I’m Taking My Mom To Greece!

I’m Taking My Mom To Greece!

51

Hi from Greece, and welcome to my next trip report series!

A special trip to Greece with my mom

I’ve been doing what I can to travel with my mom as much as possible in recent weeks — we’ve been to New Orleans, Big Sur, and Hawaii — and that will continue.

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to travel with my mom right now — while most people have had a rough 15 months due to coronavirus, my mom has had a rough couple of years. She has been through more than I could ever endure with her ovarian cancer battle, and she has done it all with a positive and inspiring attitude.

Fortunately everyone in our family is fully vaccinated and my mom is in a position where she has the energy to travel (though at a relaxed pace), and I’m cherishing all the quality time we’re able to spend together.

We just arrived in one of my favorite countries in the world — Greece! So, why are we here?

  • When I asked my mom where she wanted to go more than anywhere else, Greece was at the top of her list; while I’ve been here many times, she only visited a couple of decades ago on a cruise
  • Since my mom’s mobility is a bit limited, it’s a fantastic place, as you can really enjoy Greece without having to move around that much — the views are breathtaking from just about everywhere, there are great hotels, and the food is some of my favorite in the world
  • My mom’s partner also wanted to visit Greece, as he had never been, but has family from here

Fortunately Greece is open to the world, including those who are vaccinated, those who have recovered from coronavirus, and those who have proof of a negative coronavirus test.

You can’t beat the views from Greece!

What I’ll be reviewing

I’ll save the exact details of the flights we are taking and hotels we’re staying at for the individual review installments. That’s primarily because I don’t want to jinx myself, as our trip has already changed significantly due to misconnecting, ferries being canceled, etc.

Generally you can expect:

  • I’ll be reviewing flights, though in an abbreviated way, mainly to reflect the realities of flying on certain airlines during coronavirus
  • I’ll be reviewing all the hotels we’re staying at in detail, since we’re exclusively staying at hotels I’ve never reviewed before
  • Given coronavirus, I’ll talk a bit about the complexities of international travel (testing, endless forms, etc.)

View of Athens on approach

International travel is really complicated right now

I want to briefly mention this upfront, because it’s a point I can’t emphasize enough. While I’m so happy we took this trip and have no regrets, my gosh everything leading up to actually getting here was such a colossal pain in the you-know-what (and that’s not even factoring in the flight misconnect we had on the way here).

Travel rules are basically impossible to understand

While there will be several nonstop flights between the United States and Greece soon, there weren’t yet any when we were traveling. Actually understanding rules surrounding transit and testing requirements is ridiculously complicated, though. I’m amazed by the lack of easy-to-understand official government guidance surrounding this, and airlines aren’t of much help either.

For example, take this post from SWISS’ official Facebook page:

Instead of a PCR test, a rapid antigen test is now also permitted for entry into Switzerland by air. The negative Covid 19 test result must be presented at check-in or at the gate before travelling.

Someone commented the following:

From the link -> “If you don’t have a PCR test result, the control authority at the border can punish you with a CHF 200 fine.”

SWISS responded the following:

With regards to your query, I would strongly recommend for you to contact your local consulate / Embassy for further clarification regarding entry regulation.

And then the person asked this follow-up:

So how can you claim that a rapid antigen test is permitted?

That’s a great question!

That’s just one example, but the amount of contradictory information I’ve seen online from seemingly official sources and airlines about testing, transit, entry, etc., is mind-boggling.

If you can fly nonstop between your origin and destination country, I’d oh-so-highly recommend doing that.

Unfortunately the journey we took (which was the most direct available) involved a total of three connections and had us traveling for about 30 hours door-to-door. While I’m used to travel days like that, I felt bad for my mom, especially after the misconnect, since she’s obviously not used to travel days that long.

Understanding travel restrictions is really tough right now

Testing, forms, forms, and more forms

Our best option ended up being flying from the United States to Greece through London Heathrow. Just to give you a sense of that process:

  • Transiting the UK requires getting a negative coronavirus test, which could just be a rapid antigen test; 48 hours before travel we got an antigen test with results promised in 30 minutes, and 24 hours later we still didn’t have our results, with no phone number to contact, so we just had to go back to the actual testing site to confront them
  • To transit the UK you need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form in advance
  • On top of that it’s recommended that you use VeriFLY to upload all of your documents to speed up the process (this is what’s used by American and British Airways — other airlines partner with different services); even with using that, the check-in process in Tampa took around 20 minutes, and five people in a row being helped at the desk next to us had missed their flights on international itineraries, due to how long the whole process took
  • To enter Greece you also need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form in advance

Again, none of these are hurdles that can’t be overcome, and my intent isn’t to complain. Rather my point is to truly warn people that international travel is complicated right now, be prepared for that, and expect to spend a few hours filling out all kinds of forms and getting tested, depending on where you’re traveling.

