Answer: Always make sure we have easy access to both!
It’s actually somewhat amusing that Lisa asked me this question. Twelve years ago she and I spent a college summer in Germany where, for two months, our clothes did not once see a washing machine. We were too poor and cheap so, for the entire summer, we washed our clothes in the bathroom sink using dishsoap. I think the dishsoap was Lisa’s idea. We smelled lemony fresh and, for the most part, looked pretty clean.
Don’t think Steve and I are laboring over hotel sinks washing out Grace’s grubby t-shirts, at least not most days. Now that we can actually afford to do laundry the modern way, we do. We always first price out the cost of having someone else do our wash for us. In developing countries like Honduras laundry is a non-issue because it is so cheap to have someone local do the wash (a few dollars/ load). In Buenos Aires this was the case as well, even though our apartment did have a washer. We preferred to spend our time sight-seeing than waiting for a load to finish so frequently utilized the low-cost lavanderia (wash-and-fold) around the corner where the price even included ironing Steve’s shirts!
In more developed countries like Turkey the cost to have someone else do the wash was outrageous. Istanbul surprisingly also didn’t seem to have a single public laundromat. Luckily for us we had rented an apartment from Manzara Apartments and they had a washing machine in their offices they let us use (one of the few good things about this company – more on them in a later post). The washer was tiny though (held about half of what our washer at home holds) and there was no dryer. We just washed the absolute necessities since we then had to trudge a quarter mile home with the wet laundry to line-dry it.
For the most part though, when we travel we are able to do our own laundry because we rent apartments/houses equipped with washers. On our recent escapades in Turkey we rented a house at the coast during our second week. It was equipped with a washing machine and a huge sunny deck for line-drying the clothes. We returned home with suitcases full of clean clothes rather than the usual post-vacation piles of dirty laundry.
One thing we never, ever use are hotel laundry services. Almost always these services are outrageously expensive no matter the country, up to $5/ item. If we’re that desperate we’d rather resort to me and Lisa’s “dishsoap laundry method” than shell out such exorbitant amounts.
As for diapers, we usually try to take enough with us for an entire trip because diapers overseas are almost always imported from the US and therefore very expensive. Diapers aren’t heavy so they don’t add a lot of extra weight to our luggage, and as we use them up they make room for whatever souvenirs we’re collecting along the way.
On our most recent trip to Turkey we found ourselves short on diapers the last day at the WOW Istanbul Airport Hotel. I called down to the front desk to find out where we could buy diapers in the area. I was pleasantly surprised when the kind man on the other end, in very broken English, said they’d send some up. An hour later no diapers had arrived so I called again. This time no one on their staff knew anything about the phantom concierge’s promise to send up diapers nor did anyone even know what “diapers” were. I tried the British word “nappies.” I tried explaining “you know, the thing babies poop and pee in.” I was transferred to six staff members before the last guy asked me to spell “diapers.” I did and he said he’d call me back. Five minutes later, after what I imagine was a lot of frantic googling and then titters when the staff figured out what I wanted, he called me back triumphant: “We do not have any in the hotel.” OK, that would have been nice to know an hour ago when someone else was promising diaper room service. Sadly we found a local grocery store and bought an entire pack of 36 diapers of which we used one. We left the rest of the package behind in our room so if you happen to go to this hotel and need diapers, just tell them you know some crazy Americans left some behind and they’re probably languishing in the hotel’s lost-and-found.
We have yet to find a country that doesn’t have very easy access to diapers and wipes, despite any language barriers. Though often expensive, every corner pharmacy or drugstore around the world seems to carry Huggies and disposable wipes. Too bad for the landfills but good for traveling parents.
Few things are as sweet for this wife, mother and business owner as a completed to-do list. One where every last task is crossed off and the list for tomorrow reads “To Turkey.” I feel more relaxed now than I probably ever will during my vacation.
That’s where I find myself tonight, as we prepare to take off for Istanbul, Turkey in the morning. I’ve never been a last minute person, running around frantically in the final hours before an exam, a big event, or a trip to get everything ready. Instead I run around frantically a day or two before and I wind up with this wonderful window of a few hours just before leaving where everything, yes, everything, is done. Anything that’s not done doesn’t matter at this point. If it was urgent, I did it already. Everything else can wait until I get back and I don’t have to feel guilty about not doing it right now.
I savor this sensation of done-ness in a life typically so planned, so frantic. Is it possible that I plan trips just so I can have those few satisfying hours before of having nothing to do? Perhaps so.
So what do I do? I won’t bore you with the details I took care of to prepare for my absence from my online business. I’ve provided below though my standard checklist of things-to-do-before-leaving, things which apply to just about every traveling family. I hope it helps you create your own quiet moment of done-ness.
Traveling Family’s Pre-Departure Checklist
One week before departure
- Stop mail, newspaper, diaper delivery, garbage/recycling pick-up.
- Notify neighbors of absence.
- Make arrangements for pets including extra food, water, litter, etc.
- Provide instructions to housesitter/ pet sitter.
- Provide emergency phone #s to relatives/ close friends.
