Using a Spreadsheet To Plan a Trip

Planning a trip can be fun, but it can also be challenging. With so many activities to plan for, having a high-level view of a month-long or two-week-long trip makes it easy to see the bigger picture, but a certain amount of detail is necessary to ensure your planned itinerary is reasonable and makes sense, e.g. if it takes 2 hours to get to the airport and you have to be at the airport 3 hours before departure, then you better take that into account so you don’t miss your flight. One simple way to plan a trip is by using a spreadsheet like Google Sheets. I’ve created a hypothetical San Francisco, USA to Seoul, Korea vacation plan showing day-by-day and hour-by-hour activities in two different views.

Of course, you can group or split each time block to have less or more time slots depending on your needs.

Click each example below to enlarge.

Example Month Schedule
Example 2 Week Schedule

Easily Find Cheap Flights Using Price Grids

Plane ticket prices can vary significantly from one day to another and by airline, number of stops, total trip duration, etc. If your dates are flexible, you can easily find cheaper flights using Kayak.com and Google Flights’ price grids. Here’s an example. Say I want to fly from San Francisco to Korea some time in early May.

  • I want no more than 1 stop / layover
  • I don’t want a layover longer than 4 hours

Kayak

On Kayak.com, you need to select +- 3 days for each departure and return date.

Choose some filters.

After the search results appear, expand the Flexible Dates section to show the price grid.

What’s nice about Kayak is, when you hover over a price, you see

  • the total price
  • the airline
  • the number of stops
  • the total flight plus layover time, if any, for both departure and return
  • the total trip duration

In the example above, the $1339 price offers nonstop service for a 9-day trip. If we compare that to the cheapest price ($1095), we’d have to stop somewhere and the total trip duration would be 11 days.

Google Flights

On Google Flights, you can do a similar search. For round trip flights, there will always be a price grid so you just enter your preferred departure and return dates. For the filters, I chose “1 stop or fewer” and “Under 24 hr”.

What’s interesting, and very useful, about Google Flights is, once you choose a departure date, prices start to show up in the date picker so you can choose a return date that is cheaper than others.

Google Flights is really fast. The prices and search results show up almost instantly.

On Google Flights, the cheapest prices are highlighted in green cells. In this example, it’s $1050. Compared to Kayak, it looks like Google Flights has more flight options as all of the cells have a price. However, unlike Kayak, in order to see more information like the airline, trip duration, and number of stops, you have to choose a price and click OK. The price grid will disappear and you will see the flight details.

Which is cheaper?

If we put both grids next to each other, we find that

  • Google Flights offers more flights (all cells have a price)
  • Google Flights offers either the same price or cheaper prices, even if the price difference is just $1.
Kayak
Google Flights

Note

Kayak can book flights for you whereas Google Flights will always send you to an external booking website. Price differences are often due to different travel websites offering different prices. It’s always preferable to book directly with the airline as that cuts out any intermediaries and, if there are any issues, you can contact the airline (or Kayak) directly and usually get better customer service. Just because Google Flights may offer cheaper flights, you might still find an overall better deal on Kayak.

Seoul, South Korea: Attractions, Food and More

This is not a complete list of tourist places and popular Korean food. It’s just a list of places that I think may be worth visiting and a few other relevant things.

Korean Air

  • Website
  • As of December 30, 2021, all travelers, including fully vaccinated travelers, must submit a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure in order to board flights to the US. Learn more.
  • As of March 2, 2022, foreigners must submit a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure in order to board flights to Korea. Read consular notice.
  • Starting from April 1, 2022, vaccinated travelers who have completed vaccination overseas AND register their vaccination history through the Quarantine COVID19 Defence (Q-Code) system BEFORE traveling to Korea will be eligible for quarantine exemption. Vaccination is considered to be complete 14 days after the 2nd shot for a two-dose vaccine (valid up to 180 days) or with booster shots. Read consular notice.

Seoul, South Korea

Incheon Airport

Tourist Cards

  • Website
  • Buy 7-day MPass (Metropolitan Pass) card for $53
  • Purchase locations:
    • Incheon Airport Tourist Information Center: 1F, Passenger Terminal 1 in front of Gates 5 & 10 / 7 AM-10 PM
    • Myeong-dong Tourist Information Center: In front of Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 5 / 09:00-20:00, Closed on the day of Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) & Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day)
    • Seoul Station Tmoney Town : 1F, Seoul City Tower near Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4, AREX), Exit 10 / Weekdays 09:00-18:00
  • There is a $4.11 deposit. Get deposit refund (minus $0.41 for the cost of the card) at the Tourist Information Center at the airport before leaving Korea.
  • MPass can be used on subway lines, airport railroad all-stop train, Seoul city buses (mainline buses, branch buses, circulation buses, village buses, night buses)
  • The pass offers 20 rides a day for the duration of the pass. 