In retrospect I can’t believe that we used to just be able to hop on planes to international destinations without getting tested and without filling out endless forms. Here’s to hoping we see a return to that in the near future.

Once you get to Greece, it’s pretty awesome!

Bottom line

I’m elated to be able to travel to Greece with my mom, and look forward to sharing our journey. Not only will this be a special trip with my mom, but Greece is also one of my favorite countries in the world, and I’m looking forward to reviewing several hotels for the first time.

Now that international travel is starting to be allowed on a more widespread basis, it’s more complicated than ever before. Between ambiguous travel restrictions, testing requirements, and so many forms that you’d think you’re applying for a mortgage, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Ultimately it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to travel once again.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

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  1. Aksh

    We’re at Amanzoe right now; if you’re here let’s meet up!

  2. Ben Holz

    cool! how long will you be staying there?

  3. Alon

    We flew from NYC to Greece on Air Serbia. They don’t have flights every day, but only 2 hours connection in Belgrade and no tests were needed besides vaccination card. And Air Serbia is an awesome airline and so is the Belgrade lounge.

  4. John G

    The issue I had when I went earlier in the month was there was no inter island hopping around. Since we started in Athens we couldn't travel days later to Mykonos. There was still lockdown and restrictions though.

    Has this changed ?

  5. tuotuo

    Look like Anericans is on the track back to normal meantime Asians just stuck on the illusion of zero cases.So who beat the virus eventually?

  6. Sco

    I've just decided that international travel isn't worth it right now. I'm fully vaccinated and had planned a week-long international trip over Fourth of July. But then when I dug in, I realized that it would require 4 different Covid tests at different times at my own expense. And any delayed results or false positives (or asymptomatic infection) would at best cause me to miss a flight and screw up my whole schedule, and at...

    I've just decided that international travel isn't worth it right now. I'm fully vaccinated and had planned a week-long international trip over Fourth of July. But then when I dug in, I realized that it would require 4 different Covid tests at different times at my own expense. And any delayed results or false positives (or asymptomatic infection) would at best cause me to miss a flight and screw up my whole schedule, and at worst would cause a 10-day hotel quarantine also done at my own expense. And all this to go to a place that still has restrictions in place when I get there and where much of the local population has not had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet.

    So I cancelled my trip and I'll hold off on international travel for now. Still looking forward to hearing exactly what the experience is like, and whether Greece is overcrowded due to being one of the first places to re-open for travelers.

  7. Bob

    It seems your trip to Turkey last year was easier.

    It will be interesting to read your detailed reviews!

  8. JB

    Is British Airways operating from TPA right now? I see that they have resumed their service to Orlando from Heathrow now for the time being (instead of Gatwick).

    It would be awesome for TPA to get LHR service!

  9. Tom

    Domes Zeen? Enjoy! Not sure if you're planning on doing Domes Noruz too, but the views from there are even better, IMO. I had a great COVID-19 era stay at Domes Zeen last year, all staff are absurdly friendly.

    To be honest I'd rather you not publicise Domes as a group too much as I would rather not have to compete for the best rooms :). Here's hoping some Greek Islands makes the UK green list ASAP.

  10. BookLvr

    Mazel tov! I'm so happy you are able to travel with your mom. Your trip reports with family are my favorites.

    I am looking into VeriFLY at your recommendation, as we are hoping to go to France in late July. (It is a direct flight, IAD-CDG!)

  11. derek

    Is it too late to ask you to travel to Meteora and review it with pandemic comments?

  12. Jon H

    misleading Ben - its hardly "open to the world", national of EU/Schengen/UK/ and a handful of other countries......so for example a brazilian in Ireland, UK etc for 2 months will still not be admitted.

    1. Ben

      @ Jon H -- Back in April it only opened to select countries, but as of mid-May it opened to basically the entire world, unless I'm missing something.

  13. NK3

    Really looking forward to this series. I arrive in Greece 2 weeks from today! We are taking direct flights from the US to Athens, though. Curious to hear firsthand accounts of entering Greece, going to the islands, etc.

  14. Mpt

    Arrived in Athens yesterday. Acropolis this morning had barely 20 people along with us. Staying at New Hotel, member of Design Hotels (Marriott). Best location as most historic sightseeing is within walking distance. Not fancy but I love its location.
    Don't forget to submit Greece plf (1 form per family) at least day before arrival, UK plf (check deadlines) 1 per passenger. Entry in Greece very easy. Cdc card sufficient.

  15. Steve

    Have fun at LHR if that is one of your connections. I just flew IAD-LHR-VIE-TGD. Those folks at LHR could have cared less about masks, social distancing, etc. There was one transit security line open. No spacing, no mask enforcement. And apparently a small tube of lip balm (a solid) is now considered a liquid because it is 'soft'. Transit security pulled 2 out of every 3 bags (I counted for a bit) for hand inspection! Enjoy your time with your mom and safe travels!

