Istanbul, Turkey Family Travel Guide

istanbul-family-travel-guide-4by Kristin Kizer – Where East meets West and modern meets ancient lies Istanbul, Turkey. A city with a rich history evidenced by the monuments that remain set against glorious backdrops that feel like painted masterpieces.

It’s a must for the traveler, but it’s an even bigger must for the seasoned traveler who’s been here before. Step outside of the tour guide and try something new. Create memories that are unique to you and your family and will leave you with a deeper respect for this magnificent region of the world.

Bosphorus by Boat

Sometimes you need to stand back and take it all in. There’s no better way to do that than aboard a boat from the Bosphorus, otherwise known as the Strait of Istanbul.

Dividing the city in half, this natural strait has always been a key waterway for travel, trade and military movement. On one side you have the Istanbul that lies in Europe and on the other the Istanbul that lies in Asia. From the middle, you can see many of the great monuments as well as the palaces of Dolmabahce and Beylerbeyi, the awe-inspiring Yalis or wooden houses that date from the Ottoman Empire, and as your boat tucks under the three suspension bridges you might even see dolphins playing in your wake.

There are a variety of tours available, which makes it a perfect adventure to slip between your other stops. You can do an express trip, a two-hour, non-stop boat ride which is perfect if your family isn’t ready for a long excursion. There are trips that take up most of the day with stops along the way to taste the area’s cuisine, visit some shops and take in the architecture. There are even night cruises which are a must for older travelers who will appreciate the magnificent sunset, a dining experience off the boat and then a tranquil ride down the strait as the city turns in for the night.

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The Princes’ Islands

If you’ve already seen Aya Sofya, Ephesus, Mount Nemrut and all of the other tourist musts, or if you’re simply exhausted by the crowds and need a break, then The Princes’ Islands are calling your name. Of the nine islands in this chain in the Sea of Marmara, only four are open to the public, Buyukada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kinaliada. And they are all a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

You’ll instantly notice the silence as all motorized vehicles are banned. And if that isn’t enough to make you feel like you’ve been swept away to a fairy tale kingdom, the narrow streets abut charming wooden Victorian cottages and cool, thick pine forests.

Taksim Trams

One great way to get around and to view the city is to hop aboard a tram. There are two heritage trams in Istanbul, the European Taksim-Tunel Nostalgia Tramway (T2 line) and the Asian Kadikoy-Moda Nostalgia Tramway (T3 line).

T2 is especially fun because the tramcars are original Istanbul cars from the 1950’s and 1960’s and have that wonderful mid-century aesthetic. In addition, that route features a one mile stretch of historic buildings and shops with a courtyard-feel that’s simply delightful.

Kadikoy Fish Market

One of the best parts of visiting Turkey is the irresistible cuisine. Tucked between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, fresh fish is a huge part of the culinary tradition and every visitor should venture to the fish market to not only experience the market, but to taste some of the best seafood they’ll ever have.

On the Asian side of Istanbul, you’ll find Kadikoy Balik Pazari. This is not just a thriving fish market, it’s got a little farmer’s market flair too, offering a variety of different delicacies. It’s a great place to pick up some extras if you’re going hiking or on a picnic. There’s also a magnificent restaurant on site which can’t be skipped.

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Emirgan Park

Speaking of picnics and hikes, after you’ve loaded up on snacks at Kadikoy, head over to the European coast of Bosphorus and spend some time enjoying one of the largest parks in Istanbul. Like much of Turkey, its history is rich and complicated while the beauty is incomparable. If your visit is in April, consider yourself very lucky as the tulip garden is breathtaking.

Book a Private city Tour

If you don’t feel comfortable traveling around this city or want a more personalized experience, Istanbul private tours are the perfect way for your family to connect with the city’s people, culture, and food, through unique experiences you may not otherwise be aware of through research.

Getting Around in Turkey

Getting from one destination to another and back to your home base is always a little stressful when you’re traveling. When the city is unfamiliar and, for many of us, public transportation is not a part of our daily lives, the stress is compounded.

In Turkey the public transportation is so easy that once you embrace it, you’ll wish it was an option in your hometown. But before you go, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the public transportation in Istanbul so you know what to expect.

Vapur. If you’re not able to take an extended cruise on the Bosphorus, then the public ferry is perfect. This abbreviated trip on the strait gives you a quick view of the city from the water and takes you to your destination. On top of that, it’s a fairly inexpensive way to travel.

