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My Big Fat Group of friends and kids goes to Greece (Athens, Santorini, Crete)

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Jul 21st, 2018, 04:26 PM
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My Big Fat Group of friends and kids goes to Greece (Athens, Santorini, Crete)

Hi everybody! A gigantic group of us went to Greece June 16th through June 24th (and our family of four went to London for 2 days after that). We were 25 people in all – 15 adults and 10 kids (ranging from 18 months to 10 years)…. So yes, quite a lot of us J There were single travelers, couples with no kids, families with no kids/1 kid/2 kids. So quite an eclectic bunch with eclectic interests – history, archaeology, sailing, beaches, foodies, wine enthusiasts, family-friendly stuff, etc. We went to Athens (2 nights), Santorini (3 nights), Crete (4 nights). Thank you so much to all the Fodorites for helping me plan out this trip! I wanted to come back and post this trip report so that it can be helpful to families travelling with kids or people travelling in a large group (or people like us that fall in both categories and are nuts to travel this way - haha). We had an amazing time, thanks so much everyone for your help!

When I write trip reports, they are usually very long with lots of detail. But then again, the last time I wrote a trip report, I did not have two young kids, a crazy summer kids activity schedule, a very busy work schedule, etc. So, this time, I am going to first provide the details that I think will be most helpful to folks. And will try my best to come back with and a more detailed trip report J

Planning:
  • Planning threads
  • We had one guide book – Lonely Planet (I forget if it was Greece or Santorini/Crete). It came in handy a few times for background/history of the places we were visiting. But I personally did not use it a lot to plan the trip
  • I looked at several Forums threads and trip reports
  • Since this was such a large group, we formed a “planning committee”. There was 4 of us doing the planning. We create a WhatsApp group and discussed/brainstormed/coordinated every week (or every day as we got closer)
  • We also had a WhatsApp group for all the 15 adults but honestly, people understood that if this operated as true democracy, no decisions would get made while we planned the trip. So, they gave all authority/autonomy to the planning group and the 4 of us would make decisions for all. This group was mainly used to coordinate flight details and of course, create excitement of the upcoming trip and participate in aforementioned excitement
  • There was another “committee” of moms that were responsible for brainstorming supplies for the kids (toys/arts/crafts/painkillers). Then they distributed it amongst themselves so that not every mom had to bring everything and we could save space.
Accommodations:

Athens https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20346889
Because we were in Athens for barely 1.5 days, I knew that we would want to stay very close to the Acropolis and knew that we would pay a price for it. We ended up staying here, it was lovely! In Athens, it was just our family of four that stayed here. I never got a handle on what exactly the neighborhood is called. AirBnb says its “Athina” but I am not sure. Amway, the neighborhood is fabulous. You can read more in my AirBnb review: “The best part about this flat is the location. It’s AMAZING! Right next to Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, lots of restaurants/bars/cafes. We were in Athens for just 2 nights so needed something walkable to these sights and amenities so it was perfect for us! Julia is very resourceful. I had arranged a pickup cab from Welcome Athens but the day we were leaving, they cancelled our cab due to an Athens taxi strike. I messaged Julia on our way to the airport and within an hour she had arranged a pickup transfer for us, thanks Julia! The only thing I would say to be careful is if you are light sleeper, it might be hard to sleep at night because you can hear the motorbikes whizzing by. Maybe because it was a Friday night. Put on some white noise on your phone and you should be fine. This was a small price to pay for me for the amazing location of this place, but something you might want to think about if you are a light sleeper. The apartment itself is clean and cozy with air conditioning, hot water and all the basic amenities. Beds were comfy. Thanks Julia for an amazing stay!”

Santorini https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/14158415

Overall: By Santorini, most families had joined and we were now 23 of us. Being such a large group, our most critical requirement was a place big enough to fit all of us but still divided up somehow so each family (or group of families had a little bit of privacy – obviously a lot of privacy is not to be had when travelling in such a big group. But some place to go be by yourself if you needed). We ended up staying here. There were about 5 villas in the compound which they rented to us and they gave us 3 more single person rooms. They had an awesome swimming pool, great service (we got poolside service and also breakfast every day). There were quite a few issues with hot water. I somehow got the impression this might have to do with the “volcanic cave homes”. Anyhow it was well worth the tradeoff given the cool atmosphere/ambience/look and feel of the homes. Have never stayed in anything so unique. Each home was very spacious so the kids had a blast organizing sleepovers at each home every day.

Host: The host (Stefania) and her team made us feel very welcome and took care of all our needs and requests. They even drove us to Fira one day and back for a special Ladies Only Birthday lunch for one of our friends.

