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Planning your Trip to Greece
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from the Airport to Athens
(or to the Ferries)
to The Greek Islands
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to Fly to Greece?
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Helpful Tips for
planning Your Trip to Greece
1. When to make reservations
for your trip to Greece- The best time to book flights is
between Oct/Nov and through the first 4 months of the year. This
will give you the best fares, and the widest choice of available
flights. As we move closer to the summer fares get higher and higher
as the sale fares sell out. Sometimes an airline company will come
out with a sale in the Spring or Late Spring, but that is only if
people are not traveling and they need to move some tickets. Even
this year with very few people purchasing tickets to Greece, the
flights in late August are sold out on the direct flights with Delta
and Olympic and most of the lower fares are not available on the
other airlines......Keep in mind that in August most of Europe is
on Vacation(which means the flights back to the US that connect
through a European city will sell out as Europeans head home....and
the Greek Americans have purchased their tickets back to the US
long before August because they know how hard it is to get the flights!)
2. Order of purchasing Airline Tickets, Cruises, Tour Packages,
Hotel Rooms and Car Rental.
When planning your trip, it is best to coordinate all the different
aspects of the trip. Ideally we would book everything and when everything
looks right, then purchase everything. Unfortunately, there are
often delays in making bookings and limits to how long you can hold
a reservation.....The following is a general guide, but may not
accurately reflect your situation.
a. Cruises and Land
Packages(fixed dates)- if you have a limited amount of time
and plan on taking a cruise or a land tour package with fixed dates,
the first step is to find out which dates are available. Once you
have the dates set for the Cruise/Land package then choose the dates
you want to fly to and from Greece. Make the reservations for the
flights, and then purchase both the Flights and Cruise/Land Package.....
if you book your cruise and then find out that you can't get flights
on the dates you want to travel(or at the lower fare because they
are sold out), you will have to pay more and your vacation will
end up costing more than the minimum we would all like to pay.
A similar problem would occur if you purchase your airline tickets
and then find out that the cruise is sold out(completely or at the
lower fare). If you have to change your flights that can run $175
or more and sometimes, the lower fares do not allow changes.
b. Airline Tickets
and Car Rentals and Hotels- Again if you can plan everything
together and purchase together that is the best way to do it, but
with most discount airline tickets only being held for 48-72 hours
that doesn't leave you a lot of time to arrange the rest of your
trip. If you can't work on everything together, then the most important
thing is to book the flights and get a good fare for them. Finding
hotels and car rentals is much easier than flights...... I would
book the flights and then work on your hotel and car rentals.....
3. Lowest Airline
Fares- The travel seasons are broken up into Low, Shoulder
and High. The cost of your ticket is based on the Season and the
day of week(As a general rule M-T-W are weekdays and Th-F-Sat-Sun
are weekends). In General terms the seasons are as follows(Keep
in mind that airlines may have slightly different dates)
around X-mas which is SHOULDER
Sept 1- Oct 31
The difference of
fares between Peak and Shoulder can be $200-$400 or more and the
difference between Shoulder and Low can be another $200-400 or more.
If you can travel in Early June or Early September you will save
a lot of money.
4. When is the best
time to travel to Greece- The best time to travel if you
want to take advantage of low fares, weather and not be overrun
by tourists would be to depart late May-Early June(so you get shoulder
fares on your flights) or early September. August is probably the
worst time to travel, it's absolutely packed with tourists, hotels
are at their most expensive peak and the weather can be extremely
5. Domestic Transportation-
Often I get requests for Greek domestic flights and it looks
like the passengers are tyring to amass as many miles in as short
of a period as possible by criss-crossing over Greece. If there
are certain places you want to vist, look at a map and see where
they are in relation to each other. If there are direct flights
between the locations, then flying won't be a major inconvenience(as
long as there are flights available on the dates you want to travel),
but all flights don't fly to and from all cities. Think of Athens
as a hub, so in most cases you will have to fly into Athens and
then out to your next location which can take up 5-10 hours in travel(to
and from airports, waiting in the airport and actual travel time).
There are direct flights between Crete-Rhodes, Rhodes-Santorini,
Santorini-Mykonos, Thessaloniki-Lesvos, but most other flights will
go through Athens. As a rule of thumb each Greek domestic
flights runs about $75-100 including taxes. Flights through Athens
to another destination would count as two flights. Take note,
that if you are planning to fly to Athens on a doemstic flight that
will connect with an international flight, it's a good idea to spend
at least one day in Athens as Olympic flights have been known to
run late which could cause you to miss your connection out of Athens-in
which case you may have a hard time getting one of the airlines
to take responsibility for you missing your flight.
The ferries are a
convenient and very inexpensive way to travel to the islands from
Athens(Pireaus) and between them. There are the ferries, The Flying
Dolphins and The Catamarines...... The second two are up to twice
as fast as the conventional ferries. The schedules allow access
to many islands, but you will have to find someone who can book
the tickets for you. The commissions are very low, so most travel
agents don't want to mess with them. On the other hand, it is usually
pretty easy to get on the ferries without a ticket, although it
gets riskier in August when tourism is in full swing.
On the mainland you
can travel by bus, train or rent a car. The buses and trains are
inexpensive and can be a cultural experience that will allow you
to be closer to a "real" Greek in a situation more natural
than when you are in the more touristy locations. Renting a car
is a little more expensive, but the flexibility of going where and
when you want is worth the extra cost. If you have 2-4 people splitting
the rental fees, it's a great deal. If you're staying in Athens,
I don't recommend a car as it's a pain to park and driving in Athens
can be a harrowing experience for the uninitiated. Once outside
of Athens driving is relatively easy and straightforward with many
of the signs in English or International Symbols. You will need
an International Drivers License which you can get from AAA.
5. How many places?-
I often get requests from people who want to see 3-4 islands
in 10 days. To me that seems like a lot of traveling and I prefer
a more relaxing itinerary for two reasons. First of all there is
less packing, unpacking and traveling to and from places and more
importantly, if your face is recognized locally you will get better
treatment and it's easier to befriend locals. Personally
I think 4-5 days would be the minimum you would want to spend anywhere.
On most islands you can use the town you are in as a base and then
take daily trips to other parts of the island, coming home at night.
Generally speaking, the groups of islands(Cyclades, Dedocanese etc..)
have similar architecture and feels to them. It's not necessary
to see each of the islands, one or two will give you a good feel.
One convenient itinerary
would be to move through the Cyclades by starting off in Santorini
by flying there and then working your way back to Athens by ferry.
Some people say that you need to take the ferry to Santorini because
the approach is so spectacular(in which case you can take to the
ferries TO Santorini and then fly back to Athens). Keep in mind
that it is never really a good idea to fly into Athens on the date
you are departing on your international flight. Olympic's flights
can be late and missing your flight might become a real inconvenience,
so it's best to spend a day in Athens on the return(unless you are
flying out on Olympic in which case they will take responsibility
if your Olympic Domestic flight is delayed).
confirm your flights 72 hours prior to departure as well as any
flights that have more than 72 hours between them.
Well, that's a quick guide which will hopefully help you avoid some
pitfalls when planning your trip....