Published: August 18th 2012August 18th 2012
Let's Talk Turkey Trip Planning!
By a confirmed travel planaholic!
Tips & Picks for Our Trip to Turkey
4 weeks and counting....and the Travelling Canucks minus Canuck Junior will be heading off on our Turkish adventure! Touring around Turkey, immersing ourselves in ancient history and experiencing Turkish culture are definitely going to be a highlight of 2012.
Not to say that 2012 hasn't been an interesting year so far! Papa Canuck is in charge of baggage handling when he takes a short leave of absence from his new job with a friendly future and Mama Canuck can't wait to take a relaxation break from her taxing job! First trip as empty nesters, and Papa Canuck's hoping it's a second honeymoon!
Planning for independent travel in Turkey, instead of going on organized tours, definitely requires patience and perseverance. Hours spent reading travel books, surfing the net, reading blogs, forums and Trip Advisor reviews is key. We sometimes try to remember what trip planning was like before the Internet, Trip Advisor & TravelBlog.org?
Mama Canuck again has met the unexpected challenge since we only decided to travel this fall 4 weeks ago. All our hotels and flights on 2012's Top European Airline, Turkish Airlines, are booked, even
Mukluk the Canuck
Travelling Canucks mascot joins us on our trip to Turkey!
though autumn is high season in Turkey and Star Alliance Reward Flights are scarce, as are hotel rooms at reasonable rates. It definitely would be cheaper to tour Turkey during the shoulder season, but we are paying top Turkish Lira/Euro for hotels to avoid the heat! Turkey 2012 Travel Itinerary
After picking appealing and diverse destinations and modes of transport, making hotel choices that offer variety in terms of style, comfort, cultural authenticity, and geographic diversity, is key to building memorable experiences! Especially when picking hotels that have glowing reviews that promise cleanliness, great location, good food and service all within our budget.
Here are the Travelling Canucks' tips for planning travel itineraries that guided our travel choices:
•Book open jaws on international flights.
•Spend a minimum of 3 nights at point of entry to get over jetlag.
•Spend a minimum of 3 nights to get to know the destination, unless it's a small village with few options for day excursions.
•Immerse ourselves in the culture: make our accommodation and restaurant choices culturally authentic.
•Plan our travel time: try not to backtrack, take the quickest mode of transport and sightsee until we drop.
•Take a city tour when we arrive in a big city for the first time.
•Go on every travel adventure like it will be our last - no regrets!
Flying into and staying in Istanbul for our first seven nights means we will have a chance to get over our jetlag, become acclimatized to the culture and take advantage of better weather in late September than in late October to tour one of the great cities of the world. While many travelers to Turkey visit many sites on day excursions from their cruise ship or as a day trip from Istanbul, we plan on staying 3 nights in each of our three travel bases, Goreme, Bodrum and Selcuk so we can soak up the local flavours.
Here is how the Travelling Canucks plan to spend our 21 days in Turkey:
•Cultural & Historical Interest: Istanbul, City on the Bosphorus for 7 nights;
•Outdoor Adventure: Goreme, quaint village in Cappadocia surrounded by Fairy Chimneys, Caves and Canyons, for 4 nights;
•Relaxation Break: Bodrum, seaside resort on the Aegean Coast, for three nights;
•Historical & Rural Interest: Selcuk, village on the edge of the ancient site of Ephesus, for three nights;
•Historical Harbour: Overnight in Canakkale, port and university town on the Dardanelles, the gateway to the ancient site of Troy and the Battlefields of Gallipoli; and,
•Modern Megalopolis: Istanbul for three nights before flying to visit Canuck Junior on Canada's East Coast.
Although we will be touring the Marmara, North and South Aegean, and Cappadocia in Central Anatolia, we will miss touring the Black Sea Coast, Eastern Anatolia, Western and Eastern Mediterranean. Oh well, beach holidays are not our thing and it is October so water temperatures are not ideal; although it would be great to dip our toes in the Mediterranean along Turkey's Turquoise Coast. Definitely, a good excuse to return to Turkey on a future trip! Booking Hotels
Here are the Travelling Canucks' tips for booking hotels:
•Check travel guides and Trip Advisor for traveler reviews and follow trends. A previously recommended hotel may no longer rate.
