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It seems like just yesterday that I started planning our family trip to Turkey and Greece. However, I started planning this trip in June of 2018, just a few months after our return from Vietnam and Cambodia. For me, I love the challenge of planning a new adventure. I am a planner and thrive on ironing out the details. However, I recognize not everyone may enjoy this process as much as I do. Therefore, I am going to share with you the steps you may want to follow if you want to plan a trip to Turkey with your family. I am also going to share with you different websites and applications that have made planning this trip easier.
Learn Turkish, Greek and Catalan (One Year in Advance)
I spent this year learning Greek, Turkish and Catalan in anticipation of this trip. As I will explain, we are flying in and out of Barcelona due to the insanely cheap tickets I found from San Francisco to Barcelona. Although we will only be in Barcelona for a few days on either end of our trip, I decided to learn a little Catalan because the last time I visited Barcelona, I realized that I had learned the wrong language by learning Spanish. To read more about my faux pas in learning the wrong language of Barcelona, read my article Catalan – The Language of Resilience in Barcelona. Learn more about how I went about learning Catalan in my article Learning Catalan – Here’s What I am Doing.
Learning Greek was fun because it was like revisiting an old friend. I originally learned Greek ten years ago when we visited Greece for the first time. Even though I have not really used my Greek in the past ten years, coming back to it was easy. I found that I was able to retain things quicker. Please do take the time to learn a little Greek before you go. You will find a little goes a long way in connecting with the locals and establishing good will. Learning Greek has never been easier. Duolingo has Greek for English learners. I originally learned Greek using Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone now has a mobile version that is very easy to use. Clozemaster is a fun way to practice your grammar once you become a little more advanced in Greek. Clozemaster seeks to gamify language learning by offering a series of sentences with missing words. I also use Mondly as I really enjoy the daily lessons they offer free of charge.
Learning Turkish is a lot easier than you think. Turkish is a member of the Altaic Linguistic Family along with the Mongolic, Japonica, Koranic and Tungusic languages. The specific branch of the Turkish language tree is the Oguz branch which also includes Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashgai, Uzbek and Proto-Turk. Turkish is easy for English speakers because it is written in a Latin script. There are 29 letters. Each letter has a distinct pronunciation and the words are phonetic. Once you learn the alphabet, you can read Turkish easily. For more Fun Facts about the Turkish Language, check out my post. Hopefully my post will inspire you to give this language a try.
Having spent a year learning Turkish, I do not think I could become fluent in three months. I think that with any language, you need at least a year of practice in order to absorb and familiarize yourself with any new language. I share some of my tips on teaching yourself Turkish with podcasts in my article Learn Turkish with Podcasts as TurkishClass101. You can also learn Greek with podcasts at GreekPod101.
If you are like me and work full time while raising kids and your epic vacations are separated by a year while you accrue more vacation time. Learning a new language while planning a trip gives you something to look forward to. In my article How Learning a New Language Can Set Your Theme for the New Year, I give you some creative ideas on how to turn your new language into a year long adventure in fluency.
Buy Plane Tickets (Six Months in Advance)
I am a stalker. I stalk CheapOair like a jilted lover when I am planning a trip. I am not a CheapOair affiliate, however, I am a huge fan. No matter how many other sites I look at, I continuously get the lowest prices and the best itineraries on CheapOair.
I do have a few tricks that have served me well over the years. I always look for tickets online on Mondays. Apparently, airlines release seats on Mondays. I find the best ticket prices for international travel are offered approximately six months prior to departure. I find the prices are always lower if I book right after a major holiday. I always book flights leaving or arriving on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.
While planning my family trip to Turkey and Greece, I also learned two money saving lessons. First, the absolute best, cheapest day the buy plane tickets is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Apparently, Travel Tuesday is the Black Friday of the airline travel world. Second, try flying into a cheaper destination and then travel to your ultimate destination a few days later. It may make your trip longer, but if you have the time, you will save soooo much money. This trip, we are actually flying in and out of Barcelona because I found round trip tickets from San Francisco to Barcelona for only $485!!!!! At the time, the flights from San Francisco to Istanbul were averaging $1200. For a family of three, this price difference resulted in a huge savings.
Organizing Your Itinerary (TripIt)
My favorite application for the do-it-yourself travel planner is TripIt. This application allows you to store all of your travel plans in one place and is available off line. It even stalks your emails and automatically adds travel plans when it finds emails relating to travel. When CheapOair sends me my ticket confirmation, TripIt is already setting up a new trip. You can also forward your emails to TripIt and it will add the plans to the itinerary. With a complicated trip like the one I planned for the family to Barcelona, Turkey and Greece with multiple cities, domestic flights and pre-booked accommodations, TripIt is key to keeping it all organized in one location. No need to search through your confirmation emails or find a wifi cafe to access them. TripIt has your itinerary available to access everything on your phone at any time.