    1. Drew

      "could have cared less"

      It's COULDN'T!!! My God....

  16. MP

    I've also decided to push all international travel into 2022 at this point given the patchy COVID recovery/testing (and the fact that I'm moving this year as well), but am especially interested in these trip reports because I have some less experienced family members doing a similar trip in a few weeks.

    And @Alon, agreed on the Belgrade lounge!

  17. Eskimo

    Enjoy the Greece.

    Careful on your routes. You did blog about someone who blogs about someone who controls military jets and isn't afraid to use them.

  18. Andrew

    Ben I got into Mykonos from LHR 3 days ago - just be warned the check in process with BA (in the club Europe line) took over an hour with all the checks - arrival into Mykonos was smooth but expect another hour of checks at immigration (I got stuck behind an incoming Lufthansa) so you may be lucky - but once all that’s over I promise you Greece is open! I’d suggest trying the...

    Ben I got into Mykonos from LHR 3 days ago - just be warned the check in process with BA (in the club Europe line) took over an hour with all the checks - arrival into Mykonos was smooth but expect another hour of checks at immigration (I got stuck behind an incoming Lufthansa) so you may be lucky - but once all that’s over I promise you Greece is open! I’d suggest trying the smaller islands like amorgos and koufonisia as they currently don’t have curfews like Mykonos has (midnight) and things are much more chilled here

  19. JonH

    Ben, what's your source for entry guidelines - Im using the greek gov sites and IATA and unless you want to quarantine for 7 days, its a handful of countries outside EU/Schengen - please correct me if Im wrong - you would make my day!!

    - The countries from which entry is allowed, under the aforementioned conditions, without the requirement for subsequent self-isolation are: EU & Schengen Area countries, USA, UK, Israel, Serbia, UAE, New...

    Ben, what's your source for entry guidelines - Im using the greek gov sites and IATA and unless you want to quarantine for 7 days, its a handful of countries outside EU/Schengen - please correct me if Im wrong - you would make my day!!

    - The countries from which entry is allowed, under the aforementioned conditions, without the requirement for subsequent self-isolation are: EU & Schengen Area countries, USA, UK, Israel, Serbia, UAE, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Rwanda, Singapore, the Russian Federation, North Macedonia, Canada, Belarus, Bahrein, Qatar, China, Kuwait, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia.

  20. JamesYVR

    Enjoy your trip with your Mother. You are a great son!

  21. Daniel

    Ben, All the Best to u and your mom. Best regards from Glyfada.

  22. Santastico

    “ our trip has already changed significantly due to misconnecting, ferries being canceled, etc.” That is exactly why I am not going to travel to Europe this summer. No matter what, it won’t be a normal trip and the experience won’t be the same. Not worth it.

  23. Timo

    Excellent! Looking forward to your reviews!

  24. Phillip

    Domes Noruz won’t be opening until 4th June having remained shut throughout last summer.

  25. Seth

    @Ben I think I saw you in the havaianas store two nights ago but I was too shy to say hello. Hope you are having a nice trip!

  26. VaCavalier

    @Ben Your trip sounds great and I hope you and your mother continue to enjoy it. However, and I know you are not making health recommendations, I feel it important to emphasize that anyone who is immunosuppressed, whether from having had chemotherapy, an organ transplant or other health condition, should talk with their medical specialists before planning travel as it is well established that vaccines against CORONA are significantly less effective (some experts say 60-56%)...

    @Ben Your trip sounds great and I hope you and your mother continue to enjoy it. However, and I know you are not making health recommendations, I feel it important to emphasize that anyone who is immunosuppressed, whether from having had chemotherapy, an organ transplant or other health condition, should talk with their medical specialists before planning travel as it is well established that vaccines against CORONA are significantly less effective (some experts say 60-56%) with this population. It is understood that everyone makes their own decisions about risk, which is ok so long as it doesn't effect others. However, it is really important for those immunosuppressed to get the clearance to travel after consulting their specialist physician.

  27. Richard L

    Ben, you're an awesome son! Can't wait to read your reviews. We are heading there in 4 wks!

  28. Paolo

    Greece or Mykonos, etc? It’s a bit like Bali and Indonesia. But in these times one can appreciate the advantages of the islands, although normally it would be like going on vacation to Key West only and saying “ I’ve been to the USA”.
    IE, a resort.
    But it’s a good choice for Moms.

  29. David

    Enjoy your time with your mom!

    Maybe you can continue on to Italy afterwards, since it's opening up, and you'd have a lot of cities to visit without having to cross more troublesome country borders.

