Ever since I watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 when it first came out in 2008, going on an adventure to Greece has been on my bucket list. I've wanted to see the blue domes of Santorini, the towering columns of Acropolis, and the sandy beaches of Mykonos in person. This year, I saved up enough money to get myself there to take an unforgettable vacation. I did my best to make traveling to Greece for less than $1,500 a possibility — and I succeeded.
I'm not going to lie: Planning the trip was not the easiest. I did a lot of research, spent many nights making notes, copying and pasting links into my notes, and crunching numbers to make sure the trip would work out. This is the first time I've planned a trip of this magnitude — two weeks across four cities — so I definitely had a few things to learn along the way. I had to learn how to balance experiences versus my budget, how to weigh the pros and cons of hotels, Airbnbs, flights, and ferries, and much more.
But with just a week until I leave for the vacation of my dreams, all of my planning is done and I'm ready to soak up the sunshine in Greece. If you're planning to visit Greece anytime soon, consider using these tips to help plan your trip.
1. I'm Traveling With A Friend
While I love traveling solo, not only does traveling with a friend ensure I'm never feeling lonely, but it also helps alleviate the cost of travel — especially for accommodations. I'm going to Greece with my best friend from college, so we're really comfortable with each other and don't mind sharing a bed if we need to. (Some cheaper Airbnbs and hotel rooms only have one king-sized bed.)
We're spending one night in Milos at a quaint Airbnb near the port that normally goes for around $39 a night. Because we're splitting the cost, we only had to pay about $19.50 for that one night.
2. I Split Up My Flights Between Los Angeles, NYC, And Athens
Flights can end up being the most expensive part of traveling. A good family friend of mine travels home to Greece every year and recommended I try to fly on Emirates because it's the best flying experience she's had.
After looking into Emirates flights between Los Angeles (where I live) and Athens, I realized it would be extremely expensive to fly Emirates all the way from L.A. to Athens. (Cheaper flights between the two cities required me to have at least one layover.)
Instead, I booked round-trip tickets between Athens and NYC (about $700), and then round-trip tickets between L.A. and NYC (about $280). This allowed me to maximize my time — no long layovers — and kept the price relatively low.
Another crucial part of the flight booking process was to plan way out in advance. I booked my flights more than six months out to ensure the prices would still be relatively inexpensive. Even though I didn't have all of the plans for the trip set in stone yet, booking the flights that far out gave me a good guideline of when I would be arriving and when I'd be leaving.
3. I Chose To Travel At The End Of Vacation Season
According to one Greek travel agency, high season for many Greek islands is April through late October. The temperatures are still great during September and October, which fall at the end of vacation season. Compared to prices from earlier in the season, I ended up being able to snag accommodations, ferries, and flights for a bit cheaper.
4. I'm Doing A Ton Of Research So I Don't Need To Book Tours
Another part of traveling that can often be pretty expensive is tours and attractions. So instead of booking tours, I've been steadily doing research over the past six months or so to figure out which landmarks and attractions I definitely want to visit when I'm there.
I have a running shared note with my friend that we update whenever we come across something on social media or through our research so we can keep each other in the loop of what we're thinking of doing, and we have a pretty detailed spreadsheet that outlines our itinerary for each day.
I set aside a small budget for entry fees and attractions, and fortunately, we're visiting Athens during European Heritage Days, so entry to the archaeological sites like the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Erechtheion is free.
5. I Weighed The Price Differences Between Ferries And Flights
As you can probably tell, planning a trip this massive for this cheap took a lot of research, which meant comparing different rates to see what worked best in my budget. I took a look at different types of accommodations, as well as ferries versus flights (between Greek cities and islands) to figure out which ones would make the most sense and also help maximize the amount of time I'm spending there.
I found that, in some cases, ferries were cheaper than flights, and some flights were cheaper than ferries. For example, it was much cheaper to ferry on and off Milos (from Athens and to Santorini), but it was cheaper to fly to Mykonos and out of Santorini.
6. I'm Staying In Accommodations That Are Centrally Located
One tip I always tell people that's essential for saving money on trips is to book accommodations in a spot that's centrally-located. The gorgeous Airbnb I'm staying at in Athens is in the Kolonaki quarter, which is known for being a super trendy, upscale part of Athens, easily within walking distance of cute restaurants and shops.
In Athens, I'm also spending a night at the Grand Hyatt, which is located on Syngrou Avenue pretty much at the center of both the old and new attractions of the city. Being situated in such a central location will allow me to walk around and save money on public transportation and taxis.
7. I'm Planning On Cooking Food As Much As Possible
While I love Greek food and want to eat as much local cuisine as I can while I'm there, I'm also aware of the fact that eating out for every meal will start to add up. I've set aside a budget of €150 (around $165) for meals eaten out, but I'm hoping I can use the kitchenettes in my Airbnbs to make food whenever I can.
Especially on days when I know I'll be out exploring, I don't mind packing a sandwich or something light to keep me going throughout the day until I sit down for dinner that night.