Monday, 29 June 2015

Santorini Dreaming - Mini Guide


 
Santorini has got to be up there in my favourite places in the world! It is just one of the places that I swear the minute you "dock" or "land" there the weight of the world just floats off your shoulders. I found it impossible to be stressed about anything while there (even with a pretty serious bout of food poisoning from the previous destination).

Ferry or Plane??

No matter how you arrive in Santorini you will be instantly greeted with friendly locals, warm salty air and one of the most beautiful views you ever did see! Santorini has a reputation for being beautiful and it does not disappoint. My friend and I arrived by Ferry from Athens and then left by flying. The best way to decide what works best for you is to think about the amount of time you have, your budget and where you are coming from/where you going to be departing to afterward. 

Tip 1: Be at the ferry port early to get a good seat on board - if you buy a general ticket.
Tip 2: Blue Star Ferries take around 8 hours from Athens to Santorini - while high-speed ferries can take around 5 hours.  So keep in mind for a few extra Euros you can book VIP seats (airplane seats) - which are a little more comfortable and guarantee you a seat.
Tip 3: Have some cash handy for purchasing food and drinks.
Tip 4: The ferries generally stop at more than one Island so make sure you pay attention to when it's your turn to disembark.
Tip 5: For more information have a look at Santorini Dave's Website. It has everything you need to know about the different ferry options.


Where to Stay??

Picking a location on the Island is easy for most, as the majority of people want to stay in Oia or Fira. They have the majority of the hotels, shopping, restaurants and not to mention the beautiful caldera views. But there are several different options depending on what you are looking for during your stay, your budget and also the time of year.
"The caldera towns are trendier, the restaurants better, the clubs more sophisticated, and the hotels more luxurious. The beach towns are more relaxed, less expensive, and have a feel closer to the other Greek islands"   -- Santorini Dave
My friend and I booked our trip a little bit last minute and also during a popular time to visit the Island (August) and therefore we were a bit limited to where we could stay. The hostels and cheaper hotel options were all booked up in Oia and the more expensive hotels were just not in our budget considering we were on a multi-country trip. So we booked a private room in a Hostel/Hotel on the other side of the Island, in an area called Perissa (a beach town). For us this worked out just fine as we spent lots of time at Perissa beach, we rented a 4 wheeler and drove to other areas such as Red beach and then booked a tour to the mini islands and a trip to Oia for the sunset. In retrospect I do wish we booked earlier to stay in Oia as really that is the quintessential Santorini location but we enjoyed our stay in Santorini nonetheless.

Tip 1: BOOK EARLY!
Tip 2: Pick a destination - based on your intended needs/wants
Tip 3: Top areas include Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, Kamari
Tip 4: Remember Santorini is a small Island so no matter where you end up staying you can easily get around to the different towns by 4 wheeler, taxi, or bus.

 

 
Beaches
 
I think one of the most surprising factors about Santorini is that it doesn't have the typical beaches that you may encounter in most other sunny destinations. However that doesn't mean they aren't enjoyable nonetheless. 
 
Some of the more notable beaches include:
Black Sand Beaches: Kamari Beach, Perissa Beach, Perivolos Beach,
Red Sand: Red Beach
 
Tip 1:  Check out a few different beaches like Perissa and Red Beach
Tip 2:  Rent a Quad bike to get around - especially the bottom half of the Island.
Tip 3:  From Oia you can get to Armeni Beach by walking down 286 steps, but consider taking a donkey on the way back up!


 







Sunset
 
Basically the most famous thing about Santorini is the picturesque Sunset with the blue water and backdrop of a cliff of white buildings.
 
Tip 1:  Go early to get a good spot - yes there are better spots to get the best pictures
Tip 2:  Have a mini picnic. The lead up to the sunset can take quite a while - bring snacks
Tip 3:  Take photos and then put the camera down and just enjoy the moment because seeing it through a lens is just not going to do it justice.
 






