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  • By Gretchen Richter de Medeiros

"We'd been dreaming about Greece for two years"

It was early on our last morning in South Africa. I sat in the cool brick patio of our Johannesburg guesthouse, editing photos of our amazing safari at Kruger National Park. Still sleepy, but slightly panicked, Rodrigo came out, “oh my god,” he said, “I think I need a visa for Dubai!” A quick scramble on the internet revealed that we’d failed one of the most basic tasks of travel planning. Indeed Brazilians DO need a visa to stay in Dubai, so we had to very quickly change our travel plans, including a spendy re-routing of our flight (5 people means even smallish change-fees add up!), and adding a full week to our visit to Athens.

Lucky for us, the Athens apartment that we’d rented for our originally planned entry to Greece was available for our new arrival date. Unluckily for us, it was one of the more expensive places we rented. Lodging costs for Greece were $4965, over 60% of that was spent in Athens. Lower-cost rentals in Nafplio and Samos meant that we were still able to come very close to our projected housing costs, exceeding our budget by a mere $15.

We didn’t do so well in terms of transportation. Renting a car for two weeks, traveling to Samos by ferry, and taking a day trip to the island of Hydra really added up. We spent $2006 on transportation, but had only projected $1000. And that doesn’t even include the $1250 change-fee on our plane tickets (that goes on a different accounting line-item). Ouch!

As with many of our other stops, we economized on food by shopping locally and cooking for ourselves. Nevertheless, food was also slightly more costly than I’d predicted. We spent $2149, $149 over budget. Let’s chalk that one up to our lovely Greek Orthodox Easter lunch with our friends The Oestings and The Mitchells. This festive occasion included lamb roasted on a spit, tzatziki, traditional (but terrible!) kokoretsi, and several glasses of ouzo. In addition to eating our fill, the eleven of us were entertained by the Greek guests dancing and singing like Zorba!

We’d been dreaming about Greece for two years, and had planned to spend a larger-than-normal amount on excursions, museums, and sightseeing. The kids were excited about seeing locations they’d read about in Rick Riordan’s series Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus. In total we spent $1541 on Entertainment/Excursions/Education. The most significant costs were our taxi-tour of Delphi, $333, our half-day cooking class, $433, and our day-long private archeological tour of ancient Athens, $355. We also hired a guide for Mycenea, $100. Though kids get in to almost all the Greek museums and archeological sites for free, we had to buy tickets for all three adults, that, plus a ride on the Athens hop-on-hop-off bus, contributed to the rest of the costs in this category.

We spent a little in the Other category, $74 on warm clothes, postcards and stamps. Medically speaking, a trip to the optometrist and new reading glasses for Gretchen and Bella set us back $249.

A unique aspect of our stay in Greece was a two-and-a-half-week visit from our friend Ander, age 13. It was a lot of fun to share our experiences with him and add his article about the Acropolis to our blog. His parents contributed for his portion of the trip, so we did not include those costs in our accounting.

I used data from our 2014 family vacation to France and Italy to plan our budget for our travels in Europe. I also leaned on travel-guide sources like Rick Steves’ Europe and Lonely Planet to establish a monthly rule-of-thumb of $65 per person per day in Europe. For Greece, we went a little over this, spending $73 per person per day. We’ll have to make it up as we continue our journey.

Total Cost: $10,984

Days: 30

Cost per day: $366.14

Cost per person per day: $73.23

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