Hello and welcome to my first blog post! If you are coming from my Instagram, mywealthdiary, you will know that I just got back from a vacation in Greece. After my last post on how much I spent on my trip, I received a number of requests to explain how exactly I did it. Trying to cram all of this content into an Instagram post didn’t seem feasible, so I decided that creating a blog would be best. So here is the information that you’ve all been waiting for!
A few points to call out before I dive into the details.
- All expenses listed are mine only. I split all my costs evenly with my boyfriend, who went on the trip with me
- The whole trip was cash-flowed
- We used a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
- If there is anything I didn’t cover or you have more questions, please let me know and I am happy to answer
Now to get down to the nitty gritty details!
Overall Budget & How I Kept Track of Spending
The key to not letting a vacation leave you poor & broke is to plan, plan, plan. Make sure you create a budget and stick to it! Before my trip, I did some research on costs in Greece. Then I added everything up in my favorite tool, Google Sheets, and came up with a budget of $1,600.
Keep in mind that the categories you create aren’t static – you can adjust the amounts in each category based on how the trip goes. Whenever I had a spare moment, I would add up my spending and balance my budget to see how much I had left in each category. This helped me understand where my money was going and what I could decrease and increase. For example, I quickly realized I was spending the most on food & eating out so I increased that budget and decreased transportation because we ended up walking most of the trip.
Tracking Daily Spending
Every day, I would jot down the date, euros spent, the dollar conversion, and a description of what the expense is in my Notes app on my phone. This was an easy way to track my spending each day on-the-go, which I would consolidate with my budget throughout my trip.
Total spent on flights = $65.24.
Round-trip flight from Boston to Athens = $0. I used points to book my flight for free (yay travel hacking!). I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which has amazing travel benefits. With this card, you get 50% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. I used 45,526 points, which equated to $682.89. By just being smart about how I use my credit card (i.e. treating it like a debit card, only spending if I know I have the money, and paying off my balance every month), I was able to score a free flight! Whooo!
We took Turkish Airlines, so we had a layover in Istanbul, Turkey each way. I had never taken Turkish Airlines before, but the whole experience was great. The flight attendants were all so nice, the food was delicious, and they added nice little touches like providing pouches with eye masks, socks and slippers, and lip balm. They also gave us a special gift (rose facial toner spray) for Mother’s Day, which was really sweet. Overall, we had a very comfortable travel experience with them – highly recommend!
Flights from Athens to Santorini & Mykonos to Athens = $32.62 each, $65.24 total.
We took Volotea for our flight from Athens to Santorini and also for our flight from Mykonos back to Athens. You could also take a ferry, but we decided that a flight would be easier and much cheaper. The check-in process was super easy and the flight was very short (less than an hour). By the time the plane takes off, the captain announces that we are landing. I would say that if you are planning to island hop, you should take a flight to Santorini or Mykonos, then take a ferry to and from the other islands. It just saves you a lot of time. Plus, it’s more cost-efficient.
Total spent on accommodations = $541.61.
We booked AirBnb’s for all our stays. There were a lot of options (ranging from very expensive to dirt cheap), so we were able to pick places that accommodated our needs.
1. Our first AirBnb in Athens was located in the center of Athens, with a balcony and an incredible view of the Acropolis. The place itself was really small but we went with it for the location and view. We stayed here for 2 nights for a total of $107.72. $53.86.
2. Our second AirBnb in Athens was on our last night in Greece. We needed a place to stay before our flight the next day. This place was perfect because it was walking distance to the train station that took us straight to the airport. It was super modern and cute, with a balcony where we watched the sunset on our last night. We stayed here for one night for a total of $91.08. $45.54.
Santorini – Fira
In Fira, we stayed at a house very close to the city center. The place was comfortable and I liked the fact that there was a TV we could watch Netflix on at the end of the day. We stayed here for two nights, for a total of $205. $102.50.
Santorini – Oia
Man is Oia expensive! We looked at some of the cave houses, but most of them were upwards of $200 a night. We luckily found this beautiful villa in Tholos, which is a short walk from the main area of Oia. It is close to the beach and has an amazing private pool with a gorgeous view of the Santorini country-side. The sunset view from this place was unbeatable (see picture of killer sunset from the pool below). It really was a treat to stay here. We stayed here for 3 nights, for a total of $499.68. $249.84.
In Mykonos, we stayed at a studio in the heart of the island. It was nice to be able to stop by the place multiple times throughout the day if we needed to rest or change clothes. We stayed here for 2 nights, for a total of $179.74. $89.87.
