A Family Trip to Istanbul

Have you ever wondered what a trip with a family of 15 people would be like? Well, wonder no more. A couple of years ago our family (aunts, cousins, uncles) set out to travel to Turkey, one of the oldest nations in the world. And let us tell you: It was chaos. Like, pure chaos. And this is not just because Turkey was at high risk for terror attacks at that time but also because organizing a trip with 15 people aged 7 to 77 is quite a challenge. Still, this did not stop us. It really takes a lot to stop us from traveling anyways, as you probably have gathered by now.

Turkish Airlines
Ready to board on the plane: Turkish Airlines

 

First things first. Contrary to popular belief Turkey is pretty safe, and especially Istanbul. We found that people there were extremely warm, kind, and very helpful. Whether you needed tips for a place to eat or you were lost, they would go out of the way to give you directions and help you figure out the map of the city. Like any major cities in the world, of course, it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings and to pay attention to signs. But other than these normal safety tips, Istanbul is by far one of the most fun and vibrant cities in the world. So if you haven’t already been, we highly recommend it: The architecture, the history, the weather, the food, the hospitality… They’re all amazing.

 

Whether or not you should travel with your 15 family members is another story. You can decide that based on what you read below. For us, it turned out to be a memorable experience that we definitely cherish, especially since none of us had gone to Istanbul before. It was a discovery for everyone. Besides, where else can you have one foot in Asia and one foot in Europe 😀 ? Having said this, there were a few challenges that occurred, so we want to give you tips on how to avoid these if you ever decide to go with a large group. But first, what we loved:

The pros:

  • Divide and conquer: When you are traveling in such large groups, you get the chance to find lots of information very quickly. The foodies of the group will find the best restaurants, and the history freaks will guide you through the museums and landmarks. Those who love water will plan a boat trip. And those in their twenties will find the best bars. So all in all, it was quite awesome to have such division of “labour” – it allowed us to have a wide and varied range of experiences, each of which was eventful and wonderful.
  • Saving money: Being a large group means that you get a discount pretty much everywhere. The hotel, the museums, the boat rides, the food, everything was cheaper; even shopping since you could negotiate by saying “if you reduce the price here, my cousin will also get another lamp”. In the end this trip cost us 35% less (we did the math) than if we had come with just 2-3 people.
  • Never bored: In Istanbul, there really is something for everyone. If you prefer to stay at the hotel and sip a drink by the pool, then great! If you want to go for a hike, well, no problem there either. And if you prefer shopping, then that’s more than doable. What was amazing about traveling in a large group is that you could go with different people on different adventures. This means that you never really had time to get bored (and you’re not forced to hang out with the same people).

 

The Cons

  • You will fight. Large groups meant (and will mean, sooner or later) clashes of different personalities. This happened to us quite often. We had booked a vacation home, so all of us were in the same house. You can imagine how irritation was sparked when it came time to decide who used the shower first, the time at which  everyone should sleep/wake up, and what was to be done on any give day. It was pretty chaotic at times.
    • Our tip: Make sure to put people who get along in the same bedroom and if possible, book a house with several bathrooms. Better yet, book hotel rooms rather than a huge house for everyone if you can afford to do so.
  • You will lose someone: We lost 3 people at various segments of this trip, and none of them were children. The thing is, we were all usually careful about not losing children: We held their hands, we checked on them every minute, and we made sure that they were entertained. With adults, we were… much less careful… So we had a few instances where an aunt or an uncle just disappeared. This would not have been a problem if we all had phones or if everyone had the key to the house we rented. But… we did not. Only two people had the keys. That meant that when someone who did not have the key got lost, they would have no way of getting in the vacation home we booked (and that was assuming they even knew how to get back to begin with).
    • Our tip: Get at least 3 or 4 cell phones for Turkey, and make sure that everyone is walking with a person who has a phone (creating a buddy-system just like at summer camp when we were kids). Also, write the phone number and address of the place where you’re staying on the arm of each child who is there (use a permanent marker or pen), and tell them what to do if they get lost.
  • You won’t meet new people: Why would you, right? There are 15 of you. Plus, would you even have time or the opportunity to meet anyone with whom to have a long conversation ? Probably not. If you are happy with not meeting anyone new, this might not be much of an issue. But if you like to connect with the locals and have hands-on experience with how they live, then maybe this would bother you.
    • Our tip: Get out of the major tourist areas. Go to a local market or a bar, for example. And if possible, don’t go in a big group because you will be intimidating, and so no-one would want to talk to you. It is easier to chat with local people when you are just two or three (instead of 15). We met very interesting people that way and learned a great deal abut Turkish cooking and customs.

 

All in all, we think that if you plan ahead and avoid the potential issues that may occur in large groups, we honestly think that you will have an amazing time. Regardless of how many you are though, Istanbul is definitely a city that desrves your attention. It is absolutely beautiful and its ancient buildings and warm people will charm you. We will finish by giving you the top 5 locations that we absolutely adored:

  • Haghia Sophia: A gorgeous structure that used to be a church, then transformed to a mosque, and now a beautiful museum.
  • The Bosporus: This strait separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey, and is a must see.
  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka: Blue Mosque): Possibly the most famous site in Istanbul, holding 6 minarets.
  • Topkapi Palace: The historic palace built in the Ottaman era that will take you pretty much a whole day to see it all.
  • Grand Bazaar: One of the largest markets in the world where you will find everything that’s amazing (jewellery, pottery, Turkish rugs, clothes, handcraft, and more).

 

2016-08-03 12.06.25

Thank you, Istanbul, Turkey, Marmara Bölgesi, Euro-Asia, World!

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