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Greece in May 5 days or less

Old Mar 16th, 2010, 08:41 PM
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Greece in May 5 days or less

My husband and I hope to travel to Greece in May this year with our 2 college-aged sons. Traveling out of Boston, business constraints are limiting the trip to departure on either Thurs or Fri and must be back in Boston and ready to work the following Thursday. We are shooting for 5/20-5/26 but if 5/28-6/2 makes more sense that's our backup week. This will probably be the only time we ever go. We are big into history and top rated museums and have no interest in visiting pretty beaches and towns. Because of the time constraints I am looking for suggestions on how to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time. One forum mentioned "holy spirit" weekend a great heads up what/how should I plan to work around it. I guess I am looking for something similar to the Disney Tour guide where it spells out how and in what order to take advantage of the most and best in Disney in "X" days where there are details on which days and times it is best to try to accomplish something. What are your top 5 "absolute you must see ..." suggestions. So far the information has been for people with more time than we will have. We are going to try to do as much as possible with combined loyalty points from Amer AA, Hilton, Mariott and Amex. I know I am running short on time and booking flights is going to be the biggest hurdle, any suggestions or information will be a big help -- thanks
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 10:01 PM
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First, do you have a good guide book? Frommer is reliable and if Rick Steves has a Greece book, his is good for seeing a lot in a short amount of time.

If you're planning to fly on AA points/Aadvantage miles, etc., there is a good connection into London Heathrow on AA and on to Athens via BA which is a partner airline. When we went, we had to purchase our tickets and buying a separate ticket Heathrow-Athens-Heathrow on BA worked out cheaper for us, but if you're on points, AA can book you through to Athens.

Assuming you will spend at least two days in Athens, minimum I think but adequate, you could take the airport express bus to Syntagma Square and book a hotel within walking distance. I don't know the locations of the Hilton, Mariott, etc, and if you can get rooms there on points, then the cab fare is trivial. We liked Hotel Cypria, moderately priced, near Syntagma Sq., and most sites are walkable from that hotel. Going back to the airport, the express bus leaves regularly and frequently from the same dropoff point. (Trip takes 45 minutes - 1 hour, depending on traffic)

If I were you, I'd bus back to the airport, pick up a rental car(try www.autoeurope.com unless you have points at Hertz, Avis or other) and drive to other historical sites that interest you, returning the car to the airport on or before your departure day. You won't have time to scratch the surface of all there is to see, so I would choose a few sites that are driveable within your time frame. I defer to the Greece experts on this forum to help you construct an itinerary.

I do recommend, however, that you not try to begin a driving trip on your first day in Greece. Spend the first 2 or 3 days in one place, Athens I think is logical, getting over jetlag while seeing local sights.

I think you'll get some great advice from other Fodorites. Good luck!
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 10:12 PM
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Thanks for the quick response and giving me some ideas. There are a number of guide books, but have been told updates are being released in April so have put off buying till then which is too late to book flights that is why I was relying on Fodorites to suggest.

My biggest concern is whether the holiday weekend I read in a response last night is going to limit what we can do or is it better to be there to participate. (We once drove to Canada on a whim only to find it was a holiday and everything closed except a few eateries) Is May the end of the off season and if I wait and go Memorial Day weekend into the first days of June will the trip use more points and be more expensive because the "season" has started.
Again - Thanks.
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 11:52 PM
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Whit Monday, or Holy Spirit Monday, is May 24 and, according to Frommer, all banks, government offices, most stores, some restaurants and some museums are closed, as they will be on the previous Sunday. With your time so limited, you might want to plan to begin your trip on May 28th to avoid the possibility of "losing" the 24th because of closings. Have you contacted your "points people" to ask about rates being higher beginning in June? I think they are the only ones who can tell you that. I know in choosing a flight date for our Europe vacation in early June, air fares varied widely and weirdly between the last week in May and the second week in June. Our June 7 flight was actually cheaper than one we looked at for May 26. Go figure. As I said, call your people and get answers.

As for waiting for April updates to the guide books, the basic information you need will be found in the existing books except for perhaps a few changes in museum opening times (you can verify times when you get there), or a newly opened restaurant (there are plenty of existing ones to choose from), etc. If you don't want to buy a book, just take notes from one at your library or local book store.

