Cycling and backpacking in a new country means careful packing. With kids, the planning gets even trickier. (The little ones don't necessarily carry their fair share, the wee buggers.) Aside from the usual suspects (swimsuits, hats, money belt, passports:), we've captured our top ten picks for travelling here.
10. SteriPen. This UV light pen kills the bugs in tap water so you don't need to purchase heaps of bottled water throughout your trip. The financial savings are nice, but it's mostly about the environment for us, a point driven home as we toured many a beautiful ocean bay that was sadly littered with hundreds of bottles.
9. Collapsible water bottle. We thought our hydrapak stash collapsible water bottle might be gimmicky, but actually, it was brilliant. When empty, it squishes right down into a compact puck. A perfect space saver when you're lower on water near the end of day.
8. A pannier/backpack combo. One of these guys means you can set off on day cycles without a pack on your back. Our pannier was particularly handy since we could always rely on our Vietnamese rental bikes having a rack. When we reached our stops along the way, and wanted to walk about, we could easily convert our pannier into a backpack. We use the Ortlieb waterproof combo.
7. A bum bag. It's a bit old school, but man is it a handy place to store your camera, easily accessible while riding. We use one gifted to us from our friend, who purchased it on Etsy, and we didn't leave the hotel without it.
6. Head torches. Most of our hotels, even basic one star guest homes, had good access to night lights so that we could read and play cards etc at night while the kids slept. But our head torch was still useful for the overnight trains and for using as bike lights in the evening. Sure, the flashing lights on our heads captured some strange looks, but we embraced the dorkiness and thought, safety first, right?
5. maps.me. We used the brilliant maps.me application and downloaded a map of Vietnam onto our smart phones. With GPS being free, we could navigate many of our own cycle routes, even through smaller lanes, without using any data. We sometimes took a guided tour, which offered incredible insights, but it was nice to have our independence at times too.
4. Smart phones. Clearly, these were required in order to use item 5... but maps.me aside, it was a whole new experience travelling with a smart phone, visiting many less developed places that offered strong and steady wifi. At first, we were torn. How can we truly unplug with these beasts in our pockets and with regular access to the rest of the world? But, on balance, the wifi was very handy for researching our trains and buses, planning tours and staying in touch with family at home, particularly over Christmas. We also used our smartphone torches in our front baskets as bike lights for evening rides.
3. Helmets for the kids. We packed two of our oldest/smallest helmets for Sav and Mac. Still safe, and a better fit than any rental helmet might have been (only available, in any case, in the major spots). We left these helmets behind after our last ride, passing them on to a school. We're hoping they might reach some children who can use them when they ride on mopeds with their parents. Traffic appears to work like magic in Vietnam, flowing this way and that with dozens of mopeds and bikes approaching each intersection at the same time, and all passing through with apparent ease. But, one stat we read revealed that 37 people die per year from traffic accidents. Not something to take lightly.
2. Bike tool. This is handy (and frankly, necessary) for installing your Mac Ride adapter on to each rental bike, but also for giving your new wheels a once over before you set off.
1. Mac Ride-- Of course!
With Mac Ride soon in production, in 2016, we're hoping many of you with families will use your new seat for adventures near and far. And we're hoping that you'll share with us your tips and tricks for travelling with young ones as well.
That's the last of our blogs from Vietnam. Glen's now gearing up for his trip to China to check out our first production run. So far, the feedback from our manufacturers is very positive. We have every finger and toe crossed.
Happy New Year, from the Mac Ride Team!