(As a Disclaimer: Before you read my account below, I should just say that 3 months later, I can honestly say that this was our HARDEST travel day to date. No matter how well prepared for travel you are, there are still hard days occasionally. All you can do when those time arrive, is to push through and repeat to yourself that this too shall pass and it will all be worth it. Over the last few months since this incredibly difficult travel day from London to Greece, we have learned a lot. And though travel days are still stressful for me, they are less nightmarish. Despite all this, we still are glad we came, and have had an amazing adventure. I guess I could sanitize my travelogue and take out all those details and just share about places we went and things we saw making it seem like travel with kids is sooo easy and out life is an unrealistic fairytale but that isn’t the purpose of these travelogues. If you just want to learn about must-see places, tips for traveling, reviews on places to stay and things to do at the destinations we have visited you can read my general travel posts. I hope to have plenty of such helpful posts in the near future to help you plan your own adventures. If you want to follow our story and experience the good the bad and the crazy of full-time traveling with kids then read on.)
London was amazing, but all too soon it was time to travel from London to Greece with 3 kids.
I have to say once more that 1 day in London just isn’t enough. Especially when traveling with kids. We saw soo many amazing places but in reality not even 1/4 of all I wanted to see. I guess this just means we will have to go back. Hopefully, this time we will be able to schedule for more than just 1 day. (If you missed that Travelogue post you can read all about our day in London here)
Not wanting our day of exploration to end we didn’t make it back to our hotel until really late that night. I wanted nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep the night away. However, after the expensive drama we experienced flying from California to London we wanted to repack and redistribute the weight between our luggage and backpacks. None of this would have been an issue if we were just on a short family vacation. Then we would pack light and only bring with us probably 2 or 3 carry-ons. Since we knew we were going to be traveling for several months and multiple countries we opted to pack a small variety of clothes for each person to be prepared as well as basic homeschool materials. The biggest complication came in the fact that my husband and I would be workings while traveling so we both had to have our laptops and external hard drives and my husband also had to bring his large Drawing tablet monitor. It was that monitor paired with a hard suitcase to protect it that guaranteed we would be over our weight limit. sigh. However, we knew if we could just rearrange the rest of the bags we would be able to make sure that the overweight amount would be minimal and so would the cost. Sadly this rearranging and packing took the rest of the night.
Before we knew it it was time to head to the Airport.
Our flight was heading out of the Stansted Airport early in the morning, and so we decided to take the last bus of the night to the train station and then take the first train of the morning to the airport. Unfortunately, while Rory and I were wide awake from getting our luggage ready, the kids were asleep (after all it was 3 am in the morning by now and jetlag was starting to kick in too.) Needless to say, our kids were NOT happy with us waking them up and dragging them out into the cold to get to the airport.
Our more travel experienced friends laughed when we told them our experience trying to ride a regular city bus to the train station. Why? Because city buses are not equipt for travel with luggage. Trying to get a large suitcase, 4 carry-on’s, 3 kids & 1 umbrella stroller quickly on a bus made to only transport people was almost traumatizing. Next time, we were told by our friends we need to just find a coach bus (you know the ones that have luggage storage and bathrooms). Well, we managed and before we knew it we were at the train station. We thought that we were going to have to wait there for an hour for the first train to head to the airport (I mean that’s what the online schedule had said) but we were happily informed that there was a train leaving in less than 15 minutes. We had just enough time to get all our luggage and kids on board and find seats before we were off to the airport.
By this time our kids were happy once more (though drooping with exhaustion). Upon reaching the airport we discovered that we couldn’t check in for our flight for over an hour. That was ok with us since we wanted to double check the weight of our bags in case we had to shift anything else. Since we were 4 hours preflight I was able to add a second bag to be checked cheaply so we would only have to deal with 3 carry-ons, the stroller, our kids and all of our personal backpacks. Yeah, still a lot of stuff.
Now that we had our luggage arranged it was time to officially check in so we could get through security.
It was at this point that we discovered that in all the craziness of exploring London I had missed an email from Ryan Air informing me that I needed to print my tickets myself before arriving at the Airport. Yep, I totally missed that email. So while I waited with our luggage and kids my husband rushed through the airport trying to find a printer that he could use to print the tickets. Thankfully, he found one and though normally they charge 10 Euros a sheet they took pity on him and only charged us 10 Euros to print all 5 of our tickets.
Ok, so we were checked in, and now it was time to head through Security. OK, I have to say the Stansted Airport has the strictest airport security we have experienced. We had to empty each of our backpacks (all 5 of them) pulling out our computers, batteries, headphones, cell phones, charging cords, cameras, in addition to the liquids, the kids stuffed animals, jackets etc. Then they flagged each of our bags and manually searched them pulling EVERYTHING out. Yeah that as fun to try to put everything back in each bag and get out of the way of the other travelers. Oh, and our 6 year old triggered the scanner (due to the zipper on her boots) so they had her take off her boots and sent her through the 3d full body scanner while I talked to her to keep her from freaking out.
OK, Breath… We made it through security and started making our way to our gate.
Sounds easy compared to what we had already made it through….right? Hahaha. Apparently, Stansted thought it brilliant to make you walk through a mall with all your luggage to GET TO THE GATES. I guess this wouldn’t be too bad if you are leisurely traveling alone or just as adults, after all, its duty free shopping and all that. However, traversing this mall with 3 carry-ons (only 1 of which had wheels) 5 backpacks (the kids were too tired to carry theirs), and 3 kids (all of whom were whimpering they were soo tired) was a mini nightmare. When we finally made it through the “Mall” area we discovered that at Stansted they don’t tell you what gate you have until right before the flight boarding at which point everyone rushes to their gate to get in line to board.
