Sometimes even the most anticipated cities are the most difficult to plan. I’ve been to Istanbul at least four times due to layovers but I never had the time or budget to leave the airport. I used to watch uncountable hours of Turkish dramas that rocketed my excitement and gave me a ton of ideas on things I wanted to do and see. I also had a lot of Turkish friends insisting to visit so this was something I was really looking forward to and I didn’t want to mess it up.
I’m going to share with you how I plan most of my trips. Each place is different so I tweak the template accordingly, feel free to do the same for your adventures!
Most of my trips last between 4-7 days if I’m in a metropolitan for the first time. These might not seem like a lot but if you plan well, you can really get the feel of the city. But before I start planning the days, I always do these 2 things first:
1. Make a list of places I really want to see
You can do this through browsing Tripadvisor and clicking on some popular Instagram tags to get the local view of things.
2. Plot each location on Google Maps
Once you get the idea of how far things are from each other, it will help you divide the places into their neighborhoods so you can dedicate each day accordingly and not waste time in transportation.
You guys know I love to date cities so I divided the days like it too. Just keep the weekends and holiday closures in mind.
Day 1: Love at first sight
If you love to walk for hours and hours and get intensely lost and eat random treats from the streets, then this is your day. Since everything is so new, you’ll want to take pictures of it all. In Istanbul, my friend and I got up the Galata Tower to get the bird’s eye view of the city.
We also crossed off some famous streets like Istiklal and Besiktas and neighborhoods like Ortakoy and Kadikoy (where we lived). This day is also to figure out how to use public transportation and window shop.
TIP: Never buy anything on the first day but ask about the prices anyways. I can promise you, you can find better. Anyways, it’s better to save your money for entrances and food for the days to come.
Day 2: First date
In 48 hours, I travelled through 4 cities, 3 countries, and 3 continents. I'm officially half way through my goal of 30 countries before 30, Turkey being my 15th. Also, love seeing some green after all those Egyptian deserts! #turkey #Istanbul #zahratravels #europe #Asia #island #buyukada #backday #whatarepants
Now that you know you like her, you want to try to give her the best day of her life by changing the city routine. We went to Buyukada (Big Island), an hour away by ferry, where no cars are allowed. We hiked the cute streets filled with flowers and horses and homes only seen on Instagram all the way to the top for a view of the beautiful sea.
The city is great but it’s really nice to be able to get away for a bit.
After getting home, we had the highly raved kabob and gained back twice the calories we’d lost from the full day of hiking…
Day 3: Take it easy and wait for her text
Let’s not get clingy, bitches hate clingy. To be honest, I was a little exhausted from the prior physically laborious days. It was the weekend so we woke up midday and went out for a late breakfast accompanied by Turkish tea at the cutest hilltop cafe I’ve ever seen.
I picked up some Turkish delights and coffee for the fam on the way home. I did laundry, organized my messy suitcase, wrote a blog, and waited. She finally texted, as I knew she would, and we went out at night 😉
Day 4: Learn more about her
I spent the fourth day in this city on my own and I'm amazed at how fluent it's rhythm is. I museum hopped for hours and hours without realizing I missed lunch. I never miss lunch! #Istanbul , you are magic. #turkey #travelblogger #zahratravels #travelphotography #instatravel #haigasophia #allah #islam #mosque #museum
Okay, I was falling for Istanbul, I wanted to know everything about her before popping the big question. I got up early and went through her history. From the Istanbul Architecture Museum to the Topkapi Palace to Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar. Istanbul is the center of the world and history. It’s the only city between two continents. It took me a while to digest a fact I’d learned in elementary school.
I rewarded myself with ice cream for getting so much done in a day. I was sure, she was the one.
Day 5: If you like it then you should put a ring on it
I took a stroll around our area and got myself some flowers because I’m a queen and I deserve them, duh. Moving on, remember when I said don’t buy anything on the first day? Now I knew the shops that were the cheapest in my neighborhood and spent what I had leftover on souvenirs. A magnet that cost 10 TL beside the Hagia Sofia was sold for 3 TL in the convenience shop beside me. I also bought some jewelry, a really cute dress, and a lamp I’m super pumped to hang in my room. With all this awesome decor, she obviously said yes.
I use this guide in almost all the cities I go to but most times I end up mixing the order or cutting some days depending on budget. Too much planning is never good because planning evokes expectations and expectations somehow always disappoint. It’s good to know what you want but also be adaptable to spontaneous changes.