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Subway. The Istanbul Metro is something you’ll want to figure out pretty quickly. The good news is, that it’s fairly easy to understand and navigate. Because Istanbul is one of the most congested cities in the world, getting around is trying, but slipping underground and taking the subway instantly makes your destination more accessible.

Dolmus. In Turkey a dolmus is a popular way to travel. It’s a little bus, basically a taxi, that’s shared by up to 8 people. This can be a great tool for a family traveling as it’s an easy way to keep everyone together and it’s affordable. One thing to keep in mind is that each person pays one eighth of the fare, so the minibus will often wait until all seats are taken before setting out.

Buses. The buses are not the best way to travel in the city or on short trips, but they’re a good option for longer trips in and out of the city. If you’re headed out of town on a day trip and want to take the bus, make sure you have an Instanbulkart transit pass or you’ve purchased your bus tokens beforehand, they are not available on the bus.

Istanbul is not just a city divided, it’s a vacation divided. The most popular tourist stops are a must for any visitor. They capture the historical significance of this region and drop you into a cultural vista like none other. They leave you with a deep appreciation for the city and a strong desire to learn and experience more.

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The other half of the vacation is a calmer approach with the relaxed attitude of a local. The frantic pace of racing from one destination to another slips away as a sense of peace and serenity gently opens your eyes to a different Istanbul. Spend hours relaxing in Emirgan Park, shopping in Kadikoy fish market, or watching the city sail by from a Bosphorus cruise ship.

Together, Istanbul is the perfect marriage of old and new, fast and slow, East and West.

kristin-kizerKristin Kizer is an award-winning writer, television and documentary producer, and content specialist who has worked on a wide variety of written, broadcast, and electronic publications. A former writer/producer for The Discovery Channel, she is now a freelance writer and delighted to be sharing her love of travel with MommyHiker.com.

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A Hiker’s Guide To Understanding Trail Signs

In the modern age of smartphones and GPS devices, it is easy to think it is impossible to become lost. That’s a dangerous assumption to make – signals can drop, batteries run flat and the gadgetry itself can become lost or damaged. At times like these, you will need to turn to the physical signs along the trail that have stood the test of time.

When we talk about trail signs, these go beyond the standard “keep out” “beware of wild animals” and other such signs that you might see at mysecuritysign.com – important though these things are. Trail signs use their own language and symbolism – but it is not too complicated once you understand the basics.

While different trails have different signs, there are three basic types. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn.

Trail Blazes

Typically found in heavily wooded locations, trail blazes are marked onto trees at eye-level to give key information. The US Forest Service marks a standardized blaze that looks like a lower case “i.”

While some blazes are still carved, painting is now more popular and considered environmentally friendly. One blaze means continue straight ahead, and if there is a double blaze, the top one indicates the direction you should take. This key provides full details of what each blaze means.

Trail Cairns

If you have explored the National Parks of the UK, you will be well acquainted with cairns – but you also find them along some of the less hospitable trails in the US. They are typically used in areas that are subject to severe weather such as fog and snow.

At first glance they look like large piles of stones, and whatever the weather, it is hard to miss them. A cairn is typically around three feet high and at least two feet wide. The theory is simple enough – the cairns are designed to be visible in the worst conditions, and if you just keep following them, they will lead you to civilization and safety.

There is a tradition among hikers that it is good luck to add a rock to the top of the cairn – perhaps that’s why some of them are as huge as they are! Whether you are exploring the English Moors or the wilds of Acadia Park in Maine, if the weather turns ugly, cairns will become your best friends!

Trail Ducks

A duck is similar in concept to a cairn, but is much smaller, often just three stones high. The saying goes that a stack of two stones could be a coincidence, but a stack of three is a duck. As well as showing that you are on the right path, a duck will sometimes include a pointer rock that indicate the direction you need to take.

The fact that ducks are so quick and easy to construct is a double edged sword. Some hikers are so enthusiastic that they love making ducks all over the place, and this can reduce their reliability.

Naturally, a GPS system and a map remain your best tools – but by recognizing blazes, cairns and ducks, you might just get the clues you need to avoid a tricky situation.

[Gear Review] Sustain Co. Emergency Survival Kit

by Kate Spiller – It’s not as exciting and adventurous a feeling as purchasing a fancy tent, kayak, or even hiking boots with all the bells and whistles. However, there is an extremely important item that we should all have in our gear arsenal to prepare us for the unexpected.

As outdoor families, we have an immense amount of respect for mother nature.  With that also comes the realization that our safe and comfortable world may change without a lot of warning. A Sustain Supply Co. Comfort 4-Person Supply Bag ensures that when an emergency situation or natural disaster strikes, your family is well taken care of and supported.  

