1. Travel in May
I cannot stress this enough. My tour director, local guides, and even local citizens I met told me how lucky I was to travel mid May. Greece is becoming the new up-and-coming spot for traveling and gets extremely crowded come June, July, and August due to schools being out for summer and families wanting to vacation. The weather is perfect in May- low to mid 70s not humid, and is not overly populated. The roads are very small and appear to be one-way roads. However, they are in fact, two way roads and the traffic becomes very heavy when tour busses take over. Rumor has it, that those who travel in the mid summer months become frustrated because it takes 45 minutes to get somewhere that should take 10.
2. Adopt All the Stray Animals
'Adopt' might not be the right word- but there are stray cats and dogs everywhere! It's basically Heaven. Now, don't get scared, the animals are not scraggly, flea-infested creatures; they take care of themselves along with the help from tourists and locals. I would notice some of the cats swimming in the ocean- a better alternative then a licking bath if you ask me! Many are friendly and will approach you wanting to cuddle. I, being a crazy-cat lady, became emotionally attached since I named every one that I encountered. But, rest assure you, you will see SO MANY animals. I sure hope you're not allergic because the strays will make your trip that much more magical. So, embrace them and give them leftovers at dinner!
3. Create Your Own Tradition
First off, if you decide to go to Greece, you MUST go island hopping. Why? There are 3,000 islands of Greece-- granted, some are inhabited by ten people and virtually no one knows about them, but each island is totally different and is unique and popular for their own reasons. I was a solo traveler, but after making fast friends, we decided on Day 1 to create our own tradition- Popping Champagne each place we go. I know people who get tattoos each place they travel as a tradition, but being deathly afraid of needles, champagne was the second best option. We traveled from Athens, to Santorini, to Paros, and lastly, Mykonos... so four bottles of bubbly. We took videos each time and of course, celebrated the fact we were in GREECE. Fun fact- "Opa" is the "American-Greek" way to say "Cheers". If you want to have a real celebration, raise your glasses to "Yamas!"
4. Don't Let Bumps Along the Way Affect Your Whole Trip
Example #1-- my flight at the start of the trip from San Diego to Greece was an absolute nightmare. I have never flown internationally alone. My flight got delayed to the point where they had to put me on a backup flight to Paris. I flew to New York, as part of my original flight, and the flight attendants told me they were going to hold my flight so I wouldn't have to go to Paris. I was instructed to exit the airport, run alongside of the road without a side walk in New York, to a completely different terminal (I almost got hit by a car in the process LOL). I missed my flight by two minutes, even when they said they would hold it-- I was off to Paris! My flight from Paris to Athens was decent-- until I got food poisoning. However, it didn't hit me until later. I land in Athens, find out that my luggage was lost for a day, and on the bus from the airport to the hotel it hit me, and I puked on the bus-- good times! Finally, after 24 hours of traveling, I get to the hotel, a shower was necessary. I wash my clothes in the sink because desperate calls call for desperate measures. Then, my travel group tells me they were going to explore the city-- so I walk around Athens in wet clothes! How did I deal with all this? I laughed it out. I just kept saying to myself "hit me, what else ya got?" Looking back at it, it's all part of the journey and I wouldn't change a thing.
5. Make Copies of Your Passport for Every Bag You Pack
I was on a boat in Mykonos with my group, no one was around, we were in the middle of nowhere. Then, the Coast Guard came over and asked for our passport numbers to ensure we weren't Syrian Refugees. So yes, this is important HA! Keep your actual passport locked away in your hotel safe. However, make photo copies of your passport, driver's license, credit cards, health insurance cards, and other important documents to keep in every bag you plan to bring. God forbid something bad were to happen and someone were to steal anything you own, you want to make sure you are protected and can prove your citizenship. The black market for passports is huge in Greece. Luckily, I never had any problems with theft, but I've heard horror stories and it's always important to air on the side of caution.
6. Pack Bug Spray
It wasn't until I arrived in Mykonos that I found the need to bring bug spray, but dang, I wish I did! I was staying along the shore at Paradise Beach Resort. The island has beetles and mosquitos and one morning I woke up with six massive bug bites around my eyes! NOT CUTE. I had to wear a band-aid on my face so I wouldn't scratch them during my flight back to the US.
7. Rent ATVs
Do it. Just do it. You can rent an ATV for 20 euros for 24 hours. All you need is a driver's license. Mopeds are also available to rent but require a motorcycle license. These are extremely popular and are so much fun. I suggest renting them as early on in the day as you can, so you can practice riding them without heavy traffic, as the roads are pretty confusing and run down. My friends and I took them down Fira in Santorini all the way down to the beach. It was one of my favorite memories hands-down! My tour director warned us that these are 'dangerous', but like I said- when in Greece, live life on the edge!
8. Keep Calm & Ride a Donkey: Better than any Uber
Be cautious when riding them downhill- it might feel like you're going to fly off and die and truth is, the donkey's might slip and make it 10x more scary, but when in Greece... DO IT. I highly encourage going outside of your comfort zone! It cost 10 euros to go down & up a flight of stairs that takes you close to the ocean alongside of the cliffs. At the end of the day, it is the perfect Grecian adventure and makes you feel like you should be in the musical "Mamma Mia!"
9. Find a Greek Lover
Who doesn't want a little romance in Greece?! If you're a single-solo traveler like I was, you look around and notice all the couples on their honeymoon. Heck, there were even two couples in my travel group! I, of course, loved talking to the Greek boys, even if I could barely understand them! Let them talk Greek to you. My excuse-- it culturally educates you about to different people of around the world hehe.
10. Don't Pack Heels
Please don't. Just- no. When island hopping, you are moving around left and right, catching flights, catching ferries, catching busses, catching taxis. You want to pack light. I wish I packed lighter. I brought one backpack and one piece of luggage. I wish I brought a carry-on size luggage piece instead. Obviously, you have to get those incredible Instagram's and wear those cute outfits to do so- but they do not require heels of any sort. Sandals, sandals, sandals... leave room in your suitcase to buy sandals at local shops-- they're super trendy! But even if you decide to go to a club, you are not going to want to wear heels. Greece is no place to be high maintenance!