Hello friends, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written! Thank you Global Pandemic..not 😩.
So what’s a travel blogger to do when one can’t travel? Why, revisit past trips of course! Honestly, I’m so thankful for this age of technology that not only brings the world to our fingertips but makes it so much easier to look back on past travels and adventures. This has seriously been sustaining me during these stressful and unprecedented times. So let’s talk Greece !
For this installment, I want to focus on how to plan your own personal Greek adventure. If you’ve been following me either here or on Instagram @tinitravelsblog then you’re most likely aware that I prefer to do all our travel planning rather than go through an agency or tour company. I do utilize tours but I prefer to book them directly.
So that being said..planning our Greece trip was my first time booking multiple modes of transportation in multiple locations. This can seem daunting, but I’m going to break it down step by step for you!
Step 1: Time & Budget
Determine your budget and length of your trip. Remember that when traveling abroad from the US you will typically arrive the following day. So a 7 day trip really gives you about 5 full days as you arrive on day 2 and most likely will lose day 7 as a full travel day on the return. We were able to plan for 10 nights in Greece, 11 nights away total. How many days you have will guide you in deciding how many locations you wish to visit. In general I prefer at least 2 or 3 nights in each spot. We really enjoy getting to know an area and immersing ourselves in the culture, rather than a quick see the sights and leave visit. That is our preference, but you can let your time, budget and travel style speak for you.
Step 2: Destinations
Choose your locations. For a 10 day trip, I stick with no more than 3 different locations to stay. You must take into consideration the travel time between destinations as well as getting settled in new accommodations. I don’t want to spend too much time getting to and from places, I’d much rather be exploring… or even relaxing. Though on some trips, Greece being one, the getting there can be part of the experience.
I do my research on locations through TripAdvisor and good old fashioned travel guide books such as the Eyewitness guides, Fodor’s, and Lonely Planet. I will typically purchase a pocket size travel guide to refer to while traveling.
I knew that I wanted to visit Athens and 2 of the Greek islands. Santorini had always been a dream destination of mine, so that was automatic. Choosing the next island took some research.
Many first timers to the islands automatically opt for Santorini and Mykonos. They are probably the most well known and most photographed of the islands.
After doing some reading, I realized that I really wanted our second island to have more of a contrast to the beautiful yet touristic Santorini. I wanted to see more of the local flavor . The island of Naxos seemed to offer everything I was looking for. Just about 1.5 hours by ferry from Santorini, with a charming Old Town Port area of tavernas, restaurants and shops, plenty of midrange accommodations and miles of sandy beaches.
Athens would be our third and final stay. Originally I planned to begin our trip there, as that’s where we would fly into and out of from the states. However, I realized I’d rather be there at least a day ahead of our return flight in case of any transportation issues etc… So it made more sense to start our adventure on Santorini, and end in Athens.
Step 3: Accomodations
Once you know where you’re going, you’ll need to figure out where to stay. Sometimes Step 2 & 3 are reversed…you may have your heart set on a specific hotel or resort so that will determine your destination.
Once again I will typically begin my search on TripAdvisor . I read reviews and check availability and pricing . Isn’t the internet amazing?? I do visit the hotel/ resort website and often book directly that way.
On Santorini we stayed at the incredible Filotera Suites in Oia known for its fabulous sunsets and beautiful pedestrian way. I would HIGHLY recommend this charming boutique hotel with cave style rooms directly overlooking the sea. Absolutely everything about our stay was perfection.
For the island of Naxos, I wanted a midrange smaller hotel within walking distance of restaurants and a beach. I foundBoutique Hotel Glaros on TripAdvisor and new immediately that it was perfect. Located an easy walk from the Ancient City and Port with all its varied eateries and shops, and situated overlooking St. George’s Beach, it ticked all my boxes. Decorated in crisp whites and modern lines, it was a nice contrast to our quaint old style cave room in Santorini. Our room was spacious with a sitting area and a lovely balcony overlooking the sea.
Two other reasons we chose Naxos were #1 it’s beautiful sandy beaches ( the beaches on Santorini are black volcanic rock..cool but not great for extended beach time) and #2 it’s proximity to Mykonos and Delos, making day trips possible! Hey I went all the way to the Greek Islands so I had to at least SEE Mykonos, even if I didn’t want to stay there, right?
Our last hotel stay was the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel. Again chosen mainly for it’s location of being within walking distance of the Acropolis and the Ancient Plaka district of shops and cafes. Unfortunately though technically in walking distance of those areas, the hotel is located on a very busy main road in the metro area of Athens.
This is the only accommodation that I can not recommend. The front desk staff were lovely, but the hotel itself was dark and dreary…even a bit musty. Our bathroom was not appealing at all…it was broken down and neglected..even dirty unfortunately. My advice on finding a better place to stay would be to expect to pay a bit more in metropolitan areas to get the type of accommodations you prefer. Also remember that reviews are completely subjective to the reviewer’s perspective. One person’s 5 star might be another’s 2 star experience..it all depends on what you’re used to and your expectations. Recently we’ve been utilizing Airbnb for city stays, especially if only for a couple of nights. My 3 C’s for accommodations are CONVENIENCE, COMFORT and COST 😉. I’m definitely willing to pay more for more comfort and convenience.
Step 4: Transportation
Now that you have your destinations and accommodations set or at least in mind, it’s time to plot how you will get there. I always start with flights. Many times when traveling abroad it will make sense to fly INTO one airport and OUT from another. Do your homework by looking up maps and utilizing the Travel Forums on TripAdvisor to search or ask itinerary questions.
For this trip we would be flying in and out of Athens. I use sites like Expedia to begin my search. You can compare all the airlines flights, times, fares in one place. Once I find the flights that I want, I will also check the individual airline website…sometimes there are advantages to booking directly through the airline, like if you are a member of their rewards or mileage club.
So now you have your flights all set, YAY!! This is when I get really excited lol. Next you need to plan your travel between each destination. Again, do your research….I learned we could take a ferry from Athens to Santorini but it takes close to 8 hours. After an overnight flight from the states that was not appealing.
The best option for us was to catch a flight that would get us there in under an hour! We used OlympicAir and found a very reasonable flight with timing that worked well. We arrived in Athens from the US at 9:15am on Delta. We booked an 11:45 am flight to Santorini and arrived in paradise at 12:35pm!
The rest of our transportation was by Ferry. Greece is well known for its efficient ferry system that provides transportation between the islands. The most popular is Blue Star Ferries which is who we chose.
Our ferry from Santorini to Naxos was approximately 2 hours and the price is currently around $25/ ticket. There are different price points depending on class of ticket, reserved seat etc. You can find all the info on the Blue Star Ferries website above.
Our next ferry would be from Naxos to Athens, again on Blue Star. This is a longer ride, approximately 5.5 hours. But the ferry itself is comfortable and an enjoyable experience with a food service and bar area. Again current prices can be found on the Blue Star website. We left Naxos at 9:30am and arrived in Athens at the Piraeus Port 3pm. Upon leaving the ferry there are numerous taxis available to take you to your accommodations.
This turned out longer than I anticipated so I will save the Things to Do in each location for another installment.
I hope this post helps you and gives you the confidence to book your own adventure. Whether it be Greece or anywhere else, the methods I use typically remain the same…sometimes the order of steps is different but the plotting follows the same general rules. As with all trip planning, flexibility is very helpful 😉. You may encounter obstacles that force you to make a change, but it’s all part of the adventure!
That being said..I pray we are safely off on new adventures soon!
Ciao for now my friends! ❤️