I was talking to a co-worker about vacation destinations recently. The conversation went something like this:
Him: “Yes, we had a really great time in Hawaii. My wife and kids loved it. I think we should try something similar but outside the U.S. next time.”
Me: “You should go to Greece. The Greek Islands are one of my favorite places in the world.”
Him (eyebrows almost into his hairline): “You’re kidding, right?”
Me (honestly confused): “Why?”
Him: “Ah, political unrest? Riots? Seriously, are you crazy?”
The truth is that I don’t think I’m crazy. I would go back to Greece in 2012 if I could and I do think he should consider it for his next family vacation.
True, there’s a lot that’s wrong about the Greek economy at the moment. True, there’s a risk of instability in that country, but, well, check out this photo:
That photo was taken on a ferry between Kos and Paros in late July 2011. Doesn’t it look just idyllic? Cerulean blue sea and sky, peaceful from end to end. Just days before this photo was taken there were major riots in Athens. Throughout the time we were relaxing in the Cyclades, there were riots, protests and sit-ins in major Greek cities. You can check, there’s even a wikipedia page on the subject. But I posit that no-one riots against tourists. Why would they? You’re helping them dig out of their economic mess.
All that said, here’s a few things I would keep in mind if I were planning a trip to Greece in 2012.
Be prepared for travel disruptions related to striking transportation workers. Allow an extra day or two between returning home and starting work for example. Even families can work around this. When we arrived in Athens off the boat from Paros the taxis were on strike so we took the bus to the airport. Buses run all day long, the bus ride is much cheaper than a taxi and it’s yet another reason to travel light so you can be flexible.
Bring extra cash. This one was a bit of a surprise for us. For our first few days on the islands we couldn’t get money out of any ATM. We assumed that this was related to the overall currency issue. Credit cards still worked but if I were heading to the Greek Islands tomorrow I’d bring enough cash to cover 3-5 days of expenses just in case.
Local accommodation vendors flocked to meet the ferries arriving on Paros. According to a local we spoke to, these small proprietors of family hotels and bed-and-breakfasts were the worst affected by lower numbers of tourists. To me, that spells an opportunity to get good deals on charming locally-hosted accommodation. Arrange your in-country transport so that you arrive at your final destination early in the day so that you have time to check out some properties before making your decision. If that’s not your cup of tea, research in advance and negotiate over email or by phone for best rates at your desired property. As a family, we opted to find accommodation on arrival in a number of places (including Kos). The trick is for one parent to take the kids for food or to the beach while the other checks out available properties.
There you have it. I bet you’ll find specials on flights and package holidays to Greece in 2012. If you’re willing to take a (small) risk you can do your bit to help the Greek economic troubles. I only wish I could be there too!
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Greece with Kids
[catlist tags=Greece numberposts=-1]
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