When I began writing this post, I almost typed Trip to Iran with Babies, then quickly corrected myself. I no longer travel with babies! I can’t even call them toddlers because there’s nothing toddler-ish about them anymore. What to call these little ladies?? Well, I’ll stick with preschoolers, as that seems to be the most appropriate title at this time.
This wasn’t our first Ziyarat trip with the kids, Ridha has been to Arbaeen in Iraq when she was 9 months, and both girls have been to Mecca/Medina for Umrah and ziyarat as well. But this was our first trip as a family to Iran, and it was wonderful, so I thought I’d share the details in a post.
This will be a two-part post because I feel that the travel part of it, including the flight/lodging details deserve a post of their own.
That being said, let’s get right into it!
We flew via Turkish airlines for our entire trip. Meaning, we flew from JFK to Istanbul, then Istanbul to Tehran, and our return was Mashad to Istanbul, and lastly Istanbul to JFK. I won’t lie, the journey is long. It is a long flight from New York to Istanbul, about 10-11 hours, and then the break, followed by another 4.5 hour flight to our destination. I don’t think anything can prepare you for a long journey like that, because you never know what kind of flight you will get. Once we got the last seats all the way in the back next to the restrooms, a couple times we got terrible turbulence or a very rough landing, one particular flight my ears ached so bad, and other times the flight was comfortable and time passed quickly.
The international Turkish airline is not bad at all, the seats are comfortable, and the food is pretty good. Before we left, I had requested Child meals for both the kids for two reasons: I was hoping that they would be served the meals before everyone else, that way they could eat theirs and be done by the time I got mine- wishful thinking since they always got served at the exact same time as me… And secondly I thought it would be kid-friendly options that my picky kids might enjoy. Wrong again… I must say I was not impressed with the child meals. But who knows, maybe your kids might like the dishes? I’ll list what we got here, since I never bothered taking photos:
– Omelette, sausage, potato
– Chicken nuggets, mashed potato, mixed vegetables
– Meatballs, potatoes
– Cheese tortellini
– Grilled cheese, scalloped potatoes
– Omelette, mushrooms, potato
If one of us ever woke up in the middle of the night hungry, we could always grap a cheese sandwich or muffin from the flight attendant stations, there were always baskets filled with these snacks.
These were long flights, and not all of them were night flights so many times the kids were awake for most of it. Let’s just say they got more screen time in these flights then they’ve ever gotten in a week at home. Turkish airlines were kind enough to provide a kids activity pack on almost every flight.
We had a stop at Istanbul Airport both times on our roundtrip flights, and I would warn you that this airport is fairly large. It involved a lot of walking! In our first stop there, our gate wasn’t announced until much later, and ended up being on the complete opposite end of the airport. The walk was long, and we couldn’t have done it without our double stroller! The airport has a huge mall smack in the middle of it, and you have to walk across this mall in order to get to your gate. Tricky! Lucky for us, our gate was right next to a kids play area which was a nice little gem for my kids, who are under 5 years.
Well that just about does it for our flights during our trip to Iran. I want to share some tips for the journey, for when you are traveling with toddlers/preschoolers.
Tips for Traveling with Preschoolers:
- Strollers: It is crucial to keep a lightweight, easy to fold stroller. We took our lightweight umbrella double stroller (Delta brand) and it was most useful in the airports. Many times one or both of the kids were asleep when we landed, so ensuring that your stroller will meet you right off the gate is so important!! Speak to an agent to double check this request is met.
- Backpacks: I like to travel light but it is very hard to do when you have little ones. Keeping the kids essential things in their own backpacks helps to lighten up your load. I usually pack these items: Snack, diaper, activity books, stickers, one new toy, extra shirt/pant.
- Timing: I always prefer taking a night flight whenever possible, especially for long distances mainly because the kids will sleep nicely through it.
- Dress them right: Comfortable shoes, soft clothing, and packing layers like a zip up hoodie for when you are traveling into cooler temperatures.
Most important piece of advice:
The one thing that I noticed this time around, which was different than any other time was the age of my kids and how this time they were better able to understand what we were doing/where we were going. So what helped me have a smoother journey was weeks of explaining beforehand. Briefing my kids about traveling, how much they will need to walk at the airport, how they will need to follow our directions especially at the security checkpoints- explaining all of it to them over and over again. This was the trick! Surprisingly, at the security check, the girls let go of their precious blankies and backpacks with ease. In the past we have had tantrums, but since they were just a bit older and we had intentionally explained to them up until the morning of our flight, they did so much better.
Accommodations in Iran
I can’t say enough nice things about this hotel. In proximity to the Haram of 8th Imam, it is super close. The property was beautiful, the room we had was a spacious family suite, equipped with four beds. We had a living room area, as well as a small kitchenette with fridge. The stay was very comfortable, and my kids enjoyed it so much.
The view of the room was probably our favorite, because we had two separate views. The living room had an amazing view of the beautiful Haram, and then the bedroom had a view of the fountain roundabout. Every night, the kids would sit on the windowsill of the room, stare out the window and chit chat.
Everyday the buffet was incredible, filled with signature Iranian dishes as well as some continental dishes. So many different types of salads, and dressings. The buffet never disappointed. Some of our favorite dishes were the kebobs, zereshk pulao, pizza, fettuccine pasta and lasagna.
In Qom, we stayed at Hotel Sadeghiya which was a very short distance to the Shrine of Bibi Masooma. I just never took any photos of the room, but it was comfortable and a great location. We travelled on several buses, and since the roads aren’t bad at all with very little traffic, our rides were always very comfortable. My daughter did get sick due to the heavy winds and cooler temperatures, which I wasn’t really expecting. But we treated it with lots of cough medicine and tylenol, so she did just fine.
Don’t forget to check out Trip to Iran with Preschoolers Part II.
Have you ever traveled to Iran and how did you like your experience? Share any experiences traveling to holy places with little ones, I’d love to hear about it 🙂