What is Sustain Supply Co.’s Comfort 4-Person Supply Bag?

The Comfort 4 is 72-hour emergency kit designed for 4 people.  In addition to a large backpack that holds all supplies, its contents includes:

  • 24 Food servings from Mountain House (freeze dried meals)
  • 48 packets of Datrex Water (individual servings, purified water)
  • 1 Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
  • 8 Cyalume SnapLights
  • 1 Morakniv companion knife
  • 2 LED Lanterns
  • 2 Flashlights
  • 1 Basic First Aid Kit
  • 4 Emergency Blankets
  • 2 Packets of Bath Wipes
  • 1 Portable (non-gas) Stove
  • 4 Collapsible Bowls, 4 Multi-Use Utensils
  • 1 Ferrocerium rod (fire starter)
  • 4 Instafire Tinder packets
  • 4 Whistles

What We Love about the Comfort 4-Person Supply Bag

Makes Emergency Preparedness Easy

Instead of doing all the research (spending a lot more time and money) to figure out exactly what goes into an emergency supply bag, Sustain Supply Co. just does all the work for you.  With the exception of personal items (documents, medications, etc), all necessary items are included.

Effortless Organization

Sustain Supply Co.’s Comfort 4 Supply Bag is made up of several zipper pouches, compartments, and sleeves.  This makes the bag easy to pack, and repack. As I was learning about the contents of the bag, I just unpacked compartment by compartment, and never got overwhelmed with putting it all back!

Durability

The bag itself is made to last! Made of tough nylon with reinforced straps and handles, I know that we can drag the bag around, throw it in the back of the car, and not worry about it ripping or tearing.  

Mountain House Meals

Knowing that we have high quality, high protein meals ready to eat, and easy to prepare is extremely reassuring.  Sustain Supply Co. chose a freeze-dried meal company, Mountain House, with an excellent reputation, history, and story.  Included are meals that I know my kids will enjoy. In fact, though I won’t, I’m tempted to bring a meal or two along on our upcoming camping trip!

Premium Quality Gear

Just a few of the highlights and features of the chosen gear and supply items inside the Comfort 4 Supply Bag:

  • Durable and Sturdy Flashlights that convert from pinpoint to spotlight
  • Multi-use and long-lasting snaplights
  • Easy to use Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
  • High Quality Survival Knife with comfort grip handle
  • Handy meal kit supplies (multi-use utensils and fold-flat bowls)
  • Emergency blankets work for both keeping heat in, and reflecting it away.  

More than Enough Room

Yes, the Sustain Supply Co. Comfort 4 Supply Bag is jam packed with 23 pounds of gear, but amazingly enough, the backpack still has empty compartments and pouches.  These open areas, allow us to personalize the bag with contents specific to our family.

Notes on the Comfort 4 Supply Bag:

  • Make sure you get to know your emergency supply bag! Even though it can seem overwhelming, it’s important to unpack each pocket and compartment (I suggest doing this one at a time), and learn about each item. Like we were, if you aren’t sure how to operate the stove or water filter, take some time to practice!
  • In addition to adding your family’s personal items (documents, medications, etc), you’ll want to add AA and AAA batteries for the lanterns and flashlights.  
  • Some items are better off in their original packaging or ziplock bags.  However for others, we think, especially considering you’ll be using this in an emergency situation, it’s best to unwrap cellophane and other wrappings.  
  • Visit the Sustain Survival Blog and the FEMA website to download an emergency kit list to complete and personalize your emergency bag.  

Our Improvement Suggestions

While we are overwhelmingly impressed with the Comfort 4 Supply Bag and its contents, we do have two small suggestions for improvement and usability:

  • Guide or Map with photos and corresponding captions of bag contents.  Even if we could print from the Sustain Supply Co.’s website, it would be helpful to have some sort of infographic, especially if other family members (less familiar with the bag) were to use the kit.  
  • We found the stove a little puzzling, and tricky to put together.  Though I’m sure it would be simple once we figured it out, a small card with instructions and best practices would be helpful!

Author’s Bio

Kate is a former elementary school teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, writer and blogger. Her blog, WildTalesof.com is all about outdoor adventure and travel with kids. She wants to pass along little tidbits that she’s gathered in her short life as a mom, wife, and adventurer. Inspiration, tips, helpful hints, how-to’s, are shared…all to make family life a touch easier, a touch wilder, and a touch more adventurous.