Hotels

When choosing a hotel, if you want to be close to

  • many attractions
  • easy subway transportation with direct connection to the airport
  • tons of food options
  • tons of shopping options

you probably want to stay around the Myeong-dong area.


ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeongdong

KTO Tourist Information Center

Modern, High-Tech Seoul

Meerkat Cafe Seoul

Lotte World

  • World’s largest indoor theme park
  • Website
  • Hours: 9:30AM–11PM except Sundays
  • Admission: $50

Lotte World Aquarium

  • Website
  • Hours: 10AM–8PM except Sundays
  • Admission: $28

Lotte World Mall & Tower

  • Seoul’s largest shopping mall
  • Google Maps
  • Mall Hours: 10:30AM–10PM
  • Tower Hours: 24 hours

Seoul Sky

  • The Seoul Sky Observatory is located at the top of the Lotte World Tower, the world’s fifth tallest building standing 123 stories and 555 meters high. As the tallest building in South Korea, it is the only place where you can take in a gorgeous 360-degree view of Seoul, the capital city of South Korea roaring with brilliant history and dynamic modern culture.
  • Google Maps
  • Website
  • Seoul Sky Hours: 10:30AM–10PM
  • Skybridge Website
  • Skybridge Tour Hours: See timeslots (closed in winter from Dec 13 to March 31)
  • Skybridge Admission: $67 – $93
Skybridge Tour

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The War Memorial of Korea

Seodaemun Prison History Museum

Seoul City Hall

Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market

Seoullo 7017

Namdaemun Market

  • It is the oldest and largest market in Korea.
  • Website
  • Google Maps
  • Hours: varies by store. Closed on Sundays.

Shinsegae

N Seoul Tower & Namsan

Seoul Grand Park & Skylift

  • Seoul Grand Park is a park complex to the south of Seoul, South Korea, in the city of Gwacheon. Facilities at Seoul Grand Park include hills and hiking trails, Seoul Grand Park Zoo, Children’s Zoo, a rose garden, Seoul Land amusement park, and the Seoul Museum of Modern Art.
  • Website
  • Google Maps
  • Hours: 9AM-6PM (March~April,September~October)
  • Admission:
    • Zoo: $4
    • Theme Garden: $2
    • Skylift: $5
  • Skylift Website
  • Skylift 1 (outside the zoo): 10 minute ride
  • Skylift 2 (inside the zoo): 15 minute ride

Cheonggyecheon

  • Course 1: Cheonggye Plaza to Dongdaemun: 2.7 Km (about 2 hours)
  • Course 2: Cheonggyecheon Museum to Dongdaemun: 2.6 Km (about 2.5 hours)

DMZ

Website

DMZ Tour by Tour Agency

KORIDOOR DMZ Tours

DMZ Tour by Train

  • Website
  • Take the DMZ Peace Train from Seoul to Dorasan.
  • Choose the Dorasan Security Tour.
  • Tour package is available from the KORAIL Travel Center at each departure station
  • Foreigners can purchase train tickets from Yongsan Station to Dorasan Station online, but will have to register for the Dorasan Security Tour at Dorasan Station if they wish to travel further.
  • Operating days: Wednesday-Sunday, once a day / No trains Monday-Tuesday
  • Train Tickets and Times
  • Ticket Price: $30
  • Tour schedule: 
    1. Depart from Yongsan Station (10:08) – Seoul Station (10:15) –
    2. Arrive at Imjingang Station (11:24) –
    3. Complete identity check (11:32) –
    4. Arrive at Dorasan Station (Google Maps) and board connecting bus (11:43) –
    5. Dorasan Peace Park (12:10) –
    6. Lunch break at Tongilchon (Unification Village) (13:00) – 
    7. Dora Observatory (Google Maps) (14:00) – 
    8. The 3rd Tunnel (Google Maps) (14:40) –
    9. Tour Unification Platform (15:50) –
    10. Depart from Dorasan Station (16:27) – Seoul Station (17:47) –
    11. Arrive at Yongsan Station (17:54)

Dora Observatory

Look at North Korea from South Korea

DMZ The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel

Website

Panmunjeom / DMZ Joint Security Area

Lotus Lantern Festival in May

Haewoojae Museum (Mr. Toilet House) (해우재)

Seoul Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Songdo International City

  • Wikipedia
  • Google Maps
  • Tour
  • Highlights:
    • Songdo Central Park
    • G-tower for panoramic views of Songdo city
    • Canal walk and NC CUBE shopping center

Itaewon

It’s where all the foreigners hang out at night.

