25 August 2014

Our Europe and UK Trip - The Booking Process

Following our initial plan, which you can read about here comes the booking process.

Since the majority of our trip (the tours) already cover accommodation, transport and certain meals. We only had to consider the following major things:

Flights from Melbourne to Athens, Greece
We spent the longest time searching for appropriate flights. We didn't really have any particular airlines that we wanted to fly with so it all came down to which airlines can get us there on time and how much do we have to pay for it? We both decided that we didn't want to spend too much money on flights and save it so we can use whilst on our trip instead.

We decided to depart Melbourne on the night of Thursday 28 August 2014 via Abu Dhabi - this will get us to Athens in the afternoon of the 29th.

Greece (Athens) Accommodation - Attalos Hotel Athens
Chris (boyf) actually found our accommodation in Athens. We wanted something central and walking distance to the major sites of Athens. It was fairly cheap, had great ratings and a killer view of the Acropolis from the rooftop

Greece Tour
Chris' dream! Hehe..
Since Greece is somewhere Chris has always wanted to go to, we found a tour covering all the main site that were further away from Athens that he wanted to visit namely Delphi, Kalambakka, Meteora etc.

We decided to go with the trusty Viator with this one. Booked a 4 day 3 nights Classical Greece Tour. It's very fitting considering Greece is so full of history - can't wait to experience it.

Meteora- look how amazing it looks! *in awe* 

Flights from Athens to Santorini and back
Chose the local airlines. Wasn't much to consider here since all the flights were the same price. Just had to pick our times and book.

We chose the morning flight so we can make the most of our time at Santorini.

Santorini Accommodation - Pension Petros
This also took a long time to decide. We decided that we wanted to stay on the Western side of the island - close to Fira main city. We found a number of accommodations that looked good online but once we read reviews on Tripadvisor, it was like all hell was let loose.

For example: one of the accommodations that we look at had mostly all positive reviews about their rooms/facilities but there were a number of complaints about the manager. The manager there also acts as a airport pick-up guy so when he picked up a group of tourists and was on the way back to his hotel, he suddenly stopped the car and had a punch-on with another guy over a girl (?) Didn't really understand the story behind it but that was enough to put us off booking. We don't want our lives at risk!

After a lot of research, we decided to stick with a small family-owned hotel - a lot of positive feedback about this place so hopefully we won't be disappointed.

Flights from Athens to Paris
Again, we chose the local airlines and it came down to when we wanted to leave Athens.

Booked a flight that gets us into Paris at around 1 in the afternoon. A perfect day to relax and recover before we start exploring Paris.

Paris Accommodation - Hotel De Arts
Paris accommodation is so damn expensive! Since our main Europe tour has a couple of nights in Paris, we decided to email the tour company for the name of that hotel in the hope that they could just extend our stay. After receiving the details of the hotel, the tour group told us that they do not extend hotel stays but we are more than welcome to do so ourselves. We researched and google mapped the place and it was so far (!) from the main city so we decided against that idea.

Started researching other places to stay and everything was expensive, expensive and even more expensive!

When we were about to give up hope, my smart boyf decided to check on other tour group's websites for recommended accommodations and he found one in the Montmartre area. Close to public transport, in a nice area and cheaper than everything else but most importantly, positive feedback! Such a gem!

Also, some rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower!

Europe Tour
One of the first things we decided on was our main Europe tour. We wanted something flexible (allows for free days) but took us to various countries. Since this is our first trip to Europe, we thought it would be a good idea to stick with a tour and save on things like accommodation, food, transport etc. If in the future, we do come back again, we will just visit the countries we love and travel ourselves.

We decided to go with the Expat Explore - Europe Explorer; which takes us to 9 countries in 18 days.

London Accommodation - Ibis Shepherd's Bush
Our main Europe tour ends in London so we chose to stay and explore London for a few days before we head home. Again, we researched many (!) hotels. Hotels here are similar to those in Paris, they're all expensive!

Since we didn't plan on spending much time in the hotel, we didn't want to pay for an apartment or hostel for facilities like a swimming pool/kitchenette that we won't be using.

We settled on a Ibis accommodation. After thorough research, we found that this place is still very new so the facilities will be in top condition. It is also walking distance to the Metro and a Westfield mall! They also allow for late check-in which is what we are after considering we will be arriving in London around 8-9pm.

London Stonehenge and Bath Tour
We were deciding on 2 tour groups for the London Stonehenge and Bath Tour. We emailed both of them to enquire about hotel pick-ups and only one replied so you can guess which one we ended up going with.

We have received mix reactions about going to Stonehenge. Some mentioned that it's not that great and you pay to go and see a bunch of random rocks while others recommended it.

Since we came so far to be in London, we decided to just go for it. We stuck with Viator and it also includes hotel pick-up and a visit to Windsor Castle!

Flights from London to Melbourne
Researching of flights to come back home is always depressing. We couldn't book a return flight as it doesn't make sense for us to go all the way to Athens to fly home.

We researched and put this off for a long time since all the flights were either a) really expensive or b) had an insanely long layover time.

Since we decided to fly away from my birthday, we decided it would be fun to have an extremely long layover. We chose to layover in Singapore for a duration of 11 hours. Crazy, I know but Singapore does have a really famous airport and is know for having lots to do there. Lets see how that goes for us.


We also considered other smaller things to book:

Fancy dinner reservations
Since many of our friends or family members have been to the places that we are going to visit. They suggested a number of famous, popular and really good restaurants and told us that we "have to go" so being the foodies that we are, we decided to include them into our itinerary and booked our reservations (for the ones that we could book for, some don't allow reservations)

We have nothing to lose on this one. Even if we end up not making it, we didn't have to pay a cent. Obviously, we would really like to have the time to make our reservations and experience all the goodness that everyone is raving about.

Skip the Queue - Eiffel Tower, Colosseum etc
The last thing you want is to spend hours queuing to visit famous landmarks. As requested by Chris' sister, we decided to book skip the queue tickets to the major - very popular - places.

High Tea in London - Langham
Another one recommended by Chris' sister, worth a try.

We booked high tea at the Langham in London where 140 years ago, high tea was introduced in the Palm Court. Elegant and Timeless

Stage Shows
Since Chris and I are both fans of stage show, we decided to spoil ourselves and book 2! We decided on the classical Phantom of the Opera and the amazing and creative Lion King. Super excited.

We're almost finished with our pre-departure process. Just have to tie up some loose ends and then we're ready to go. It's getting close :)


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