Introduction: The Very Long Way To Italy & Greece

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Welcome to my next trip report, covering our big summer trip, which had us staying at some great hotels in Italy and Greece, and spending way too many hours in Emirates first class (if that’s possible).

Planning the trip

The planning for this trip started with a great first class fare that Emirates published late last year for travel between Canada and Milan. The best part was that you could route via the US and Dubai and have stopovers, so this was an opportunity to rack up a huge number of Alaska miles. Ford and I hadn’t yet planned a big summer trip, so we decided to jump on this.

It has been years since I’ve been to Milan, so we figured we should spend a few days there. However, our ultimate destination was Greece, which Ford has been to many times, though I haven’t been there in over a decade. Getting between Milan and Greece was easy enough.

Booking flights

To start we booked the following itinerary in Emirates first class, for travel between Vancouver and Milan:

05/30 WS1702 Vancouver to Los Angeles departing 7:45PM arriving 10:35PM
06/02 EK216 Los Angeles to Dubai departing 4:40PM arriving 7:30PM (+1 day)
06/04 EK205 Dubai to Milan departing 9:45AM arriving 2:20PM

06/16 EK206 Milan to Dubai departing 2:05PM arriving 10:10PM
06/17 EK215 Dubai to Los Angeles departing 8:55AM arriving 1:55PM
06/17 WS1699 Los Angeles to Vancouver departing 8:15PM arriving 10:59PM

The fare was ~$3,100 per person. That’s of course a lot of cash, though we earned a lot of Alaska miles. For example, Ford matched to MVP Gold 75K and earned about 107,000 Alaska miles. I value those miles at about two cents each, meaning he earned over $2,100 worth of miles.

I fully realize that’s still a lot of cash, but as someone who has sometimes bought Alaska miles in the past, I view my real “out of pocket” on this transaction as being significantly less than what we paid for the tickets.

While in Greece we decided to visit Santorini and Porto Heli (outside of Athens), so then we had to book three intra-Europe flights.

First we booked EasyJet from Milan to Santorini. Being able to fly nonstop is awesome, and I’ve long been curious to try EasyJet. Our tickets ending up costing about $100 per person, and that includes a seat in the exit row and a carry-on bag, which I’d consider to be a great deal. Here’s the flight we booked:

06/07 EZY2959 Milan to Santorini departing 6:55AM arriving 10:40AM

Then after four days it was time to fly to Athens, so we booked a flight on Volotea (a Spanish low cost carrier) to Athens, which cost about $60 per person:

06/11 V74111 Santorini to Athens departing 10:40AM arriving 11:30AM

Lastly, to get from Athens back to Milan to meet up with the rest of our ticket, we booked Aegean economy for about $100 per person, on the following flight:

06/16 A3660 Athens to Milan departing 8:35AM arriving 10:10AM

In the end, our entire routing looked as follows, and covered over 26,000 flown miles:

Booking hotels

For this trip we had quite a few hotel stays, including:

  • 3 nights in Milan
  • 4 nights in Santorini
  • 4 nights in Porto Heli (outside of Athens)
  • 1 night at Athens Airport
  • 2 nights in Dubai (one in each direction)

While I’ll cover all the details of how we booked the hotels in the individual installments, I’ll share the basics in this post.

In Milan we decided to stay at the Park Hyatt Milan for 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night. I applied a Globalist Suite Upgrade to confirm a suite at the time of booking.

For our four nights in Santorini we decided to stay at Mystique, which is the Starwood Luxury Collection property. We booked this using the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit. I had seen so many pictures of this hotels on over the years, so it was surreal to finally see it in person.

Then for our next four nights we stayed at Amanzoe in Porto Heli. Amans are expensive, though also worth every penny if you can swing it, in my opinion. The service, setting, and just everything, is unrivaled. I can’t wait to share our experience there.

Then we had one night in Athens before our early morning flight to Milan, so we decided to stay at the Sofitel Athens Airport.

We also had two nights in Dubai — on the outbound we had a roughly 14 hour layover, and on the return we had a roughly 11 hour layover. Our outbound was eligible for Emirates’ complimentary transit hotel, so they put us up at the Le Meridien near the airport. That was… an interesting experience.

For whatever reason the return flight wasn’t eligible for the free stopover hotel. So we decided to tryĀ the Dubai International Airport Hotel, which is the transit hotel located airside. I’ve always wondered how this hotel is, and it seemed ideal for such a quick stay, since we wouldn’t even have to go through immigration.