  30. Sam

    Sounds like you’ve taken your mums side in the divorce. Don’t see any mention of your dad anymore

  31. EC2

    @ Santastico … Agree. Not traveling to Europe or really anywhere else till countries are in a position to remove the hurdles. Not saying they aren’t warranted. This is Ben’s job. My love for and desire to travel is equal to Ben’s, but not wasting points, miles or $ for travel that requires so much work.

  32. Kenz

    Any idea if an overnight layover in Frankfurt from the US to Greece would be allowed as Germany would be the first point of entry into the EU?

  33. D3kingg

    “I’ll be reviewing flights, though in an abbreviated way, mainly to reflect the realities of flying on certain airlines during coronavirus“

    We would like detailed flight reviews. Don’t forget to remove the foil of the main course. You’re 1 for 2 with that.

  34. Peter G

    From the age of 4 (for me) our family used to travel to Europe (Greece main destination) every year or twice yearly until about 1977 (from South Africa). For many decades - until last year - I never went and fortunately I went twice last year - August and October (managed to get to but could not return after October due to Canada's rising covid cases). In any event, in Athens both times I stayed...

    From the age of 4 (for me) our family used to travel to Europe (Greece main destination) every year or twice yearly until about 1977 (from South Africa). For many decades - until last year - I never went and fortunately I went twice last year - August and October (managed to get to but could not return after October due to Canada's rising covid cases). In any event, in Athens both times I stayed at the Electra Palace Hotel. The view from the roof garden restaurant was out of this world (new lighting of the Acropolis put in between August and October last year). Great place and much improved since the 70s.

    @Sam - Some of you people are unbelievable.

  35. Quo Vadis?

    Been to Europe on a few occasions, but never been to Greece. Looking forward to your review(s). Stay safe and best wishes to you, your mom and her partner for a wonderful time!

    Is Ford staying behind to take care of Winston?

  36. W Ho

    Rucky-san, you lost me @ “ three connections“..

  37. Ian

    Looks like the harbor in Chania. I was there 7 years ago. Wanted to hike the Samaria gorge,but it was the wrong time of year. Enjoy!

  38. pgSFO

    I spy Ermoupoli ... have a great time with your mom!

  39. Krsto

    Went with my wife to try and enter Greece on the 14th. We had our CDC cards but paid for pcr test just in case they wouldn't accept CDC card. Got to border from Albania and were told we couldn't enter unless we were Greek citizens or for business. We're also told that as Americans we could only drive in from Bulgaria or fly in. Had to cancel 10 days of hotel reservations. Quite bummed. Hoping to try again in the fall.

  40. Michael

    Heading to Santorini/ Crete via Zurich on SWISS with my partner in July and hoping these problems are solved by then! Looking forward to the reviews, Ben!

  41. SteveInMelbourne

    JB
    BA has ceased flying from Gatwick sometime last year.

    As for the original poster, I do hope your trip to Greece is enjoyable. Its just about my favourite country on earth for a holiday/vacation. Been there a dozen times or more. Have booked for Corfu from the UK in July. The Greek government is dividing the country up into fully vaccinated islands on one side and the mainland/Crete on the other who will...

    JB
    BA has ceased flying from Gatwick sometime last year.

    As for the original poster, I do hope your trip to Greece is enjoyable. Its just about my favourite country on earth for a holiday/vacation. Been there a dozen times or more. Have booked for Corfu from the UK in July. The Greek government is dividing the country up into fully vaccinated islands on one side and the mainland/Crete on the other who will be much later getting fully vaccinated. The plan is to get all the islands fully vaccinated in the next month with most of the small islands already done.

  42. Jing

    @Ben Would you please how you showed or proved your vaccination status at each transit point?

  43. Mia

    Hi,
    I've saved the post about Greece PLF to read later and now it's gone with the new website layout. Can you get it back online? Thank you

  44. seat 12B

    Headed to Greece to 2 weeks. Did you use a copy of you CDC vaccine card or did you have to use the original in enter Greece?

  45. JT

    What did you do to the website? The colours are horrific!

  46. Leigh1965

    You can change the format if you don't like it. I like this format as it's easy on the eyes and easy ad informative on the brain.

  47. gus

    Can we have the old layout back please? This layout is heinous, I am really not sure I can keep reading the site anymore, it hurts my eyes!

  48. Mark

    Why is there a menu from Hawaii with a caption of "You can’t beat the views from Greece!?"

Featured Comments Load all 51 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Mark

Why is there a menu from Hawaii with a caption of "You can’t beat the views from Greece!?"

gus

Can we have the old layout back please? This layout is heinous, I am really not sure I can keep reading the site anymore, it hurts my eyes!

Leigh1965

You can change the format if you don't like it. I like this format as it's easy on the eyes and easy ad informative on the brain.

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