 
General Tips:
 
Tip 1: Have cash on you - you never know when you will be faced to climb a mountain or pay to ride a donkey - and trust me the answer is always take the donkey. I didn't have cash and had to do the climb which was bad enough but then the donkeys come tearing down the path at you and you quickly learn how to become one with the rock face.
Tip 2: Rent a Quad. It's a lot of fun and a great way to explore the Island.
Tip 3: Eat Lots - Greek food has got to be some of the greatest food on Earth! Plus the beer and wine aren't too bad either ;)
 
 

 






Saturday, 20 June 2015

Travel Playlist


Here is a list of my travel playlist on Spotify @ "Travelust86".

What are your favourite travel tunes??? Let me know - would love to add more to my playlist!



Wednesday, 17 June 2015

How to Travel 4 Less



Before I was a traveller I always assumed that people who traveled were rich. Vast assumption I know, but I had never been exposed to traveling and all of the different ways that people make it work. Once I began to travel, I discovered how it is all about priorities. Once you begin to travel you discover all new ways to save money or find deals to travel whenever and wherever possible!

Throughout my travelling experiences I have had a few opportunities which I call "once in a lifetime", where the stars just all aligned to make it possible. Whether it be an amazing deal, being able to travel with specific people, or finding a free place to stay. Here are my top tips to find the money to escape and explore 4 Less:

1. Be open to traveling anywhere:

No I don't mean pick a dart and throw it (although we all dream of actually doing that). What I mean by this is to not search for a specific destination. Look for travel deals to any destination for the dates you have available. My most recent trip booking experience is for a trip in October to the Azores. Although October seems so far away to book a trip, it was too good of a deal to pass up. Before booking the deal the Azores weren't even on my radar. Now that I have researched I am thrilled at the idea!

2. Use your friends and family:

I mean this in the nicest way possible of course. For instance if someone you know has relocated to a specific city or country and you think you will be able to stay with them - don't be afraid to ask. I have moved overseas twice and would never turn down a friend or family member if they asked to come stay. Most often they will say yes! Free accommodation will take a huge chunk out of your trip costs - just remember to treat them to a meal or fill their fridge!

3. Know your Websites:

Some websites will send email alerts if a destination you are interested goes on sale - or even better websites like Travel Zoo will send you their top 20 deals every week. Here are some of my favourite top travel deal sites:

www.travelzoo.com --- top 20 weekly deals
www.redtag.ca  --- particularly the "Last Minute" section
www.groupon.com  -- Getaways
http://www.yyzdeals.com/  --- specifically for deals out of Toronto
http://www.gate1travel.com/

4. Decide where you can make cuts in your budget:

The quote "Collect Memories Not Things" really made a huge impact on me. The obvious cuts can include eating out at restaurants or fast food, getting coffee everyday, shopping, etc. On the other end you can also try getting extra money by selling things you don't use or need, work over time, and do extra odd jobs.

5. Travel Cheaper:

- Skip destination searching - Try searching deals
- Skip the hotels - Try Bed and Breakfasts, Hostels or AirBnB's or even Expedia "Secret Hotel"
- Skip eating at restaurants while on Vaca - Try street food, or go grocery shopping
- Skip taxis and car rentals - Try trains, buses and walking

6. Plan/Book Yourself:

Travel agencies definitely have positives; such as worry-free travel but they also have negatives. If you are going to book with an agency I recommend doing your research first just so you have an idea of costs. I had an experience booking plane tickets with an travel agency where I had just happened to search the prices the day before so I had an idea what to expect. When the travel agency gave me prices that were almost double I has to ask why, it turned out that they don't deal with the budget airlines. So I went back home and booked it on my own.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Photo Diary: Venice, Italy

 
The Short List: What do See and Do in Venice:

- Wander the streets and get lost in the maze that is Venice!
- Eat Gelato, Pizza, Pasta and Caprese and drink wine
- Visit St. Mark's Square (go in St. Marks Basilica)
- Find the Bridge of Sighs and tour Doge's Palace
- Go on a Gondola Ride
- Shop on the Rialto Bridge
- Check out the beautiful hand crafted items such as leather goods, Venetian masks, and Murano glass jewelry or ornaments.
- If you have multiple days: do the day trip to the Islands of Murano and Burano! Some may say to skip the whole factory tour type deal, but the glass blowing is pretty interesting and Burano is really beautiful!
 




Santa Maria della Salute


 







St. Mark's Square




 
 
Rialto Bridge




Bridge Of Sighs



 
Gondola Ride