A friend of mine was once telling me about the family vacation he went on in Greece. The trip was all-inclusive and cost them a pretty penny, but it was well worth it. One day, they took an excursion to some ruins of an ancient city that gets ridiculously hot during the day and freezing at night, despite being located right next to the Mediterranean Sea (where it’s supposed to be warm).
As a busy mom of three kids, I have always dreamed of taking a family vacation. I have never been fortunate enough to take one. So when the opportunity arose for me and my kids to go on an all-expense paid trip to Greece, I booked it. The trip ended up being one the best experiences of my life. Greece is a beautiful country, with ancient buildings, stunning beaches, and picturesque islands. If you’re an adventurer, you can find that too. Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of real life? Enjoy some downtime on one of Greece’s islands. These are just some of the reasons why I highly recommend Greece for a family vacation this year.
One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is through travel, as you’re more likely to speak in your target language when you’re in a different country. While everyone assumes that they should head off to France or Spain to practice their language skills, Greece is often overlooked. As someone who’s been studying Greek for a while now, I thought I’d share with you why it’s my number one place to travel in 2018.
Family Vacation In Greece
Family Holidays to Greece – 10 Things to Know while Planning
1. Greece is a Wonderful Destination for a Family Holiday
Greece and the Greek Islands are my favorite place in Europe for a family vacation. Great beaches, interesting history, incredible food (much of it kid-friendly), wonderful people. Island hopping by ferry adds a bit of adventure to the whole thing and an opportunity to see several very distinct destinations. There are no special vaccinations required, and no special medicine prescribed. Transport in Greece, whether by ferry, bus, or plane, is efficient and comfortable.
2. The Best Greek Islands for a Family Holiday
The best places to go in Greece for a family are the Greek Islands, and my favorite island for families is Naxos. But there are many others that are also kid-friendly and great for families. Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, and Corfu are four more that have great beaches, cool towns, and a family-friendly atmosphere. Santorini is typically thought of as a couples’ destination but there’s a lot to see and do and it’s still a great family destination (especially if your kids are a little older, say, 6 and up).
3. Greece is Easy to Get to from the U.K. and the Rest of Europe
Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos, and a few other islands (depending on the year) have direct flights from the London, Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, and Rome making trips to a Greece quick and easy. It’s not unreasonable to be sitting on a beach 4 or 5 hours after taking off from your home airport. Getting to the Greek Islands from the U.S. will always require two flights (usually connecting in western Europe). A few North American cities (Toronto, New York City) have direct flights to Athens but none have direct flights to the Greek Islands.
4. Best Time to Visit Greece for a Family Holiday
The best weather in Greece for kids, families, swimming, and beach time is from late May to early September. The sun will be out, skies blue, and there’s very little rain. The absolute best beach weather is from late June to early September.
5. The Highlights of Athens Can be Seen in One Full Day of Sightseeing
The top attractions in Athens (Acropolis, Acropolis Museum, and historical sights in the Plaka) can be easily seen in one full (but busy) day – or take two if you want to take it a little slower. And then get on a ferry the next morning (most ferries from Athens to the islands leave between 7am and 8am) and get the kids to a beach.
6. The Best Greek Islands for History and Culture are Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, and Delos
Crete has the single best historical sight on any of the Greek Islands: Knossos near Heraklion. Rhodes has the Medieval City of Rhodes Town and the Acropolis of Lindos. And Santorini has the caldera, the volcano, and the story of how this island was destroyed by an immense volcanic eruption. The entire small island of Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of incredible ruins; you can’t stay there, but it is easily reached from Mykonos.
7. The Best Beach for Kids in Greece
The single best beach in Greece is Elafonisi Beach in Crete. Magical and very kid-friendly. Other great beaches for families can be found in Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Mykonos, Lesvos, Skiathos, Skopelos, Corfu, and Rhodes. Santorini has great swimming and unique beaches but since they’re composed of volcanic rock they get very hot in the mid-day sun.
8. Greek Restaurants are Very Kid Friendly
Almost all Greek restaurants and tavernas have a family-friendly atmosphere where kids are welcomed and pampered. Santorini and Mykonos (known for luxury and nightlife) each have a handful of restaurants where kids might be a little out of place but these are the exceptions and the majority of restaurants on every Greek island will welcome your kids with open arms (literally).