•Contact hotel directly since Internet booking is often limited.
•Check hotel rates periodically for special rates - especially last minute deals.
•Look for new hotel openings - rates are below market and you get the new hotel room smell!
•Take into account the time wasted and transportation costs when considering hotel locations that are not in proximity to top tourist sights and lots of restaurant choices.
While we couldn't help to splurge on a new boutique hotel in Sultanahmet, home to Old Istanbul's top sightseeing sites, our other hotel plans offer local flavor on a budget when we stay in a small boutique hotel made of stone in Goreme (top cave hotels were all fully booked) and in a white-washed villa surrounded by gardens in the heart of Bodrum. Instead of staying in resort hotels along the Aegean Coast, we are experiencing village life in Turkey in a small family-run hotel located in Selcuk, just 7km from the coast. When we stay overnight in Canakkale on the Dardanelles, opposite the Gallipoli Peninsula, we are staying at a small boutique hotel on the waterfront with harbour views. When we return to Istanbul, we will stay in 'Modern Istanbul' in the Beyoglu district. Located in the heart of Istanbul, we hope to be culturally immersed as we walk the lively streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and bars.
Even though hotels are booked, Mama Canuck continues to track hotel reviews on Trip Advisor, to search for last minute deals and to scan the Trip Advisor Forums for travel tips to fine tune our plans. More time will be spent on planning daily tours of the sights so we can maximize our time and experiences in Turkey.
While we are sharing some of our tips on planning our itinerary and booking hotels before we head off to Turkey, check back to see whether our picks met expectations. Check out hotel reviews on Trip Advisor in November 2012 by Vancouver Mukluk! After benefiting from other travelers’ reviews, it will be our turn to pay it forward and share our experiences with other travelers to Turkey. What's Left to Plan?
Mama Canuck is still searching the Web and emailing private tour guides and small tour group providers to book day excursions. Again, we are counting on Trip Advisor reviews to guide our picks. As always, Mama Canuck will try sneaking one or two travel books (Lonely Planet & Rough Guide) in our luggage when Papa Canuck isn't looking since we are planning to take self-guided tours too!
To avoid lining up at hotel business centres and hanging out in internet cafes, we are bringing our netbook to connect wirelessly! We will be blogging, googling news in Turkey and at home, Facebooking, and uploading digital pics! We have also posted our itinerary and travel details on Google calendar, plan to Skype Canuck Junior and email to confirm hotel, flight and tour reservations, so we hope carrying around the netbook will be outweighed by the benefits of staying connected. Our iPods will guarantee that there won't be a shortage of music on travel days. So much for leaving technology behind as we explore the ancient world! Packing Tips
Travelling in style means a shopping trip or two before we have to pack our bags! Packing light is key given domestic airline baggage restrictions, the fact that we will be on the move throughout Turkey and, needless to say, our ageing backs.
To pack light, we have to pack smart! Here are our packing guidelines:
• Make a checklist considering weather conditions, destinations and our travel style.
• Stick with two or three basic colours that can be mixed and matched. Remember dark colours in classic styles look great and don't show soil like light coloured clothing.
• Accessorize to add colour and interest.
• Pack multifunctional clothing i.e. pashmina to wrap yourself if the weather is chilly or air
conditioning is cool, to work as a headscarf in Arab countries, to dress up an outfit for dinner or to wear as a sarong with a bathing suit.
• Never pack something we only plan to wear once.
• Take one versatile coat, cropped jacket, or sweater that goes with everything from jeans to dinner attire.
• Pack a lightweight Gortex jacket for rain and wind if there is a chance of inclement weather.
• Fold and roll clothing with care for wrinkle-free clothes.
• Use Zip-lock bags in assorted sizes to make packing and unpacking easier, to separate clean from soiled
clothing and to keep clothing dry from the elements and accidental spills. By compressing full bags by squeezing the air out, maximize suitcase volume!
