How Does A Traveling Family Spend Christmas in Vietnam?

I know, you are thinking it is January and why in the world is Heidi writing about Christmas.  It is over Heidi!  We have all moved on, made our resolutions and are looking forward to the next holiday.  Well, sorry everyone, but you are going to get a little more Christmas out of the Wagoner Family!   I think we have a special way of celebrating Christmas in Vietnam and I also feel the need to share it with you.

Christmas in Vietnam

Flashback to 2014:

As a traveling family we carry all that we own with us.  The kids each have a small carry-on roller bag and Alan and I have a larger back pack for our belongings.  We also each have a laptop sized backpack to carry our electronics and activities, snacks and so on.  We have on additional small roller bag that currently holds all of the family extras.  (Important documents, toiletries, plastic plates, oatmeal, peanut butter, external hard drives etc.).  I think this one need to go soon, as I think we can trim down a bit more.

Anyway, when it comes to Christmas or any occasion where gifts might be involved, we don’t want more “stuff”.  Instead, we like to be creative and have gifts with little to no footprint.  You know what I mean about footprint? You know, “stuff” that takes up space.  Space in your luggage, space in your mind, space in your life.  Just stuff!

We went through our cleanse and declutter phase prior to moving to Spain in Aug 2012 and it was so liberating being free of too much stuff.  It is challenging separating your emotional ties from things and looking at them for what they are, just things!  Remembering that your emotional memory is yours to keep and tap into whenever you like, you don’t have to have that physical item to keep the memory (pictures to help though).  For the past 2 1/2 years, we have lived a far simpler material life and it has worked out well for us.

Oh yes, I was going to tell you about Christmas.  See, I start to get on my soap box about stuff and off I go.

Back to the Christmas in Vietnam Story

This Christmas was quite unique, as Gma Bev was celebrating with us. We have always had magical and often travel holidays, but this time was the first time with Gma Bev.  The kids and Alan have never had a Christmas with her and I haven’t had one with her since before I was married, nearly 18 years ago.  So we wanted to make it special, but also have everyone stay on task of having gifts that don’t really take up space.

The plans for Christmas in Hoi An, Vietnam

I intentionally planned 9 days in Hoi An, Vietnam with 7 of those prior to Christmas.  This way we would all have time to figure out the town, where to buy things, and get creative with our gifts.  Gma Bev was completely on board as well.

As it turned out Hoi An was a perfect place for us to spend Christmas.  The village was very festive and felt like Christmas at night, with all of the lights around.  This was great for getting us into the Christmas spirit.  Prior to our arrival, we also booked a Christmas Eve sunset dinner cruise.  So, we were sure to have a festive and enjoyable Christmas.

Christmas Tree Hoi An

The entire week prior to Christmas, you could see the ideas forming in everyone’s minds.  The kids were very excited about their plans and repeatedly stated “This Christmas is so much fun figuring out what to give and how to give it, I don’t really care what I receive.”  Wow!  That is a bit of a change.  You see, were weren’t just getting crafty with the gift itself, but we have a long-standing family tradition of giving gifts in a unique way as well.  For us, that is the most fun.

Christmas Eve Sunset Dinner Cruise, with Cinnamon Cruises was great fun and we wrote all about it, so feel free to check that out.  The kids were so excited about Christmas and giving their gifts, they wanted to do it all on Christmas eve.  We convinced them to wait until the next morning, so we would have something to do on Christmas day.  As it turned out, they needed just a bit longer to work on the presentation of their gifts anyway.  They hid over in Gma Bev’s room until after midnight, we think they were working on gifts the entire time.

Christmas Eve 2014 Hoi An Vietnam Cinnamon Cruises

Christmas Morning Arrives!

You know your kids are growing up when they sleep in on Christmas morning.  I woke up at 8:00 am and the kids still weren’t up!  I fiddled around on the laptop, played a game of solitaire and finally at 11:15 am  our daughter woke up.  She attempted to go to the boy’s room and wake them up, but she said they won’t wake up.

Well everyone was up and ready for Christmas by 11:30 am and we spent nearly 2 hours opening very creatively wrapped and extremely thoughtful gifts.  We had 3 rooms at our homestay and we had planned a little bit of Christmas in each room.  First it was off to Grandma Bev’s room.  Our daughtermade a Christmas tree for us to bring to each room with us.


Grandma Bev presented all of our gifts to us one at a time.  It was great fun trying to guess what was inside the creative wrapping.  Alan received a bunch of mandarins stuffed into a “topless” plastic water bottle.  Heidi received a Happy Buddha necklace wrapped in a toilet paper roll and the kids had a great time opening their candy and gifts as well.

