This post is especially dedicated to you who's planning on travelling with your little ones soon. I just got back from Turkey last week and I am still recovering from extreme exhaustion. Did we have fun? Of course we did! Especially when we went with our big family. (this is just one fifth btw).
We have been blessed to be able to bring Iman to many places since she was born; Malaysia (JB was her first trip), Krabi, Australia, New Zealand and now Turkey.
And among all the countries mentioned, I have to say that Turkey is the least baby friendly. Here are 3 main reasons why.
1) A lot of travelling by air and land
We covered a few cities in 10 days; and with a big country like Turkey, there are a few places that cannot be missed. Here's a our itinerary in a nutshell;
Day 1 - SG to Istanbul to Izmir (2 flights by air).
Day 2 - Kusadasi
Day 3 - Kusadasi to Pamukale (by land, 4 hours)
Day 4 - Pamukale to Cappadocia (by land 12 hours). We stopped over at Konya for lunch.
Day 5 - Cappodocia
Day 6 - Cappodocia to Istanbul (by air, 1 hour plus)
Day 7 - Istanbul
Day 8 - Istanbul
Day 9 - Istanbul
Day 10 - Istanbul to SG (by air, 10hours)
Each time there was a long stretch of travelling, we had to constantly think of different ways to entertain Iman. Toys, books, food were all packed in our hand-carry with just enough for the duration. I have to say the flights were more challenging than the buses because we had other family members in the bus to help out with Iman. On top of that the flight from SG to Istanbul, there was much turbulence. Each time the seat belt sign was on, we had to carry Iman out of the basinet and onto my lap, which disrupted her sleep.
Despite all the inconveniences, Iman is at the age where she understands what is going on, and she was so happy when she saw the huge airplane before her eyes.
2) Cobalt stones and uneven walkways
Turkey like many European countries; the pathways are made of cobblestones. This means its not stroller-friendly. Some of the historical places were either extremely crowded or the ground is uneven. Baby carrier would be the best option. However (as is recently revealed by now), I'm expecting so baby wearing is out of the question. My husband had to do it, and it doesn’t help that he is also having bad backaches.
We're very lucky Iman loves to walk on her own so other than her nap times, she didn't need to be carried. However with 3 other kids (1 baby and 2 aged 4 years old), they can get really cranky when the weather gets hot and the endless walking.
3) Not many kids activities
A lot of the main tourist attractions are either historical sites, nature or monuments like the Blue Mosque and such. For children below 3, they are just walking "aimlessly" not being able to understand the importance or beauty of these places. Unlike places like Australia and New Zealand, where there's loads of greeneries and farms; Turkey is definitely not a place for them to roam and run around.
For example; Ephesus - where roman ruins were left behind, we were very cautious when she started running, because of the uneven steps, and some parts were slippery. Worst still, there didn't recommend bringing the stroller in, so some parts where she didnt wanna be in the baby carrier, we had to literally carry.
Pamukalle - Iman really enjoyed dipping, again the base of the thermal pool is slippery, so we have to be very watchful all the time.
Cappadocia - This gorgeous place is basically like Flintstones; all caves and slopes. Iman really enjoyed going through the caves and all, but like I mentioned; we had to watch and hold her closely. I think it’ll be more fun when they are slightly bigger, so they can roam around independently. Also, before the trip, we found out that Iman is too young for the hot air balloon ride which is the main attraction there.
Hot Air Balloon Experience
Speaking of hot air balloon; half of our group didn't sign up for it so I left Iman with them about 5am. We were so excited about it when we got picked up early morning by the guide. We had to wait at the holding area for the government to give a green light for balloons to fly up. With much anticipation, the person in charge came in and said, Good news, we'll all be flying.
Group by group, other tourists headed to the take off spot. Ours was the last to depart. It was a short 10 mins drive, where we were enjoying the cool weather, sunrise and even saw some balloons up in air.
As soon as we arrived the spot, we were asked to sign some documents and told to wait further as the wind seemed strong to take off. We spent the time enjoying the view and taking pictures as we watched the sky filled with hundreds of hot air balloons.
Our pilot finally came and said, "Ok, we'll fly up, but if the wind is strong, we'll have to come down.." We then got up the basket which was as tall as me; some of my aunts had difficulty so the guide had to take a ladder to help them. Was quite a funny sight as we're all so eager to fly up. The female pilot then gave instructions of how to go on landing position and started to try take off. The wind got stronger and stronger. And at one point, our whole basket actually TILTED to one side! Pilot got really anxious and kept trying to get the ballon inflate up properly.
After a good 10 minutes, these words came out from her mouth; "Sorry we are not able to take off. We are not going to fly." At that moment, I was having mixed feelings - upset, disappointed, sense of relief all at once. My dad who seemed panic said," Yes we don't fly, my mother calls me everyday to see me back home." We burst into giggles as we had to abort the flight and get off the basket. As we walked back to the van, it just felt like we were so close but not meant to fly up. Many balloons were still seen in the sky and all I could think of was why among all the balloons, ours was the only few which didn't make it. Thank god, my aunts, dad, siblings could make us all laugh about it and it was still a lovely morning being able to experience everything about the hot air balloon; literally we were in the basket, saw the fire light up, did landing. We were just not in air!
Back to the topic of the blog, despite all the hassles we went through during the trip; we had a blast and I think Istanbul is somewhere I do not mind visiting again. Here are some tips that may ease your trip with your little ones.
1) Bring BOTH carrier and stroller.
Carrier - I chose soulslings because it allowed for both front and back carrying. Iman doesn't like front unless she is sleeping, so this was the perfect carrier. Stroller - I recommend Yolo as its a cabin stroller meaning you can carry right up to the airplane. I have experienced many times where strollers can lost when its being checked in. No regrets with Yolo, thanks to Nina Chua who lent it to me.
Bring both so that during their nap times, and if the area is stroller friendly its less tiring then baby wearing them.
2) Go with your entire family.
Nothing beats having extra hands! My siblings and parents, aunts and cousins all took turns with minding the kids.
3) Travel Balms
I love how Inara Organics came out with travel sized balms, all the essential oils you need while away from home. Even I use them when I was feeling under the weather. Sizes are also safe/perfect for hand carry up the plane.
All the best in your future travels; here are some of the best of Turkey!