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Family 1st timers - 6 nights in Athens - looking for day trips

Hello, all!

We stumbled across amazing airfare from the States to Athens next April (holy week, but not Orthodox holy week). We have accommodations for 7 nights in Athens. After doing some more research, it may have been nice to spread out the stays to an island, but such is life and I'm not going to let wouldashouldacouldas decrease our chance for adventure.

Our kids will be 9 and 11, and very hardy travelers, so I'm not necessarily looking for "kid-friendly" activities per se, but I do realize there's only so many ruins that they can handle without some age-appropriate context.

I'm looking at a family-friendly day trip to Delphi, and we may just download the Rick Steves audotours of the Acropolis and museum to save on money. Do you think this would be sufficient, or would it be better to have a guide to cater more towards younger audiences? I have a feeling it could all be overwhelming.

Also, I want us to experience the gorgeous waters - I've been seeing that April is a bit cool for swimming, but I was considering a boat tour that went to small lagoons over the course of the day. While geared towards swimming, would something like that be worthwhile for beauty alone, or would we be better off finding a lookout somewhere and enjoying dinner and a sunset overlooking a beach? Would a ferry trip to Aegina give us a taste of the Mediterranean along the same lines, and then spend a day in the town there, instead of the whole day on a boat in different locations?

In the past, we've done well to only have 2-3 planned days, and then the rest is just for wandering aimlessly and relaxing.

I know this post is fairly vague, but I'm just in the early stages of planning, and trying to narrow down the AMAZINGLY diverse options that are there, while still getting the most out of our trip. My googling has become redundant, so I need help from those who have been there! Thank you so much for any suggestions or opinions.

Posted by
2576 posts

Are your accommodations non-refundable? If not consider escaping to the island of Hydra for two nights. No cars, lots of donkeys. Hiking, nice beaches. Easily reachable from Athens by hydrofoil, Athens itself is OK. You can see the Acropolis and the ancient agora in one day, maybe another day for museums. The kids would enjoy seeing the guards go through their routine at the parliament building on Syntagma Square.

Posted by
21334 posts

Or perhaps Nafplio? It will be plenty lively even in April.

Athens has a lot of museums and all, but it's hectic, mostly modern, and actually one of Europe's least physically-attractive capital cities (in my opinion, at least). I think even if you have to pay for two rooms for one night, it will be worth it to spend two days outside the city.

Posted by
18 posts

Unfortunately, they are non-refundable. We initially had a no-penalty booking, but realized that the hotel was in a seedy part of town and switched. Since I was told around Easter was a hard time to get rooms, I felt more rushed than I normally do. This was all booked on pretty short notice, just because of the circumstances. Not an ideal way to plan a vacation, but I'm determined to make it memorable. (And if it's amazing, we can always come back - more intentionally - later!) So, I gladly accept all input, and can file it away for a potential future islands-only adventure.

Posted by
2747 posts

I loved visiting Athens, it is worth more time than many people give it. So if your accommodations are set you will be fine with 7 nights there, with day trips. If you have the ability, I agree with doing a couple nights in Nafplio or Hydra - maybe 3 Nafplio, 4 Athens? Or 2 nights in Hydra, the rest in Athens. I was there last summer for 3 nights, but that was summer. I would ask here to see how it is in April. I'd bet it's nice - the water would be cold to swim, but still pretty, and you could hike easier than when it's 90+ in summer. Hydra is less than 2 hours from Athens by boat, so it's close.

I know there are day trips by boat from Athens to Hydra and a few other islands. I would definitely do that - it at least gets you a taste of islands. A very long time ago I did one that stopped at 3 islands - Hydra, Poros, and aegina, I think. All in one day, leaving from Piraeus port.

A personal favorite of mine and my kids was visiting the ruins at Mycenae. We did this from Nafplio (only 30 minutes from there to the ruins), but I'd bet there are day trips from Athens.

So 7 nights = 6 days. Lets assume you are sleeping in Athens the whole time. One day trip to Delphi, one to the islands, one elsewhere, like Mycenae. That leaves 3 days for visiting Athens itself, which is perfect.

Posted by
1024 posts

Even if you have firm reservations it might still be worthwhile for you to take an overnight trip. I would consider an overnight to Nafplio. Many people think of Ancient sites which mostly are foundations and partially restored buildings. Imagination sometimes is necessary to understand what you are seeing. However when you go to Nafplio you are resetting the timeline to the 13 th and 14 century, not ancient history. Nafplio still has intact buildings from the Venetian era in Greece. There are two Venetian fortresses and an authentic old town where you can join the local in the evening as they gather in the marble paved central square for dining and kids playing into the evening.
In Nafplio your kids can step back into time.