For starters on an itinerary:
May 28 Depart USA
May 29 Arrive Athens mid-late afternoon
Get settled at hotel (but don't nap)
Eat a nice dinner
Walk around, see monuments lighted at night
Early to bed - you'll be exhausted
May 30 Tour Acropolis, museums of choice (see guidebooks)
Athens hotel
May 31 To airport for rental car. Drive to Olympia, see
where the Olympic games started. Drive to Delphi
Arrive late afternoon/early evening
Hotel in Delphi
June 1 Explore Delphi
Drive to Athens airport - Arrive late afternoon
Turn in rental car
Hotel at Athens airport
June 2 Depart Athens for USA

This is doable, but hectic. You could spend an extra day in Athens since you expressed high interest in museums (and there are plenty of them in Athens) and skip either Delphi or Olympia. This would cut down on the amount of driving.

These are just suggestions. I would highly recommend you either buy or take copius notes from Frommer's Greece book. He highlights "best of" cities and areas, and has loads of tips and information. This could help you decide where you want to spend your time.

Keep us posted on what you decide and post back when you return.

K
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 12:42 PM
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Where are brotherleelove and travelerjan? This lady needs help!
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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In the absence of BLL & TJ who both give excellent advice, I will help with suggestions as I live in Greece! I spent some time with TJ last year showing her my local area!
With such a short timeframe I would either consider spending it all in Athens, with maybe a day trip to Aegina island if you only have 4 full days to play with. If you have the 5 full days you could do an overnight in Nafplion incorporating visits to some, or all of, Ancient Corinth, Epidavros, Mycenae, Nemea & Tyrins. The town of Nafplion itself has plenty to enjoy & explore too.
If possible I would opt for the dates after the holiday weekend, Nafplion will be very busy & well booked up for those dates.
In Athens it's best to choose a central hotel in the Plaka/Syntagma/Makrigianni area, if you supply info on your budget in Euros per night I & others can make recommendations. I have used about half a dozen of them myself in the last year, but for Nafplion hotels we will have to wait for TJ!
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 01:37 PM
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crckwc1 -- I just don't think I can live up to Disney Tour Guide. While one can probably encompass the "absolute best must-see" things at Disneyland or Disney World in a weekend, Greece started about 4,000 years earlier than Walt did, and there's just plain a lot MORE history, scenery, ruins, culture. I think you did a yeoman effort crck -- I couldn't do as well. It's trying to pour a gallon into a pint bottle.

If I were to alter it, I would only say --instead of wearing themselves out driving across the entire Peloponnese for Olympia and up into the Mountains for Delphi -- instead sign up for the 2 day "Argolid" tour with CHAT tours. You get to see Corinth Canal, Mycenae, then go to Nafplion, the most beautiful Old Town in All of Greece, on a peninsula in the Argos Bay. This gorgeous place, a World Heritage Site is History Central!! ... they can climb up Palamidi Fortress (or take a taxi up and climb DOWN, my preference), stroll the town (the Cultural INformation Office lends out a FREE audio guide); go to the stunning, recently renovated Archeological museum on the main square, swim in the tiny pebbly beach on the other side of the peninsula, get the sunset from the great cafes on the sea front. (NOTE: there's a choice of 1st class or tourist hotel; choose the tourist because the other is outside of town). The next AM, more of the same... then you go to Epidaurus -- amazing ancient site with an awesome 15,000 seat stadium! Most perfect acoustics in the world... then bus takes u back to athens. NOTE #2: Your athens hotels is used to this skip-a-night booking, people do it all the time;just be sure to tell them. Here's a slide-show by Fodorite Stanbr of highlight of all the above : http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/551991579dJbWvh