Apgujungrodeo

It’s like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Myeongdong Street Food

  • Google Maps
  • Hours: 9AM-9PM
  • On Saturdays and Sundays, there are many more street food vendors at night.

Food to try at Myeongdong

Korean Stir-Fried Noodles
Baked Cheese – Ice Cream Waffles
Tornado Potato
Fried Chicken
Omelette Burger
Grilled Lobster
Omelette Pancake
Banana Pancake
Teokgalbi Meatballs

Gyeyeolsa Fried Chicken

Casablanca Sandwicherie

Passion 5 Bakery

Costco

HBC Gogitjib 이태원더고깃집(구HBC고깃집)

Downtowner Cheongdam 다운타우너 청담점

Linus’ BBQ

  • Beef brisket
  • Google Maps
  • Hours: Weekdays: 12-3PM, 5-9PM, Weekends: 12-9PM

Gino’s NY Pizza

Gwangjang Market

  • A traditional street market in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The market is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, with more than 5000 shops and 20,000 employees in an area of 42,000 square meters.
  • Website
  • Official Website
  • Google Maps
  • Hours: 10AM-11PM

Jilhal Bros

Hongdae Free Market

Hyundai Department Store | D-Cube City

Seoul Public Bike

  • Official Website
  • Government Website
  • Rent a bike to tour the Cheonggyecheon
  • Pick up and drop off at any Bike Seoul location
  • 1 hour – $0.82
  • 2 hours – $1.64
  • All day – $4.11
  • $0.82 for every additional 30 minutes

Dongdaemun Market

Seoul Folk Flea Market

Starfield COEX Mall

Flying Suwon

Everland Resort

Caribbean Bay

Yeontabal BBQ Restaurant

  • Address: 1317-16 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea
  • Google Maps
  • Nearest Subway Station: Gangnam
  • Operating Hours: 11:30AM-10PM, daily
  • What to Order: Grilled king beef ribs
  • Expect to Pay: Around $33-$38 per person

빈대떡 (Bindae-tteok: Mung bean pancake)

Video

호떡 (Hotteok: Korean Sweet Pancakes)

Hottoek is a Korean-styled pancake. One of the most popular Korean street snacks, it is made from a simple flour batter and filled with sweet syrup made from cinnamon, brown sugar, and peanuts. It’s a great snack when you’re between meals.

Video

팥빙수 (Patbingsu: Shaved Ice with Sweet Rea Beans)

Pat Bingsu – Bingsu with red beans

Video

화전 (Hwajeon: Pan-fried Sweet Rice Cakes with Flower Petals)

Video

찐빵 (Jjinppang: Fluffy steamed buns filled with sweet red beans)

Video

경단 (Gyeongdan: Sweet Rice Balls)

Video

황남빵 (Hwangnambbang: Hwangnam Bread)

Red beans are mixed with eggs and wheat dough by hand, then this artisan bread is shaped and baked without any artificial sweeteners or preservatives, keeping only the sweetness of its original natural ingredients.

Video

호두과자 (Hodu-gwaja: Walnut Cookies)

Hodu means walnut in Korean and they are cookies filled with red bean paste and walnuts.

허니 브래드 (Honey Bread)

Thick bread is divided into nine parts filled with whipped cream and then topped with honey, caramel syrup, and cinnamon powder. Its original name was Honey Butter Bread.

계란빵 (Gyeran-ppang: Egg Bread)

has a shape of rounded rectangle and contains whole egg inside of a bread. They are often sold by street vendors.

꽈배기 (Kkwabaegi: Twisted Korean Doughnuts)

It is made with glutinous rice flour and melted butter. The dough is deep-fried in oil and tossed in sugar and cinnamon powder. Like most fried breads, it tastes better when it’s hot. You can enjoy the original taste of twisted bread by eating when it just comes out of the oil, or by heating them up. 

