Travel Journal: Greece – The Itinerary

Travel Tuesday is back! Greece has been number one on my bucket list since I was 12 years old. Here’s how I crossed it off the list.

When I was younger, Greek food was my absolute fave (it’s still top 3). Almost every birthday was spent at the Greek restaurant in Savannah where, each year, the owner would share another anecdote that made me fall more and more in love with the culture. Then, when I was 12, my parents took a trip to Greece and their descriptions clinched it: I had to make a point to visit this place.

Special mani for the trip

You might ask, “If it was so high on the list, why not go there on your honeymoon?” Well, because Greece interested my beau, but it wasn’t a do-or-die situation like it was for me. We decided on Italy because (1) it was a top 3 destination on both our dream trip lists, (2) Italian is probably our favorite cuisine, and (3) with two weeks we could explore more varied areas/cultures and really make it the trip of a lifetime. And it was. I don’t think anything will ever top that trip…but of course I’m happy to spend my life trying!

So why Greece?

  • It still tops my bucket list, duh
  • Since we likely won’t be taking any more 16 day vacations like we did for the honeymoon, we wanted to pick a place that we could “conquer” in approximately one week. With Italy, for instance, we felt we needed more time to have the countryside, coast, and city experiences. Greece, however, wouldn’t be so complicated. Our ideal trip would include a short stop in Athens followed by islands islands islands. We thought we could get a good feel for it in 8 days.
  • We’ve begun thinking about when to grow our family. That meant no zika countries (sorry, Argentina). It also meant I wanted to plan a type of trip I’d be less inclined to do while pregnant or once we have kids. The wineries, intense hikes, beach parties, and bikini moments of a trip like this checked all those “kid-free” boxes. It may not be a last hoorah, but I’m treating it like it is!
  • You may remember that my beau and I never traveled together until after we were married. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about our “travel personalities” and wanted to apply those learnings to this trip. Albert likes to take in some culture but loves the opportunity to relax on the beach or by the pool. I think his favorite part of our honeymoon was the time spent on the Amalfi Coast, and I knew the Greek Islands would offer those same vibes. Greece has the food and activities I enjoy with the uber relaxing moments he craves. Since we used points for a lot of this trip, I made sure to only book hotels with pools – in some cases, private pools.

Now for the trip itself!

I did a ton of research to plan out the itinerary but tried to keep things flexible when it came to activities so we wouldn’t feel rushed. I’ll cover each of our 4 stops in forthcoming posts, but for now, here’s our overall itinerary and why:

  1. Athens (2 nights) – There’s so much history there that it was a “how could we not?!” sorta thing. That said, everything we heard told us we didn’t need a ton of time. We allocated less than a day and a half. Just enough time to see the main sights (Acropolis, Parthenon) and hit up some tavernas.
  2. Mykonos (2 nights) – I had heard Mykonos was an experience. The beach parties are legendary, and, honestly, I wanted to be a part of that scene before I was too old.
  3. Paros (1 night) – Rather than spending more time in Mykonos, we decided to squeeze in another island so we could see one more facet of the Greek lifestyle. I looked at both Paros and Naxos because of their locations between Mykonos and Santorini, the two places we knew we were traveling to. After seeing an article claiming it was “the next Santorini,” Paros was an easy decision.
  4. Santorini (3 nights) – This is the spot that’s been clogging up your Instagram feed, and I wanted in on that action. Santorini seemed luxurious and romantic. I knew I wanted to end our trip in this dreamy spot, and I knew I wanted to do it in style.

The Details:

  • The order of our trip was very intentional. I planned the trip to go from busiest to most relaxing. That way, we wouldn’t get back to NYC feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation. We started in Athens, the only major city on the trip, which we knew would be packed with people and sightseeing. Of all the islands, Mykonos is known as the “party island” so we chose that next, knowing we would have more chill time on the following two stops. As our last stop, I wanted Santorini to be extra relaxing and chose a hotel with a private cave pool suite.
  • I used a million different things for inspiration.
    • Instagram was great for finding gorgeous locations where I could capture photos.
    • Pinterest was good for photo ops too, as well as for discovering blogs of people who had planned similar vacations so I could do a deep dive.
    • The NY Times 36 Hours piece on Athens was great for helping me get a lay of the land and choosing neighborhoods to visit.
    • When it came to experts, Santorini Dave knew what was up. I used his guides to help me choose hotels and excursion companies.
    • After booking a photography sesh, the company (Flytographer) sent through some great recommendations. I ended up using one of their suggestions for a catamaran tour.
    • While I didn’t use Airbnb for any of our accommodations, they had some really great experiences listed.
  • I only pre-booked a few activities, and even the things I booked were pretty chill – we just didn’t want things to fill up. Other than ferries, all pre-planned things were in Santorini and included a winery tour, catamaran, and photographer. See what I mean? A catamaran ride may be pre-planned, but it’s a pretty relaxing activity.
  • For those activities I didn’t book in advance, I kept a list of things I thought could be cook to check out. This included highly recommended restaurants, a market in Athens, the windmills in Mykonos, a hike in Santorini, etc.
  • Travel deets:
    • The trip was 8 nights. We took a redeye on 8/29, arriving in the afternoon of Friday the 30th. That gave us time to settle into our hotel and leisurely explore the city before getting dinner. We still had a full day to hit up the touristy highlights. We took an early ferry to Mykonos so we could have 2 full days there. We did the same with Paros and Santorini. That way we truly felt we got a full 8 day trip.
    • You can easily fly NYC to Athens. For the return trip, we decided to fly from Santorini to a larger European city and then onto NYC. The ferry from Santorini to Athens is quite long and would not have saved us any money on the return flight. Flying the whole way cost the same and gave us a bit more time in lovely Santorini.
    • For island hopping, we took ferries. I pre-booked them on Ferryhopper, which was super simple. I hear the slower ones are more pleasant, but we just wanted to get everywhere as soon as possible so we could enjoy! Having Paros in between Mykonos and Santorini broke things up a bit.

Stay tuned for deep dives into each city over the next few weeks!