Trip Planning: Greece

We are traveling in Greece for almost three weeks. It will be mostly a climbing trip (Leonidio and Kalymnos), but with some diving and tourism on rest days. Here is how we prepare to live large on a small budget.

Step 1: Planning

I’ve wanted to go to Kalymnos ever since I started climbing. Friends have sung its praises, and recommend Leonidio as well. Weather-wise late Autumn and early Winter are ideal. We started planning about 6 months in advance. We decided on a day in Athens for sight-seeing, a week in Leonidio, 10 days in Kalymnos, and another day in Athens before flying home.

We notified our large circle of rock climber friends to see who might want to join us, and at least four of them will.

Step 2: Booking

The first priority is the air travel. We found direct round trip flights between Newark (EWR) and Athens (ATH) on Emirates for $585 USD per person, and booked it more than 3 months ahead of time.

Now that we established dates, we can find lodging. At first we planned on tent camping near the climbing areas, but there are no legal options on Kalymnos; it would be a waste to bring sleeping bags and a tent for half the trip. We then looked at AirBnB and rented 3 entire apartments for about $20 per person per night (including in downtown Athens, near the Acropolis).

Lastly, we booked rental cars. We are driving between Athens and Leonidio, and will be transporting ourselves and friends around Kalymnos with all our gear. Scooters are popular, but a single car is cheaper than 4+ scooters. For the first half of the trip we got a Fiat Panda for $14 per day. On Kalymnos we reserved a Suzuki Splash for €25 per day; it’s the best deal I could find.

Step 3: Packing

Traveling light makes everything better. We try to fit everything into one medium-sized backpack. This means we don’t need to check luggage, we can move quicker and easier than with a wheelie bag (e.g. we could get by with a scooter), and we have fewer things to keep track of.

First determine necessities, like rock climbing gear (harness, shoes, helmet, rope, belay device, quick draws). Other must have items are toiletries (tooth-brush, paste, and deodorant for me and Jess; small bottles of lotion/shampoo, razor, minimal make-up for Jess) and electronics accessories (headlamp, USB charger, international plug adapter, ear buds).

Then, plan your clothing.

All the clothes I packed for a 3 week trip

Bathing suit, hiking pants (with zip-off legs and cargo pockets), 4 polyester or poly-cotton blend t-shirts, long sleeve shirt (layering is the key to warmth), quick-dry/odor-resistant underwear (UnderArmor, 7even, Ex-Ufficio), wool socks (Darn Tough). Every item can be worn multiple days without offending the senses, and can air dry if hand-washed in a sink. Not pictured here are the shoes (lightweight Keen “sandals”, which I usually wear without socks) and rain shell (GoLite). Jess brought a similar amount (i.e. one plastic grocery bag) of clothing.

Lastly, since we were under the weight limit for the regional flight (15 kg) we included our snorkels, masks, and fins. Swimming is fun on rest days, and we might SCUBA dive.

Step 4: Traveling

Wear your heaviest clothes/shoes on the airplane. Have your passport and money on your person. Prepare offline navigation on your phone (download the relevant areas in Google Maps, or better yet use OsmAnd which has more detail from and better offline functionality). Bring your own entertainment (I download crossword puzzles, podcasts, and movies in the Netflix app). We also have a headphone jack splitter, which allows us to share the audio with each other and not everyone around.

Stay tuned for a post about the trip itself!

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