Seniors in Vietnam
November 20, 2016 1:30 AM   Subscribe

My parents are planning a trip to Vietnam this winter. They're both in their 70s. My dad has not traveled outside the country since his time in the Army, and my mom has never traveled internationally. Neither of them fly much, and my mom did not fly at all until maybe 10 years ago. This is a trip that has been discussed for decades and apparently may actually happen at last.

My mom really wants to go with my dad but seems to be worried about multiple aspects of the trip. In case any answers rely on techno skills - Dad recently got a smart phone and has email. Mom is kind of a Luddite and anything that relies on her using the internet or a smart phone is just not going to happen. They're both cheapskates.

I'd like to help them by finding any resources that might make the trip more comfortable and manageable. Anything from finding a reliable tour group to safety tips to comfy socks for the plane ride.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have any specific recommendations, but given their lack of international experience they should definitely go with a tour group. I found the big cities easy to navigate but I live in the region and the traffic and general chaos will be extremely intimidating for anyone who's not left the US before, while many tourist sites are overrun by touts and scammers. Even if they have to pay more than they want to, it will be worth it to have a well-run tour for what is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.
posted by tavegyl at 1:51 AM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

Focus on the reputable tour group would be my suggestion. Once the tour is identified and booked they can the focus on getting to the departure city and back, find travel insurance and renew/obtain their passports, vaccinations etc.

If they have any health conditions they may want to make sure they can get insured before booking the tour/confirm how much it will cost to get insurance. When it comes to flights they may want to consider splashing out in things like premium economy seats for the international flight, especially if they are tall or wide.

They should also think about how much time they'd like to acclimatise between arriving in the country and tour departure. I'd recommend at least an extra day so they can recover from travelling and start to adjust to the time zone, weather etc before meeting their fellow travellers and setting off. A lot of tour operators will give you the option of local sight seeing on such a day. Or the departure hotel can arrange it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:54 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vietnam is great value for money. They can stay in nice hotels for $40 - $60 per night. One tip I would suggest is to arrange an airport transfer from the hotel whenever they arrive. It usually costs about $15 and means a driver holding a sign with their names on it will pick them up at the airport and take them to the hotel. Definitely worth it. Also remember that they will need to get tourist visas in advance- easier than doing it on arrival.
Lots of tour companies are around but I don't have any particular recommendations- depends where they want to go.
posted by emd3737 at 1:55 AM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't say where they are flying from but if it is the US, it will take more than a day to adjust to the time difference, I'd pad two or three days minimum into the start of the trip to relax. Also, depending on the time of year, the heat and humidity will be an issue as well if they're not used to it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:47 AM on November 20, 2016

I think you're going to get a lot of suggestions that they go with a tour group and that makes a lot of sense. Can you tease out what they find intimidating and what they're excited about? Do they want to pick out hotels and things to see? Are they mostly intimidated by the logistics of getting around somewhere unfamiliar where they don't speak the language? Depending on what they're excited and intimidated by, it might make sense to have a travel agent arrange things like airport transfers and transport to particular sites they've picked out (making their own tour, in a way), or to find a tour group that has an itinerary that says "we're going to place X on day Y" but you're on your own for five hours when you get there before getting back on the bus, or a tour where you follow a tour guide holding a flag all day.

My best friend's grandparents went to Vietnam and Cambodia with a tour group a couple of years ago. They're the sort of people who have done a lot of traveling, but will happily pay someone else to sort out logistics in a country they're totally unfamiliar with. I'll see if she knows who they went with. I think they've done Elderhostel (which has been renamed Road Scholar) as well, but I don't know if it was that trip.
posted by hoyland at 5:49 AM on November 20, 2016

My mom, who is a seasoned traveler, is older now but continues to go on adventures with OAT, which seems to be geared towards seniors. I've lost track of all the trips she has taken in recent years, but off hand, Vietnam, China, Turkey, Bari and Sicily, Peru, India/Tibet, and Russia. They take care of everything, have great guides, and just make it all so easy for an older traveler who wants an adventure but may not have the ability to book everything themselves. And they seem to do great things--it's not just get on a bus and see the countryside--they do things like chartered day trips on a boat, or go to a farmhouse and see how the locals make cheese, go to a vineyard and meet with the proprietor.

Highly recommended.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:37 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

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