Hello Peter, I would really like to take my daughter to Greece or a similar nice trip for her birthday. I would also like to take along her little brother, who is 12 years old, and my parents, who are 81 and 74, respectively. I've started checking out Greece, both through a travel agent and on my own, and I'm finding it to be quite expensive. I don't have much money on a secretary's salary, and in this economy, it’s tough to make ends meet. Do you have any suggestions on how I can go to Greece on a very small budget?
Springfield Gardens, N.Y.
Hi Claire, I’m afraid that even with deals and discounts some of the airlines are throwing at travelers these days, it’s still going to be quite pricey to fly five people to Greece, not to mention housing everyone for a week or two. You’ll have to shell out at least $1,500 per person, even for the cheapest package trip or direct flight to Athens.
One way you might save on airfare is to buy a ticket to a big European hub airport, such as London or Frankfurt (where airfares are generally cheaper), instead of Athens. Then catch a connecting flight on a low-budget European carrier, such as EasyJet or Air Berlin, to get you the rest of the way to Athens or the Greek islands. The only drawback to doing this is that discount airlines tend to hit you with lots of fees for baggage, so travel light.
To save on lodging, you could look into a renting a villa or condo instead of going the hotel route, or you could even do a home exchange—if you start planning now. Some good apartment-rental sites include Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and HomeAway.com.
If it turns out that you really can’t afford to get all the way to Greece, may I recommend some closer-to-home destinations as alternatives? If you are set on a sunny, culturally rich place, Mexico is a good choice. Colonial towns, such as Merida and San Miguel de Allende, have incredible architecture and a lively art scene, while coastal towns, such as Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen, offer a relaxed beach atmosphere and good nightlife.
–Or how about the Caribbean? Puerto Rico also offers a combination of sand, sun, and culture. I’ve found air and hotel package deals for five people on Priceline.com for as little as $360 per person for lower-end hotels in San Juan, or $543 for higher-end resorts in places such as Humacao or Mayaguez.