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How to Do Greece on a Budget

By Maya Stanton
April 3, 2019
Coastal town at dusk
Desislava Vasileva/Dreamstime
See the sights without going bust.

Dreaming of lazy afternoons on the Aegean, and mornings spent wandering ancient ruins and quaint cobblestone streets? You’re not alone: Greece is a hugely popular tourist destination, welcoming some 30 million visitors in 2018. But even though demand is high, a Hellenic vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are three tried-and-true tips for stretching those euros as far as they’ll go.

1. Spend Up Front to Save Later

Greece-car-tree.jpg?mtime=20190327084312#asset:105341A good travel agent will worry about the details for you, freeing you up to explore. (Maya Stanton)

We were sipping Aperol spritzes and watching the sunset at an oceanfront café on the island of Naxos when the call came in: The ferries, shut down for the past few days due to high winds and turbulent seas, were up and running again. At this point, we’d already had to rework our itinerary, flying into Naxos instead of taking the boat from Athens and skipping our day in Mykonos, and if we wanted to be on the ferry to Santorini the next morning, we’d need to book it to the nearest ticket office on the double—a chance we would’ve missed without that alert. In most cases, I prefer to DIY my travel, but for this trip, we worked with an agent for just such an occasion: Given the probability of ferry strikes and weather-related cancellations, not to mention a serious lack of communication from the various companies about said cancellations, hiring someone to look out for your interests is a solid investment. Before you plunk down that credit card, though, contact a few places to get quotes (we used Dolphin Hellas; dolphin-hellas.gr), and pay close attention to how quickly they reply, and how thoroughly they address your questions and concerns—you want someone who will move quickly and efficiently on your behalf, and a high level of care and a speedy response time in the planning stages forecasts the consideration you’ll receive on the ground.

2. Travel at the Right Time

Parthenon-Acropolis-Athens-Greece.jpg?mtime=20190327084310#asset:105338Sights like the Parthenon won't be deserted in shoulder season, but they'll be much less crowded than they are in the summer. (Anyaivanova/Dreamstime)

Looking for a great summer getaway? This is not the place for peaceful days at the beach or leisurely strolls through postcard-perfect villages and towns. Greece is at peak capacity from June to August, meaning overflowing crowds, high hotel rates, and packed-to-the brim restaurants and attractions. To bring down your bill—and avoid the mobs—visit during shoulder season, when the streets may be bustling but elbow room is far easier to come by. In spring and fall, the weather’s just as idyllic, and though you’ll still file in with the hordes to see the Parthenon and navigate the narrow footpaths of Oia, on Santorini, it’s much worse in July.

3. Pick Your Priorities

Greece-food-small-plates.jpg?mtime=20190327084311#asset:105340Go cheap on accommodations so you have more to spend on food and drink. (Maya Stanton)

The bad news: You probably won’t be able to find a travel agent who’s willing to book your ferry tickets alone. The good: In addition to taking care of the nitty-gritties, like transfers and hotels, as well as last-minute schedule changes, like putting you on a flight when the ferries are canceled and extending hotel stays when necessary, an effective agent will help allocate your dollars to align with your personal priorities. Can’t get a good night’s sleep without downy pillows and luxe linens? They’ll book you in at five-star hotels (and charge you accordingly). Prefer to spend less on accommodations so there’s more in the budget for dining and activities? No judgement—or flea-trap motels—here. Of course, you can do this on your own as well, but since you’re paying for the service, let them reserve your rooms and buy your museum tickets while you do the important work of restaurant research and souvenir shopping.

