Greece is an amazing destination for couples. Whether you are looking for a romantic island to spend some quality time together, want to want to enjoy honeymoon in Greece, want a destination wedding, or plan you wedding annivesary in Greece, there is no shortage of places to choose from. In fact, things may get a bit overwhelming.
But here’s where we can help!
We have decided this winter that we want to spend our fifth wedding anniversary in Greece, so I decided to turn my planning notes into something useful (this blog post). We will stay on Ios (which is one of the best places to get married in Greece), a destination which was not hard to choose because it has been on our radar for quite a while now.
Here are the steps we took to plan and book our trip.
Step 1: Timeframe
With many full-time employees having limited vacation time and all of us wanting to make the most of our free days, choosing the time to go can be quite tricky. And we always depend on flights, trains, buses, ferries…
Since this is a wedding anniversary trip, the only “rule” I set was to be on the island of our choice on the anniversary date. And we would be away for 10-14 days.
Step 2: The Destination
Since our anniversary is in late May, visiting one of the Cyclades is a great choice! The tourist season has not started yet (in late May) but the weather is amazing. What more do we want?
If you have no idea where you want to go, read about these destinations in Greece.
Step 3: The Transportation
How can you travel to Ios? By ferry, of course.
Ios is served by ferries from the other Cyclades, Crete, and the mainland. This means there are quite a few ways to reach the island by ferry.
Once you decided on a place, check how you can get there. If you opt for an island, then most likely the ferries will be the obvious choice. However, some islands are served by airports (Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, to name some of them).
This website offers excellent info on the airports and the possible connections. When it comes to ferries, I just use this link and check the connections (the same link can be used to book the ferries).
When I started researching, I have narrowed down 3 possibilities:
- Fly into Santorini via Milan, then taken a ferry to Ios
- Fly into Athens via Naples, then taken a ferry to Ios
- Fly into Athens via Budapest, then take a ferry to Ios
Step 4 Narrowing down flights and ferries
Armed with the three ideas, I’ve used my favorite flight search engine: Skyscanner.
I always use the “whole month” search so that I can see the best days to fly on.
Adding everything together for all three options turns out that it is cheaper to fly via Milan (by about 10 euros) but the flights are terrible (one of the flight is at 6 am and another at 7 am).
The best option, considering both the price and the hours of the flights, is the third one: Budapest – Athens – Ios. Yes, the ferry is at 7 a.m. but we decided to stay in Piraeus on the way to Ios.
What I’ve done above to choose the possible options is called “flight hacking”. It does take quite a lot of experience to figure out how and where to break the trip, but spending time checking out the possible connections helps a lot. Start with the destination and narrow down how you can get there. Then look into what flights are available into the airport you need to fly into. Instead of choosing a connecting flight, break the trip up.
Step 5 Accommodation
Now that we have the dates for the transportation, we need to look into places to stay. We’ll be traveling directly to Budapest Airport (so we won’t stay overnight on the way to Athens), but we will need a place to stay in Piraeus and one in Ios. On the way back, we’ll just need to stay a night in Athens as we are able to catch the train in Budapest to complete the last leg of the journey.
Booking.com is an excellent site to look for places to stay. The nice thing about this site is that it allows you to book whenever you want but pay at the accommodation. Just make sure “free cancellation” and “pay at property” are ticked.
For our 5 nights in Ios, we have decided on Galini Pension, located close to Yialos Beach and beside the Port of Ios.
I’ve also narrowed down the options for Piraeus and Athens. I’ve also used the same booking engine to look for options and, again, applied the same filters as above, and made sure to show private rooms only.
Booking is really simple. Just click on the accommodation of choice, then choose the room you want and follow the prompts on the screen. Considering the filters above, the payment will be at the property.
Step 6: Booking transportation
Generally speaking, I do book the flights before the accommodation and not the other way around. But, if you choose “Free cancellation” when you book a place to stay, you can easily book that and the flights afterward.
As mentioned, I like Skyscanner. Once I chose the city I’d be flying out of and the dates, I can go ahead and book the flights. There is no difference in price when you click through from Skyscanner’s results rather than go to the airline’s website on your own! That’s because Skyscanner will redirect you to the airline’s site anyway, where you’ll have to do the search…again.
Let’s talk about my choice: RyanAir. I have never flown them before so I asked around. And did a lot of reading on their website. What do you need to remember? Two things:
- If you pay for a seat in advance, you unlock the 30-days online check-in
- If you pay for priority boarding, you are guaranteed to take the hand luggage with you in the plane
Yes, RyanAir is a low-cost carrier, and may I add, one with the worst reviews I’ve read. Having flown Blue Air, EasyJet, and Wizz Air before, I know what to expect from such an airline.
RyanAir’s site is not that hard to tackle, but I wouldn’t call it a pleasure to deal with, either. Just double check what you choose as extras.
When filling in the form, have your passport handy and make sure your name on the reservation matches your passport. Ryanair has this useful feature to add your name and details, as well as a companion, so you don’t need to scramble each time you book.
As a side note, their Live Chat is pretty much useless (or I was unlucky and the guy I talked to was useless). I was trying to find out how to get the 30-days online check-in without paying for checked luggage (since I don’t need that) and he answered about clearing cache on my browser. Ooops. I did find what I need two days later when I read their Terms of Service.
All we have to do is book the ferry to/from Ios. It is super easy via this link
Once you choose the ferries, you’ll need to add your name and passenger type. You can then choose whether to have the tickets shipped to you (for a fee) or you can pick them up in the port.
Generally speaking, unless you choose a fast ferry (orange in the above photo) or travel during the high season, you don’t need to book the ferries in advance.
Have fun on your trip in Greece! And if you need any help planning it, I am an email away! (or leave me a comment).