My First Aegean Flight
In order to get to Santorini, I booked us a flight on Aegean Airlines that routed through Athens using my United miles. Aegean is a Star Alliance Partner of United so I was able to pay 25,000 miles plus $129 for about $400 worth of flights. Looking back, I didn’t really get the best redemption rate on this route because of the taxes but I did redeem for just above 1 cent per point.
Next time, I will just pay cash and save the points for a business class redemption or a longer haul flight. It’s hard to get high redemption rates on short haul flights so those are usually the best flights to pay cash on.
Lounge Club at FCO
We got to the airport a little bit early so we headed to the Mosaici lounge and hung out for an hour or so before our flight. I’m really glad that my friend Lee at Bald Thoughts told me about Lounge Buddy because it makes it so easy to find lounges. All you have to do is enter your club memberships, airline status’ and credit cards and the trip you’re doing and it will automatically tell you which lounges you can access for free and the app gives detailed reviews for each one.
The lounge itself was small but pretty empty and had a nice selection of snacks and an open bar. We ordered a couple espressos and I had a Peroni right before our flight. Even though most of these lounges aren’t anything special, it’s nice to relax with a drink or two, use free wi-fi and have some peace and quiet before your flight.
I got access to the lounge using one of my Lounge Club cards. When you sign up for a Chase Ink Plus or Ink Bold you get a Lounge Club membership for each cardholder. And since it’s free to add up to 5 employees you can get quite a few Lounge Club cards but only one will have your name on it.
Getting Unlimited Lounge Club Cards
Between my wife and I, we have three Ink cards and we’ve both added each other as employees on our respective cards so that’s 6 memberships (2 free visits per membership) in total. In addition, you get a new Lounge Club card every year so if you’re going to cancel your Ink card make sure you do it after you receive your new Lounge Club card and you’ll get two years worth of free memberships.
Some lounges check ID’s when you show them your Lounge Club card and some don’t. This one didn’t and as soon as I got back from our trip I added a bunch of ’employees’ to all three of my Ink cards. You could also add people you normally travel with, family members, etc and just hold on to the card at all times.
These cards are perfect to use when you’re flying in coach and don’t have access to lounges or on an airline that you don’t have status with. It’s probably not worth it to pay for a membership but it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of an airport sometimes and sit back in a comfy airport lounge.
Aegean Athens Lounge Bust
We had an hour layover in Athens but the only lounge available was an Aegean Business Lounge. Lounge Buddy told me that I could use my two United Lounge Club Passes for this lounge but it was located in a very weird spot. The lounge was inside security but just outside the second security checkpoint. We didn’t realize this until we were already past the second checkpoint so we decided to just stick it out at the gate.
I got these two passes from the United Chase card I signed up for last year and they actually send you a new pair on your one year anniversary. I ended up canceling this card a few months ago but I made sure to wait until I got the lounge passes first. Last year I didn’t fly much so I sold the passes on eBay for $25 each.
This Aegean lounge didn’t have the greatest reviews so I figured it was probably better to save them. Since I can sell these pretty easily, I will probably only use them if I have 2 hours or more to kill in a decent lounge. They are good at any United or Star Alliance Lounge and as I discovered on the last day of our trip, there are some pretty amazing Star Alliance Lounges out there.
Overall I was pretty impressed with my experience on Aegean. I thought they were more of a low cost carrier but they served food, drinks and provided a pretty good overall level of service at a very low price point. They are by far the cheapest option to get around Greece by air but there are also ferries which I’ll be reviewing in my next post.
They do charge for baggage but since I booked through United there is some type of glitch in the system that allows you to get free bags. The gate agent actually told me I was lucky since normally you would have to pay for each checked bag. So in the end, it was a pretty good decision to book this flight using points.
3 Nights in the Most Beautiful Island in The World
I’ve traveled a lot in my 27 years on this earth and I’ve been lucky enough to visit some pretty exotic places. During my semester abroad, we traveled to the beautiful beaches of Croatia and a year later, I visited Thailand for two weeks. But none of those trips compare to the three nights we spent in Santorini.