- Notify debit/ credit card companies of travel plans, especially when traveling internationally.
- Get sufficient cash from bank, especially important when traveling internationally.
Three days before departure
- Laundry for everyone.
Two days before departure
- Pack. I try to be mostly done with this 24 hours before departure, so I know what I may need to run to the store to pick-up.
Day before departure
- Last minute trip to Target to buy anything I found we’re out of while packing.
- Confirm/ check-in online for flights.
- Print out relevant itineraries, boarding passes, hotel names and phone #s, transportation info, etc.
And now I’ll go cross the last item remaining on my to-do list: “Blog- To-do list.”
Music moves me and I often used it to veg, motivate, relax, provide perspective or to just all-out-jam to.
I’ve long wished for my children to also become lovers of music and I’ve been very excited to introduce them – concurrent with our pending move to India – to music from all over the globe.
Now available (AS OF TODAY!) through Amazon.com and at Target, ToysRUs and other retailers, this truly great CD features authentic culture in music styles that you moms and dads will also enjoy listening to (I promise!). This is not another one of those cds that you cringe at when your kids ask to listen to it!
Our family has spent many an afternoon be-bopping to this CD and the kids are even learning the words (in other languages!). Global Wonders is an award-winning CD, produced/composed by Jim Latham (who has also written for Disney).
This CD includes an impressive 19 songs spanning the globe – almost literally – with music from India, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Ireland, Cuba and the United States (New Orleans Jazz, and Hawaiian Tiki). Highlights include a unique version of Vande Mataram, (India’s national song and the second most popular song in the world, per the BBC), incorporating a children’s choir into the chorus; Go Go Greece, a get-up-and-dance traditional Greek song; Banda Dance from Mexico; the Bollywood style India Celebrations; and America The Beautiful in a gospel vibe.
This family already has “India” the Global Wonders DVD on their wish list!
My 19-month-old daughter Zoe likes a broad range of different cuisines including sushi, Indian, Mexican and Thai food to name a few, yet she does not like anything spicy. My friend’s daughter who is about the same age loves anything spicy –she eats about half a container of Whole Foods guacamole at a sitting. This same guacamole at first taste made my avocado-loving daughter cry and scream “mouth, mouth, juice please!” My friend attributes her daughter’s love of spice to the fact that she herself ate spicy food while she was pregnant and while she was nursing her daughter. But it would be difficult to find someone who ate more spicy food when pregnant or nursing than I did (I was known for putting very hot Vietnamese chili sauce on much of what I ate while pregnant). Yet my daughter does not like spicy food. The other day I gave her a fairly mild samosa and she took one bite and said “this too spicy for Zoe. No eating.”
I know from my time living in India that babies and young children are usually fed a mild version of the food that their parents eat –made with all of the spices minus the chili powder (by taking out the child’s portion earlier in the cooking, before the chilies have been added). In other parts of Asia I’ve seen families eat non-spicy food but add chilies to their own serving as desired. This way the small children can eat the same food without it being spicy. Then, as the children get older they can add spice little by little. I assume that in other countries where the food tends to be spicy they also have a way of making a mild version for little kids to ease them into eating spicy food, but I don’t know this for sure. Apparently different kids accept spiciness at different times –some by a year old are eating what their parents eat while for others it takes until they are 8 or 9. In any event I’ve never heard of anyone raised on spicy food who does not like it as an adult, so all children who grow up with spicy food eventually learn to love it.
Just as we arrived at our seats for our return flight from Buenos Aires last year Grace, 15 months old at the time, proceeded to puke all over herself, me, my seat and the floor. I learned several valuable travel lessons on that incredibly long, painful, smelly flight home. Let me elaborate.
- Kids can go from happy and healthy to horribly ill in a single moment. Grace had been in good spirits and eating well all day, despite a flight delayed by more than 12 hours (that’s another story). Like the flick of a switch she became ill and she remained sick the entire flight home.
- Always carry a change of clothes for you and your child. Thankfully I had done both in Argentina and I was able to slip into the bathroom and clean myself up. Since she threw up multiple times on that flight though, my change of clothes didn’t stay clean for long and I now carry at least two clean shirts for myself as well as several for her.
- Benadryl is a wonder drug for flying. You’ve probably heard parents say how great it is to help kids sleep on planes, at least those kids who get sleepy from it (some don’t, I’m told). Grace is of the former category and Benadryl helped her finally get some much-needed rest when her body wouldn’t cooperate. A lesser-known fact about Benadryl is that it’s an antiemitic, meaning it inhibits vomiting. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful for drugs.
- Airplane blankets make great clothing protectors if you think your child is going to throw up on you yet again. My apologies to whoever had to wash those things but we were desperate.
- Flight attendants are not particularly helpful or sympathetic to sick children. We had one plastic bag given to us for dirty clothes and then we were told we couldn’t have any more as they were short. Nobody ever came to see how she was doing, what they could do for us or even just to give us a comforting pat on the shoulder. I get it, vomiting children are gross, but a cup of water would have been nice at the very least when I was dying of thirst but unable to move for hours because I was trying to keep Grace asleep in my arms.
