We have already shared with you our trekking experience in SaPa, Vietnam with our 18 month old. For those of you who missed it, here is the link. We thought it’s a good idea to dedicate a post for tips on trekking with a toddler to especially encourage the faint-hearted. This post also includes our experience and preference on how to access SaPa from/to Hanoi.
Starting from this, SaPa is accessible from Hanoi either by car or by night train. We experienced both as we went there by night train and came back by car. The night trains have various cabins – some luxurious, some sharing, some basic. We booked a private cabin for four to have a cabin by ourselves. The cabin was cutely decorated and the attendant gave us some nibbles and drinks. The biggest advantage of the night train is that you don’t lose any time – you’re traveling while sleeping. You wake up and you’re there .. The night train was such a great experience for the kid especially when hearing the “choo choo” sounds of the train. We left Hanoi at 10PM and arrived in Lao Cai station around 6AM. Then you have another 45-60 mins to reach SaPa by car. On our way back to Hanoi, we booked a private car. It took around 4.5 – 5 hours which for a toddler is quite frustrating. On the other hand, the train is not silent and jolts a bit too much at times. However, if you’re a good sleeper like we are, it will not disturb you much! When you book, let them know that you’re going traveling with a small kid so they will assign you a quieter cabin. Perhaps if you’re unsure, you can always do one way with the train and the other with the car like we did. However now that we experienced both, we preferred the night train by far as our kid slept comfortably and it is more efficient.
Tips for a trek with a toddler:
- Book a private local guide – trekking with a toddler is a challenge and having a private guide with you gives you peace of mind that you are going in the right direction and not having to think about where you are heading or risking getting lost. It’s also an experience in itself having a local with you along the trek with whom you can chat and discover about their way of life.
- Analyse the length of the route suggested by your guide before you trek – only you know how far you can go trekking carrying a toddler on your back! We have made arrangements with the guide to have us transported to the beginning of the valley from our hotel and start the trek from the top of the valley to ensure we don’t get tired by the time we start the real trek. We trekked around 6 km in all, with various stops.
- Take a good baby/toddler carrier – you cannot go trekking accompanied by the small steps of a toddler so we think that the best way to go about it is to carry your toddler in a carrier at least for parts of the trek. Make sure however that you take a good ergonomic carrier with back and shoulder support. We used the Ergobaby 360 deg which we found very comfortable to carry our 14 kgs son in it. Our boy could be carried in the front to see where we are going and be part of the trek. When he’s tired, we just turned him inwards and he could have his nap resting on our chest.
- Go light as much as possible as whatever you take you must carry – do take the necessities mentioned below but don’t overdo it. Check with your guide whether there are stops to buy water during the trek so that you will not carry too much water bottles.
- Be prepared to have to go slow at times – trekking with a toddler does slow your trek unless you are a professional trekker and can fly by even with a toddler on you back 🙂
Must-carry items when trekking:
- Hat for yourself and toddler
- Baby/toddler carrier (we used the Ergobaby 360)
- Small backpack
- Water for yourself and toddler
- Isotonic drink or supplements to put in water in case you get drowsy
- Energy bars / banana
- Milk / goodies for toddler
- Wipes / antibacterial hand gel
- Any other items your toddler might need during the trek (but not toys as there will be plenty of natural ones along the way – sticks/pebbles are our son’s favorite)!