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Sicily/Tuscany and Greek Islands - what to cut?

Sicily/Tuscany and Greek Islands - what to cut?

Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 03:46 AM
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Sicily/Tuscany and Greek Islands - what to cut?

I am piecing together a trip for June and need to drop a location. We have about 30 days to travel and I feel like I'm trying to cram in too much, especially since we'll be traveling with young kids.

Current itinerary (with the order of the Greek islands still TBD):

Sicily (fly to Catania, one base for whole stay but not sure where yet) - 6 days

Tuscany - 6 days

Naxos - 5 days

Santorini - 2 days

Milos - 4 days

Chania - 6 days

Athens - 1 full day before flying home

(then the trick is getting back to Rome to fly to the US, because flying direct out of Athens is prohibitively expensive)

We are flying from the US and planning to start in Sicily on/near a beach to let our 3 year old and 6 year old recover, then do some exploring there. In general, we love the water, beaches, boating, exploring little villages, eating and drinking our way through them. I know Tuscany is not beach centric, but it's still very appealing to me with the villages and scenic aspects. We'd stay in a farmhouse with a pool. Especially with the kids, this trip will not be about history/churches/museums. We are not hikers.

I'm willing to drive around some from a base but do not intend to be on the go every day and want to walk to town/beach in some locations. I want to have enough time in most (but not all) of the places that I won't feel guilty about taking a day to just hang out at the pool (I'm trying to be realistic about not dragging the kids all over).

So what should I cut? Will we tire of Greece if we keep all these and cut something in Italy?Are Naxos and Milos too similar in the small island feel? Everyone seems to love Crete but I'm on the fence. It seems like the popular activity is hiking and the island feels very big for my taste. But it shows up on all the top kid friendly island lists. Should I cut something based on the transfers/effort to get there? Again, I'm also trying to limit the wear and tear on the kids.

Note my husband and I have been to Rome and Amalfi Coast. I went to Athens/Naxos/Santorini/Rhodes nearly 15 years ago but he has not. We travel a lot with the kids but this will be the first European trip with them. And yes, I know I should've booked this months ago, but for various reasons, that didn’t/won't happen.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
LM3682 is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 06:47 AM
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Well, I wouldn’t want to do your Greek itinerary, especially not in the order you list. You might be able to get a direct flight from somewhere in Italy to Santorini or Crete, but certainly not to Naxos, which has a small airport with only domestic flights from Athens.

Were it me I would choose Crete - Santorini - Naxos - Athens in that order, and spend at least three nights in Athens before going home. That itinerary has far better ferry connections than if you include Milos. If your children are old enough to appreciate history it would be a shame to miss the sights of Athens and surroundings.
Heimdall is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 09:34 AM
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If it were my trip (and its not!), I would skip Sicily on this trip -- it's an outlier geographically, and it really takes 2.5 to 3 weeks to see just the highlights of Sicily.

Heimdall has given you some great advice about your time in Greece.
kja is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 11:35 AM
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Or do Sicily, Puglia and then Greece
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 03:10 PM
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Italy or Greece. Sicily needs much more time as one base does not work there. Three bases are needed at a minimum. Tuscany needs more time too.
Antiparos is wonderful but maybe you’d want some time on Paros too.
Four days for Crete? We spent two weeks there on Western side, Chania, and barely scratched the surface. It is huge island.

HappyTrvlr is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 08:56 AM
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Skip Tuscany and go to Palermo instead. Leave Palermo Wednesday at 19.15 and fly directly to Santorini (ar 22.10).
Leave Santorini Saturday at 8.30 by catamaran and arrive at Milos at 10.35.
Leave Milos Thursday at 8.10 by catamaran to Naxos ar 10.30
Leave Naxos Tuesday at 14.55 by catamaran to Rethymnon ar 19.15, go on by bus dp 20.00 or 21.00 to Chania ar 21.00 resp 22.00.
At the end of your stay in Western Crete, take a overnight ferry from Chania dp 22.00 to Piraeus ar 6.30 and reach Athens by metro.
As a alternative, you may fly from Chania to Athens.
1 day is by far not enough for a somewant decent visit of Athens.
If you are not interested in Athens, you may leave Chania Wednesday at 9.25 by direct plane to Naples ar 10.40 and go on by alibus and train to Rome ar 13.20.
neckervd is offline  
Old Feb 24th, 2020, 12:54 AM
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I've been to all the places on your list and as far as what I enjoyed the most, I'd cut out Sicily and Milos. If you do decide to include Sicily, check out the Aeolian Islands, we loved Lipari. None of this travel was with kids and that makes a big difference. Too much moving around might be very tiring.

