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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)

Seasons of Travel


Nov 1-March 31 Except around X-mas which is SHOULDER


April 1-June 15
Sept 1- Oct 31


June 16-Aug 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 hot.

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).

Note….Remember to 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....

Helpful Links

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Fantasy Travel Of Greece

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