뚱카롱 (Ddungcaron: Fat Macaron)

Rice Punch 식혜 (Korean Sweet Rice Drink)

Songpyeon half-moon rice cake (송편)

The fillings for these rice cakes vary, but the most common are sweetened sesame seeds and mung beans.

Video

Chapssaltteok (Korean style mochi)

Filled with sweet red beans

Korean dalgona coffee

Pat-sirutteok 팥시루떡 (Layered rice cake with red beans)

율란 Yul-lan – Chestnut cookies

무지개떡 Mujigae-tteok (Rainbow rice cake)

불고기 Beef Bulgogi

Thinly sliced or shredded beef marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, scallions, and black pepper, cooked on a grill (sometimes at the table). Bulgogi literally means “fire meat.” Variations include pork (dwaeji bulgogi, 돼지불고기), chicken (dak bulgogi 닭불고기), or squid (ojingeo bulgogi, 오징어불고기).

Galbi (갈비) – pork or beef ribs

Cooked on a metal plate over charcoal in the centre of the table. The meat is sliced thicker than bulgogi. It is often called “Korean barbecue” along with bulgogi, and can be seasoned or unseasoned.

Dak galbi (닭갈비)

Stir-fry marinated diced chicken in a gochujang-based sauce, and sliced cabbage, sweet potato, scallions, onions and tteok.

Dubujeon (두부전)

Steamed tofu mixed with ground beef and vegetables.

Bungeoppang (붕어빵; “carp-bread”)

is the Korean name for the Japanese fish-shaped pastry Taiyaki that is usually filled with sweet red bean paste and then baked in a fish-shaped mold. It is very chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Gukwa-ppang (국화빵)

is almost the same as bungeoppang, but it is shaped like a flower.

Places Not in Seoul

As a bonus, here are a few places in Korea outside of Seoul.

Lotte Waterpark

Make a Video Tour Using Google Earth Pro

I just came back from Istanbul and wanted to make a video using my new Insta360 ONE X2 360 degree camera. To make viewers feel like they’re joining me on the trip, I wanted to include video clips showing movement from one place to another. This was easy to do using Google Earth Pro on desktop. Here’s are some examples.

In the video below, there are 4 “places”

  • San Francisco (zoomed in)
  • San Francisco (zoomed out to space)
  • Istanbul (zoomed out to space)
  • Istanbul (zoomed in)

Here’s how to make the video.

Add “Places”

To add a place, you can search for the place using the Search field. Then, zoom in or out to your desired elevation. When you like the view of the place, click the “Add Placemark” button to add a yellow pin to the place. If you want the place label to appear in the map, check the checkbox beside the place name.

If you right click on a place under “My Places” and click on “Properties”, you can rename the place, change the camera elevation (range), etc.

Record a Tour

When you’re doing adding places, click the Record a Tour button in the toolbar.

This will open a record.

Click on the first place (San Francisco) and then click the red Record button. Then, click on each place in the order you want them to appear in the video. Google Earth 3D will animate from one place to another as you are recording in real time. When you are done, click the Record button again to stop recording. You’ll then see a video player control bar.

Click the Play button to play the video. If you are happy with it, click the floppy disk (seriously, Google?) button to save the video. It will add a video item to the list of places.

Export the Video

To export the video, click Tools > Movie Maker. If it is grayed out, close the video player control bar.

Specify a file path and name, choose video parameters (e.g. 1080p), and an output file type (e.g. H.264), and then click the “Create Movie” button.

Convert Video

The video will be exported but you may not be able to open it in certain applications like Corel VideoStudio even though it opens in VLC. To fix this, install Handbrake and convert the video to MP4 format.

Other Examples

You can make videos from other angles and elevations as well. For example, if you hold the Shift key and drag, you can rotate your view. Then, add a place marker at the view you want to save. Google Earth Pro will animation smoothly from each place marker. For example, here’s a video going from the Sulemaniye mosque to the Grand Bazaar.

3-Day Istanbul Itinerary

After visiting Istanbul (aka Kebab Heaven) for 8 days, I think I’ve come up with an itinerary for anyone who only has 3 days there.

Note: check open / close times as not everything is open every day 24 hours a day.

Recommended Hotel

Mercure Istanbul Sirkeci
Hobyar, Muhzirbaşı Sk. No6, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

This hotel is in the perfect location as it’s in the middle of most places you’ll want to visit and there are a ton of restaurants and tourist services nearby.

