Travelling with Minimal Luggage to Istanbul, Turkey
When travelling across the world with a baby and partner, the last thing a person thinks of when packing for an overseas trip is less luggage. Instead, it is the 1,000 things we think we need; like will the baby need that extra item in case of an emergency? Our minds always race to: yes, obviously! I did not follow that route. When I had planned our trip to Istanbul, Turkey I devised a fully lined itinerary of things we need and where we will be going. For me, the last thing I wanted to do was carry heavy luggage all around an unknown country or lose something important.
To start off my planning, I had booked a stay with Elite World Europe Hotel using Expedia.ca. I did a search of all the hotels around Istanbul. My criteria was to have a hotel that was close to the airport and had a shuttle service. As a form of reference: if you’re booking a hotel near the tourist section of the city, you do not need a shuttle bus service because everything is walking distance.
Before finalizing my booking, I had contacted the hotel for their shuttle schedule (to see if it aligned with our flight arrival time) and if they had any accommodations for babies. The hotel responded to all of my inquiries and helped me feel comfortable when I was doing my booking. Other hotels I had contacted did not give me the faith I needed in their services and accommodations. Once my booking was done, it was time for the real trial- packing!
Our hotel was 10 out of 10 across the board! It was phenomenal!
I arranged for two suitcases, one diaper bag, one stroller, and one travel backpack from One Bag Vagabond. Checking the weather, I put together my family’s sweaters, socks, hats, gloves, boots, scarves, shirts, jeans, and dinner clothes. At the time that we were going, early November, Turkey was in its winter season. At the time of our travel, our baby was formula fed and was seven months old. For our baby, I had put together four large canisters of formula, bottle warmer, two packs of diapers, one pack of wipes, sleeping onesies and blanket. I was ready! I did not overpack by adding extra shoes or makeup or any other unnecessary product that was already available at the hotel or could be purchased in store.
We were ready and on our way to Istanbul, Turkey from Canada. I couldn’t contain my excitement!
We flew using Turkish Airlines. The flight was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. Food was fine, the seats were fine, and the bassinet for our baby was fine. That’s all I can say about that experience.
Once we had arrived at Ataturk Airport, we had to go through two stops of security and the border inspection. Oh, don’t forget, as Canadians, we are required to have a visa to enter Turkey. Once we were cleared, we retrieved our luggage and were off to exit the airport. What we found as we were exiting, as first-timers, was an array of taxi drivers and shuttle drivers. Each looking to make money off of the newest tourist that has just landed. It was completely crowded and traffic was difficult to cross. I was not aware of this. What made things tougher was the inability of many of the Turks to speak English. We finally found a security guard who could speak English and he let us know that our shuttle bus to our hotel arrived at a specific location. He helped us find the location and showed us its schedule. This made me beyond thankful to have booked with Elite World Europe when I did, as they were one of two hotels that even offered an airport to hotel shuttle service.
The shuttle came right on time. Thank goodness! We boarded and were happy to be in the comfort of a warm vehicle. Since we were not allowed back inside the airport to keep warm, we had to be outside in the cold. I was happy at this point that I had our baby in a sweater, hat, scarf, winter jacket, lined pants, boots, and a warm blanket. It was that cold.
We were greeted by friendly staff at the hotel. They easily booked us in and let us know where we can order dinner for the night. We purchased our food from the hotel restaurant as we were too tired to go searching for food at the time.
Once the morning came, we were fresh and ready to seize the day.
We were invited by the hotel to have breakfast at their buffet nook, not complimentary for everyone. It was a sweet gesture by the hotel as we were in the freezing cold, waiting for their shuttle, with a baby. The breakfast was incredibly tasty. It was my first time trying authentic Turkish coffee, and one word: deeelllliiiicccciousss!! My husband didn’t like it much- oh well! They had enough food where our seven-month-old could also try the egg yolks, meats, and fresh orange juice. They even had a canister of boiling hot water to help me warm up my baby’s milk.
Once we were fed and good to explore the city, we arrived downstairs where the concierge provided us with a shuttle schedule for visiting Ahmed mosque and the map of all the tourist stops. To explore the city, I only took my One Bag Vagabond backpack. In my backpack, I carried with me my baby’s essentials, cell phone, water, and some money.
Once our shuttle arrived at Ahmed mosque, we were able to go inside and see all of its beauty, history, and its majestic structure. Around that same area, we were also able to visit Hagia Sophia Museum and go on the spice route.
By this time we were tired and our baby wanted a break. We hired an Uber to come to pick us up. The Uber person was a good guy, he not only took us to the hotel at a good pace/time but also showed us some great Turkish restaurants to try. He even bought us shawarma and shared his stories of his daughters. Overall it was a great day!
My one backpack, one diaper bag and two suitcases were all I needed for my trip. With that, travel small, travel smart. It will save you all the backache.
This blog is written by Diya Hashmi, a lifestyle blogger based in Toronto, Canada.