Of course, maybe you can't get this tour on points from Hilton or Amex, the way one can at Disney. On the other hand, this is not a California or Florida reimagination of History, this is the Real Thing.
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 03:45 PM
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I vote for either staying in Athens the whole time, and doing a day trip to Mycenae and Epidavros, or driving to the Peloponnese from Athens and staying in Nspflion for a couple of days to do these historical sites.
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 04:17 AM
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yiassas, we were posting at the same time ... glad that we basically agree on suggestions! I did recommend the 2-day tour approach, mainly because OP won't have the excellent local expert I was fortunate enough to have!
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 05:35 AM
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Well for what it is worth I think that there is lots to do in Athens. Jet lag can be a real nuisance after a transatlantic flight and even if only one person crashes due to fatigue the whole group is going to have their plans compromised. Thus I think it is better to stick to just one location, Athens.
While the bus tours are probably the way to go if Delphi and Olympia are must sees, I would suggest that any visitor can easily put in 4 days in Athens. Get the multi site pass that get you into all the main sites and spend time in each one really exploring. Enjoy the Plaka area, absorb the culture,sit at a taverna and people watch, find the central market and shop for food where the Athenians shop, visit the top museums plus the National gardens.
Here are our pictures of the Plaka area. They were taken over three trips and if you can get all of this done in the time frame you have, you will be doing well.
http://travel.webshots.com/album/570719132pdjjHG
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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TG the Greece experts showed up! With all their suggestions, I'm wanting to go back and see what all I missed. (lots!)
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 10:37 AM
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Folks this has been great. THANK YOU I didn't mean to insult when I wrote "Disney Tour." Athens is anything but. Just as I would tell someone short on time to skip the drive to Plymouth Rock and arrive early at the Statue of Liberty, I was just trying to describe that I needed "knowing real people"rather than a book to tell me how best to keeping moving with suggestions on what not to miss, where to go & when (day/time)to avoid delays to get the most out of the little time I had. I would love to have 2+ weeks, but consider myself blessed I am getting a week! crckwc1 thanks for the itinerary it gave me a base to work with. Travelerjan thanks for the slide show and for the CHAT suggestion, it sent me to their site which confirmed what is considered must see and the order in which to do it. Based on the helpful info, we are probably going to move the week closer to the end of the month. I am soooo glad I stumble on this site, all of you have been great. Feel free to continue with the suggestions since nothing is set in stone yet but will have to be soon. M
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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Glad we could be helpful! If you've got lots of energy, your family will get a good taste of Greece, and though you say this will probably be the only time you go, one never knows -- it can become an addiction -- for you AND your collegians. As a final note, who's Joe? Your "screen name" can be misread by a careless reader -- when I first glanced at I thought, whoopee! A Chippendale dancer is asking our advice!!
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 06:13 PM
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Joe is the son this trip is for. Unfortunately he does not have an once of dance capacity in his bones. When the kids were younger for one of our trips on points we flew into Paris drove around Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, Slovenia and Lichenstein. Joe swears THE best scrambled eggs he ever ate were from the Holiday Inn in Italy. In those days we were not constricted by the schedules of our own business, my husband worked in an industry that required time away from his desk so 10 day vacations were great!

Whether driving/flying to places across the USA, Canada or Europe, instead of buying useless souveniers, I had each child pick something with the name of the place on it that would be suitable to hang as a Christmas ornament and I would add the date. My youngest was only 4 when we made some of our London/Paris jaunts and probably would not remember the trip if it were not for his box of ornaments that brings back different memories. My oldest, now married, didn't start married life with a bunch of generic xmas decorations because he had his travel memory box and now my grandchildren can hear stories of their dad's childhood as the holiday season begins. I highly recommend the tradition
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Old Mar 19th, 2010, 08:07 PM
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What a lucky family ...
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Old Mar 20th, 2010, 07:24 AM
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From a Joe that can actually dance(although not a chippendale), I just want to say thanks. This forum gave me all I need to plan a 5 day trip for my wife and I. I do plan on coming back at least 2 more times as we have done already to France and Italy. Thanks Again.
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Old Mar 20th, 2010, 05:42 PM
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Joestrip -- Keep us posted!
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Old Apr 8th, 2010, 08:45 PM
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Finally have tickets (all 4 purchased on points) and hotel (also points) in hand. We leave 6-1 and return 6-12. Our trip expanded beyond the original for a variety of reasons, and it is actually becoming an unexpected reunion when 2 older children and grandchildren join us. I got my hands on an older travel book that says that people do not wear shorts even in the heat of the summer, which the boys are not too happy about is this still true? I can't thank all of you enough for your guidance will keep you posted.
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Old Apr 8th, 2010, 09:00 PM
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Well for the shorts issue. Tell the boys that the locals do not wear shorts but tourists are forgiven for many indiscretions including wearing shorts as long as they pay in cash.
We have been to Greece 7 times and I do not even bring long pants. Greece is about slowing down relaxing and having a good time. If the boys want to wear shorts then by all means go for it. Everybody knows you are tourists anyway so why not be comfortable.
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