Junior Suite

Day 1

9:00 AM – Breakfast

Have breakfast at the hotel and/or eat at one of the many nearby restaurants. My favorite breakfast which most people would like is Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs) which you eat with bread.

Breakfast at the hotel
Menemen

10:00 AM – Baklava

If you have time, stop by and get some Baklava. One famous place which you’ll find all over Istanbul is Hafiz Mustafa just around the corner from the hotel.

Hafiz Mustafa
Hoca Paşa, Muradiye Cd. No:51, 34080 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Open 24 hours
http://www.hafizmustafa.com/
Google Map

WARNING: this place gets packed full of people.

11:00 AM – BIG BUS Tour

Since you’ll be new in Istanbul, it’s helpful to go on a quick tour to get an idea of where everything is and what the city is like. The BIG BUS will also cross the bridge connecting Europe to Asia. If you’re staying at the Mercure hotel, then catch the bus at 11:00 AM at Eminonu which is just 10 minutes away by foot.

Note: in the screenshot below, Google Maps says you need to walk across the bridge and back and that the walk would take 27 minutes. That’s incorrect. You don’t need to cross the bridge and the walking time is more like 10 minutes.

Note: The first stop is at Sultanahmet Square and the 2nd stop is at Eminonu (near the hotel). Most people will get on at Sultanahmet Square and sit on the upper deck. By the time the bus gets to stop #2 (Eminonu), most likely the upper deck will be full. You can wait until someone goes down (usually at Dolmabahce Palace) and then move to the upper deck. Or, get on the bus at the starting point (Sultanahmet Square).

https://www.bigbustours.com/en/istanbul/classic-istanbul-tour-ticket
1 Day: $56 per person
2 Days: $67 per person
3 Days: $75 per person
Red Route:
First Tour: 11:00 from Stop #20: Sultanahmet Square
Last Tour: 17:00 from Stop #20: Sultanahmet Square
Full Circuit Time: 2 hours (approx.)
Bus Frequency: every 60 minutes (approx.)
Bus Stops

Stop #2 is Eminonu

1:00 PM – Get Off at Sultanahmet Square

Sultanahmet Square is between the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia. The Aya Sophia is next to the Topkapi Palace. Get off the bus here so you can visit all 3 places at once.

1:15 PM – Grilled Corn on the Cob

The Blue Mosque is closed to visitors during prayer times. Whether that’s the case or not, pick up some grilled corn and have a snack at Sultanahmet Square.

1:30 PM – The Blue Mosque

Walk over to the Blue Mosque and check out this building which was built in 1616.

Note: there is often construction going on so some or all parts may be inaccessible.

2:30 PM – Aya Sophia

Check out this building which was built in 537 as a church. It later became at mosque and then a museum and then a mosque again in 2020.

3:30 PM – Topkapi Palace

This is a palace. Personally, I didn’t care for it much but for the sake of completeness, we checked it out anyway. Some of the rooms were interestingly decorated as were some of the ancient items on display.

5:30 PM – Dinner

When you leave Topkapi Palace, there is a nearby restaurant you can have dinner at. I haven’t eaten there yet but the food looks good and the place looks exotic.

The Han Restaurant
Cankurtaran, Alemdar Cd. No:20, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Try the Testi Kebap which is made in a clay pot or the Meter-long Kebap

Testi Kebap
Meter-long Kebap

8:00 PM – Shisha and Sahlep

Right in front of the Mercure hotel is a cafe. Stop by for shisha and sahlep before calling it a day.

Day 2

9:00 AM – Breakfast

If you can, try to find a place that has Katmer, a pistachio pastry. It’s really good but hard to find.

11:00 AM – Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı)

Walk 10 minutes to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. It’s a very photogenic place.

Mısır Çarşısı
Rüstem Paşa, Erzak Ambarı Sok. No:92, 34116 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
https://www.misircarsisi.org.tr/

If you are still hungry, try Tantuni (chicken or beef sandwich or roll) located just outside the bazaar.

or, try Pide with eggs nearby.

Mavi Halic Pidecisi
Sarıdemir, Kutucular Cd. No:28, 34134 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday: 8 AM to 6:30 PM
Google Map
Order kıymalı yumurtalı pide

Egyptian Spice Bazaar to Mavi Halic Pidecisi

12:30 PM – Go to Sulemaniye Mosque

You can take a taxi but traffic may be so bad that you end up walking part of the way. If you walk from the Egyptian market to the Sulemaniye Mosque, you’ll be walking through an ancient market for part of the way but you’ll also be walking uphill which can be tiring.

