Category Archives: expat

The Turkish Airlines deal that wasn’t

Note: I originally wrote this a year ago, but never published it. They run the same promo every year, in case your travel plans are less complicated.

This week, I discovered a stellar fare sale on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to the United States (as well as many other destinations in Asia and Africa) for 999 euro in business class, 399 in coach, with a second passenger for just 1 euro more (even less for Europe and the Middle East). Aimed at Valentine’s Day travel, the departure dates all fall in the week leading up to February 14, and there are four US gateways for Turkish Airlines: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. As I’m due to fly to the US next month for a wedding in Austin, I jumped at the chance: $1300! In business!

The deal is only bookable by phone, and while I seemed to have some language issues with the Turkish reservation agent (“fare sale” and “campaign” was confusing, “promotion” was the magic word), she was helpful and patiently checked all the routes. New York and LA were sold out, but she managed to find a pair of seats nonstop to Chicago from February 14-22. The maximum stay for the deal is eight days, and while I hoped to spend more time home in the US, it would have to do. The grand total for two adults in business with all taxes and fees would come to a little over $2,000, at least $400 less than ONE business class seat from Istanbul to Chicago with a stopover on a less-preferable airline. I happily made the reservation with 24 hours to call back and purchase. $2000 for two! In business!

There was just one small problem: I’m traveling with my baby. When I spoke to the first reservation agent, she explained that I would have to purchase the baby’s seat for a non-promotional fare AT the airport and she couldn’t add her to the reservation. This seemed like a confusing and potentially expensive plan, but I figured I’d sort it out when I called back to ticket. On most airlines, lap infants pay 10% of adult fare for international flights (usually free on domestic flights) and a quick search online estimated this to be up to $500 for the same flights. But still: $2500 for a family! In business!

Though I booked the second seat in my husband’s name, I knew it was a long shot that he’d be able to travel with us, so I offered up the deal on Facebook. Not everyone is able to fly off to America for eight days with three weeks notice (especially for Turks who have to apply for advance visas), but I soon found a friend who thought she might be able to swing it. Sure, she wanted to visit New York and not Chicago, and I’d still have to book flights from Chicago to Austin to New York and back to Chicago, but those would cost under $500. $3000 to and around America! Some of it in business!

After a few frantic hours of searching hotels and domestic flight schedules, my friend reluctantly decided that she couldn’t go after all. We were disappointed, but I understood it was hard to make such big plans under pressure, and maybe we’d still find seats available closer to the date. Maybe I’d be able to just book the baby in the second seat, as ridiculous it sounded for a seven-month-old infant, it’d be cheaper to just eat the cost of the second seat than to book at regular price. Unfortunately, when I called back to book, I learned that the baby could not fly in the second seat, it would have to be an adult. Furthermore, we’d be looking at full fare for the two of us. $5000?! In business?!

More questions and searches by the reservation agent yielded that I COULD book the baby’s ticket at the airport or with the reservations office after booking, at a more reasonable $465 for her. The catch was that both adults on the promo fare would have to fly all legs of the trip, or the tickets would be canceled and the fare forfeited, so if I booked a ticket for another person who didn’t show, none of us would be flying. I briefly considered stopping random strangers on the street to see if they could fly to Chicago, until I decided it might be a sign. Maybe it wasn’t the right deal for us. Maybe I should wait to book tickets on flights I actually wanted, for the right time frame, when even my husband could fly with us. Then we’d really be in business.

Epilogue:  In the end, we booked tickets through Husband’s work, got stuck at the airport for 12 hours due to a strike in Frankfurt, missed the friend’s wedding in Austin, and spent a very quick weekend in NYC. But that’s another story…

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Escape from New York (?)

My family at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where we were married June 6, 2004.

