Planning the trip of a lifetime: Greek Islands!!!

8:32 PM


After months and months of deciding where to go on vacation in 2013, we decided on the number one trip on our bucket list: Greece.  Why Greece? Why not!!!!! It is a beautiful and big country with many things to do and places to see.

Granted, is a little expensive more than other destinations in Europe but after many hours of research and finding the right way to visit it, it is not that bad after all in terms of money. Key word here is research… We bought the Frommers’ Greek Islands book, read it all and started looking at many different options on how to explore the country and how much each option would cost and set up a budget for our dream vacation.

We decided to go to Greece at the end of their first low season (March, April, May). Why? Because it is cheaper, not as crowded as in summer (June, July August) and not that cold as in their fall and winter, when actually most of the restaurants, bars and attractions tend to close.

Our first option was taking a Mediterranean cruise. We looked at Royal Caribbean, Costa, Norwegian and many more. We opted for Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line company (http://www.pullmantur.es/portada.html). Of all of the cruises, they offered the best prices per person (on an ocean view stateroom) and one of the best itineraries. Even though the price included gratuities and even wine and beer and the staff spoke Spanish, we decided not to take it after all. It was a 7-night cruise leaving from Athens and going to Marmaris, Istanbul and Ephesus in Turkey and then Mykonos and Santorini. The times at the Greek Islands were not perfect and we really wanted to see the sunset in both of them and immerse ourselves in the island lives. With the cruise, Pullmantur or others, we couldn’t.

So we decided to tour Athens and the islands on our own. But, what if with the crisis in Greece and the strikes, our ferries and flights were canceled and we got stranded in one of the ports??? That was the tricky question.

On the Frommer’s book we read that to be safe, one should contact a travel agency in Greece that could make all the arrangements (hotels, transportation, etc) since they would alert us on any cancelations and they will make other plans if we lost a flight or a ferry due to the strikes. And so, we started to look for the best travel agency in Greece that we could fine and that could offer us the best deal.

After a lot of research, including multiple visits to the wonderful Matt Barrett website, www.greektravel.com, we decided to contact the Athens-based agency Fantasy Travel (http://www.fantasytravelofgreece.com). They are a fantastic travel agency that answers the most insignificant questions to the relevant ones and in a very prompt way, even with the time difference.
Our contact at the agency, Eleni, was very helpful and she recommended the best days, hotels and airfare package that matched our budget and our likes (culture, beach, romance and relaxation). The package includes hotels in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, all transports from airport to hotel, hotel to airport and/or ports, breakfasts in all hotels and a half day tour of Athens.

Eleni was able to give us restaurant recommendations and even things to do while in every city. Her help has been key to developing our itinerary and knowing that she and the agency will be there in case something happens with our flights or ferries, it is a great relieve.

We can write much more about the things that we are going to see and do in Greece but this blog post will be extra long. And of course we will do a few posts after our trip, so keep visiting our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to get photos and check-ins of our vacation.

Here are some quick tips for you to use when planning your trip to Greece or any other destinations:

  • Research, research, research! Read books, check websites, blogs and reviews to get current information
  • Do a realistic budget
  • Decide the season you want to go and check what places are open or closed
  • Contact a local travel agency and make arrangements with them (hotel, transportation, in-country flights)
  • Book at least one guided tour - our package with Fantasy Travel with Greece includes a half day tour of Athens
  • Ask for restaurants, bars and stores that the locals – not tourists – go so you can immerse yourself in the culture and the people
  • If you are a planner like us, do an itinerary based on location so you can visit attractions, shops and restaurants that are near of each other so you don’t waste time traveling from place to place or money in taxis and subways
  • Bring at least $500 in cash and exchange at a bank or airport… or even at the hotel. Be aware of exchange rates and compare which ones are the best
  • In Athens, ATMs provide good exchange rates so be sure of taking money already in Euros from the ATMs.
  • Have fun and be safe of your surroundings

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