1:30 PM – Visit Sulemaniye Mosque

Check out this building which was built in 1558.

2:30 PM – Walk to the Grand Bazaar

From the Sulemaniye Mosque, you can just walk to the Grand Bazaar as the walk is either on level ground or downhill. For half the way, you’ll be again walking through a VERY busy, ancient-looking market.

3:00 PM – The Grand Bazaar

Check out this labyrinth of colorful covered markets built in 1481.

Grand Bazaar
Kapalı Çarşı
Beyazıt, Kalpakçılar Cd. No:22, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
https://www.kapalicarsi.com.tr/

Since you’ll have walked a bit, take a break in the bazaar for some Turkish coffee.

7:00 PM – Whirling Dervishes Show

The Hodjapasha Cultural Center is located near the Mercure hotel (5 minute walk). If you’re curious, you can watch a whirling dervishes show where Sufi Muslims spin around without getting dizzy.

Note: I watched this because I was curious but I was also bored and fell asleep. Watch at your own risk.

8:30 PM – Rhythm of the Dance Show

This show is also at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center. This show was very much worth watching.

9:30 PM – Dinner

Since the recommended restaurants below are next door to the Hodjapasha Cultural Center, you can have dinner before or after the shows. One place that gets many good reviews and that I personally liked is

Şehzade Cağ Kebap
Open every day 11AM–10PM except Sundays
Hoca Paşa, Hoca Paşa Sk. No:6 D:4, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Though tasty, it’s not very filling. At $3.50, consider it an appetizer and then go next door to fill you up with something like Iskendar Kebap or mixed grill, e.g.

Kasap Osman
Hoca Paşa, Hoca Paşa Sk. No:22, 34110, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Iskendar Kebap

Day 3

9:00 AM – Breakfast

For a change, walk 4 minutes from the Mercure hotel to this restaurant.

Birben Restaurant
Walk (4 minutes) from hotel
Hoybar Mahallesi, Eminönü, Arpacılar Cd. No:13, 34112 Fatih, Turkey
https://www.birbenrestaurant.com/index-eng.html
Open everyday 8AM to 12 AM
Google Map

The place is clean and they offer a wide variety of food. Try the Lahmacun.

Lahmacun

10:30 AM – Dolmabahce Palace

Take a taxi to the Dolmabahce Palace (12 minutes).

Dolmabahce Palace
https://www.millisaraylar.gov.tr/en/palaces/dolmabahce-palace
9 AM to 6 PM
$18
Must buy tickets at Dolmabahce Palace

This palace was built in 1843. I personally liked it more than the Topkapi Palace. Unfortunately, they no longer let you take pictures inside.

1:00 PM – Taksim Square / Istiklal Cadessi

Next, taxi on over to Taksim Square and walk down Istiklal Cadessi.

Google Map

1:00 PM – Lunch

Near Taksim Square, on Istiklal Cadessi, have lunch at Sütiş Kebap Dünyası (Kabab World).

Note: Don’t eat too much because there’s another place you have to try nearby.

Sütiş Kebap Dünyası
Katip Mustafa Çelebi, İstiklal Cd. No:13, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

I had the Iskendar Kebap and Domatesli (Tomato) Kebap and both were very good.

Iskendar Kebap
Domatesli Kebap

2:00 PM – Walk Along Istiklal Cadessi

This street is closed to vehicles except for trams that run along its length.

2:15 PM – Lunch (Part 2)

I know you just had lunch but this second lunch is light if you eat it without the bread. The place is right off of Istiklal Cadessi.

Lades Menemen
Katip Mustafa Çelebi, Mahallesi, Sadri Alışık Sk. 11/12 11/12 11 D:12, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
http://lades.com.tr/
Open everyday 7AM–11PM
Google Map
Order Menemen with Turkish Sausage or mixed Menemen

2:45 PM – (Turkish) Coffee Break

Continue walking along Istiklal Cadessi and stop by this cafe for some Turkish coffee.

Mandabatmaz
Asmalı Mescit, Olivya Gç. 1/A, 34430 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
https://www.mandabatmaz.com.tr/
Open everyday 9AM–12AM
Google Map

3:30 PM – Galata Tower

Continue walking along Istiklal Cadessi until you reach the Galata Tower (built in 1348).