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Travel Tips

10 Apps You Need For Your Next Trip

If you sometimes feel as if your smartphone is becoming your travel BFF, you’re not alone. Consider that nearly half of all travelers have used a mobile device to plan or book a trip, a 2016 global survey from Apteligent found. Mobile apps have also enabled travelers to find hotel deals, dine with locals, and even overcome jet lag. Ready to load up your smartphone for your next trip? These 10 apps will address many of your most pressing travel needs. (And we assume you’ve already heeded our suggestion to download our parent company Lonely Planet’s indispensable inspiration and planning apps Trips and Guides.) 1. NETFLIX: Binge your favorite TV show while you're in the air Missed the latest season of Stranger Things? Catch up on your flight using the Netflix app’s “download” feature, which lets subscribers watch select TV shows and movies on phones and tablets without an Internet connection. To see if the series or movie you want is available for download, you can search the title you want and look for the download icon (the arrow pointing downward to a horizontal line). Not looking for anything in particular? The Netflix app also features an “Available for Download” menu that displays all downloadable content in one place. One caveat: Netflix says that downloading and streaming consume similar amounts of data, so you may want to use a wireless connection, rather than a cellular one, while downloading. Available on iPhone and Android. 2. 7 MINUTE WORKOUT: Squeeze in a quick morning workout To stay in shape on your trip, use the 7 Minute Workout app from Johnson & Johnson. Designed by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the company’s Human Performance Institute, the app offers more than 20 pre-set workouts that vary in intensity and duration, and can be customized to fit your fitness level. Also, the app talks you through proper form, and recommends different workout programs as your endurance increases. Available on iPhone and Android. 3. EATWITH: Break bread with locals Want an authentic dining experience while you’re traveling? Eatwith can connect you with locals in more than 130 countries for truly immersive cuisine. From dinner parties to food tours to cooking classes, the app has a variety of culinary events that let you wine and dine with hosts at your destination. The app lets you search for food experiences by price range. It also enables you to filter based on dietary restrictions such as vegetarian, vegan, and Kosher meals. Available on iPhone and Android. 4. NEARIFY: Find live music, comedy, film screenings, and other entertainment on the go One way to discover cool events near you is by using Nearify. The app uses your location to show you happenings like concerts and festivals to cooking classes and sports games. Offered in New York City, London, Boston, Mumbai and hundreds of other cities around the world, Nearify will also send you a personalized list of events at the location of your choice based on your preferences and tastes. Available on iPhone and Android. 5. ROOMIER TRAVEL: Nab sweet hotel room deals from people who can't use theirs Plenty of apps let people book hotel reservations at discounts—HotelTonight, One:Night, and HotelQuickly are a few of them. But Roomer Travel lets travelers score special rates by buying non-refundable rooms from other consumers. The app lets you search for deals based on your destination and travel dates. In addition, the folks at Roomer will automatically double check to make sure your reservation is transferred to your name. Available on iPhone and Android. 6. LOUNGEBUDDY: Escape noisy, overcrowded airport terminals Good news: you don’t need to have an elite status or first-class ticket to access those coveted airport lounges. With LoungeBuddy, members can kill time in more than 280 airport lounges across the globe. Passes start at $25, but the app also lets you gain complimentary access based on credit cards or frequent flyer programs you belong to, so you can make the most of your loyalty rewards. You can even filter by lounge amenities such alcoholic drinks, showers, or kids’ play rooms. Available on iPhone. 7. ROME2RIO: Get around without wasting time or stressing out To maximize your vacation time, use Rome2rio. This app will get you from point A to point B fast and easy. Just enter the town, address or landmark you’re going to and Rome2rio will display flight, train, bus, ferry, and driving options with estimated travel times and fares. A nice bonus: the app will also show you cool things to do when you get to your destination. Available on iPhone and Android. 8. DUOLINGO: Talk like a local Learn how to speak like a native with duolingo. This app shows you how to enrich your vocabulary by offering bite-sized lessons in Spanish, French, German, and more than a dozen other languages. To stay engaged, you’ll play games where you earn points for correct answers. And, unlike a lot of other language apps, duolingo is free. Available on iPhone and Android. 9. SOLOTRAVELLER: Find like-minded individuals Hitting the road alone? Find travel buddies using SoloTraveller. The app lets you make new friends during your trip by connecting you with other solo travelers in your city in real time. It also helps you save money by pairing you people to share taxis, tours, or other travel expenses. You can find a travel mate nearby by searching for people based on age, gender, and interests. Available on iPhone and Android. 10. JET LAG ROOSTER: Beat jet lag Adjusting to a new time zone can zap your energy at the beginning of your trip. One solution is Jet Lag Rooster. The app provides a personalized, hour-by-hour plan to help you overcome jet lag. After you enter your flight details and sleep pattern information, the app will create a customized guide suggesting the best times for bright light exposure (e.g., sunlight) and melatonin to help your body clock adjust. Available on Android.

Travel Tips

Watch Budget Travel on Facebook Live: 'U.S. Road Trips'

Budget Travel's editor in chief, Robert Firpo-Cappiello, will be live on Facebook on Wednesday, March 27, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern presenting “U.S. Road Trips.” (Can't watch it live? No worries - all of our livestream segments are archived on the Budget Travel Facebook page for bingeing whenever the mood hits you.) JOIN US ON FACEBOOK To join our fun, informative discussion, go to Budget Travel’s Facebook page and “like” us. Then, sit back and learn about affordable and scenic drives, from the Pacific coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond. SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS! One of the most informative and entertaining portions of our Facebook Live segments is when readers share their travel questions for our editors to answer live on camera. There are three ways to share your questions with the Budget Travel newsroom: Email us at info@BudgetTravel.com.Post your questions on Facebook during our livestream on Wednesday.Post a comment below.See you LIVE on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, March 27.