Total spent on transportation = $129.91.
Total spent on the ferry = $47.
We took a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos. We ordered our tickets online on https://www.ferryhopper.com/. There are different boat options that you can go with.
- SuperFerry – this is a big boat that usually takes about 3-4 hours to get from Santorini to Mykonos. The tickets are cheaper, around 42 euros per person.
- SeaJets – this is a small boat that is faster than the SuperFerry. It usually takes about 2.5 hours to get from Santorini to Mykonos. The tickets are more expensive, around 66 euros.
We went with SuperFerry and got the cheapest deck tickets, which cost $94 for two people. $47.
The ferry port is in Fira, and the easiest way to get there is by taxi which costs 20 euros. The ride down is a little scary because you are literally driving along the steep cliffs from the highest point of the island down to the ferry. Once you get down to the port, there are lots of cafes and restaurants you can sit and chill at until your ferry arrives. If you ordered your tickets online, make sure to pick up your tickets from the ferry office (there’s a fee of 50 cents). Be sure to head to your gate early to stand in line because it starts to get hectic when everyone is trying to board.
The ride itself was very smooth and pleasant. There were lots of seats available, so we were able to lay across the seats and take a quick nap. There is also a cafe where you can get coffee and snacks. There is Wifi, which you need to pay for. Since the trip was long, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for it. It cost $3.93. Keep in mind that it’s a one-person use Wifi code, so don’t think you can fool the system like we did by trying the code on both our phones. Lol it doesn’t work. We also explored the top deck, which was nice to feel the cool breeze and see the water.
Total spent on taxis = $35.18.
There are taxis that are available for you around the main city, but make sure you have cash for these rides. My boyfriend and I thought credit card would be accepted everywhere, but taxis were the one exception. It was quite the surprise when mid-taxi ride, we learned that we needed cash and had to ask the driver to make a pit-stop at an ATM. Moral of the story: always have some cash on hand.
Total spent on public transportation = $47.73.
Athens had very accessible public transportation from the airport to the city center. We took the train, which cost 10 euros one way. We ended up taking this multiple times to and from the city. In Santorini, our AirBnb host helped us arrange a taxi to pick us up from the Fira airport to the town for 20 euros. We also took a bus from Fira to Oia, which was easy to take and only cost 1.60 euro one way.
Food. LOTS and LOTS of Food.
Of course, my biggest expense on the trip (aside from accommodations) was food. Can’t fully experience a new place without trying all the food, am I right?? Total spent on food = $539.56.
A for Athens. This was a cocktail bar & restaurant on the rooftop of the hotel A for Athens. We went earlier in the day, so we were able to get seats without a reservation. The view really was amazing. We got seats directly facing the Acropolis and the city center. We ordered drinks and shared a moussaka and calamari. The only negative thing I have to say is that the service is extremely slow, which is normal in Greece, and they charged us for bread and bottled water (even though we didn’t ask for it). $47.10.
Side note on tipping. This was our first sit-down meal in Greece, so we weren’t sure how tipping worked. I learned, after the fact, that tipping in Greece is nice, but not obligatory. If you receive good service, it’s recommended that you tip between 5-10%. In many cases on our trip, the waiter would ask us directly if we would like to add a tip to our bill. We often ended up tipping 15% or more like we would in the U.S., but the service was never amazing. Everything is Greece runs extremely slow, so be prepared for long meals and slow service.
Santorini Wine Restaurant – Fira
This place was AMAZING. I made a reservation online a couple weeks in advance, based on recommendations on TripAdvisor. I was really hoping to have outdoor seating, but the waiter assured me that we wouldn’t want to be sitting outside with the wind and cold (it had rained earlier in the day). Although I was a little disappointed, the interior of the restaurant was just as nice and we enjoyed our delicious food in the warmth. I ordered grilled octopus as an appetizer and cod for my main dish. I especially loved the presentation of each dish – highly recommend this restaurant! $67.67.
Pelican Kipo – Fira
We loved this place so much, we went twice for breakfast! The restaurant has the most amazing environment, with palm trees and gardens surrounding the tables. What really made the place special was the pianist who was amazing. The vibe of the whole place was magical and the food was delicious. You get freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, bread with jam, butter & honey, and an omelette with greens all for just 11.60 euros. We were really happy with this place. $13.
