Stewardess: ‘Three kids on-board – that’s all?’ Holidaying with children, Turkish style
Whether it’s hotel highchairs or flying high up in the air, expat families with youngsters in tow about to travel in Turkey are in for a number of treats.
Perhaps you have thought that exploring your newly adopted homeland is out of the question since taking along toddlers, kindergarten or primary school age kids is a logistical nightmare and perhaps even frowned upon by fellow voyagers. Rare exceptions aside, most definitely not so in this country.
Three kids on-board — that’s all?
It was a busy morning at Antalya’s airport. I was on an almost fully booked lunch hour flight back home to the Turkish capital of Ankara. Comfortably settled into my seat, a young boy apparently not entirely sure about what kind of steel and metal tube he had been walked on to by his father or mother appeared. Having jumped the queue, so to speak, and being on his own he made “knee contact” looking for anything human to touch amidst this long and anonymous corridor. I smiled at him, and he smiled back at me before his mother had reached our row of seats and the pair was reunited.
Then, shortly before takeoff and whilst checking whether everyone was securely seat-belted I overheard the stewardess asking the steward about the number of stored children’s toys for young flyers and having heard the total she said warmly, “Three children on-board – that’s all?” as if to voice her surprise at “Where are all the others?”
As my own daughter loves flying, I felt comforted by the thought that so many fellow parents do not shy away from taking their children on board, too, instead of going by private car or overland coach, which is of course another perfect means of long distance travel but dare I suggest not with very young kids.
The Gangnam Style factor
As if out of a an airline staff textbook of what could go wrong and how it is then put right, on another recent flight a mother took the window seat, toddler in arms. The middle seat was already occupied by another person and the father politely asked whether he would swap seats, in this case another middle seat one row further behind so no problem at all. I sat in the aisle seat. The baby cried, and continued to cry well into the flight. The father had to hold a massive bunch of flowers on his lap as the overhead lockers were already full, which for sure did not help to soothe his already stressed out pre-departure state of mind.
Eventually daddy managed to put the flowers in front of him (just) and produced a toy, in this case a Gangnam Style puppet. It made music, very audible music. It somehow danced. It worked magic. Soon after, about halfway through the short flight, baby was fast asleep in mummy’s arms, and the parents hopefully chilled out at least for half an hour or so, too. None of the other passengers lost their composure. All it needed was nothing more than a little bit of common sense to avoid untoward exchanges of comments amongst fellow passengers such as: “Have you forgotten your pacifier?; Why on earth did you not store the flowers someplace else?; Was there no alternative plane except this peak hour departure?” et cetera.
What I wanted to say by talking about flying with children is that first, please take a good look at Turkey’s map, but never let distance come in the way of where you take your young family on vacation; and second, expect almost all Turkish travelers to apply the above mentioned healthy dose of common sense and show affection even towards “noisy kids” or stressed out parents. Besides — and I witnessed this on many domestic flights — the staff of various Turkish-based airlines are extremely child-friendly, and with only very rare exceptions so are almost all fellow passengers. Ticket prices are fairly competitive unless you’re travelling during peak hours, and ideally you would want to choose a plane that is not fully booked. If buying online tickets and not too far in advance — let us say anything between 24 and 72 hours — a sound piece of advice is to check whether promotional fares are still available for a particular flight as this means the plane is not yet fully booked, and unless it is peak travel season it will most likely will remain so until departure. Boarding is faster, the plane is less crowded, overhead bins have enough space for all your baby luggage add-ons and yes indeed, perhaps even for extra-large flower bouquets, too!
A row of highchairs instead of only one – or maybe none
Another headache while traveling with children is to find a youngster-friendly hotel. Where to feed the family is of the utmost importance, too, as both in the air and on the ground food keeps children not just well nourished but occupied as well. Let me continue by saying that I judge restaurants, regardless of whether in or outside of hotels, by the number of highchairs kept on the premises. In Europe I have been to many establishments where at the most there was one. So what do you do when there are two toddlers arriving at the same time?
When I recently “inspected” a Turkish hotel restaurant I am pleased to say that I found not just one, not two, but at least 14 highchairs neatly “parked” at the restaurant entrance. Hotels should and are allowed to proudly market this fact as parents need to know. Parents in turn are allowed to only book hotels where they and their little ones no matter what age are made truly welcome.
In this context and as a personal rule of thumb — stay a few days less but invest in a better hotel. You would want to have a good-sized children’s pool. If you have a toddler (of course it is your decision from what age you would want to fly with your children) you may wish to have a nice lawn area for outdoor playing with your kids. You want a playground on site. Perhaps you desire to have a few hours each day “off” in the sense that you find yourself a fully qualified nanny, male or female, to take care of your loved ones in a nursery.
If bottle feeding has long been replaced by your children studying their very own menus, all-inclusive hotels make perfect sense. The variety of food on offer is often sensational, and mealtimes are no problem, either. With one or more children an entire family adjusting to a strict one-sitting only — lunch or dinner — session is almost impossible; all-inclusive means added flexibility and choice as mealtimes are spread over the entire day. It is always best to ring the hotel of choice in advance, check their website and follow other parents’ online reviews.
Turkey is a great place to enjoy sea, sand and sun. That said, Turkey has become an emerging winter sports destination, too, complete with kiddies’ ski instructors in many famous resorts, such as in Erzurum, which comes complete with a nearby airport.
Happy ending upon return
Traveling is an art, yet arriving back home is simply wonderful. What’s more, your neighbors and their kids will soon want to join in your experiences. Besides, when asking about how your trip was, they really mean it – as they will either have done the same some time ago or are about to shortly embark on their very own summer or winter journey.
At times it seems an entire country is constantly on the move – and as no one can leave their children behind for too long even if a friendly grandmother is there to help out, the term “entire country” includes all Turkish children, too.
Turkish people not only “tolerate” families with kids on the move, but they actively support them whenever asked. Nevertheless, should one of those, luckily very few, irritated fellow passengers ever complain about you taking the kids on board or into a hotel restaurant, why don’t you reply, albeit in a soft voice, “Ama lütfen, sizin çocuk yok mu?” meaning, “But please, you do not have [any] children?” If the person is Turkish, this should do the trick, not that I ever needed it, though. Happy travels with all your family!
Resource: Today’s Zaman