5:00 PM – Galata Bridge

Continue walking along the main path until you get to the Galata bridge. Walk across the bridge to the other side.

6:00 PM – Bosphorus Tour

Near the government ferry terminal you’ll see a Bosphorus Tour boat. Pay 25 Turkish Lira for the 90 minute tour. Boats leave every hour on the hour.

8:00 PM – Dinner

Walk across the Galata bridge then to the right where you’ll see a bunch of waterfront restaurants. Pick one where you can dine on the top floor with a nice view, e.g.

Paradise Restaurant Karaköy
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Rıhtım Cd. 25/A, 34425 Karaköy Beyoğlu/Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

9:30 PM – Baklava

Continue walking a short distance to

Karaköy Güllüoğlu
Kemankeş Cad. Katlı Otopark Altı No: 3-4, 34425 Beyoğlu, Turkey
Open every day 7 AM to 1 AM
Google Map

Have some baklava and Turkish tea. Then, buy a lot of baklava to bring home.

More Food

If you have time, here is some more food to try.

Dönerci Şahin Usta
Mollafenari, Kılıçcılar Sk. No:5, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday 11 am to 5 pm except Sundays
Google Map

Ayla Tantuni Asmalımescit
Tomtom, İstiklal Cd., 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday 24 hours
Google Map

Dürümzade
Hüseyinağa, Kamer Hatun Cd. 26/A, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday 10AM–1AM
Google Map

Van Kahvaltı Evi
Kılıçali Paşa, Defterdar Ykş. 52/A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Open everyday: 8 AM to 5 PM
Google Map
Order Gozleme

Bereket Döner
Hacı Kadın, Tavanlı Çeşme Sk. No:2, 34134 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
https://www.bereketdoner.com.tr/restoranlar Everyday 10AM–10PM
Google Map
Order Doner kabab

Tarihi Leziz Pide Fırını
Demirtaş Mahallesi, Kuvel Oğlu Han, Kıble Çeşme Caddesi, Fatih, İstanbul (Near Sulaimaniye Mosque)
Instagram
M-F: 10 AM – 7 PM
Sat, Sun: Closed
Google Map
Order Pide

Karadeniz Döner Asım Usta
Sinanpaşa, Mumcu Bakkal Sokağı No:6, 34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map
Open everyday 10:30 AM to 6 PM except Sundays
Order Doner kabab

Köfteci Hüseyin 1958
Şehit Muhtar, Mahallesi, Kurabiye Sk. 9/A, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
https://www.instagram.com/kofteci.huseyin1958/
Open everyday 11:30AM–8PM except Sundays
Google Map
Order Kofte

Şeyhmuz Kebap Salonu
Mollafenari, Atik Alipaşa Medresesi Sokak 4/A, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Dürümcü Raif Usta
Mollafenari, Küçük Yıldızhan Sk. No:6, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Gul Ebru Kantin
Beyazıt, 34126 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Google Map

Doner with charcoal fire

FIXED: Google Fi: International Mobile Data Enabled But Not Working

If you’re on Google Fi and landed in a another country and turned off Airplane mode and you get no data, try the following (with wifi off so you don’t get confused).

Open the Google Fi App

The app should welcome you to the country you have just landed in. However, it may also say “You’re offline”.

Update Settings

Go to Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network >

  • Ensure “Mobile data” is enabled
  • Ensure “Roaming” is enabled
  • Click “Advanced” and disable “Automatically select network”. You will then see a list of local cellular networks. Some may be G, 3G and LTE. Pick one that works, preferably a faster one.

At this point, you should be able to connect to the internet on your phone.

Tips for Visiting Istanbul

Here’s a custom Google Map with markers of interesting places to visit in Istanbul.

Food

Baklava

Karaköy Güllüoğlu
Karaköy, Rıhtım Cad. Katlı Otopark Altı No: 3-4 Istanbul / Turkey T: +90 212 293 09 10 Google Maps

Carrot Shaped Baklava with Ice Cream

Iskendar Kabab

Sırevi
Alemdar, 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey Google Maps

Beef Pide

Guvenc Konyali

Ankara Cad, Hocapaşa Hamamı Sk. No: 4, 34110 Fatih, Turkey Google Maps

Tours

Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque Walking Tour

Grand Bazaar Walking Tour

Galata Bridge – Karakoy Walking Tour

Istiklal Cadessi Walking Tour

Süleymaniye Mosque to Spice Market Walking Tour

Tips for Visiting Orlando, Florida Theme Parks

Weather

  • The summer weather in Orlando appears to be unpredictable with possible hot and sunny mornings followed by torrential thunderstorms in the afternoon.
  • Bring a heavy duty poncho
  • It can rain heavily for 15 to 30 minutes then completely stop at which time activities and attractions will resume. It may be worth it to wait out the rain.

