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.

istanbul-family-travel-guide-3.jpg

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.

istanbul-family-travel-guide-2

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.

istanbul-family-travel-guide-5

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.

istanbul-family-travel-guide-1

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.

Advertisements

Australia Family Camping Tips, Tricks &, Best Spots

Grampians National Park. Australia

Planning to go on a holiday? What better way to spend quality time with your family than on a camping trip. Not only is it a brilliant idea, but it is also an experience you and your children can share. Nothing beats the thrill of sleeping under the stars and being in awe of majestic landscapes and experiencing the great outdoors.

So, if you are looking for excellent camping spots in Australia that are exciting and family-friendly, you’re in luck. Alpha Car Hire has prepared a quick guide just for you. It also includes practical tips on how you can have a stress-free and enjoyable camping experience with the entire family.

The Grampians

If your kids are feeling a bit grumpy, maybe all they need is a healthy dose of family fun. Take them to the Grampians, just three hours west of the beautiful city of Melbourne. When it comes to excellent camping spots and exciting activities, the Grampians is one of the best places to go.

This place has all the family fun you’re looking for; you can find exciting activities for children of all ages. Take your little ones to the Halls Gap Zoo to see different animals like koalas, wombats, crocodiles, dingoes, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, monkeys, giraffe, and so much more.

And if that doesn’t impress them, you can visit the spectacular MacKenzie Falls. It is one of the largest waterfalls in Victoria and a must-see for all visitors.

Mimosa Parks National Park

If you happen to be in Sydney, you can travel for about six hours south and head to Picnic Point Campground. Set up your camp right by the beach and enjoy the stunning views of the Sapphire Coastline.

Find a great fishing spot, build sandcastles with your kids or take a quick swim. As the sun sets, you can relax, have a barbie, and be serenaded by the calming waves of the sea. Located in Tanja, New South Wales, Mimosa Rocks National Park is always open, and the best time to visit is during the spring, summer, and winter months.

Stradbroke Island

Straddie, as it is affectionately called, is a gorgeous subtropical island located just 30 km southeast of Brisbane. Whether you are planning a vacation or a day trip, it is the perfect place to holiday with your family. The island spreads roughly 38 km long and 11 km wide, which makes it one of the world’s largest sand island.

When it comes to exciting activities, there’s plenty to choose from. Your kids will surely enjoy whale-watching at Point Lookout, and they can spot other fascinating creatures like dolphins, turtles, koalas, and wallabies, among others. If you want to explore the island, the best way to do it is by cycling or bushwalking.

Now, to make your camping experience even more enjoyable and hassle-free, here are some tips for you.

  1. Entertainment. To keep your young kids from getting bored while you’re on the road, bring some items books or little toys to keep them entertained. If possible, try to take frequent stops. Young children tend to get bored and grumpy if you’re driving non-stop. Give them a chance to stretch their legs and run around for a bit.
  2. Get Active. Once you arrive at the campsite, get them to participate. Let them help in by giving them some easy tasks like setting up the chairs and tables. Giving your kids a sense of responsibility will help build their character.
  3. Pack smart. Only bring the essentials like water bottles, tissues, sunscreen, and some snacks. Keep them in your children’s backpacks. It’s also a good idea to train them to pack at an early age.
  4. Common Courtesy. Teach your children basic camp safety and courtesy. Don’t let them run amuck and disturb other people who also want to enjoy their holiday. Remind them to be quiet in the evening as some people may want to sleep early.

We hope these tips will help you get inspired and have an enjoyable camping experience with your family. If you have any camping sites or suggestions in mind, please share them with us. And if you’ve previously gone camping, we’d love to know your experiences. Please leave a comment.

4 Tips For Ethical Animal Experiences

by Melanie Grosjean – Seeing animals in the wild or in zoos and parks is a popular activity for holiday-goers. In some instances, it is the main draw for a particular destination. One can hardly imagine not visiting elephants while on a Thailand holiday or not visiting kangaroos while in Australia.

When planning your holidays, one of your main steps can sometimes be booking safaris, snorkeling, diving trips and other animal experiences. However, before you start planning your trip, you should take some consideration to make sure you will be engaging with animals in an ethical way.

We should all make the effort to make sure our visit doesn’t harm the animals. On the other hand, if we can actually help animals with our visit, that’s even better. So, what should we all consider when planning an animal encounter into our vacations?

#1 See Animals in the Wild

One of the best ways you can ensure you aren’t harming animals in your travel is to see them in the wild whenever possible. Book a tour with a knowledgeable tour guide who knows where to spot wildlife and keeps a respectful and safe distance from the animals.

These tours can take the form of a South Africa safari, hikes through the jungles in many tropical regions, or boat cruises with the chance of spotting wild dolphins, whales, turtles and more. Snorkeling and scuba diving are other ways to experience animals in the wild without doing harm.

It’s not always possible to see animals in the wild and you risk the chance that you may not see anything; but whenever possible, this is the preferred way. Plus, what’s more exciting than encountering a wild animal in their natural habitat?

#2 Visit Captive Animals Responsibly

While seeing animals in the wild is preferred, we realize it’s not always possible. Maybe the animal is too rare, or you are limited by time or money. There are certainly conservation game parks that are often more easily accessible and still provide a good, ethically sound alternative to experiencing animals on your vacation.

Do your research to make sure the game park you are considering is a reputable one. Look at their website and other public information, as well as reviews on travel sites. Parks that offer animal rides and animal shows should be avoided.

Animal rehab centers and captive breeding establishments can also be a good option. However, before visiting these centers, make sure you research how the center handles the release of animals into the wild and where the animals came from in the first place.

Lastly, zoos can be a good way to experience animals but again, should be well researched. Legitimate zoos will usually have nice websites, reviews from other travelers and relationships with other international zoos.

Many zoos do a lot to conserve and breed animals and visiting can be a good way to support this work if the zoo is truly reputable. Avoid zoos where animals are kept in small cages or those that encourage visitors to ride animals.

#3 Avoid These Red Flags

We’ve touched on a few of the things to avoid in the sections above, but if you want to ensure an ethical animal encounter, you should certainly look to avoid the following things:

– Caged and chained animals

– Animal shows, especially when animals are made to do unnatural things (like elephants being made to paint)

– Animal rides

– Taking selfies with tigers and other wild animals

Often you can get a good gauge of whether or not a company promotes these sorts of things by browsing through photos on their website and reading reviews on travel websites. If you are still not sure, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask the company directly.

#4 Do Your Research

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do your research. If you plan ahead, you can make sure you are only supporting companies that are treating animals well and operating ethically.

Before you book anything, attempt to find out what the main goal of the company is — whether they are rescuing captive animals, protecting endangered species, breeding rare animals or alternatively attempting to make money from tourists at the expense of the animals.

Research a company’s affiliations and registrations. Many reputable companies will be registered as an NGO or at the very least will do work with NGOs. There are also a number of organizations that accredit animal sanctuaries, such as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which has quite rigorous requirements of its members.

Doing a bit of research before your trip can help ensure you experience animals in an ethical way on your travels.