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sleep strategy when landing in Athens

I get very little sleep on planes. I've gotten spoiled by our last two trips which landed in Rome and Dublin. In both cases after arrival we went to the hotel, took a long nap and showered, and then spent the afternoon walking in the sunlight. We were able to stay up until relatively late in the evening and were almost 100% the next day. Those sunny afternoon walks seem to reset my internal clock faster than anything else. For our trip to Crete and Greece, we're starting out in Columbus late morning on Thurs and arriving in Athens at 9 AM Friday, and then the best connecting flight to Crete isn't until 1 PM, arriving Crete 2 PM. That longish layover sounds awful after a nine hour flight. I know I should just keep traveling but even as I write this it is very unappealing. I spent some time researching alternatives like airport sleep rooms (none), nearby hotels (layover too short).

I'm tempted to get a hotel in Athens and do my usual nap and walk thing, and then take the overnight ferry to Crete (Iraklio). I'm willing to sacrifice some travel time (1-2 hours cumulative into central Athens and onto Pireas) for the opportunity for a good nap and walk in the sun. Seems like it would be fun to spend the afternoon strolling around Athens before boarding the ferry. I suppose we would need a well-located hotel to make this work as smoothly as possible. It seems to me that I'm making up for some of this nap luxury by traveling overnight. I know the advice on this forum is generally to suck it up and keep moving to your farthest destination. What are the pros and cons in your opinion? In early June, are the ferries and airlines about equally reliable?

Posted by
2862 posts

As much as you don't want a long layover, it's best just to tough it out at the airport and fly out to Crete on that 1pm flight. I fly to Santorini from Oregon. It takes me a total of around 24 hours to get there. I don't sleep well on planes either, and by the time I get to Santorini I'm exhausted, but waking up that first morning on the island is a much better experience than having to deal with transportation and hotel in Athens or Piraeus. For me that ends up being a waste of a whole day. Besides, by the time you collect your things at the baggage carousel then check in and find your departure gate, that 4 hours will have shrunk to 2.5-3 hours or less anyway. Just find a cafe in the airport, have a coffee and relax.

Posted by
4966 posts

A little different situation from yours, but we're flying to Athens in the spring, and arriving at night, so we're getting a room near the airport for the night, before heading out to explore Greece. Boy, the Sofitel is right at the airport, but they sure charge a lot for the convenience! And I doubt they give any discount for only staying for part of a day. Other places appear to be nearby, but will require leaving the airport grounds.

This doesn't get you a long, pre-walk nap or shower, but can you possibly get in an afternoon walk in the Greek sun at the airport itself? I'm not familiar with the grounds layout, but can you leave the terminal and be a pedestrian for a while? Maybe that wouldn't make much difference without a nap, too, but maybe it's an option. Have a good trip, in any event!

Posted by
1418 posts

I haven't done this yet but could help but wince at idea of over night ferry ride after over night flight. That is two nights of poor sleep instead of one.


Posted by
829 posts

I have to agree with Lee. From the west coast it took us 27 hours of actual travel to get to Crete. We had a 3.5 hour layover in Athens but it is always best to just tough it out and get to your first Island immediately. The shot of adrenaline you get when you get to your island destination makes it all worthwhile.

Posted by
395 posts

I found out that the airport Sofitel actually has 1/2 day rates, but the offer seems to be from 12:00 noon to 6:00 PM. Also the Lufthansa lounge at the airport has showers : ) I guess you need to dress a little nicer for these lounges or they'll turn you away, saying they're 'full'. I usually get almost no sleep on the plane so as you can see I'm pretty motivated to look at the options. I slept on a ferry between Dublin and Holyhead and thought it was pretty decent. Still I see your point(s) to take flight since it's available and less ground travel time.

Posted by
2724 posts

I am very much for making the transit as easy as possible, and the least tiring. When I am exhausted, I am not enjoying myself and I am much more apt to get sick during my trip. I now take my time getting to my destination, and attempt to enjoy the journey as much as possible. With your scenario, I'd get a hotel in Athens for the night so I could take that nap, have some time to walk around Athens, get a good night's sleep, and then fly to Crete the next day. I plan that extra time into my vacation.

It is my impression you have a direct flight to Athens from Columbus, OH. So Athens is really your first opportunity to rest. I'd take it. Travel should not be torture. There are some things you can control, rest and relaxation are two items that you can control as you journey.

PS. I should reveal that I do anything to avoid overnight flights and spoil myself along the way.

Posted by
395 posts

re: direct flight, we are connecting through Philadelphia. There are very few international flights direct from Columbus. We leave around 8:50 Thursday morning, and have a ~4 hour layover in Philly. We could have made it a little tighter but wanted some leeway for weather, etc. My 'favorite' flights to Europe have been (rare) daytime flights; it just seems easier to reset my internal clock. Although you have to leave very early from Columbus to catch daytime flights off the East Coast to Europe.

I appreciate everyone's thoughts on this topic. My husband, who can fall asleep anywhere and normally sleeps for most of any long flight, wants to press onward. If this schedule proves tortuous for me I think we'll slow it down next time in the style of Wray's travel. I'm going to try Cyn's idea of taking a walk outside the terminal if there is a place to stroll.

Posted by
714 posts

Just was through Athens airport 2 days ago. There is a broad sidewalk that runs the length of the terminal building, otherwise acres of parking lots. Bit of green grass outside the Sofitel. So I would say not much chance of a brisk walk upon arrival. Air is full of smell of aircraft fuel. The airport itself is well supplied with eateries/coffee shops serving pizzas, paninis, Salads, and light meals. There is a McDonalds and a restaurant upstairs that again does light meals. The upstairs is quieter and there are some interesting displays relating to the archaeology done during construction of the airport. You will probably only have three hours to fill before your next flight and between now and when you leave there could be itinerary changes, or flights can run late and so on. As you say, just suck it up and look forward to soon being on wonderful Crete.

Posted by
11 posts

You might check on the Sofitel Spa and book a treatment, which may then allow you to use the facilities. We did that in Munich a couple of years ago, while we waited for our daughter to arrive (5 hours after our flight arrived). We each got a massage and then used the pool, sauna, etc, then took a shower which felt great after a long night on the plane!

Posted by
4697 posts

The Sofitel also has a nice restaurant and coffee bar off the lobby. Not a place to nap, but good for some breakfast if you want, or coffee, and more comfortable than the airport to wait for your connection. It's less than five minutes from the terminal building.

I don't remember any very pleasant surroundings at the airport, but certainly there are sidewalks and places to walk around in the daylight. Google Earth shows a little park-like area just north of the Sofitel (to the right as you approach the hotel from the terminal). Not a substitute for strolling around Athens, but a whole lot easier in your circumstances.