Hotel

  • Extended Stay America on Universal Blvd
    • Location is great next to the heart of the tourist area
    • The rooms are spacious with a king size bed, kitchenette with full-size fridge, sofa and dining table.
    • The bathroom lights are an ugly bright daylight white
    • Bring your own dish sponge
    • Laundry is available on site at a cost of $2.00 per wash and $2.00 per dry
    • wi-fi is weak. You can pay extra for fast wi-fi or just use your phone as a hot spot.
Continue reading Tips for Visiting Orlando, Florida Theme Parks

Create a Custom Google Map with Placemarkers

When traveling, it’s super handy to be able to see a map of just the places you want to visit. This can easily be done with Google Maps. In addition, with Google Maps you can zoom in and out and get directions to each place of interest. Here’s how to create a custom Google Map with your choice of places.

1. Go to maps.google.com and log in
2. Click the hamburger menu icon and then “Your Places”
3. Click the “Maps” tab
3. At the bottom, click “Create Map”
4. In the search bar, enter the name or address of a place then click the search button.
5. Google Maps will place a balloon on the map where the place it along with a description box.
6. In the description box, click “Add to map”

7. Repeat steps 4-6 adding as many locations as you’d like
8. To make it easier to see the location, change the color and details of the base map.

9. To share or embed a map, click the hamburger menu icon and then “Share or embed map”

If you want to make your location markers stand out more, you can change their color and icon, e.g. from default blue to red.

To show routes, click the “Add directions button and then add an address for each location.

Or, click on the Draw a Line button and choose “Add driving route”.

You can then drag the blue route line to follow the paths or roads you want.

To add a picture to each location, click the camera icon. You can upload or add one or more pictures by URL from Google Images.

Simple Trip Planner with Google Docs and Sheets

There are many tools that can help you plan a trip. Sometimes I’d even use Google Calendar. But when I want something that includes additional information such as a table of expenses, links to websites, and pictures, then I use Google Docs with an embedded Google Sheet.

The workflow goes like this:

  1. Create a new Google Doc (or clone the example below)
    In the Google Doc, I use tables to create a 2-column layout with times on the left and details on the right. This makes it easy to read and looks more like an itinerary or agenda view.
  2. Uncheck Print Layout
    If you’re like me, you probably don’t print on paper much anymore. And why would you, when you can just save a copy or view the original version of a doc on your various devices (phone, laptop, etc). Print layout is intended for print so you’ll see gaps between each sheet. This is annoying when you want to just see all of your content as you scroll without any large gaps. To eliminate these gaps, in the View menu, uncheck the “Print Layout” menu item.
  3. Add content
    When it comes to content, I find it helpful to add the following bits of information  
    1. Screenshots of Google Maps showing travel time and path
    2. Links to directions in Google Maps
    3. Photos of destinations, activities, and food
      Google Docs lets you paste images from the clipboard so you can simply take screenshots of pictures on your computer and paste them right into Google Docs
    4. Special notes about each activity
    5. etc
  4. Create a Google Sheet (or clone the example below)
    I use the Google Sheet to list all expenses and easily calculate the total using the sum function.
  5. Embed Google Sheet into Google Doc
    The nice thing about Google Docs and Sheets is you can embed a Google Sheet into your Google Doc and have it updated when you update the Google Sheet. In Google Sheets, you’ll have to hover over the embed and click the “Update” button. Nevertheless, it’s still super useful and may even auto-update if you want long enough, e.g. 5 minutes? To embed a table of costs from Google Sheets, select the table in Google Sheets and then paste it where you want it embedded in your Google Doc.
  6. Publish
    If you want to share your trip plan with others, you can share the Google Doc itself. Or, better yet, since who you share it with won’t need to edit anything, you can publish your Google Doc as a web page so your recipients can just see a clean, simple view of the trip plan.

Below is a hypothetical example.

Links above are viewable only, not editable. You can make a copy and edit your own copy.