I haven't looked at the order of things, for the Greek islands, a lot depends on ferry routings. I guess you know some islands are grouped together for ferries? Also I think only one day in Athens before going home might be cutting it a bit fine if anything goes awry, like a ferry cancellation for example. Don't forget to factor in the travel time, it always seem to take longer than you think.

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Old Mar 4th, 2020, 09:47 AM
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Revised Itinerary

Thank you for all the input! I've revised my itinerary, cutting Italy entirely. I have a day or so to play with and I'm wondering whether to add it to Naxos or Paros. I'm having trouble finding lodging on/near St George beach in Naxos that I like, which makes me think I should put the extra day in Paros. Again, we have two little kids so even a 15 minute walk is probably too long to the beach. Wondering if I should change my location on Naxos to stay on another calm beach and if so, which one? Or spend an extra night in Paros instead?

Chania - 10 nights
Athens - 3 nights (two full days)
Santorini - 3 nights (two full days)
Naxos and Paros - 11 nights across the two -- how to split this?
(and then one night back at the Athens hotel airport)


LM3682 is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 10:37 AM
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Heimdall's advice remains the best. And advice On Naxos-Paros could be better if you'd give the exact DATES you have for Naxos and Paros ... However, FIRST you need to explain the very odd sequence? Is there some pressing business commitment that forces you to spend the time and $$$ to go to Athens and then back out to islands? I beg of you, listen to Heimdall - he's done this dozens of times, this is your first time. Once' you've straightened this out, and given us the resulting dates, we old hands know how to do a quick browse thru the best options on those 2 islands (or rather, in my opinion AND his, Naxos and Antiparos).

At least 12 times, I've enjoyed Naxos on St. George beach in late May-early June at the exact time you're going, and i"m here to tell you that part of the joy is seeing preschoolers being blissful at the water's edge. You say you can't find something suitable... Give Us Dates and let us try! Also, Antiparos another enthusiasm of mine, and Heimdall's Greece Home Base, is perfect for your family and is a "two-fer" -- it's so close to Paros that the children living there "commute" to school every day & you can easily explore it too ... Antiparos has places overlooking beaches. Again, give us Dates!.

travelerjan is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 11:44 AM
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Thanks for the vote of confidence! Lately I’ve been spending more time in South Africa than Greece, but try to keep up with happenings on Antiparos through friends.

I can’t think of a reason why I would want to go to Chania and then back to Athens instead of straight to Santorini, which is only two hours from Crete by highspeed ferry. True, you may have to travel from Chania to Heraklion for the ferry, but on Tuesdays and Saturdays the catamaran ChampionJet 2 sails from Rethymnon, which is much closer to Chania. There is also a conventional ferry, Olympus, which has begun sailing from Rethymnon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, but it’s an evening ferry that doesn’t arrive on Santorini until around 11pm.

As for whether to add your extra day to Paros or Naxos, that’s up to you. I don’t actively promote Antiparos on the forums, but that is a good place for families with small children. Stay in Antiparos Town and the beaches and restaurants are all only a few minutes walk from wherever you are staying. It’s easy to hop on the boat back to Paros for a day’s sightseeing, then retreat back to Antiparos, where the pedestrian-only main street is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Most everyone recommends staying at St George when you are on Naxos, and that’s certainly most convenient for Naxos Town in the evenings and a child friendly beach during the day. That’s where I stay on Naxos, but find it a rather soulless place with too many small hotels. The beach settlements have sprung up since the tourist explosion, so if you want somewhere near a good beach with fewer choices for shops and restaurants, look at Agios Prokopios or Agia Anna.

In Greek, btw, Agios and Agia are the words for saints, Agios being the masculine form, and Agia the feminine. Most people use the English name for St George for some reason, but in Greek it’s Agios Georgios.

if you want to stay on Paros there are many more choices than on Naxos. Most people think of Parikia and Naoussa, the two largest towns, but there is also Piso Livadi, Drios, and Aliki to name a few. Piso Livadi is on the east coast which has a string of long sandy beaches. It’s not far from Naoussa, a picturesque former fishing village with lots of restaurants. Aliki would be a good choice if you want a quiet area with good beaches, and being on the south coast is sheltered from the northerly winds.

Save your days in Athens for the end of the trip.