9. Do a Tour
Greek tour guides are great. (It’s a national law that tour guides need to have a degree in Greek history to conduct any tour to a historical sight in Greece.) And you’ll get much more out of any visit to a historical attraction if you get a guide. At some sights (e.g. Knossos) it’s easy to walk up and find a good guide. At other sights (Akrotiri in Santorini) it’s best to book in advance. Doing a food tour is also highly recommended (especially in Athens).
10. Best Websites for Planning a Greek Holiday
Planning a greek holiday is easy to do by yourself. Don’t book a package holiday as you end up getting second-rate hotels and the worst flights. These are the websites I use and recommend for easy and reliable trip planning:
- Kayak.com to find the best airfares.
- Booking.com to book hotels.
- FerryHopper.com to find ferry schedules and book tickets.
- Welcome Pickups for port/airport transportation.
- RentalCars.com for reserving rental cars.
- GetYourGuide.com to find and book sightseeing tours.
Special Considerations for Family Travel in Greece
- Perhaps the most challenging aspect for families is finding hotel rooms suitable for 4, 5, 6 or more people. The most common hotel room is small with 2 single beds with a small balcony and usually a small fridge. Many options do exist outside of these, but it will require some planning and booking in advance.
- All Greek taxis have a maximum limit of 4 passengers. If your hotel does not offer airport or ferry port transfer, Welcome Pickups pre-booked car service is a great option. Larger vehicles are available for groups of more than 4, and child car seats are available on request.
- High chairs are rarely to be found in restaurants which can make a stroller an appealing option as a place to sit a baby or small toddler during meal time.
What are the Best Greek Islands for a family holiday?
The 7 Best Greek Islands for Families:
- Best Greek Island for Families: Naxos
- Best Greek Island for Beaches: Naxos, Mykonos, Ios, Crete
- Best Greek Island for Teens: Santorini, Mykonos, Paros
- Best Greek Island for History: Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos (Delos)
- Best Greek Island for Hiking: Crete, Folegandros, Santorini, Naxos
- Best Greek Island for Biking: Kos
- Best Greek Island for Luxury: Santorini, Mykonos
- Best Greek Island for Quiet and Solitude: Folegandros, Ikaria, Karpathos
- Best Greek Island for Outdoor Activity: Crete, Santorini
- Best Greek Island for Food: All of them
- Best Greek Island for Family Cruise: None of them – don’t do cruises, visit on your own
- Best for Island Hopping: Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Mykonos, and Milos are all well connected by ferry and great for island hopping
Should I book hotels in advance when visiting Greece?
- For July and August on the most popular islands — like Santorini and Mykonos — booking early is absolutely essential. It becomes increasingly less essential as you move away from those islands and those months. So, Naxos and Paros in June or September would be no problem at all to arrive at without reservations. That leaves a large gray area of course. Are reservations necessary for Santorini in June, Naxos in July, Paros in August? In general, booking early and making reservations will get you the best price, and give you a better selection of room size to fit your family’s needs.
- Booking.com is my favorite website for finding and booking hotels in Greece. They’re reliable, well-organized, and have offer generous cancellation plans.
- Flexibility is good (and fun). It’s nice to have some hotel reservations booked in advance – especially for your first nights on a new island – but it’s also nice to have some flexibility with where you’re going and how long you’re staying. Try to find a good balance – maybe have your first 2 nights on each island booked in advance, followed with a few days that you can fill as you wish.
- That said, flexibility might be a luxury that families don’t feel they can afford. In high season families and large groups should definitely book rooms in advance.
- If you do show up on an island without reservations you might see hotel owners greeting the ferry, asking if you need a room. These will often be budget hotels (but still nice, clean places to stay). If you do decide to stay with them, try to walk to the hotel from the pier. (This won’t be practical on every island, eg. Santorini’s port is a long ways from anywhere.) Most main towns are right by the ferry port, so if they’re telling you that their hotel is right “in town” you should be able to walk there no problem, right? If instead, they’re trying to get you and your bags into their pickup it’s likely it’s several miles outside of town. At the very least get them to pinpoint the hotel exactly on a map. Some hotel owners will “gently” lie but if faced with a precise question they’ll accurately tell you where it is on the map.