Is Santorini child friendly? Hmmm…no, probably not.
Is it doable (and will you have the best time)? HELL YES!
Santorini is one of those destinations that you have always dreamt of, where you’ve heard about the beauty, you’ve seen the photos of the white buildings with the blue roofs, but you’ve put it off because of having children. Now, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, never let children stop you from visiting anywhere you want to!! The trip might be different to if you travelled alone, but you, and them, will still get so much out of it.
Here’s what we did, where we stayed, and what we learnt along the way for travelling to Santorini with children (oh, and loads of photos thrown in for good measure).
We travelled from Birmingham with Thomas Cook, and really can’t fault them. We pre-ordered meals for the flights as our girls love their food and thrive on routine so we knew they would need to eat whilst on board. The kids meals were great, alongside a hot meal there were loads of little snacks and fun food items, to keep them entertained, and their tummies full!
On our return leg, the representative from Thomas Cook made sure we were given priority at every point because of the children, and to avoid them having to wait around in the heat, its the little things that make a big difference, and we will definitely travel with them again. Santorini airport is great for children as you wait on a terrace overlooking the runway so they were more than happy to plane spot whilst we waited to be called. On our return to Birmingham, as soon as you step off the plane there are trolley strollers to get your kids to the baggage area, and once there there were games for the children to play with whilst waiting for our bags to arrive.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Aegean Plaza Hotel, in the area of Kamari. The Aegean Plaza is a great hotel, we were really impressed with it and they were very attentive to our needs. The rooms were really spacious, the cot provided was of really good quality, and the high chairs in the restaurant were all brand new. There is a separate children’s pool, although it was pretty cold (as we’ve since found a lot of Greek pools are), and with it being a small resort you won’t find the likes of slides and splash zones as you would in family-centred hotels, but we took lots of pool and beach toys with us which kept them entertained for hours!
We had a ground floor pool view room which was amazing, but if you have a ‘runner’ for a child then you might want to request a higher floor, as the rooms go straight out onto the pool, with the terraces facing the pool with no barrier! Luckily for us our girls were very obedient, and stayed close by, and were supervised at all times. The family rooms also come complete with a kitchenette making life a bit easier when travelling with children. We stayed on the Bed & Breakfast package, the breakfast choice was excellent with lots of options for adults and children.
There are two supermarkets directly opposite the hotel which are very reasonably priced, we would buy the children’s ice lollies and snacks from there each day (and the odd tipple for the adults in the evening of course…).
After visiting other areas of the island, we are so pleased that we chose Kamari as our base. A lot of the other main areas, such as Fira and Oia, are built into the side of a mountain and are therefore very hilly. Staying at Kamari meant that we were able to use the stroller at all times as it was so flat and accessible. The beachfront is lined with shops, bars and restaurants. Most of the restaurants have children’s menus, and with them being right on the beach it meant they could have a play whilst we were waiting. The promenade is purely for pedestrians too (apart from the odd delivery to the restaurants) so the children could run up and down to their hearts content. The beach is a black ‘sand’ beach, but it is more a fine pebble. I love the beach and the sea, but really dislike the mess of sand, so this black sand really suited us as it brushed off really easily! Also, there are very minimal tides on Santorini, so it felt very safe.
There is one play area in the residential area of Kamari, however it is quite run down. It entertained our girls for an hour or so, but we probably wouldn’t use it again.
After much deliberation, and some very expensive quotes for taxis, we decided to use the local buses to explore the island. We weren’t going to go all that way and not see Oia, so off we went on a little adventure! Now, yes these are local buses so they are as delightful as you’d expect (*rolls eyes*), but in comparison to some other countries we have visited, they were actually not that bad. Their ‘buses’ are coaches, so have a lot more capacity than you’d expect, but they do still cram A LOT of people onto them so be prepared to be squashed! Luckily, we were offered seats by some lovely fellow tourists, but do not expect the locals to give up their seats just because you’re carrying a 20-month old (*rolls eyes again*).
We decided against taking the stroller with us on this occasion, and it was definitely the right decision. If you have a toddler then I definitely recommend taking a baby carrier. The buses do allow you to stow luggage underneath so you could store it if need be, but I would say its best to avoid where possible. We had to change buses in Fira to get to Oia, but this was actually really simple, they just announce what number bus you need dependent on where you are going, and they are really regular (every 20-30 minutes). All the journeys cost €1.80 (the children travelled for free), a bargain in comparison to the €65 we were quoted for a taxi… Its all part of the adventure!
If travelling with older children, a really popular activity on the island is to hire an ATV to get around. We saw a lot of families doing this and it looked like great fun. If I have one regret, it is that we didn’t do this! But we will definitely be back, and this is top of my list!
Day Trip to Oia
Oia is everything you expect when you think of Santorini, the views are out of this world, and totally worth the journey up there! Once in the centre of Oia it is pedestrianised so I never worried about the children and traffic, however it is really busy (as you would expect for one of the worlds most beautiful places to visit) so you really need to have your wits about you with the children, that baby carrier coming in very useful here! We wandered, explored, ate ice-cream (a visit to Lolita’s Gelato is a must) and then headed back to the bus back home. You could spend a lot longer here without the children, but we did everything we wanted to do and definitely didn’t feel like we missed out. If you want to view the sunset from Oia then this maybe where you need to rethink, as I have heard that it gets REALLY busy. So instead we opted for a different view of the sunset…
We booked our sunset cruise with the Thomas Cook representative at our hotel purely for ease, but there are lots of places that you are able to book variants of these. We paid €65 each, the children were free of charge. We opted for just a late afternoon/evening excursion to avoid too much disruption for the kids. And plus, what child doesn’t love a boat?! If we had been alone we probably would have done a full day trip, but its these small changes that make your trip a lot more manageable.
The cruise included hotel pick-up, a 45-minute cruise on a traditional Greek boat on the Caldera over to Thirasia, where you disembark for a traditional Greek meal. The food here was so good, and they brought out some fries for the children too! Considering we didn’t pay for the children, and they weren’t expected to feed them, they ensured that they had everything they needed in terms of food and drink, which we really appreciated. You then get back onto the boat, sailing past the hot springs and the volcanos, to then watch the sunset on the horizon – amazing! The girls did get a little restless, but we quickly realised that they were allowed to get up and walk around on the boat so they were happy again! Oh, and that baby carrier I mentioned? A lifesaver yet again once it reached the babies bedtime!
And there we have it! Before we knew it a week had passed and it was time to come home (boohoo). So in a nutshell? Don’t expect tailor-made kids clubs or giant slides in the pools. Do expect great small hotels, quality family time, exploration, good food, pool days, oh and delicious ice-cream!
Sometimes its not whats in the package, but the package itself that is the most fun.
And what an amazing package Santorini is…
Fancy watching a video of our trip? Head here to my YouTube channel!