Last edited by Heimdall; Mar 4th, 2020 at 11:51 AM.
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Old Mar 4th, 2020, 12:14 PM
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Travelerjan, Antiparos has its own elementary school, so it’s only the high school students who commute to Paros. Funnily enough, most of the teachers in the Antiparos elementary school commute from Paros.
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Old Mar 4th, 2020, 04:47 PM
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Travelerjan - below are the dates.

As to your questions:
Why Crete to Athens instead of direct to Santorini? I didn't see great ferry connections from Rethmyno. So that pushed me to fly to Santorini, thus routing through Athens (I could not find a direct flight). And further, at that point, since we were going through there anyway, that seems to be a better time to see it and allows us to "pick up" our nanny who will be arriving from the US mid-trip. Then fly down to Santorini, use the ferries to access Naxos and Paros and fly back to Athens to leave.

As to Paros or Antiparos, I'm not tied to Paros and Antiparos seems appealing on based on Heimdall's brief description. Paros came up as being kid-friendly in general searches and seemed easy to access from Naxos or Santorini. This was after I had nixed Milos.

I am fully open to adjusting and having fewer flights. The other thing I was working around was trying to be in Santorini on June 12-13 as they have the fewest cruise ships in port. We want to stay in Oia, so I think the crowds will be easier to manage in tight streets with the kids. June 5, 6, 7 are similar. Working around this was a big challenge but my husband doesn't like people

Regarding a hotel/apartment in Naxos, I want something that is fairly spacious, not just a room with a bunch of beds. It either needs to offer some privacy (extra bedroom) for my nanny, or the option to rent a family unit for us and a single room for her. Ten minute max walk to the beach. I'd prefer a pool as the kids tend to need it at the end of the day vs. being cooped up in a room. I looked at Santa Katerina but worry about the lack of pool and really, pretty limited outdoor space in general. Nissaki seems to hit the quality I want and has a pool but is sold out. I stayed at Hotel Glaros years ago but it's apparently adults only now. Mitos might work in Prokopios. Budget is probably up to $300US per night although it seems like I should be able to find something for considerably less.

May 28 - Depart Atlanta
May 29 - Arrive Chania (via Athens)
June 8 - fly to Athens (and coordinate with nanny in process)
June 11 - fly to Santorini (June 12 and 13 have the fewest cruise ships)
June 14 - ferry to Naxos (although flexible at this point to do flip order with another island)
June 20 - ferry to Paros (or wherever)
June 25 - fly to Athens, overnight at airport
June 26 - fly to ATL (likely on a 6am flight)
LM3682 is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 05:28 PM
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Reworking my own itinerary based on your comments. Does this make more sense? Thanks in advance!

May 28 - Depart Atlanta
May 29 - Arrive Naxos (via Athens)
June 5 - Ferry to Antiparos (Paros)

June 11 - ferry to Santorini (be here during low cruise ships)
June 13 - ferry to Rethymno at 5pm
--> this is tough with the kids. We'd probably have to leave our room by noon. Then we don't arrive in Crete till 7pm and probably have an hour drive to Chania? Not sure if there's a better option. I was originally going to depart on the 14th but there are no direct ferries. So we lose a sunset this way. But I'm not sure we'll want an extra day in Santorini to arrive on the 10th instead
June 24 - fly to Athens, arriving at 10am (alternative is to fly to Athens on the 23rd later in the day, but I think I'd rather have the full day in Chania?)
June 26 - fly home at 6am
LM3682 is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 05:51 PM
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One of the things I love about the Fodorites who post about Greece is their obvious investment in helping people enjoy this country. That doesn't mean that they need to know everything about you! So please note that you do not owe an explanation of any of your decision to any of us! And some of us appreciate that there are a lot of good reasons why people who post on a public forum choose to NOT share certain information -- and really, that's OK. For example, I never state the exact dates of my travel on this or any other forum -- not that its necessarily unsafe to do so, just that I prefer to share as little personal information as possible. And really, people can help by sharing information about the things you might want to take into consideration, allowing you to make the decisions, rather than telling you what your choice should be.

Like others, I thought it might make sense to explore options for shifting the order of your trip, so that you go from Chania to Santorini, with all your time in Athens at the end of the trip. But it's obvious that you have done your homework and have a lot of good reasons for your choices -- so kudos!

BTW, I found much better connections from the eastern U.S. to Chania through Vienna than through Athens, but I'm sure you've checked your options. And seeing your revised plan, I trust you've looked for options to fly home that don't route through Athens.