It will certainly worth an overnight or at the very least a day trip to Nafplio. Your kids are not going to be bored.
Nafplio and Peloponnese http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632094108982/

Just an aside unless you can get a guide who specifically specializes in young people I would just get to the Acropolis with the Rick Steves audio guide or at least a pamphlet identifying the main sites. Explore at your leisure.
On one of our visits to the Acropolis we passed a tour guide just at the entrance to the Acropolis. After an hour and a half it was getting crowded we left. On the way out we passed the same guide. They had advanced to a position just inside the Acropolis entrance. Tell me kids are going to enjoy that information overload and inactivity.

Posted by
18 posts

Stanbr - that would be a nightmare, taking a "tour" that stays in one spot. (I don't know if it would be worse for me or the kids!)

If budget allows it, you all are edging me towards a one-night stay on an island. I'd love to see more than the city. I'll have to do some pricing to see if it's feasible.

So, I'm thinking a day trip to Delphi with guide, a day by ourselves to do the Acropolis, and at least a day trip (if not an overnight) to a very nearby island, just for a little diversity of experience. That leaves 2-3 days wide open. I'm thinking we may want to attend a church service on Easter - just to say we did. Good idea or bad? Is that Orthodox Palm Sunday? (We leave early the day after, so that Sunday will definitely be in Athens proper. Is this a good idea or a terrible idea?)

Keep the suggestions coming! I appreciate them all!

Posted by
2905 posts

Day trip to AEGINA is a great idea if (and only if) you are careful to take a CONVENTIONAL ferry, and NOT a Hydrofoil. The latter are more frequent, but they're all enclosed with salt-frosted windows, no deck, no view. On a conventional Ferry you sit out on deck for the hour-long trip and enjoy the wonderful seascape -- huge cruise ships, freighters, speed boats, schooners, gulls, even maybe a dolphin! Aegina has a fascinating port, it's not all pretty-pretty like Hydra, but more authentic. Here's a terrific photo album of a day trip -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/36264706@N03/sets/72157621604646139/detail/ For planning, here's the best basic ferry website -- https://www.gtp.gr/RoutesForm.asp Right now it won't show the full schedules for March, but it will fill in before you go. Just slot in the words Piraeus and Egina (spelling varies!), and for Date put "any" and Month put "3" and it will show full schedule. There's usually a conventional ferry around 8 - 9AM and then not tll 1pm or so.. with 4 of you, taxi to Piraeus. If u get conventional ferry outbound, u could take whatever ferry's convenient for coming back & take green-line Metro back to Central athens.

BTW, if you've travelled in big cities I assume you're all prudent about Metro/subway pickpockets -- they target tourists. Just take along the money needed for day, in your ZIPPED daybag, no passports, ID, CCs. Do Not allow husband to carry his billfold in his pockets (75-80% of pickpocket victims are Men, who insist they'd know if someone touched their jacket or trousers. Yep.)

Agree totally w. Stanbr about using the Audios. And since your kids are smart, give them an assignment! Have them go to a big public library & bring Home some guidebooks --- the Rick Steves is easy reading and VERY accessible, also EYEWITNESS Guide to Athens & Greek Isles, lots of pix and Graphics... have them choose pages to photocopy for trip.

For sightseeing options beyond the 3-4 Biggie Museums, here's a lengthy list (the admissions & hours are outdated, but locations & open days are OK) -- http://www.athensinfoguide.com/open.htm The Musical Instruments museum has press-a-button action that gives the sounds of all the instruments. For your kids, I recommend 2 museum videos that really will fascinate them, & teach in the process. On the TOP floor of the Acropolis Museum (go there first); there's a wonderful video, animated & with live action -- Whole history of Acropolis & Parthenon in 20 minutes; humor in it as well. The Cycladic museum, on 2nd floor has a fab video ... live actors their age, dressed as classical-era greek children -- it shows their daily life, rituals they performed, clothes, duties, etc. When I was there, 3 kids sittng in front of me, about 11, 12, totally absorbed. The Cycladic also has a mystery kids could go for... those wonderful & mysterious marble statuettes from Pre-Minoan times that No One has ever been able to figure out the meaning of.