You’ve probably seen pictures of the famed blue domes and white walls of Santorini, I know I had. But the photos I saw always seemed enhanced or just a little too good to be true. There are certain things in life that tend to get hyped up and you just know that once you get there you’re going to be disappointed. This happens to me a lot with every day things like restaurants, activities and events so I figured Santorini would be similar.
I mean I knew it would be pretty nice, but I figured the place would be swarming with tourists and just a little over-hyped. Everyone I talked to that had been there told me how amazing it was, how beautiful the sunsets were and how breath-taking the views were. Suffice to say, Santorini had a lot to live up to.
What the Heck is a Caldera?
Since this was technically the splurge part of our trip, I booked us a beautiful room in the heart of Oia overlooking the Caldera. The Caldera is what makes the views so breath-taking and it was actually formed thousands of years ago when a volcano erupted and there was a large collapse of land. Water from the Mediterannean eventually rushed in and formed what is known today as the Santorini Caldera.
Where to Stay?
You can stay in Oia, Imerovigli or Fira but the best part of the island is definitely Oia. It’s also the most expensive but if you can afford it you should stay in a traditional hut or a modern villa like we did. Make sure you get a room with a Caldera view though. Most of these places include breakfast on your patio and there is nothing like eating breakfast while gazing out onto the Caldera in the morning.
Compared to Rome, lodging is a steal in Santorini. Our ocean front suite actually cost less per night than our boring old room at the Westin in Rome (if we would have paid cash instead of points of course).
You can definitely spend upwards of $1,000 a night if you would like to at a full service hotel in Oia but there are also small family owned boutique ‘hotels’ that are about half the price. We ended up booking Delfini Villas and we were right next to a hotel that offered similar accommodations for $1,000 a night. I have no idea why anyone would pay this, maybe they like the 24 hour room service?
The smaller family owned hotels are listed on TripAdvisor as specialty lodging. We loved the place that we stayed at but I’m sure we would have been nearly as happy with any other highly rated place on that list.
Review of Delfini Villas
Some of the cave rooms seemed a little too dark for my liking so I opted for a room with a more modern touch. I booked Delfini’s most expensive room (Executive Suite) but looking back I think we would have enjoyed the Junior Suite or even the Executive Room. The three rooms were side by side but ours actually had the smallest balcony (probably because of our jacuzzi). The only real difference was we had a small living room that the other two rooms did not. We hardly ever used this room though, so when we go back we’ll probably book one of the smaller and cheaper rooms.
Delfini Villas had great reviews but there were a few things I absolutely loved about it:
- The Location: Not only was it in Oia but it was at the beginning of Oia so there were never too many people walking around yet the busy part of town was just a few minutes walk down a beautiful limestone path.
- The View: Obviously every place in Oia has a great view of the Caldera but it just seemed like we were situated in the absolute perfect spot.
- The Owner: Madam Rena was an amazing host, I have never felt such hospitality before. She would kiss us hello and greet us with a big hug and “Calimera!” every morning when she brought in our breakfast. She knew everyone on the island too which would come in handy later.
- Breakfast With a View: Breakfast on your balcony is pretty common in Santorini but it was nice that it was included in the price of our room. There honestly wasn’t any point in going out to breakfast since we had one of the best views right from our balcony.
- No Stairs: Since Oia is built into the cliffside there are a lot of stairs everywhere. The nice thing about Complex A at Delfini Villas is that there are only 10-15 stairs down to get to your room. I think it might actually be the smallest number of stairs in Oia, most places require anywhere from 50-150 steps to get to your room.
- Jacuzzi and a Pool: It took me a few days to realize this but the Greek definition of jacuzzi is much different than the American one. Greek jacuzzis are more like warm dip pools with jets than the typical hot tubs we think of. Either way, it was nice to take a dip in this balcony jacuzzi once in a while and the pool was absolutely gorgeous. It was about a 5 minute walk to the pool (since it’s at the older complex B) but even the walk is pretty breath-taking.
Our room was pretty expensive but I can honestly say I felt like I got my money’s worth and I would totally do it again. Here are just a few pictures of our time in Santorini.
Readers, what do you think about Santorini so far? If you’ve ever stayed there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on where you stayed and what you thought. In my next post, I’m going to tell you guys all about what we did and where we ate during our stay.
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-Harry @ PF Pro