweat suit alternative is…. the sweat suit. I love my straight up and down yoga pants as pajamas, lookalike dress pants and even as… Yoga pants.

Bonus: shoes

Honestly Tim, I don’t get why you don’t include shoes to your list. I always try to keep my shoes to a minimum when travel, just because they take in so much room! Last time I kept it to a very self-controlled 3 pairs: trail runners; Birkenstock sandals and flip flops.

Bonus bonus bonus: accessories

  • Sun glasses
  • Hat
  • Day pack or purse

So that’s it! Who has experience with traveling in Vietnam during rain season and can help me perfect my packing list? 

xoxo -Irene

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What to pack for Vietnam - for moms

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