Location: The villas are in Messaria. It was scenic, remote and not really in the middle of all the “action”. So, if you are looking for something like a hideaway away from the tourist spots but still manageable to get to things, its perfect. We enjoyed quite a few relaxed, scenic, quiet walks in the neighborhood on the cobblestone streets and colorful walls. We saw a couple of houses with chicken coops too. We had rented a bus to transport us to various places on the island so it was not very important for us to be bang in the middle of tourist attractions. There were quite a few local tavernas and supermarkets at a 10-15 minute walk from the house.

Crete:
· https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8046428
· https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8029626
· https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/8045591

Overall: We stayed in Skouloufia this complex of 3 houses in Crete. The houses themselves were quite nice, contempory and clean. No problems with hot water and air conditioning. Each house had its own swimming pool which was great and the kids spent a lot of time in the swimming pools.

Host: Our host and owner were responsive with lots of local tips. He helped us arrange sailing, massage and daily Chef services which were useful for the large families with kids.

The one thing that was weird was that the owner ended up charging us 200 Euros because one of the kids was playing with some pool toys and the paper/labelling from the toys went inside the pool motor and messed it up. Because we divided the cost amongst so many of us, it was not too bad. But that did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose he has to cover his costs of maintenance and repair but it just seems like a HUGE amount of money to repair something that is probably used all the time and it seems like labor cost would be pretty low in the town of Skouloufia.

Location: The location was not that convenient. Skouloufia is about 18 from Rethymno. As some of you remember, I had some concerns about staying in Rethymno as most places seem over an hour’s drive away one way (we had rental cars). In the end, these concerns were validated. We did quite a lot of things in Rethymno which did not take us long to get to - Melidoni Caves, Arcadi Monastery, Rethymno City, Limni beach. But we ended up doing many things far away and spending a lot of time on the road driving to and back from Chania (1 hour 15 minutes one way) , Heraklion (1 hour 15 minutes one way) , Elafanissi Beach (I stopped keeping track…. easily 2 hours one way) and one brave person even went all the way to Samaria Gorge. When we were planning the trip, I had thought it would be better to stay in Chania and after visiting Chania and all its quaint, lovely streets in Old Town, this would have been a good plan.

However, Rethymno provided us the kind of space we were looking for given the size of our group for a very reasonable price (in fact, the owner gave us an extra night completely free even though nobody used it). I think we would have paid much more in Chania and spent much less time driving. I had suspected this from the beginning. However, when you travel in a large group you often need to go with the flow. I am happy that I did

Also, some folks in our group actually enjoyed that it was a true rural experience, quiet and away from the crowds.

Oh my, this was supposed to be a concise list of recommendations! Will try to be brief as I keep going!

Meals:

Athens:
  • Mani Mani (the sign on the restaurant says Manh Manh) – A Fodorite had recommended it here and its very well rated on TripAdvisor and won some TA awards. I was wary of a very touristy experience, but actually it was great. Cute ambience, GREAT food! Very popular though, so make a reservation or go for lunch (which is what we did. Very empty, so it was great). The food here is so good that my older daughter (who is a VERY picky eater) finished an entire adult size entrée of ravioli. Believe me, this has never happened in the 9 years that she has been on planet earth (well other than the time she finished an entire medium size margherita pizza in Granada. So, I guess she likes the food in Europe J )
  • Cactus 7 – Sister restaurant of Mani Mani. Went there for dinner and sat outside. Low key, pretty chill, good food and wine. They were VERY flexible with us and offered us many choices for the kids that were not on the menu. The patio is quite beautiful, serene and green.
  • The Yard – Nice, casual restaurant in the line of restaurants/cafes by Acropolis. They have a very neat “ceiling” in the outdoor area – it is made entirely of trees whose branches they have bent to make an arch. Quite cool. Service was very nice and friendly, food was pretty good.
Santorini:
  • Μεζεδοπωλείο Το Παραδοσιακό I don’t know what the name is in English (something “Traditional”) but here is the link to it https://m.facebook.com/mezedopoleiot...edium=referral The food here is AMAZING. Everything we ordered was very good and seemed to be quite authentic. It was recommended by our AirBnb host
  • Mango – this was a nice place on Black Sand Beach. Food was decent, sea food was great, and they were able to seat our very large group comfortably.
  • There is a very nice area in Fira (by the main church with wonderful views). There are many restaurants in this area, so I would highly recommend hanging out at one and enjoying the view. I forget the name of the place but we went to a very nice restaurant with outdoor seating in Fira with a wonderful view of the sea, the white houses, etc. – the postcard Santorini view you see in the all the pictures.
  • Jaipur Palace – We ordered takeout from here because folks were really craving Indian food. If you like REALLY spicy/hot Indian food, this place is good. Caution, it is spicy/hot (I’m Indian/American and have grown up eating spicy/hot food my entire life and my mouth was on fire). But I’m recommending it because majority of the people in our group LOVED it. My husband said it is one of the best Indian food he has eaten in his life (he again has grown up eating Indian food, so there).
Crete:
  • Peskesi in Heraklion- Wonderful food, friendly and nice service, awesome ambience. There is an entire tree they have incorporated into the internal environment. Plus, lots of cool touches like the base of our table had an antique looking sewing machine footpedal on one side J
  • Curry Park Indian – Only got the samosas here for our group (again, some people were really craving Indian), and these were pretty good
  • Daily Private Chef for breakfast – We hired a private chef for breakfast through the AirBnb host and it worked out to be alright. It was about $34 per person and he made a couple of hot items + custom eggs + fresh orange juice, coffee and served a variety of meats, cheeses, etc. Some items were amazing (like Bugatsa…I still dream about it). Overall, it was expensive but I think worth it because nobody had to worry about cooking and cleaning up afterwards for a large group and we were able to get up and be on our way for the day pretty quickly
  • Dinner at villa – One night, we hired the same private chef for dinner and it did not turn out great. It worked out to be about 60 Euros per person (plus the cost of wine). The food was alright, would not recommend doing this
I need to stop here to take a break. Coming up next – Transportation/Getting Around, Popular hits with Kids, General Thoughts on Greece

