How to Vacation in Greece for $300 or Less


It's easy to see why Greece tops the list for so many travelers saving up for a bucket list trip. The country boasts ancient ruins, historical marvels like the Acropolis and the Oracle at Delphi, stunning scenery, and 6,000 islands, only 227 of which are inhabited. Of course, a visit to Greece wouldn't be complete without time spent in the ancient city of Athens, where you'll find big city night life along with historical relics around every corner.

The problem with traveling to Greece is the same one you'll find when you plan trips to other far-flung corners of the world. Greece is farther from the U.S. than the rest of Europe, and thus it's expensive to get to. There are frequent sales for flights to Athens and other Greek destinations, but they are typically short-lived and only available from bigger cities.

If you want to plan a bucket list trip to Greece at a price you can afford, your best bet is coming up with a credit card rewards strategy and implementing it early. Here's how you can score a Greek vacation for $300 or less with the right combination of points and miles. (See also: 7 Ways to Save on a European Getaway With Kids)

Getting to Greece with airline miles

Since nearly all major airlines with frequent flyer programs fly into Greece, you have many options when it comes to racking up miles. One of the best choices, however, is the American Airlines AAdvantage program. You can earn miles in this program by signing up for a co-branded American Airlines credit card, shopping through the American AAdvantage shopping portal, or earning miles through the airline's dining program.

While flights to Greece from the U.S. will set you back at least 60,000 American AAdvantage miles for most of the year, you can book these flights for only 45,000 miles during the off-peak season, which lasts roughly from November through the end of March, with blackout dates over holidays.

Keep in mind, however, that you'll need to pay for airline taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges on top of your miles. These fees vary depending on the flights and dates you choose, but they tend to run in the $125-$280 range. This could be the biggest expense you'll pay for travel — or even the only expense you'll pay.

Another solid option within the frequent flyer space is Air France/Flying Blue. This program partners with the proprietary rewards programs offered by major card issuers, making it an especially easy option for racking up points through sign-up bonuses. With Air France, you can fly round-trip from many U.S. cities to Athens, Greece for 50,000 miles plus taxes and fees.

A third option to consider is United Airlines. It's easy to rack up United miles through either the credit card rewards programs that lets you transfer points to United, or through United's own co-branded credit cards. Round-trip flights from U.S. cities to Athens will set you back 60,000 United miles plus $100-$150 in fees per person.

Covering your hotel

Hotels are easy to book with points all over Greece, but you'll want to think long and hard about where you want to stay before coming up with a plan. Remember that Greece is huge and that there is much to see on the mainland as well as on famous Greek islands like Santorini and Mykonos.

Your best hotel options depend on where you want to stay, but here are some of the hotels you could book with the right hotel rewards programs. (See also: Best Hotel Rewards Programs)

Starwood Preferred Guest:

  • Periscope Athens — from 10,000 Starpoints per night

  • The Romanos, Costa Navarino — from 25,000 Starpoints per night

  • Blue Palace, Crete — from 25,000 Starpoints per night

  • Sheraton Rhodes Resort — from 10,000 Starpoints per night

  • The Met Hotel, Thessaloniki — from 7,000 Starpoints per night

IHG Rewards:

  • Crowne Plaza Athens, City Center — from 25,000 points per night

  • InterContinental Hotels Athenaeum Athens — from 35,000 points per night

  • Holiday Inn Athens near the airport — from 20,000 points per night

Marriott Rewards:

  • Domes of Elounda, Crete — from 40,000 points per night

  • Domes Noruz Chania, Chania-Crete — 45,000 points per night

Hilton Honors:

  • Hilton Athens — 50,000 points per night

Keep in mind that these are just some of the options available. There are additional hotels you can book with a co-branded hotel credit card or with a travel card that lets you transfer points to hotels.

If you sign up for a credit card that offers a bank rewards program, you could book any hotel you want through the card's travel portal. During a November 2016 stay in Athens, I booked the 360 Degrees Hotel Athens for less than 9,000 credit card points per night. This hotel features a rooftop bar with a stellar view of the Acropolis nearby as well as a great location in Monastiraki Square. (See also: This Might Be the Best Travel Rewards Program)

Getting around in Greece

Finally, how will you actually get from place to place once you arrive in Greece? Your best is to sign up for a travel credit card that offers flexible travel credit and use points to earn statement credits against charges for rental cars and ferries to the islands. (See also: Best Credit Cards With Easy Travel Redemption)

Cards that fall into this category typically let you redeem points for travel at a rate of one cent per point, making the average 50,000-point sign-up bonus worth $500.

Use these points to pay for a rental car around Greece, which could cost as little as $140 for the week depending on when you book. Pro tip: Make sure you use a rewards card that offers primary auto rental coverage so you can avoid paying extra for this benefit at the rental counter.

You can also use statement credits to pay for ferries to the Greek Islands. A round-trip ferry from Athens to Heraklion costs just $47, while a round-trip ferry from Athens to Mykonos costs as little as $90. Make sure to compare ferry services to different destinations until you find the best deal for your dates.

Greece for less than $300?

If you cover your flights with airline miles, pay for hotels with hotel points and flexible travel points, and use flexible travel credit to cover the rest, the Greece trip of your dreams could be yours for $300 or less. Your main costs are going to be the price of airline taxes and fees, which you couldn't get out of if you tried.

Still, you should make sure to budget for the rest of your trip. Even if the bulk of your journey is covered with points and miles, you'll still have to pay for food, entry to attractions, and miscellaneous expenses.

Start saving and planning your rewards strategy now, and this trip could be yours in less time than you think.

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