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Traveling alone for the first time...

Hello everyone! I am turning 30 in March(2016) and I have decided I want to take a trip to Greece to celebrate the occasion. I am single and I don't want to make plans that depend on having a companion for this trip. I am just in the beginning stages of researching this trip but I think I would like to take a fully guided tour. Which companies would you all recommend that are safe, classy and not astronomically over priced?
Thanks in advance for your tips and advice!

Posted by
3696 posts

Well, I guess if you want a tour I would check out the RS tours. Lots of people here have been very happy with these. I usually travel on my own but a few times I just wanted to do something last minute and jumped on a few tours by GoAhead... they were reasonable and everything was fine. I think they would be about the same as the RS but could be more people.

Posted by
2951 posts

Another avenue for you to explore is the option of using a travel agency in Athens that specializes in tailoring tours to your personal preferences. Check with Fantasy Travel and Dolphin-Hellas Travel to see what they have on offer. They come highly-recommended. The advantage of booking a tour through them is that you have someone local to contact in case something goes wrong. They speak perfect English and I'm sure other languages as well. Both have websites.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you both! I was looking at the RS tours and they are a bit spendy, but not too bad considering how well known and reputable they are. But I will check into the other as well!

Posted by
5719 posts

If you are travelling in March, this is wintertime and the weather will not be great and the majority of tours will not have started for the season yet - early May will be warmer and more restaurants will be open on the islands.

Athens can be seen at any time of year.

Posted by
6 posts

Great advice Jennifer, I was actually just thinking I should look at the weather before settling on a travel date. I would also like to go when its not terribly crowded... any insight on avoiding peak travel times but still going when everything is open?

Posted by
5669 posts

Hi Cydnie, When I went to Greece for the first time it was over spring break, so we're talking early to Mid March. Was it beach weather? No? But was it much warmer and nicer than Germany? You bet! While I wasn't on a tour, I did take day tours to the major sites--Delphi and Epidaurus. I also took the public bus to Sunion. I later met up with friends and we went to Corfu. (I was supposed to meet with them in Athens, but we were 19 and messed up so I was solo for the first 10 days.) I remember clouds, but no serious rain. I went back a few years later in July with a friend and while it was the best vacation ever--over 30 years later, both of us still think so!--it was unbelievably hot. I do think that the heat that slowed us down, and it was the slowing down that made the vacation so great. We did have a month, which is a luxury I don't have any more. But, again we didn't do a tour and had no problems getting around. We spent several days in Athens and then went to Crete. From there we went to Santorini, and Naxos (via Pireaus) traveling by Ferry. Granted you likely have less time, but if you can't find a tour that does what you want, look into going solo.

Pam

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks Pam!
I am definitely leaning towards end of March or May. I am hoping to avoid the "spring break crowd" as much as possible. I want to see the historical sites and the ocean mainly, not really into the "night life." But the history and the architecture, plus my own family heritage is the main draw for me. I'd also really love to go sailing while I'm there, but don't know how feasible that will be.

Posted by
16883 posts

The "Off-Season" departures for Rick's Greece tour, departing mid- to late-March are a bit cheaper than high-season departures. These will be offered for sale starting in mid-May for next spring. I have had very pleasant weather and wildflowers on a couple of early-spring visits to Greece.

Posted by
5719 posts

Trips to the Greek islands begin in earnest at the start of May from Europe, but this is still considered low season. This corresponds with the improving weather and therefore restaurants opening etc. There are some trips that go earlier such as to Crete which is further south and their season starts earlier.

Athens is a year round destination. As a happy medium, I would look to travel at the start of May or maybe a week earlier.

Posted by
2951 posts

Don't take a chance on bad weather ending up being the focal point of your vacation. Go in late May or in September. You'll avoid most of the crowds, hotel prices are below the maximum and the weather is much more stable. In September the sea is wonderful. It's had all summer to warm up.

Posted by
9929 posts

Cydnie, just a couple of words about tours. The disclaimer is that I am a happy Rick Steves customer.