Oh, but that is not all.  Gma Bev brought her tradition of the “Mystery Gift” along with her.  This was a gift that we all needed to pass around the circle and guess what it was.  We could each ask one “yes or no” question about the gift.  We could then take a guess as to what might be inside. If we were wrong, it went on to the next person. Whomever makes the correct guess, gets to keep the gift.  Of course Gma Bev did her best to disguise the gift, but Alan and I knew what it was on the first go round.  We kept it going to give the kids a chance to guess.  In the end, our daughter was the winner of the Tiger Balm!

Once we were finished in Gma Bev’s room, it was on to the girls room.  We needed just a few minutes to prepare for our guests arrival, so the rest of the gang arrived 5 minutes later.

We really tried to set the mood.  We hung up the tree, you see it way on the back wall above that Pringles can?  Yep, that is our little tree.   We turned on the fireplace, see it on the laptop there?  It is our YouTube fire, which doubled as our Traditional Christmas music sound system. Let me get you back in the Christmas mood.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
everywhere you go
Take a look in the five and ten
glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow”

Okay are you there now?  Back in the Christmas Spirit?

Our daughter presented all of her gifts  first and then I did mine.  She made Alan a Powerpoint presentation on how an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Each slide was something that she and Alan have in common.  It was very thoughtful and sweet.  She gave me a deck of playing cards with 52 unique reasons she loves me, oh and candy too. One reason on each card in permanent marker.

Christmas Day in Hoi An Vietnam giving gifts

She made a 3D gift for our son out of Oreo’s skittles and Mentos.  The Oreo package was the trunk to a Christmas tree and the candy was the wrapped as presents, which sit under the tree.  For Gma Bev, she bought some local pants and candy.


I wasn’t overly creative with my gifts or wrapping, but they all loved their gifts.  Mainly candy or other edible things. He also received a noodle shirt.  Once that little Christmas session was over, we gave the boys a little time to prepare their items.  About 10 minutes later it was on to their gifts, but we didn’t start in their room.

Our son started with our daughter first and provided her clues, which led us around town.  With each new location, he then presented the next clue. Ultimately, it all led us back to his room at the homestay.  Phew!  We lost Gma and Alan along the way as it was very cold and slightly rainy out.  They knew we would end up back at the place, so opted to just wait there.  Upon our return, our daughter received her gift of  coupons for hugs, snuggle time and I need you to take a shower, from our daughter. The rest of us received very creative digital gifts from him.

Our son created a cool music video for me with 5 of him  singing in the video.  He said I can’t share it with the rest of the world, because of copywrighted music.  In place of the real deal, you can view this screen shot.  You will just have to trust me, the actual video was awesome!

Lars Christmas video for Heidi

For Alan he created an infomercial and I apparently have permission to share that with you.

Just Watch it NOW!

Really this kid is something else. He attempted to create a cheesy, low budget looking infomercial, and I think he succeeded.  

Alan presented his gifts and for each of the kids their gifts were on pin drives.  They each received music they wanted and also received photography tutorials as well as a book she really wanted, from her favorite girl YouTuber (Zoella), Girl Online.  She was instantly in tears from pure joy.

Within moments all shed a few tears, when we saw how much it meant to her.  We were all so impressed with how much time was put into each gift and how thoughtful they all were.  It is amazing how much we can be touched by the act of giving and not have to spend loads of money on loads of things.  In the end, it wasn’t really about the gift or the wrapping.  Most of our wrapping was with plastic grocery bags, cups, toilet paper, t-shirts, Pringles can and more.  It was all about being thoughtful and spending time together.  We had so much fun and those are 2 hours+ that will be remembered for ever!



If you are looking for gifts which will take up little to no space then check out our
Unique Holiday Gift Guide.
Unique Holiday Gift Guide.

We hope you have enjoyed this gift guide, but now it is time to figure out Creative Ways to Give A Gift.  We offer many ways to give your unusual gifts, just click on the image below.  These ideas are perfect for the “little to no footprint” gifts.  We know it may seem a little anticlimactic to hand someone an envelope with a gift card inside.  Not quite an elaborate presentation to build up excitement, but we will share some fun ways to present that gift.
Creative and Unique ways to give a gift. You can make it fun to give money or a gift card, even golf clubs or an ebook. Read more on

Disclaimer: some of the links within this post are affiliate links.  This means we have partnered with that company and only recommend items that we would use or believe in.  In exchange we may receive a very small commission for sending a customer their way.

How do you like to present gifts?  Do you get creative too?  Please share them with us.

Come on and tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Privacy Policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.