And here's a FOOD website the kids as well as you may want to browse around in -- https://www.greecefoods.com And if either kid is ambitious and likes to show off a big, here's a list of Greek menu items, and how to say them to the waiter https://www.greecetravel.com/greek-food/restaurants/ordering.htm Greeks these days almost everywhere & certainly in Athens, are quite fluent in English (they now teach it in schools from age 5 on!) but they are SO appreciative if a traveler makes a little effort to use Greek words (they know it's not easy). I know the first time I asked for "Krah-SEE KOH-kee-no" instead of just "red wine", the waiter exclaimed BRAVO, and filled my glass to the brim!

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for all the tips, Janet, and the link, Alan. Both are super helpful!

We definitely will learn some Greek phrases. That's one of the things that starts making the trip "real." (Actually, the kids are VERY adamant about making the attempt: "Mama, try to use THEIR language. Be polite!" Which actually got us confounded in Montreal, where however you greet the hostess's "Bonjour - Hi!" greeting, she would take off with the indicated language. HA! That's all I got, sorry...)

So, conquer the museum in reverse. That helps tons. and the Cycladic - I will definitely have to find that one. That sounds PERFECT for our two.

With a family of four, is a taxi most cost effective for the most part, or a multi-day public transport pass? Or is a taxi just best to Piraeus? We plan on walking a LOT (and I'm already shopping for moneybelts for my husband and a lockable hip pack for me for the eventuality that we will use public transport, but being from a small town, finance/convenience/timing of PT is a BIG learning curve for me in travels.)

Posted by
2905 posts

Gj, your kids sound like the kind that make traveling with them a pleasure, not a test (no! I want a hot dog!!). Since they seem to be enthusiasts about trying new words, here's a super link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/greek/talk/ -- it shows social situations, and you see kids and grownups saying simple things like hello, goodbye, thank you, etc AND it gives an AUDIO of how it sounds and a [printable version in our alphabet of how to pronounce, to take along.

Another delight for kids is GREEK GAZETTE ... a hilarious (AND accurate) Greek history paperback as tabloid-newspaper, writ by Oxford wits. This version (Headline: Nude Scientist in Bathtub). A MUST! Kids, howl! I take my copy along for travel pals to laugh & learn! Size 32 pp. Amazon alas has no copies, but other online sources like ABE BOOKS.com (US) do, and many UK sources. From US used-book source, should be able to get it for $5 or so.

Re transport, it would help if you said where you plan to stay.... I hope u are not tempted by "points" to stay at a chain like Marriott: they're quite a distance from Acropolis &you'll end up taking a taxi a lot. If searching thru booking.com, here's a great filter I use -- http://tinyurl.com/heq6edp It lists how far each hotel (or pvt apt) is from Acropolis... try to limit choices to places no farther than .8 miles -- and reviews of 7.8 or better. Click "map view" to see instantly where all choices are vis a vis acropolis.
• GENERAL SIGHTSEEING - Mainly, walking is THE way to go -- major sites & landmarks are clustered together, often on no-cars streets, and for the one farther away, Nat. Arch. Museum, a taxi for 4 is best; if weather's fine u can walk back. Do NOT get pass for local busses; no one speaks english on these, and so can't help if you don't know where to get off.

• PIRAEUS - a taxi may cost €25 in AM rush hour, otherwise less. Metro use: depends on how early that convential ferry goes.
• PICKPOCKETING - Yes DO get moneybelt for Dad & emphasize, don't access it publicly in Metro station! For you... I never heard of locked hip-thing. Like any woman, I never favored a money-belt (what woman wants added waist-thickness?), I just use a SMALL cloth "neck wallet" -- you can get them as cheaply as $3-5 online -- which just hangs inside my shirt-front ... don't go for those big heavy-duty steel-cord things... this is GREECE, folks. And I don't use it walking around in Athens or on a day-trip, just for a travel day , moving to another destination w. luggage, via airport or ferry. For a trip like Aegina, I'd just put my "walking-around money" in my "Day Bag" -- my well-worn but beloved Sport-Sac, which has many zippered pockets & an adjustable shoulder strap so you can wear it cross-body, with y our hand on top zipper. I lived in NYC for 30+ years, used subway daily, and in Greece have used Metro probably 60 times, never an incident. Not worried, just prudent.
PS: Don't need to carry passport around; just zip it in your locked suitcase in hotel. If you r Nervous about it, just color-copy the 1st 2 pp of all passport, carry in your zipped daybag. Done.