We saw that we had 40 minutes to wait to find out which gate we had to get to so I hung out with the kids and our luggage right in front of the gate intersection, while my husband first went to get water for all of us and then went back and waited by the flight board which would show our gate #.
Of course, while we were waiting, the kids all fell asleep. This was a good thing and a not so good thing.
It was good because they obviously needed some sleep. It was breaking my heart to hear the whimpers of my exhausted children as they dutifully trudged along. It was bad because I knew this wait wouldn’t be nearly long enough and all too soon I would be waking our kids and dragging them quickly to our gate terminal. Yep, that was a bad as I feared.
When we got to our gate I found that Ryan Air didn’t have one of those boarding tunnels (think budget budget) no we were going to have to go down a long flight of stairs carrying everything and our kids with us, and then walk across to our airplane which we would then board via a flight of stairs. Thankfully they offered to gate check our carry-ons so we just needed to manage to get down those stairs with 3 kids who were freaking out, 3 carry-ons, a now folded up stroller and 5 backpacks. All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart to the kind fellow passengers who took pity on us and helped us down those stairs. After dropping off our stroller and carry-ons it was easier to get our 3 kids and 5 backpacks up the stair and on the plane.
Many a passenger was giving our kids weary looks.
Probably wondering if they were going to cry for the whole 4-hour flight. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Just like our last plane ride, the kids settled in quickly and with being so tired they all fell promptly asleep. My husband and I decided to follow suit and before we knew it we were arriving. Still suffering from ever increasing jetlag added to the exhaustion of little to no sleep the night before.
While still quite tired I was surprised at how well behaved the kids all were upon being woken up and hustled off the plane. We breezed through Greek Customs (they are soo chill) which was a relief. We were soooo excited to finally have made it to Greece, but we knew our journey wasn’t over yet. We still needed to get a Uber to get us to the Ferry to Nea Styra where our friend would be waiting with a car to take us to the villa we would all be staying at together (house sitting) on the Island of Euboea (or Evia) in Greece for the next few months.
In the end, we had to get 2 uber cars due to how many of us there are in our family and how much luggage we had.
Thankfully the cost was cheap so it wasn’t too bad. It took us a little under an hour to get from the Airport to the Ferry and I enjoyed every moment of it. Both kids traveling with me in my car fell asleep quickly. So I was able to sit back relax and enjoy the view and conversation with my driver Nikos. His English was excellent and so was his knowledge of the area.
We drove along the route of the original Marathon where just weeks before runners from all over the world had come to compete in that year’s annual race. We talked about the main crops grown on the many mini farms in Greece. Nikos shared his experience working around the world. One of his last jobs was working on the private yacht of one of the most wealthy men on the planet. It was a very stimulating yet relaxing drive.
Sadly we missed the Ferry.
It was pulling out as we were pulling in. That’s we missed our boat by less than 5 minutes. Luckily it wasn’t the last ferry boat of the day. There was one more we just had to wait for an hour and a half. It was cold and getting dark fast as we waited for that next ferry to come. Thankfully there was at least a restaurant/cafe there that we were able to wait inside of. They even had some food which was good since it was now evening and we hadn’t eaten all day. Did I mention how my kids are notorious for getting HANGRY? We don’t speak Greek and the people at the restaurantnt didn’t speak much English but in the end, we were able to order some fried cheeseballs and Potatoes. Not much but it helped us a ton.
So there was 1 more bit of drama before the day was through. When we asked our friends (who had already been in Greece a month) about money they said to just use our Credit Card because everyone accepts it and its less hassle. So we didn’t pull out any cash at the ATM at the Airport before heading to the Ferry. When we went to get the Ferry tickets we discovered that while most places accept credit cards not all do. Apparently, for the Ferry, we needed cash. Here was the kicker, though. There was no ATM at the doc and we were miles away from the nearest town. By the time we found this out the next (and LAST) ferry was just 20 minutes out. I will admit I panicked. I mean what were we to do.
My husband frantically called his friend, who apologized for forgetting about needing cash for the Ferry. It had totally slipped his mind. He suggested that Rory offer the ticket people US cash with double the ticket price. So again Rory left me with our kids and our bags and went to talk to the ticket person hoping that they would accept the cash. Umm, yeah the answer was no. I was starting to worry that we were going to have to call a taxi to come and get us and drive an hour to Athens where we could hopefully find a hotel to stay for the night and try again in the morning when we had cash when the ticket person took pity on us. He agreed to let us board for free as long as we paid on the other side. Our friend had the cash so that was no problem.
It was with great relief that we all boarded the Ferry boat.
I’m not going to lie, the lack of sleep and onset of a serious case of jetlag was totally kicking my trash by this point. The Ferry ride took an hour and as promised our friend was waiting at the docks on the other side. He promptly paid the Ferryman, and helped us load our kids and luggage into the car and offer were to our final destination.
It took us about 30 minutes from the docks in Nea Styra to reach the Villa we would be staying at for the next 2 1/2 months, When we got there we were sooo tired that I never thought a bed looked so good. Yes, it was a difficult day. Daunting even. However, we made it and now our real adventure could begin.
Stay tuned for More Travelogues coming soon all about our many adventures during our 2 1/2 month stay in Greece…
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