As a mother of a baby (8 months now) and a 3-year-old toddler, one of the toughest decisions was to plan a vacation and act on it. Worried about not being able to provide nutritious food that is clean and age appropriate to my youngest Ayah, I was blessed to have my mom look after her. So here is my take on traveling with my husband Oz and our three-year-old Hana to Istanbul.

If you’re like most people, you might wonder, ‘why Istanbul’, it’s not children appropriate and your child would be out of her mind, but being a mom practically meant doing my research, and there is plenty for travelers with children to do. Here is some advice.

PACKING

Packing for a toddler is easier than I thought. We were gone for 5 days/4 nights. I made sure to pack 3 sets of PJs and 10 outfits in total with their undergarments. A pair of sandals (she wore sneakers to the plane), a swim suit, and her Puddle Jumper for the pool. I included powdered milk, a water bottle to take on the road, and of course sunblock. I also managed a carry on, that included spare clothes for Oz and I incase our baggage got lost, and had some entertainment for Hana on the plane. It included disinfectant wipes, toilet seat covers, a coloring book, crayons, a story, juice crackers, and her cuddle cat. I also hid an iPad, because hey, sometimes you need technology.

 

CHOOSING A FLIGHT

Believe it or not, choosing a flight can make or break your trip. Our flight was a 7 AM flight, while our day typically starts at 6, we had to be up by 4, we were at the airport at 5, and having breakfast after checking in our luggage and issuing our tickets by 6. A power nap on the plane and our 9 AM arrival to Istanbul was the next best thing, we put our luggage in the hotel, and were on our first adventure.

For our return, we picked a late night flight, we asked for late check out (5 PM), were in the airport a little past 6 for our 9 PM flight. Hana has an 8 o’clock bed time, so having her off by one hour was better than nothing, she drifted off on the plane, and woke up in her bed in the morning.

WHAT TO EXPECT

  • Turkish people LOVE babies and Children! My husband and I were shocked, they are over friendly, always playful with children, and extremely accommodating to any family traveling with a younger member.

 

  • Transportation is expensive, Taxi’s will pretend not to know the location of your final destination to keep the meter running. Buy yourself a SIM with internet as soon as you arrive. If you’re taking a TAXI, keep an eye on Google maps as they drive to your destination, or simply take an UBER. Ubers come in Vans that seat 6 people and are air-conditioned and charged to your credit card directly.

 

  • TRAFFIC is HORRIBLE! You will spend quite some time there. Bring a book to read or a tablet to watch on the road. Don’t leave as early as 9 as people are heading to work, try 10 AM instead, and never go out between 5 & 6 that’s when people are leaving work!

 

  • Lots of stray cats and dogs. They are well respected among their community and are every friendly. Other than disinfectant wipes after Hana touches one, I was more than happy to see them interact.

WHERE TO GO

I guess this is the most important part if you’re reading my post, so if you’re traveling with a toddler, say two to three years’ old this is a good read, and the activities will apply to those of you with children up to 5 or 6 years old.

  • Istanbul Aquarium

Children love watching fish behind glass, add penguins and sharks to that equation and you’ve got yourself a winner of entertainment and education all mixed together.

The Istanbul Aquarium opens at 10 AM daily and closes at 8 PM and included activities for adults such as feeding fish, diving courses, and feeding sharks (on my bucket list but seriously I’m traveling with a 3-year-old, not a smart example of matureness).

Adults are charged 60 TL (approx. $12) and children under 12 are charged 38 TL. (approx. $8) Children under 2 are admitted for free.

  • Taksim Square

Don’t undermine a visit to Taksim Square, located in the heart of Istanbul, the vibrant and artistic atmosphere will be an instant hit with your little ones. Start with a quick meal and make sure to grab an ice cream by one of the vendors, walk around, window shop (or shop for the matter), and don’t forget to enhoy a ride on the tram that rumbles along the Istiklal Caddessi street. Keep on walking until you reach the Galata Tower, your kids will love going up to the ninth floor to see the entire city landscape or might just sit and admire the castle-like tower out of a story book.

 

  • Isfanbul – Theme Park

The amusement park located on the Golden Horn will give an adrenaline rush to adults and children alike. Children measuring taller than 100 CMs will have a bigger variety of ride but my 94 CM child didn’t seem to mind missing out on a few rides, we were there from around 10:30 AM and didn’t leave till 4:00 PM when our feet could no longer hold us. Ask your hotel concierge for tickets, for hotels they come with complimentary round trip from your hotel to Isfanbul and back. If you dare, go ahead and try the roller coaster, what I’ve thought to be a fearless husband, well… I had a good laugh, because I am at least strong enough to call my self-chicken. The outdoor rides are all supervised, and the indoor rides are all air conditioned.

Tickets are 140 TL per adult (approx. $30) and 129 TL for children above 3 years old (approx. $27). Children under 3 are admitted free.

  • Isfanbul – Safari

If you do make it to the Isfanbuil Tema Park, make sure to walk up to the mall (on your way out as for a stamp to admit you back in to the theme park if you ‘d like to return), and make a 30-minute stop to the Safari. The walk includes various animals including but not limited to, snakes, crocodiles, various insects, and monkeys. I specially loved watching the Ignuana’s.

Tickets are 15 TL per adult or child (approx. $3). Children under 3 are admitted free.

 

  • Lego Land

Located at the Forum Mall, LEGO LAND is a must for anyone with kids. It starts off with a Mini Land of the world’s most popular land marks including the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, and Big Ben, all made out of Lego of course, as well as various stations for kids to play including creative work shops, farms, racing area and more. It has two rides that Hana couldn’t go on because she wasn’t tall enough, and an indoor play area.

We even washed a 4D movie in Turkish (did I mention Hana has never been to a movie theatre before? But this 15-minute adventure of a movie did not disappoint, kids do use their imagination to fill in the blanks of a lingo they don’t understand).

Tickets are for 110 TL (approx. $23) for a child and an accompanying adult.

  • Dolphnarium

The Dolphnarium which opens at 1:30 PM daily has two shows one at 2:00 PM and one at 5:00 PM featuring dolphins, playful seals, massive walruses, and a white whale! Half way through the show is an opportunity to take pictures (at an additional 100 TL – approx. $20 per photo) with the dolphins. The show itself is very entertaining to adults and children, and the animals are hilarious with so much character and are very interactive with their trainers. However the staff are not friendly at all nor accommodating, they just want to get paid.

Swimming and Interacting with Dolphins is available for children above the age of 6. The rate is 120 Euros (approx. $150) per person for 10 minutes, which is quite pricey in comparison to other countries. I was charged $100 for 15 minutes to swim with a dolphin in Sharm El Sheikh, and $230 for 30 minutes Dolphin Encounter in Dubai.

Important note: If you’re visiting the Dolphnarium without a tour group make sure that you get an UBER back, as taxi’s are rare to find in the area.

IF THERE IS A NEXT TIME:

If we ever make it again to Istanbul with kids, there are a few placed I would like to go to but didn’t get the chance to. Feel free to look them up and visit if your itinerary has time that permits.

  • Mini Turk
  • Jurassic Land

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