Posted by
18 posts

We are staying in (on?) the Plaka, right off Syntagma square, not in a chain - that's not fun! So, I'm hoping that's central/walkable to much, if not most, of what we want to see in the city. (Also, one of the reasons I agreed to the non-refundable rez, too. It's hard to find rooms that sleep 4 in BEDS, I discovered.) The kids have handled >10 miles a day by foot the last couple of adventures, so I'm hoping to do most of our site hopping that way, unless poor weather or just to save time. Thanks for info on the bus - we would definitely get lost, that way.

I'm in process of finding kid-friendly books, so you may just have done some of my Christmas shopping for me! :) With all things Greek and figuring out what the best foods will be to try/tours to take, holidays are sorted.

Also, nothing screams tourist like a hip pack (or fannypack as my husband INSISTS on calling it), but here's the anti-theft one I'm considering if you're interested: https://tinyurl.com/yc4tzams
Would a daybag backpack be ok for jackets and such? Are those typically left alone? We usually carry one just to put purchases/waterbottles/etc in...

Posted by
2576 posts

A daypack used as you stated is fine. Don’t put anything in it you can’t afford to lose. Wear it in the front in the metro and the crowded streets of the Plaka. Your theft proof fanny pack you are considering is pickpocket bait IMHO. I would not wear it on a bet. These thieves are very good. The Athens metro is the only place in many trips to Europe where I was nearly pickpocketed (caught the guy in the act.) Since you have a non-refundable room and have bought plane tickets (I assume?) I hope you have travelers insurance. I usually buy it for medical and evacuation coverage and self insure for the rest. But, I don’t book non-refundable hotels.

Posted by
2905 posts

That hip-thing is Waaay over-engineered & besides fairly screams Grab Met! . Were you planning to wear this PLUS a backpack?? no no no you should have a smallish, sturdy-cloth neck-wallet just big enough for your passport (or 2) + some credit cards, ID -- mine is 6.5" when closed (flap top/velcro closure) by 5" wide, 2 pockets. The best one around now is Zero Grid, 5 X 7, 3 pockets, about $12-14 online. Use that for $$ passports phone etc, not that waist-monster. Then Yes use backpacks as daybags, with sweater, lunch, water, journal, snacks etc, While on the Metro, wear them on FRONT.

Posted by
2905 posts

REgarding difficulty of finding a ROOm that will have beds for 4, European hotels and apartments have smaller rooms.... the buildings aren't new, some of them can be 200+ years old, and the bathrooms are retrofitted in, so rooms become smaller still. Some Americans who've never traveled have trouble getting used to that .... their frame of reference is that in US you can get a room on Route 80 at the Red Roof that has 2 queen-size beds and a bath with 2 sinks. But lets face it, then where are you? On an interstate in N. Ohio... so you have to adjust to other places other ways. Part of the Fun!

Posted by
2576 posts

Oh and one more, ahem, crappy item. Hope you know that you cannot flush toilet paper in Greece. The plumbing can’t handle it so there are little flip top trash type cans near each toilet. Disgusting, but you get used to it. Might as well let the kids know.....

Posted by
1801 posts

Yes, we had a conversation about this when we were considering a family trip to Greece. We suggested going somewhere else if they thought they couldn’t manage it. That is all I had to say for them to Think they could do it.

In the end, we all got used to it and didn’t find it that big of a deal.

Beth

Posted by
18 posts

Alan, that's a whole bunch of useful info. I had NO idea! We did a sleeper sofa/cot at one stay, and it was not pleasant for any of us. As good as our kids travel, that is one battle I would prefer to wait until they are a tiny bit older before fighting again. Yeesh.

Yes on the trip insurance. I did check that out first. Our only other trans-atlantic trip was to Scotland, so this is a whole new ballgame for us. After this, I'm hoping to have better footing (and expectations) for next time.

I was thinking the hippack for the usual purse stuff - tissues, tylenol, etc. Guess all of that will just go in the daybag, since that's no big deal. In the past, I've used a purse, and my husband wears the backpack. After Scotland, when the weather was too iffy to use the good camera (which I could stash in a big purse), I decided not to bring it on any more trips to save the hassle, and thought I could just downsize to the pack. Guess we will both just have to slim down what we carry. I would much rather just fly under the radar when it comes to pickpockets, thankyouverymuch. I'm assuming the phone goes in the moneybelt whatever, too? Do I need to carry a large amount of cash, or just enough for small incidentals and the majority covered by a card? I've read varying opinions on that...