If you have any questions in the meantime, do let me know! Thanks for reading!

Last edited by Manisha; Jul 21st, 2018 at 05:26 PM.
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Jul 21st, 2018, 05:47 PM
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Great detail on the accommodations and restaurants - what an ambitious trip, following along on your adventures!
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Jul 21st, 2018, 07:07 PM
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I'm glad to see your report because I followed your planning threads. What an undertaking. Nice to read this!
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Jul 22nd, 2018, 06:58 AM
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The area of your accommodation is Athens is Koukaki, the most popular neighbourhood on AirBnB, which increased prices for locals buying or renting
an apartment tremendously...
Speaking of noise, i see on the photos of the balcony that the street is just off Syngrou Avenue, one of the busiest roads of downtown Athens.

The Athens apartment looks great, but i must confess i have never seen an apartment in Athens or generally in Greece without curtains

Mani Mani is a great choice and a restaurant very popular with Athenians, which in my opinion has a lot to say. Mani is the name of a peninsula in the Peloponnese with great local food, which they offer at Mani Mani too. MANH is the name written with capital letters in Greek, to be pronounced Mani...

Regarding the damage of the pool motor in Skouloufia, 200 Euros sounds reasonable to me, as someone from Rethymno would have to come to fix it.... and calling a technician in Greece never costs less than 50 Euros just for simple things.

Looking forward to read more
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Jul 22nd, 2018, 02:01 PM
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I am enjoying your report. We took 16 to Rome and so it is bringing back memories of how we put it all together.
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Jul 25th, 2018, 11:46 PM
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Really enjoying the report also. Clever planning to divide the necessities between the families so that everyone did not end up bringing the same items. Could be a good idea not just for groups with children but for any groups of adults too (thinking of books, medical supplies etc). Greece is my favourite destination and I am interested to hear how you got on. Your place in Messaria looks great.
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Aug 9th, 2018, 11:24 AM
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Hi folks:

Sorry for the slow going on this Trip Report. I unfortunately had to make an emergency trip to India because my dad passed away. He had been fighting cancer since February of this year and though he put up a brave and strong fight, he passed a couple of weeks ago. He loved to travel and travel, especially with his kids. So I am going to continue this trip report in honor of him.

Things to do with kids:
I will preface this section by saying that there were 10 kids on this trip (ranging from 1.5 years to 10 years). So I think that skews my perspective a bit in that, because the kids had so much company, they were probably more engaged in some things that in normal circumstances, other kids that are on their own might find boring. But here we go.

Acropolis Museum, Athens :
  • My 9 year old LOVED this place. She is really into Greek mythology so she had a field day with all of this. I think most kids would love this museum because its quite well designed (Glass floor to see the ruins is very cool).
  • I would reco you do museum first and then do the Acropolis. There is a video on the 3rd floor about the Acropolis which really sets the stage for the kids for what they are about to see next.
  • My 3 year old was okay for about an hour. Not surprising, she got bored after this. But the escalators were a welcome distraction (she went up and down about 25 times). Plus there is a giant 100,000 lego Acropolis model here. Very very cool. Cafe with amazing view kept her entertained for a bit too (well, the amazing view kept the parents entertained. She was entertained by the yummy drinks and snacks).

