10 tips to enjoy a Greek vacation
When you travel abroad or even in the United States many times it is a learning experience. Recently we traveled to Greece the land of my ancestors. I had always wanted to visit Greece and this past Christmas my husband gifted me with a Greek vacation. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved it. There were, however, parts of this Greek vacation that were not as pleasant as I had hoped. I take that back, I expected some bumps, but I think we discovered there are other ways to do the same things with less of a bumpy road. So what follows are my suggestions for possibly a few less bumps. As the saying goes forewarned is forearmed.
1. Book it yourself. We opted to go with a travel agency. They booked our flights, our hotels, and our transportation from one island to another. This vacation was booked 6 months in advance. I think the next time I will choose to book my own flights, transportation, and hotels. When you book things that far in advance even as a private person you can get the most reasonable rates.
2. Check the airline. Our scheduled itinerary was to fly to London on British Airways, then after a short layover, fly to Greece. I hate to bash any airlines but the plane we were on was old. And I mean old. The seats were crammed as close as possible and since the travel agency booked the flight we had the worst seats on the plane. There were no windows in the same zip code and we were situated right by the bathroom.
3. Check the airline amenities. Our short layover turned into several hours (Not the airlines fault) and the second flight, which was 3 ½ hours didn’t even offer a soft drink. The flight attendants blocked the aisles with their credit card machines for people to pay for drinks or a light lunch for quite some time. No one could even walk down the aisles to visit the restroom. When they finally reached us, they were out of everything except some foul couscous lunch salad that after two bites we promptly tossed in the trash.
Arriving in Athens
4. Use local transportation when necessary. We finally, reached Athens. Our hotel was nice in the center of the city. We could see the Acropolis from the roof and as anyone who ever looked off into the distance from atop a building, it looked a lot closer than it really was. While it wouldn’t be considered walking distance to the Acropolis, we opted to walk. 8 miles, we walked, but it was totally worth the walk. For anyone who has issues walking, I suggest taking a bus or a taxi.
5. Steer clear of ferries if you have extra money. On the following day (we did lose a day with the flying) we were to board a ferry to the first of our island. The hotel was nice enough to provide us with a bagged lunch. The ferry has assigned airplane style seats? And, they were, of course, the worst seats on the boat.
4 ½ hours later we arrived in Mikonos. Mikonos was a beautiful island and our hotel was fantastic! The grounds were lovely with plants and flowers galore. The pool was relaxing with a bar right there for refreshments. The included breakfast was typical Greek fare and very good. Why such a wonderful hotel? Even a broken clock is right once a day. (Not exactly breakfast items but Greeks don’t usually eat breakfast, which you may read about in a previous post)
6. Book your own hotels. After our stay in Mikonos were continued on our way to Santorini. Yes, another ferry, that took several hours with the worst seats on the pretty empty boat! Now, the hotel in Santorini was the worst hotel on the trip. Actually, it was the worst hotel I have ever had the unpleasant opportunity to endure. There was no chair in the room, only a bed. The bathroom was so small that you had to hold the sink while you used the toilet. The shower was probably 2 foot by 2 foot and the shower curtain would stick to you when you showered. The water overflowed but they, fortunately, had a drain in the floor. Camping with Girl scouts, I’ve been in outhouses in the woods that were way nicer than this one. Wow that the travel agency would use that hotel! Greece is not known for its great breakfasts but this one with its stale bread, canned fruit and yogurt was by far the worst! Is there a positive? There has to be some positive right? It was close to the main drive in Santorini and the Wi-Fi worked better than all the other hotels!!!!
7. Skip the extra 4 hours to Oia unless you have a lot of extra time but be sure and visit Akrotiri. Santorini was beautiful as was Mikonos. We took a tour of the island, which was totally worth it. We paid the extra money to go to Oia to view the sunset, which I would suggest you forego. The extra 4 hours to not see a sunset due to cloud cover was exhausting and I think a sunset from any part of this island would be just as beautiful.
8. Officially I will never take another ferry I don’t care how much cheaper it is! So our time in Santorini came to an end. The time had come to, yes, board another ferry. This time we were to return to Athens where our flight would be leaving the next day. It was at least 12 hours by ferry and we didn’t arrive at our hotel till almost midnight. Worst seats on the boat, yet again. What did we learn from this? Time is money. Your time is worth money. Don’t take a ferry if at all possible, even if it costs a little more. A quick search and I discover some flights start at only $35 for a 35-minute flight one-way. Not too horrible when you consider the comfort and time. Again, seeing as everything is booked 6 months in advance, I can’t imagine if you did these bookings yourself it wouldn’t have been a lot better. You could choose your hotels, your flights and seats, and your tours.
9. Do it yourself. All in all, I loved Greece. I loved every part of Greece. Too bad I didn’t have the time to enjoy more of Greece. I hate to use another old saying but-- if you want something done right, do it yourself!
10. Pack some tissues and washcloths. I forgot to mention, no hotels where we stayed had tissues or washcloths. You may want to pack some!