Posted by
2576 posts

My wife and I both wear money belts. That way we split credit cards, cash, in case we want to split up. She carries a small crossbody bag for tissues and the like. I carry a Rick Steves Civita backpack which you can see on this site. It’s been to Europe more times than I can count, and that has maps, water, parts of guidebooks, tissues, small roll of TP (essential!) rain jacket when needed, etc. The iPhone: that is a dilemma. I wear pants that have an inside pocket with a zipper. So, put your hand in your pocket and there is another hidden pocket. Not entirely foolproof but when we are in crowded situations my hand is in my pocket and I can feel the phone. I think my wife is a little more lax with hers. We both keep 25-50 Euros pocket change in a pocket. If it’s lost, it’s lost. Good for gelato and other snacks. When we sit down for a meal I wait until the end, go to the WC and get a credit card out of the money belt. The waiter comes and unlike the US, the card is scanned right there with a hand held device (unless they don’t take a card in which case the bathroom trip is for cash). After the bill is paid I go back to the WC and put the card back. Yes, a bit of a rigamarole but it works for me. We’ve been in stores (one in the Plaka as I recall) and my wife will see a pair of earrings she wants (in Greece you’ll see many with the “evil eye”-sorta neat). I inconspicuously as I can fish a credit card out of the money belt. Not ideal but, once again, it works for me.

Posted by
18 posts

In Scotland, there was a lot of "touchless" pay option (aka ApplePay). Is this common? That would be SUPER easy. Wouldn't even have to fish cards out...

It does seem like a lot of rigamarole, but we don't want the hassle of something getting lost - that would be far worse.

I think husband will keep his hand in his pocket with his phone, or use a phone holster that clips closed, because we will be accessing google maps as our primary navigation. He's kind of resistant to the thought that he could be pickpocketed. I have six months to attempt to conquer that cockiness. ;)

Posted by
2905 posts

GJ, It was not clear. I thought both adults were planning to wear backpacks. No? Then have dad backpack, and you use a small cross-body daybag, as I said Sportsac has the classic model(s), usually black or khaki nylon, about 10x14x 3" when flat (expands quite wide if necessary), many inside zip pockets + top zip u hold your hand on -- can hold water bottle, snacks, foldingbrella, book, kleenex, camera, journal... a Ton! And you can dangle a sun visor or baseball cap from the strap. And don't worry that you'll look like your Mom, every savvy woman traveler over college age in Greece uses something like this; if you want to be more lively, comes in all kinds of patterns -- shorten strap & use just on 1 shoulder, use across when your hands are busy w parcels or kids or trekking stick.

Using phone holster or pocket just walking around Athens is fine -- my warning had to do with the Metro. And who needs a google map to get on a Metro & go to Piraeus???? It ends at the waterfront, you walk a few hundred yards to your ferry pier, and what good is a google map while sailing? So tell Dad to get off his high horse & stash his phone inside your cross-body bag or in a money belt while on the metro. The Athens police stations are full of American dads complaining, I had my hand on my pocket the whole time!! Lets face it you are public transport virgins, so learn from experience of others.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks, Janet!

The google map would be for walking routes, and the phone for pictures, just so we don't have to carry something else. :) I think our compromise will be a pair of pickpocket-proof shorts with hidden or secured pockets for him. That will be HIS xmas present. Greece for everyone under the tree! lol

Posted by
1801 posts

I used a quilted cross body purse from Walmart with three pockets in it. When sightseeing, I had one pocket with a credit card in it, another with money, and a third with my phone. I did not bring a wallet to Greece. I held my hand on my purse when on the metro. My husband wore a money belt and kept some money in front pocket and his phone. We both had back packs which I used some of the time. I find back packs more comfortable than cross body purses and tried to keep the weight in the purse down.

We only rode the metro to and from the national archeology museum. You could tell we were tourists I am sure but we had no problems.

We always left an extra credit card, and passports in our room. My husband left his atm card in the room.

We never were as careful as Alan with paying for things. In stores and restaurants, I used my purse as a purse. My husband did pull a credit card out of his money belt in public to pay for things. I don’t know if this was foolish or not but never felt uncomfortable.

My sister lives in Chicago and takes public transportation. She got pickpocketed shortly after she moved there. She has trained me to keep my hand on my purse all the time when on public transportation. I basically approached being in Athens like being in any big American city taking public transportation.

Take some sensible precautions and then enjoy. We really liked Athens-much more than we had expected. You can walk almost everywhere if you stay central.

Beth

Posted by
2905 posts

Shorts? In April? Why not just a T-shirt that says Tourist? ... just kidding, but really.

Posted by
18 posts

Lol!
Or pants! I haven't done a ton of research on the weather averages yet. I just know it's further south than where we are at. Is Greece like the south, when it hits 60 you need to break out a scarf and parka? ;)