If you’ve been looking for me on the interwebs, you might want to direct your browser over to KnockedUpAbroadTravels.com, or better yet, Facebook or Twitter.  If you’ve been wondering about all the Detroit links and thoughts about other cities I’ve been posting on those social networks, keep reading. We arrived back in Brooklyn on Labor Day, after a month of travel in New Zealand and South Korea, and over two years living in Istanbul. Since arriving back, in between trips to Target and IKEA (moving back into an apartment after a few years away is nearly as much work as moving anew), we’ve been pondering what’s next for us. Ideally, we’d be packing and planning for another overseas assignment, but as life rarely happens as you plan, we’re looking for a plan B as well as a new place to call home, whether it’s in between expat stints or for the long haul. My husband’s consulting job has moved from client-side to pre-sales, and he can now pretty much work in his underwear from a coffee shop or from home anywhere in the US. Since moving abroad and having a baby, I’ve been working freelance in travel writing (need an article about Istanbul or travel with a baby? Email me) and public relations, and hope to stay more or less at home for a bit longer, especially  in a place where daycare isn’t on par with college tuition.

Perusing real estate ads and feeling a bit confined in our one-bedroom in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, we’ve come to the conclusion that IF we a) sell our apartment with a decent profit AND b) I go back to work full time, we can maybe afford a decent two-bedroom and be slaves to a mortgage and exorbitant NYC daycare costs. OR we could move to Detroit (yes, Detroit, really). But before I get to that, here’s some background on what we are looking for in our next city: Continue reading

Knocked up abroad: the baby travel round-up

Yesterday, I wrote about why I’m traveling with Vera. Since I began traveling with her four months ago, my Knocked Up Abroad column on Gadling has grown up too. What started as a chronicle of my experiences being pregnant in Istanbul and traveling in each trimester has now become an attempt at showing that it is possible to still travel with a baby. I’m fortunate to reach an audience that is already traveling and may also have a baby, and I hope to inspire more parents to travel.

Here’s a quick round-up of my travel-with-baby stories so far:

The baby-friendly difference: How Turkey is one of the most baby-crazy places in the world and why it makes every day easier.

Applying for a baby’s passport: The comedy of errors we went through getting Vera’s passport and that silly picture that will serve as her primary ID for the first five years.

Planning travel with a baby: Choosing and researching a destination, packing light, scheduling around baby, and the merits of an apartment rental.

Flying with a baby: Going stroller-less, making friends and getting help on the plane and at the airport, and ensuring baby doesn’t cry (much).

International travel with baby: On-the-ground advice about attitude, planning and then letting go of your itinerary, conversions, and other lessons learned.

The young family gift guide: The (mostly) Vera-tested, Meg-approved guide to gear and gadgets that make baby travel easier.

Next week, I’ll get into specific destinations like Istanbul, Venice, and London, and how to tackle them with a baby.

Why I’m traveling with my baby

This week, Vera and I came back from a few days in London to see friends and get a little dose of Christmas (it turns out, 3 days of pre-holiday shoppers and relentless Christmas music is plenty). The UK is country #6 for my baby who is not yet five months of age, and I’m already itching to plan another trip. On each flight, a fellow passenger or flight attendant will ask, “Is this her first flight?” and I respond proudly that it’s her 12th and counting. When I talk to people about traveling with the baby, I’m often met with reactions that indicate I must be insane, reckless, or just selfish. These are all valid points, but so far Vera is a very healthy and happy baby, and I hope to keep traveling as long as she remains so. I’m paranoid about ever being the mother-with-the-crying-baby on a plane so I watch her like a hawk for signs of distress and I’ve been lucky so far to have a nearly perfectly-behaved baby (it helps that all I can really do with her is feed and hold her, which are her favorite activities) on each flight. Occasionally, I doubt my own sanity and decision-making when I’m walking around a foreign city late at night with a crying baby, taking a cross-border bus with no adult help, or trying to  juggle a stroller and a suitcase while nursing and walking, but I have no real regrets.

So, in case you wondered, why the hell am I dragging my baby around the world?

Continue reading

Expat lesson learned: there’s a Turk for that

The most striking thing I’ve found about living in Turkey is not so much the east-meets-west cliche, but the fact that the modern world and the old school of doing things coexist. While I can order food delivery online, you still see many Turks lowering baskets into the streets and getting passersby to go on a beer run (okay, more likely an Ayran run) for them. I can shop or eat at nearly any multi-national chain, though there are also tons of tea houses women haven’t entered in decades and shops that have probably have been running in the red for as many years. I’ve also learned that nearly any task or errand can and will be performed by a specialist with a job description that you may not find anywhere else. No matter what you need done, chances are, there’s a Turk for that. Continue reading