Powered by RoutePerfect
Book Accommodations (Six Months in Advance)
Once I have the framework of the flights in place, I book our accommodations. For Turkey, I had the flight booked so we arrive in Barcelona, then Istanbul, travel throughout Turkey and then head to Greece. My favorite travel tool for booking accommodations is RoutePerfect.
I used RoutePerfect for the first time to book our trip to Croatia. You can check out our Croatian itinerary at Our Perfect Croatian Vacation Planned with the Help of RoutePerfect. I also used RoutePerfect to book our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. You can check out our Vietnamese and Cambodian itinerary at Our Family’s Whirlwind Winter Break in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Before I found RoutePerfect, I used to book accommodations through VRBO. I had to keep track of all the different bookings and carry extra money in various currencies for the required deposits or final down payments. Once, when we were in Costa Rica, I had $200 that I needed to pay for the next rental house stolen right out of the hotel safe. With RoutePerfect, everything is paid for in advance. All you need to carry is your pre-paid vouchers. If one of those is stolen, I just print out a new one from my email.
I use RoutePerfect to book our stays in Barcelona, Turkey and Greece. Using the Manual Mode, I can add and subtract destinations at my leisure. I can adjust how many nights we stay in each location. I can swap out hotels, upgrade rooms, read travel reviews and see the locations for each hotel. Once I am satisfied with all the selections, I book the entire trip. Through RoutePerfect, I am able to book a massive thirty-one day vacation for a family of three for as little as $40 per person per day.
Special RoutePerfect Discount for My Readers
Special for all of my readers, RoutePerfect is offering a discount of 10% off all packages over $500 USD using the special code ADVENTURESINFLUENCY when you book a package. You can find a link to RoutePerfect at Adventures in Fluency’s RoutePerct – Travel Planning Tools.
Domestic Travel (Four to Five Months in Advance)
Once our accommodations are booked, I return to CheapOAir to book the domestic travel. It is easy to book a multi-leg trip from Barcelona to Istanbul to Cappadocia to Anatayla to Crete back to Barcelona. Remember all that money I saved by booking a round trip from San Francisco to Barcelona? This savings allowed me to spend more on domestic flights.
A cheap domestic carrier for traveling around Turkey is Pegasus Airlines. I booked flights from Barcelona to Istanbul, Istanbul to Cappadocia and Cappadocia to Antalya all with Pegasus. For our travel in Greece, I use Aegean Airline to get us from Rhodes to Crete. From Crete back to Barcelona, I go with Vueling Airline, a Spanish Airline with its hub in Barcelona. The average flight for each leg is approximately $100 per flight per person. Even with five different domestic flights and international flights, I am still coming in at less than $1,000 per person by flying into Barcelona instead of Istanbul.
We are traveling to Spain, Turkey and Greece. Because both Spain and Greece are members of the European Union, Americans are not required to obtain a visa in advance. However, Turkey does require a visa for Americans. Although you can obtain a visa at the airport on arrival, it will cost you $10 more per person and will take additional time.
The visas for Turkey were very easy to get online. You can follow a link to their online E-Visa application on the official website for the Republic of Turkey. The only mistake I made in filling out the form was not including my middle name in the first line of the application. Under “first name,” make sure to include your first name and your middle name because the name on your visa must match your travel document. The fee is only $20. As soon as your application is complete and you make your payment, the visa will be emailed to you immediately. The nice thing about applying online is that you do not need to send them your actual passport. You only need your passport number. You do not need photos or a copy of your passport for the online application.
Travel Blogs and FaceBook Groups
This trip I have found two great resources for information about what to do in Turkey. My favorite travel blog for travel in Turkey is Slow Travel Guide. Mark and Pascale are a Belgian couple who write the blog. They have made Turkey their new home and they love to share “an endless range of beautiful places to discover, wonderful people, and delicious food to taste.” I love this beautiful blog with its stunning photos and insider tips. They are also very responsive to inquires and will try to answer any questions you may have about your upcoming trip to Turkey.
I also really like the FaceBook Group, What To Do in Turkey. It is a closed group, but super easy to join. Once you have joined the group, there are tons of people willing to answer any question that you may have about your trip to Turkey. I found an incredibly cool restaurant in Istanbul with a stunning roofdeck. I already booked a reservation for our trip. It is like having a local friend in Turkey to help you out.
Summary of Costs
Here is a breakdown of the costs for each step for planning a family trip to Turkey and Greece. Another benefit of planning your vacation a year in advance is that you have a whole year to pay it off. For approximately $562 a month, you can pay off the whole trip before you go.
- International Plane Tickets – $485 X 3 = $1,455
- Accommodations – $40 per person X 3 for 31 days = $3,720
- Domestic Plane Tickets – $100 per person X 3 X 5 flights = $1,500
- Turkish Visas – $20 per person X 3 = $60
- Total – $2,245 per person X 3 = $6,735
I hope you find this guide helpful. Be sure to follow our adventures in Barcelona, Turkey and Greece as I travel with the family and put my newly learned Catalan, Turkish and Greek to the test.
Life is an adventure, not a destination. With a little planning, a little saving and a little imagination, you can make your dreams of adventure come true.