Travel Tips

Skincare to Go: 5 DIY Hacks for the Road

It’s happened to the best of us: You arrive at your destination only to realize that you left your moisturizer at home. You’re in a foreign country, and you can’t get a replacement. Who knows what effect a different brand might have on your skin? With or without your favorite product, however, breakouts and dryness could happen—that’s just one way your body might react to the various stressors brought on by travel. But there are ways to get your body back in alignment that don’t have to involve a visit to the drugstore. To get the details on tried-and-true do-it-yourself remedies, we turned to Violet Mkhitaryan, an aesthetician and spa owner who’s carrying the torch for time-tested skincare regimens—no designer products or fancy labels required. A trained biochemist in her native Armenia, Violet long ago realized her preference for the recipes and healthy practices learned at her grandmother's knee, and today, she incorporates those tips and tricks into the additive- and preservative-free products she makes by hand to use and sell at her spa, Violet Skin Boutique (violeltskinboutique.com), in Brookline, Massachusetts. She showed us how to bring some of her long-practiced tactics to modern life, especially when travel calls for you to reboot your bod. 1. Exfoliate to Clean and Refresh Anything abrasive gives your skin a deep clean and helps remove dirt and oil. There are plenty of natural ingredients that’ll do the trick, and chances are you already have them at your fingertips. Violet recommends mixing used coffee grounds with a teaspoon of sour cream, massaging the blend into your skin, and leaving it on for 10 to 15 minutes. The grounds act as an exfoliant, and the cream moisturizes. 2. Renew Your Natural Glow To help close pores, nourish skin, and rejuvenate your look, Violet turns to a dense, soothing slather: a tablespoon of oatmeal blended with a dollop or two of heavy cream. Apply to your face and leave for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off. 3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate Fruits and vegetables have a higher moisture content than any other food. Take two strawberries, three grapes, and a third of a banana. Mash them together in a bowl with the back of a spoon, add a dollop of sour cream, apply the mixture to your face, and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and feel refreshed and hydrated. 4. Tone It Up Regardless of whether or not you’re traveling, your skin needs a regular boost. Think of a toner as the skincare equivalent of yoga: It simply gives skin a chance to open up and breath. Violet turns to cucumber or watermelon juice. Use a cotton ball to apply, then lay a tissue over your face as a sheet mask. Let it sit for five minutes, then rinse off. 5. A Simple Cure for Puffiness Nothing can mess with your skin’s moisture levels more than a plane’s recirculated air. At high altitudes, you’re dry. Back on the ground, things can change drastically, especially if you arrive somewhere humid or rainy. The consequences aren't pretty: puffiness, especially around the eyes. According to Violet, though, there’s an easy solution. Massaging your face with ice for a few minutes should help recalibrate everything.

Road TripsTravel Tips

Summer Road Trip Forecast & Tips

If you’re planning to take a family vacation in 2019, you’re in good company: A recent AAA survey predicts that nearly 100 million Americans (that’s about 4 in 10 adults) are planning to do the same. With that data in mind, AAA shared some stats, know-how, and trip inspiration that every Budget Traveler should know. By the Numbers According to AAA’s survey, two-thirds of family travelers will take a summer getaway, with more than half of them planning to make that getaway a road trip. One factor that’s inspiring travelers to plan road trips and scenic drives is the lower cost of gas, down about one quarter compared with last year. Gas prices are expected to rise, but remain lower this summer than last. AAA reports that a third of Americans surveyed said they would add another road trip to their summer plans if gas prices stay down, Planning Your Route “To make the most of their vacations, AAA recommends families plan and research as far ahead as possible to avoid missing out on popular activities and fun,” says Stacey Barber, executive director, AAA Travel Information & Content. Budget Travel has been covering great American road trips for more than 20 years, and offers a wealth of itineraries and advice. It turns out, AAA’s top routes for summer travel (according to AAA member road trip routing data) align very much with some of Budget Travel’s all-time favorite U.S. road trips, including the National Parks of the Southwest, the Pacific Coast Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the mountains of New England. READ: 5 Perfect U.S. Road Trips Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip We also echo AAA’s common-sense road trip tips, which you can start implementing as early as, well, right now, to ensure a smooth summer excursion: Pack smart. Bring books, games, and music, information on your destination, and healthy snack. Stay safe. Stop every 100 miles, or every two hours, to help stay alert. Make sure all passengers are safely wearing seatbelts or sitting in child safety seats. Be patient. Be prepared to hit traffic, and reduce your chance of delays by hitting the road earlier or later than most drivers, especially on holiday weekends. Map out your route. Sure, GPS is awesome, but it’s always best to map out your route in advance, including reliable lodging, restaurants, and gas stations, especially if you’re traveling a relatively remote area where you may lose cellular service for a time. Get your car ready. Have your car inspected and tuned up, carry a flashlight, extra batteries, flares or reflective triangle, jumper cables, a first-aid kit, and plenty of water.

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