I’m skipping some installments

As usual, I’m skipping some installments in this trip report, so that it’s not too repetitive:

  • We spent about 50 hours in Emirates first class, which was enjoyable, but I figure there’s not much value in reviewing the return flights from Milan to Dubai to Los Angeles, since they were fairly similar to the outbound; I will review the Emirates Lounge Milan, though
  • I don’t have a whole lot to say about our 30 minute Volotea flight from Santorini to Athens; the airport was hell, I got yelled at for taking a single picture, and there was no service, so…
  • I shared my impressions of Aegean economy in a separate post, and don’t feel like there’s a whole lot else I can add there

Other than that, I should be covering most other aspects of the trip in this report.

Bottom line

Ford and I had an amazing trip, though I did have mixed feelings about some of the flights and hotels, so stay tuned for that. Like I said, I’ll have a lot more information on the hotel booking processes in the individual installments. Thanks for reading!

  1. @Lucky – I am curious of your experiences checking into hotels – particularly in the Middle East – with your male partner and requesting one bed. Have you ever had any pushback in Dubai, Doha, etc?

  2. Man, JTR is absolutely trash. Looking forward to reading the hotel portions of this trip report.

  3. Good review. I hope to do this route at some point. Greece is on our bucket list. We’ve done LAX – DXB – SGN (First/Business) with Emirates. The free connection stay at the Le Meridien, and other eligible properties, qualifies if the Emirates layover is more than 12 hours. If the layover to your next Emirates segment is less than 12 hours, one doesn’t qualify and you’re on your own. In any case, it’s a great benefit for first and business class travelers. The Le Meridien morning buffet was pretty damn good IMO.

  4. I had a horrible night at the Sofitel Athens airport in June. Hopefully yours was better.

  5. Hah, we were both at LAX at about the same time – you ending your summer trip, me starting mine (flew in on BA First). If only I had known! Then again, actually seeing you in person would probably be just as surreal as it was for you to see the Mystique šŸ˜‰

  6. Also just had a one night stay at the Sofitel Athens Airport and I also was not impressed. Dated room and horrible mattress and pillows. Service in the restaurant on the first floor was average at best. Booked a superior room so it was not as nice as the one you show above,

  7. “The fare was ~$3,100 per person. Thatā€™s of course a lot of cash” – Not really, considering first class on Emirates LAX-DXB is more than $20K….you got a hell of a deal! Even if it was $8K it’d be worth it.

  8. This blog is slowly turning into TPG. Even when staying at points hotels, Lucky ends up spending cash justifying it as “fourth night free”. Nothing against paying cash – just weird that the blog constantly pushes credit cards under the guise of redeeming points for travel, but the author seems to pay for flights (in F, no less) and for hotels, even when other options (using miles and points) are available.

  9. @jettyboy

    I see it differently.. I use this blog for objective reviews based on someone who has a lot of flights built up to use as reference for what business/first class flights and rooms at different price points SHOULD provide. As long as Lucky and other contributors give me the info on best booking options (whether awards or discounted cash rates), I could care less which methods they actually use themselves. I think for the most part this blog does that well.

  10. I have to agree with Mark and Christian. The Sofitel Athens Airport is, in my opinion, one of the worst hotels out there, particularly when considering the rather high cash rate. I already stayed there twice (the second time only because I didnā€˜t have any other option), and the hotel is the reason why I generally avoid Acc properties like hell. If time permits (and the metro will already be available in case of an early departure), I would always recommend taking the 45 minute trip downtown and stay, for example, at the Crowne plaza which is close enough to Megaro Moussikis stop with a direct connection to the airport. Much better, and even slightly cheaper.

  11. How do you identify the countless flight and hotel options ? Can you recommend good websites for both please ?

  12. Am I the only subscriber finding the sniping comments distasteful? My travel is not predicated on the ‘points’ game but I delight in reading the travel reviews and take immense pleasure in discovering any travel hack that suits my purpose. Thank you to Ben and his contributors for all their insights and advice – we would be the poorer for the lack of your blog despite our travel perspective.

  13. Another airport option is the Holiday Inn, although it must be about 10K down a freeway . However, they do provide a shuttle service to/from and the hotel itself is ‘cheap and cheerful’ but not too bad. But it’s probably almost just as quick to get downtown as the K George and the other one next door are right at Syntagma Metro stop ( ie direct route to ATH), albeit significantly more expensive.

  14. Was the Volotea flight really as bad as you make it seem? Only asking as I’m flying the same route in a couple months.

  15. @Carrie I dunno. I guess some people think that you can travel indefinitely on points without ever paying a cent. This blog is by far better than some of the other tabloid blogs out there. I enjoy the trip reviews as well, since when I do redeem points I don’t want to redeem them on a crappy product.

  16. @ Josh — The flight itself was totally fine, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them. It’s just that Santorini Airport is a zoo/mess.

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