Passaggio – Oia
Once we arrived in Oia, we found another breakfast place we loved. This restaurant was a bit more pricier than Pelican Kipos in Fira, but the food was still amazing. The chocolate banana pancakes that were included in the breakfast was the cherry on top. $20.19.
Melitini Restaurant – Oia
After doing some research on best places to eat in Oia, this place came up as the top restaurant on Trip Advisor so we had to give it a try. Melitini is a tapas-style restaurant, so we ordered multiple dishes to try. We ordered the smoked cheese saganaki (which is straight cheese & heaven on earth), grilled octopus, spetzofai spicy sausage, meatballs with yogurt dip, and the orange pie (which was amazing). $34.51.
Kastro Oia Restaurant – Oia
Watching the sunset in Santorini is a BIG, BIG deal. All the tourists gather around 7 pm and claim their spot on the stairs and the castle for the best views of the sunset. We got lucky and were able to make reservations at Kastro Oia Restaurant for dinner. We decided to go with their fixed 3-course “Sunset Menu” which was fitting.
We ordered wine and sangria, then started the meal off with tuna tartar, followed by mussels, and the main course – lobster. As the sun started to go down, it got chillier so we got blankets from the restaurant (bonus points!). By 8 pm, we were surrounded by tourists ready with their cameras. We probably had the best view on the island! We enjoyed our fruit as we watched the sun go down and everyone clapped when the sun finally disappeared into the ocean. It was truly a magical experience. An expensive, magical experience. $101.74.
Captain’s – Mykonos
This tapas place in Mykonos was amazing as well. It was right next to the water front, so we were able to people watch while we enjoyed our small dishes. We ordered calamari, grilled vegetables, chicken saganaki in red sauce and feta cheese, fried cod, and cheesecake. $33.20.
We had a lot of gyros, baklava, and gelato during our time in Greece. My favorite gelato place was Lolita’s in Oia. So, so good!
Activities & Sights
Total spent on activities = $202.22.
Renting an ATV and riding it around the island is big on the Greek islands. There are two big companies that you can rent ATV’s from in Santorini:
When we went to Drossos, they told us we needed an international driver’s license in order to rent an ATV from them. Vazeos did not require one, as long as you had your national license, so we went with them.
Usually, you rent an ATV for a 24 hours, but my boyfriend was stressed about keeping it for that long so we returned it after a couple hours of driving around the island. Because we didn’t go very far, we didn’t need to refill the gas. So the total ended up being $56.04. $28.02.
My boyfriend and I (well, mostly me) thought it would be fun to do a Santorini photoshoot. I saw an AirBnb activity where a photographer will take professional pictures of you around the island.
It was definitely a bit awkward at first as we were trying to pose for the camera. But we got used to it after a while, and it was fun to see new photo op spots around Santorini. The photographer knew what he was doing, so he helped us feel comfortable and pose naturally.
The experience was a bit pricey, but the beautiful pictures made it worth it! $140.54 per person.
Most of the activities and sight-seeing that we did around Greece was free. We didn’t sign up for any tours or excursions. We decided to just explore ourselves and save the money.
In Athens, we paid $67.32 for 2 tickets to see multiple attractions around Athens including:
- Acropolis and Slopes
- Ancient Agora
- Hadrian’s Library
- Aristotle’s School (Lykeion)
- Temple of Olympian Zeus
- Roman Agora
In the past, I would buy a bunch of souvenirs for my friends & family. I would lug home magnets, cups, shot glasses, and keychains that would eventually break, get lost, or just be forgotten. As part of my financial and minimalist transformation, I’ve realized that pictures and memories are far more valuable than cheap souvenirs.
On this trip, my boyfriend and I looked for one thing that we could hang up in our apartment that would be meaningful. We live in a small space, so we are very mindful of what we bring into it. In one of the shops, we came across a handmade painted plaque of Santorini that would be perfect on our wall. So we bought it for 7.50 euros and didn’t look at anything else. $4.21.
The best part of the trip were the sights, which were FREE and mind-blowing!! See the amazing pictures below.
Overall, this was an amazing trip that didn’t put a huge dent in my May budget because I planned for it and made sure we were under budget. I created beautiful memories, ate lots of good food, and have a ton of pictures to always look back on. This trip definitely ignited my passion for travel again. Travel hacking is key to taking affordable, budget-friendly vacations to dream destinations.
Now that I can cross Greece off my travel bucket list, I’m looking forward to planning my next vacation. Only 74 more countries to go before I hit my life goal of 100 countries!