I'm sure you'll find a plan that works for you and applaud the attention that you are paying to the issues that matter to you and your family.

kja is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 07:00 PM
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kja, we are not aching to know people's personal info, we just were trying to make sense of the itinerary, and to suggest a more straightforward one if there was not a factor preventing it. We did not need to know the specific factor, only that there was one, and that was the reasons for the mid-trip "hiccup." Please don't make us out to be Nosy Parkers.
travelerjan is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 07:13 PM
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@ travelerjan: My impression is that you take great delight in helping people find specific solutions to their travel questions. And that's great! In pursuit of that laudable goal, you often tell people that "we" can't help if "we" don't know things that I, personally, would NEVER share on line. Your knowledge about Greece, and your willingness to share it, is a great asset for Fodors -- maybe you can think of ways to let people achieve a sense of mastery over their trip planning by sharing the keys to answering their questions, rather than seeking the details and then providing YOUR answer?
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Old Mar 4th, 2020, 07:30 PM
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LM - NAXOS Options: I used booking.com for Ag. Giorgios, and put in that you needed roooms for 6 days June 14-20 for 3 adults and 2 children under 6. (altho if you have a nanny, you may use just 2 rooms, the 2 children in with her -- they would hve twin beds & could bring in a rollaway cot for the youngest).

HOTEL PALATIA -- The first one that popped up is one of my FAVES -- Hotel Palatia. Just about 50 feet off the sand ... lovely small hotel, all rooms with balconies, they have a twin room with Sea view balcony, and a double room with balcony on the little lane beside the hotel. Tho the rooms are not connected they would be right next to, or across the hall. They serve a gorgeous breakfast. I sent an artist & a dancer there last year, and also a good friend whose architect husband leads tours of Italian architeture. They all loooved hotel Palatia. 2 rooms x 6 nights about €1800. Not fancy like NIssaki with uniformed staff, but a genuine hospitable family -run pllace.

STUDIOS PANOS -- Also just off the beach about 60 feet from the sands, have walked by it, have recommended it to people who like it. For the same stay, they have a 2 br apartment at €1600, with balconies AND terrace, one room has kingsize bed, the 2nd br has 3 twins ... full kitchen (handy for kiddy breakfasts). Also there's a cafe a few yards away for breakfast that's wonderful

Having traveled with toddlers myself, I know that it is GOLD to be able to walk a few yards to the beach, and also have a kitchen for kids who eat at different times from adults, & not the same things. Since u will be having a nanny, she can take care of kiddie breakfasts & snacks, and mom can have a holiday from it.There's a little grocery right around the corner for anything you need. BTW, on naxos, almost all y our food comes from the local farms. At one of the tiny Ag. Giorgios groceries, I would buy eggs that were just heaped in a basket by the cash register, delivered that AM.

But DO NOT DITHER. You have difficult requirements, in a popular island, during a popular time for young families.
travelerjan is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 07:59 PM
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OMG -- on booking.com Antiparos I put in your tentative dates for Paros/Antiparos as June 20 - check out June 25 , and found several options near my favorite beach for famlies -- Psaraliki Beach https://antiparos.com/explore/psaraliki-beach/ -- there's a 2BR house, Camara House, it's about a 6-minute walk downhill to the beach -- but at €700 for 5 days you could rent a car! -- the other is a fave of mine, ThalaSea, just 600 feet from the beach, but it has 2 small apartments each not quite enough for y ou. Eleftheria Studios has TWO units beside each other, one with 2 twin beds, the other with 3 twins. Take a look.

Sorry I asked for dates... its only because I do know a lot of the properties. But whatever...
travelerjan is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 08:06 PM
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KJA, as a solo traveler (as I have often been), a few hints are enough. You have been able to "go with the flow." and I'd guess, never had to travel with 2 small children and a nanny, with specific requirements (very near a beach) and strict dates limitation... and would face a big problem if unable to find suitable accommodations within that restriction. I have experienced that... I have also experienced the challenge of traveling with 4-5 adults who have time, budget and mobility limitations. So I"m aware of how easily things can go awry for configurations like this. Maybe someday you will understand.
travelerjan is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2020, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by travelerjan View Post
Maybe someday you will understand.
And maybe someday YOU will understand how utterly inappropriate it is of YOU to ask people to say when, exactly, they will travel, or where, exactly, they will be starting or ending those trips. Asking people to disclose personal details on a public forum is, frankly, putting them at unnecessary risk.
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