Acropolis, Athens
  • Big hit with both the kids. Older one loved it for history and architectural aspect. Younger one loved being able to run around. My older one is a HUGE FAN of audio tour guides, but I had read online that there are none available here. I was a bit concerned that we would not be able to enjoy the ruins without any context. But it was alright and the video at the Acropolis Museum helped set some of this context. So definitely reco going to museum first. Another good reason to go to museum first is to beat the heat. We did the museum from about 3ish to 5ish. Then headed to Acropolis after. Perfect time to go. Not too crowded, not too hot and brilliant pink light from the sunset.
  • I wanted to get a tour guide but in the end, glad we did not as it would have been tough to manage with my 3 year old.
  • They do not allow strollers which I completely understand. But something for you to be aware of.

Melidoni Caves, Crete
  • Kids enjoyed this quite a bit
Akrotiri Ruins, Santorini
  • I cannot explain why but my 9 year old who is usually a big history nerd was not into this place. She loved Acropolis Museum but not this. She was with her parents at the Acropolis but at Akrotiri, the other kids in the group had joined us so maybe it was "not cool" to be into history. Who knows? But she did not get it. Most kids were bored, unfortunately. There was one 5 year old boy who was really into it. I think the parents here really need to step in and provide context because the plaques here are hard to follow.

Myli Gorge, Crete
  • The kids really loved this. My daughter loved that there were "ruins that we could actually step inside and touch". I think this was just someone's abandoned random shack/house. But I did not correct her understanding At the end of the hike, at the bottom of the gorge, there is a cafe/ice cream store which the kids loved. I believe there is also a beach. I am not so sure as I did not go on this excursion myself (the groups separated and I took the younger one to Limni beach)

Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Wine Museum, Santorini
  • Surprisingly, the kids really enjoyed themselves here. The wine tour in the basement is pretty cool. They have audio tour guides and also lots of visual displays. It is hard to describe but they have constructed all these scenes with motorized statues
  • At the end of the tour, the parents did the tasting at one table. And the kids enjoyed juices, some screen time and each other's company at another table
Swimming Pool, Beaches of course (Elafonissi, Black sand beach, Limni Beach )
  • As anybody with kids know, kids love the water. So yes, they really enjoyed the swimming pools and all the beaches we went to. Highly recommend Elafonissi for the kids. Not deep, kids can play around and be safe and no waves. My younger one who is only 3, especially LOVED this beach. The shallow end was basically like a wading pool for her and since there were no waves, she loved it.
Sailing in Crete (from Rethymno to Skalata Caves)

Boat ride in Santorini
  • We took the cable car down to the Thira port. We had not planned on it but someone from the group was able to find a charter boat for just our group (one of the few situations where it is good to travel with such a gigantic group). The kids really enjoyed this. They even offered to dock somewhere and take us on a volcanic walking tour, which am sure the kids would have loved but we were running short on time.

Chania Horse Carriage ride

Knossos Palace
  • Another surprising hit with my 3 year old. She loved being able to run around in the ruins.
Heraklion Museum

Cable car to Thira port
  • Kids enjoyed it but complained it was too short and over before you know it but we did not know of any other way to get down to the port. And its not like we were about to ask them to extend the cable ride just for the kids. So too bad, kids, is all I can say.

Gelato Gelato Gelato
  • Make sure to schedule in some time for planned and unplanned gelato breaks. A nice treat for the kids (and adults too, why not?)
Sorry this last part was kind of brief. As you can imagine, I'm not mentally in the best state to write this up. But I wanted to come back and finish this. If you have any questions whatsoever though, please feel free to reach out. Do not hesitate, I would be happy to help.

If I find time in the next few days, I'll come back and finish the last segment I had planned "General thoughts". If not, I hope you enjoyed this brief trip report and if you have any questions whatsoever, do ask! Thanks.
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Aug 10th, 2018, 11:57 AM
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Manisha, I am so sorry your father passed away. This is a wonderful trip report, and I am glad you got to take this trip with your family. These are memories the kids will always have.
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Aug 10th, 2018, 02:59 PM
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I am so sorry that your father passed away. My father passed away in the past year as well, and also passed on his love of travel to me (and travel planning!) I think you are doing a great honor to his memory by traveling with your own children and passing your insights on to others.

I really appreciate the notes on what the kids liked and didn't like - it was very helpful!

Wishing you much peace.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 09:39 AM
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Thanks for your kind words

Originally Posted by havetwinswilltravel View Post
I am so sorry that your father passed away. My father passed away in the past year as well, and also passed on his love of travel to me (and travel planning!) I think you are doing a great honor to his memory by traveling with your own children and passing your insights on to others.

I really appreciate the notes on what the kids liked and didn't like - it was very helpful!

Wishing you much peace.
Hi @havetwinswilltravel. Thank you for your kind words. Sorry about your father. Hope you are able to share his love of travel (and travel planning) for a long time. Take care.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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Thanks @5alive. Appreciate your kind words.
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