- Carry on several plastic bags. As mentioned above, the flight attendants would only give us one when we could have used 2 or 3. Plastic bags are always a good idea anyway. Clothes seem to get wet or dirty on just about any flight, whether anyone is sick or not.
You can’t always avoid kids getting sick (we still have no idea how Grace got sick on that flight) but you can be prepared and minimize the disgusting factor. For more on keeping kids healthy while traveling, read Steve’s post on being prepared.
Like many world cities, Istanbul is a complex mix of the new and the old. Everywhere we turn we are reminded by a cobblestone street, a crumbling mosque or an historic tower that we are walking in the steps of ancient history. But this is a vibrant, bustling metropolis, the economic and cultural center of a nation bidding to enter the EU.
The core of modern Istanbul life is Istiklal Caddesi, a pedestrian-only shopping zone full of people no matter the time of day. Our apartment was located just a 10 minute walk from one end of Istiklal so we spent quite a bit of time on our trip meandering and discovering what it had to offer.
A “nostalgic tramway” reminiscent of San Francisco’s streetcars runs the length of Istiklal. Since the street is built on a slight slope, the most comfortable way to explore it with little ones is to ride the tram from the southern most point to the top end of the street (Taksim Square) and walk back down. That way it’s slightly downhill the whole way plus the tramway is a lot of fun for kids. You can reach the start of the nostalgic tramway by taking the Tunel funicular from Kadikoy. When you exit Tunel at the top (end of the line – there’s only one stop) you’ll see the streetcar stop right outside. You buy your ticket from the driver for 1 Turkish lira (about 60 cents).
Istiklal Caddesi is jam-packed with fashionable boutiques, kitschy tourist shops, cafes, movie theaters, restaurants, and historical sights. We most enjoyed just walking along and people-watching, stopping here and there for a bite to eat or for a cup of coffee. After riding the nostalgic tram to the end, Grace and I started our first day of exploration of Istiklal after we dropped Steve off for his conference at the Hilton near Taksim Square. First we stopped to try a simit from a branch of the chain Simit Sarayi. A simit is a ring of baked dough dipped in sesame seeds, similar to a bagel. You see simit vendors selling their snacks from red carts all over the city. They’re cheap, fresh and very good.
Back out on the street Grace and I followed Rick Steve’s walking tour of Istiklal Caddesi in his Istanbul guidebook (highly recommended), which pointed out some of the historical sites along the way. There are some old movie theaters, churches, mosques, flower and fish markets, that kind of thing. We didn’t feel the need to stop long at any of the sites but following the tour at least I knew what I was seeing along the way.
We made a stop at the Ipek silk shop about halfway along the street, on the left if you’re headed towards Taksim. It’s a high-end silk shop with very helpful staff and good quality scarves. I found a few nice cotton/wool blend scarves (the shop has more than silk). Grace was the princess of the shop with all five shop attendants doting on her, kissing her, and even tying a jaunty scarf around her neck which they gifted to her (and she proceeded to lose on the street shortly after we left!). We have quickly learned that Turks adore children and have no qualms about showering children they don’t know with affection. Grace slowly warmed up to the idea of such expressive strangers and started to return their love with shy waves and air kisses.
There’s a great English language bookstore, Robinson Crusoe (#389), along Istiklal. They have English speaking staff and a wide-range of books about Turkey and other English-language books. It’s a good stop if your kids need something new to read as well.
A fun culinary treat along Istiklal Caddesi, and throughout Istanbul, is ice cream. Turkish ice cream is thick and stretchy so the servers (found in cafe windows along the street – you’ll spot them by their red and gold hats and vests) do all kinds of tricks with their gooey concoctions. When we stopped for a cone after dinner one night the server shot a long metal rod out the window at Grace. Stuck to the end of it was the scoop of ice cream with a cone. When Grace grabbed the cone, the cone (and scoop) detached perfectly in her hand. But the server wasn’t going to let her get off so easily. He continued to grab the whole thing away from her but reaching out and slapping the end of the metal stick back on the ice cream, to which it stuck and he could pull it away. She was bewildered but amused by the whole endeavor but eventually he let her eat it in peace.
We ate a few meals along Istiklal Caddesi during our time in Istanbul too. Haci Abdullah (Sakizagaci Cadessi 17, just off Istiklal (past the Aga Mosque) was rated one of the best restaurants in the city by Lonely Planet Turkey, so we had to give it a try. The food was good and the service was fast, plus it’s a large fairly noisy restaurant, a good thing when dining out with a toddler. Still it was expensive for what we got and we found we enjoyed Hala (about halfway up Istiklal Caddesi, on the right side if you’re headed towards Taksim Square) so much more. Hala serves gozleme, a traditional thin crepe-type dough folded over various ingredients like cheese, spinach, ground meat and other vegetables. The crepes are made in the restaurant window where you can watch women roll out the dough and cook it over a griddle right in front of you, which is very fun for kids. We also tried their stuffed grape leaves (dolma) and Turkish ravioli (manti), both fresh and tasty.
Overall Istiklal Cadessi is an entertaining place for families, worth at least a short outing during your stay in Istanbul.