I’ve been home from my trip for a few days, long enough for the act of tossing toilet paper into the bowl, instead of the bin, to begin feeling normal again. While I’m still mentally on a beach with a spritz within arm’s reach, I’m feeling pretty fortunate to have enjoyed a vacation that went beyond my deepest hopes and to have returned home without suffering my usual west-to-east jet lag.
The best consolation (other than being once again near to those whom I love) is I’ve still got 6 weeks of vacation left to play. Yeah!
My experiences in Greece, collected over my two visits in the past three years, have taught me a few things about traveling in what has become one of my favorite destinations. Since I’ve already been hit up a few times from friends seeking information about getting around Greece, where to stay and what to do, I thought I’d offer up my best suggestions here in the hopes that my experiences will help you to fully appreciate this beautiful country.
If you don’t want the added expense of an international calling plan, it is possible to travel relying exclusively upon wifi without too much of a challenge. Set yourself up with a WhatsApp account and you’ll be able to make phone calls and receive texts when you have wifi access at zero cost. On this trip I discovered that buses on the mainland, unlike those on Paros, did not offer wifi access. However, when the bus stopped to pick up/let off passengers at larger bus terminals, I could grab a signal for a couple of moments which gave me a chance to message my hosts with my eta, which was super helpful.
Book your ferries as soon as you have your itinerary in place, if you’re planning to visit multiple islands. I’m talking before you finalize your accommodations. I understand that many people are comfortable with simply winging it, assuming that there are plenty of ferries, but I know someone who recently got burned and was left scrambling to find the means to reach the islands where her Airbnbs were booked.
Invest an hour of time, prior to departing for your trip, to download the apps for your airline, hotel or other accommodation, and for navigating around your destination. For the latter, I use Maps.me and have been very happy with its ability to provide step-by-step walking directions without an internet connection. If you have an iPhone, place boarding passes, confirmation of bookings and other digital documents in your “wallet” for ease of locating.
In these difficult times for traveling, I strongly suggest you do your best to not check luggage. I’m a bit of a clothes horse and can still manage with just a thoughtfully packed carry on bag. For this 2.5 week trip I went with 3 cotton dresses, 2 skirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 swimsuits, 1 long sleeved linen shirt, 3 tank tops, 2 t-shirts, 1 skort and assorted underwear and socks. Sandals, beach shoes and sneakers rounded out my wardrobe. The main reason my packing was so successful was that each of the places I stayed had a washing machine available. If you’re more inclined to hotels rather than apartments, most places have laundromats that offer wash/dry/fold services. It’s vacation – treat yourself.
Do your best to stay a minimum of two nights in each of your destinations. It’s no fun to constantly be on the move, in my opinion. I’m completely over the concept of “doing” a location as if it’s an endurance contest, much preferring to settle in and slow down. There’s zero appeal, to me, in coming home exhausted.
If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of organizing your own trip, ask for help. When I planned my first visit to Greece in 2019, I created a profile on Fodor’s and posted my questions about different islands, ferries and other aspects of traveling to a country that can be intimidating to the unexperienced. Since that time, I’ve frequently revisited that site for specific information about the best way to get from point A to point B and have always received good intel.
My most basic advice is to familiarize yourself with what a locality has to offer and, perhaps, reserve or book experiences you absolutely do not want to miss. Our recent trip, over the course of 17 days, included a winery visit, a food tour and an organized visit to the Acropolis. Period. Other than that, our philosophy was “possibilities, not plans,” and it served us well. On Paros, I knew that I wanted to walk down the Byzantine Road from Lefkes to Paso Livadi, but we didn’t plan when to actually day to accomplish. Instead, we waited for a day when the weather made the hike comfortable with some clouds and a good breeze.
As for meals, we didn’t make reservations in advance, other than one same day call to a place we wanted to try mostly for the view. When I’m on vacation, I like my days and nights to be unstructured and am generally unwilling to organize my time around an obligation. Every area of Greece I’ve visited offers an array of tavernas, restaurants and cafes and, almost without exception, the meals we had were well prepared and delicious. I’m not a breakfast out person, and was perfectly happy to pick up fruit, yogurt and cheese to have on hand for my morning meal, augmented with fresh pastry from one of the excellent neighborhood bakeries which seemed to be everywhere. Don’t overthink it.
I can’t say enough about Greece and how much I’ve fallen in love with it. If you’re looking to visit a place with history, incredible beauty, friendly people and terrific food, I imagine you’d feel the same way. Seriously, I can’t wait to go back.