With all the techno-gadgets, travel books, and medical kit etc., we hardly have any room for our clothing! With the cooler temperatures and chance of rain in Halifax in October, and cooler temperatures at night and warm days in Cappadocia and the Aegean Coast, where it seldom rains but reaches mid 20's throughout the autumn months, layering will be the key!
We plan on taking two pairs of comfortable shoes, a pair of runners and a pair of leather shoes. Since mosques require that heads are covered and footwear be removed or covered with canvas shoe covers, a couple of scarves and an extra pair of socks to walk in to keep our shoes clean will be daypack essentials. Money Essentials
Although we generally try to pay as much by credit card as possible to avoid carrying cash and maximizing our Aeroplan points for future flights, we have purchased Turkish Lira and Euro since Euros and US Dollars are the only two currencies accepted when purchasing visas at the airport.
Small hotel and tour operators may not accept credit cards or will offer discounts for cash payments, so we plan on using our debit cards at ATMs to get local currency when we need it. If travelling to areas with limited bank services or during off hours, we plan ahead. Generally, we only use ATM's when banks are open in case there is a problem. We always exchange large notes for smaller ones to avoid getting short-changed or arguing over getting back the change (aka forced tipping)! Travelling Safe
Being aware of the political, cultural, and economic environment and what's happening when in Turkey, being vigilant and taking precautions is important in keeping safe. In addition to avoiding demonstrations and staying away from high risk areas, our hotel and restaurant choices, travel and transportation plans take security and health into consideration. As travellers, we make choices every day when travelling abroad. We do what feels right;if it doesn't, we pass on it!
We never wear jewelry or carry much cash when travelling. We use a money belt and never carry our passports, travel tickets, identification documents, cash, credit cards, and insurance papers together to minimize the risk of being left with no identification or funds. We use the safety deposit boxes at our hotels and never leave valuables in our room.
Because Canadians are advised to exercise caution when visiting Turkey, we registered as foreign travelers to Turkey on Canada's Foreign Affairs website (www.voyage.gc.ca) so that we can be contacted and assisted in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or civil unrest, or informed of a family emergency at home. We will continue to check the website for updates in addition to the US State Department's website.
We checked out the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Travel Health Web site (www.travelhealth.gc.ca) for information on potential health risks and immunization recommendations and checked our immunization records to make sure our Tetanus, Polio, and Typhoid boosters were up to date. Since bird flu" in humans and in birds is prevalent in Turkey, we plan to stay away from live poultry in the markets.
Since the most common medical problem for travelers is traveler’s diarrhea, here are the precautions we plan to take:
• Take Dukoral
• Drink only bottled water
• Brush teeth with bottled water
• Never swallow water when taking a shower or swimming
• Limit drinking tea & coffee because you never know if the water has been properly boiled
• Avoid ice since it is most probably made from tap water
• Never eat street food
• Stick to the theory of “peel it, cook it, or forget it.” Admittedly, this is the toughest to stick to since avoiding uncooked vegetables and unpeeled fruit, including fruit juices, is challenging when salads, fruit and fruit juices are so appealing!
Fortunately, we took these precautions when we travelled to Morocco and avoided being sick. Unfortunately, we couldn't avoid Pharaohs Revenge or Mummy Tummy when traveling in Egypt! We have stocked up on antibiotics (Cipro for adults) and other remedies with the hope that we won't need them. Our medical kit includes: Imodium, Rehydration Salts (Gastrolyte), thermometer, Penaten, Polysporin for skin, eyes and ears, and Tylenol. We are also packing lots of SPF 60 with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and insect repellent and plan on wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts to avoid getting sunburns and insect bites. With house sitting arrangements set, booster shots endured, foreign currency and renewed passports picked up, we are brushing up on the history of the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire and trying to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish. Sights and restaurants have been added to our things not to be missed list and we have populated our Google Calendar with things to do and see on a daily basis so we are just counting the days until we arrive at YVR to embark on our journey! 24 work days left, but who's counting! We plan on blogging as we travel around Turkey if the Internet Gods permit and Papa Canuck can squeeze free time out of an action-packed itinerary to upload photos. We hope you will join us!
Travelling Canucks will be Turkey Bound!