When you look at tours, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Look at what each tour provides along the lines of which sites are visited, what admissions are provided, what meals are provided etc. Know that in tour lingo visit means actually go in to a site, see can mean a drive by on a bus/coach. Look at, of course, the kinds of hotels the tour provides (city center so you can explore on your own vs out of the center of things so you have to get to the downtown area) and the number of days you will stay in one place. Remember when you plan that 2 nights equals one full day in a location. Googlemap the distance between locations altho Rick's pages tell you how many bus hours you have each day and this is probably not as much a problem in Greece as for some of the tour itineraries that are multi-country. Look at whether they give you some free time so you can go off on your own. Look at the number of people on the tours and what size transport they are using. (Rick's tours are 25-28 people and use a full size coach so you have 2 seats to yourself!) Also look at the guides a company uses. They should have some kind of page that tells about some of the guides so you can get a feel for the knowledge level they might have for an area.

If by any chance you live in WA state (or OR or ID) and can get to Edmonds WA, Rick has travel festivals usually twice a year plus a test drive a tour guide in January. These are day long events with multiple presentations in 3 different venues for various tours. It is so much fun to go to them and yes, by the end of the day you will want to sign up for a bunch of them, lol!

Have a wonderful time doing research and what a terrific birthday present!

Posted by
6 posts

Pam I will definitely look into the travel festivals! I am so excited for this trip! And Lee I wold love to go later i the season when the sea is warmer but May is a little more do-able... does anyone know how warm the sea is in May? Still warm enough to swim in May?

Posted by
2901 posts

Mid-may on is PERFECT ... I'm a swim-fan also & won't go when I cannot swim; water's a bit "brisk" when u first plunge in, but in 30 secs, wonderful! This May-June will be trip #12 for me... and 11 of trips have started in May. Another great thing ... everything's open, nothing is crowded, Greeks are out painting their boats, their houses, their flagstone alleys ... they're enjoying the weather, very sociable & time to talk -- good for u, if thinking of exploring "real Greece" and its culture.

Actually cydnie, I would discourage you from taking a fully-guided tour start to finish ... because in my experience these packages generally tilt much older. At the same time, I realize you don't want to totally wing it on your own. Here's a thought -- developed without Key Information, such as LENGTH of trip u plan, and what level of $$ you feel you can afford ("not astronomically overpriced is really not a price range):

How about a combo: Fly in to Athens, do a couple days of sightseeing (you can sign up for some good and NOT overpriced walking tours, where one ALWAYS meets other unattached people to have a meal or drinks with). Then you take a 7-8 day tour geared to a younger crowd -- and after that, finish up with planned or spontaneous stops at 1-2 other destinations (maybe along with people u met on tour).

The trouble with Biggie tours of islands is that they mainly go only to the "cliche triplets" -- Mykonos, Santorini, and Heraklion port in Crete -- mainly large vessels, little chance to explore on your own. A good alternative, for those who like sailing is an 8-day small-boat (max of 16 on tour) sail that YES does go from Santorini to Mykonos but in between stops at Ios, Amorgos, Naxos, Small Cylades, and Syros.
http://www.imaginative-traveller.com/trip/izsrr/itinerary/ -- one of their 12 departure dates is May 16 - 23, 2016, with a price of $1767 (plus "kitty" for onboard meals). An itinerary like this allows overnights in each place, with opportunity to visit beaches, eat in local tavernas, do a little exploring. This outfit was listed in a UK article on best Tour Operators for singles. Not sure that price is "before supplement" but website says they offer optional twin-share w.o. supplement, for matching up. Here's another outfit where you can book a berth or a cabin in a 52-foot yacht with similar itineraries -- http://www.odysseysailing.gr/economy_cabin_cruises.html

The advantage of these is that it gives structure to your Greece visit, while allowing flexibility before & after the group adventure. If I were 30 again, this is exactly what I'd do!

Posted by
2901 posts

I forgot to say, this is another argument for trying to plan y our trip for late May -- it's the period when the Aegean's waters are the smoothest, and weather the calmest, for uninterrupted sailing routes.

Posted by
714 posts

If you are interested in Greek history (and food!) you might look at Andante Travel who operate out of the UK. www.andantetravels.com. US toll free number 1-888-331-3476. I went on one of their tours to Crete and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was led by an archaeologist and a tour manager as well as a local guide who was extremely knowledgeable. We went to all the major sites and some of the lessor ones on the north coast of Crete, stayed at nice hotels and ate wonderful food. Their prices are higher than RS tours, but they include all meals and wine.

Most of the archaeological experts are university professors from the UK and some are quite well known from books and TV.

May is a good time of year. It's not too hot and is still quite quiet touristwise. I was last in Athens in mid-September (2014) and it was still very hot and humid. And it was even hotter in Crete (32C!).