It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for…What precious or nonexpendable non-liquid items are in my Greek carry-on? You’ll find some treasures and some necessities. Just to be thorough, I’ll include purse and on-body items in this grouping, as well. Also, I assume you’re interested in the contents of my return trip home, rather than my outbound trip there. It’s probably of less interest to you to hear about the items I take to Greece, although how to pack for Greece could fill up several blog posts. Let me know if you’re interested. Otherwise, though geared towards treks, you can gain some extremely useful information and tips on packing from my friend and author Cara at her website Girls Trek Too!
1. One-pint ziplock bag with small portions of liquids, crèmes and toothpaste consistent with security requirements on U.S.-bound flights. I will take this opportunity to mention one indispensible item that you should take to Greece: ziplock bags. The Greek variety is grossly inferior and will thoroughly disappoint. Beside the pint size for U.S. security, I also take several sandwich and quart-sized bags. They come in handy for packing all that olive oil, ouzo, and Greek honey. They also serve as an easy organizer for clothes, toiletries and other various items, liquid and solid.
2. My travel-sized tempurpedic pillow, which is neck-saving, back-saving and life-saving. I not only use it on the plane but in the Frankfurt airport, pretending to nap in the smoke-infested air during my six hour layover to Athens. I have also used it in Greece. Have I mentioned their atrocious rock-hard beds and pillows? Another post.
3. Money belt, worn right across my private parts. It seems to be very safe there, since there aren’t usually many available Greek or Italian men on the flight out of Athens. I may be the only person on the plane who still wears a money belt, but I don’t care. If nothing else, it makes me feel secure and powerful. Inside are all the travelers’ checks that I brought with me “just in case” but never used, because my ATM card actually worked. (BTW-ATM cards are the way to go now. Cashing travelers’ checks will run you an extra 20-25 Euros plus commission per transaction. Just another way to screw tourists.) Also inside are a couple credit cards, my passport and any cash that I managed not to spend. I always bring back Euros so that I’ll have them for the next trip.
I tend to carry a lot more in my money belt since that fated airplane restroom episode…I had finally made it into my seat for my flight to Athens (by way of some European city that I don’t remember—all the trips blur together after awhile). I decide that this would be a good time to go to the restroom. I grabbed my wallet, quickly did my thing, and returned to my seat. I buckled up my seat belt and prepared myself for the seventeen or eighteen or twenty-hour journey. I was feeling rather pleased; everything was going so well. Then I heard, “Will Rebecca Elia please press her call button.” OMG, what’s happened? Are they going to kick me off the plane? Did they break the lock on my packed-to-the-brim suitcase? Was my fancy string underwear now strewn across the tarmac for every airport baggage handler to see? After taking a deep breath I pushed my call button and tried not to look guilty (of what, I don’t know). The flight attendant suddenly appeared next to my seat (did she glide? Where did she come from?) “We found something of yours in the restroom.” In her hand was my wallet. I just about had a heart attack on the spot. I couldn’t imagine arriving in Greece without my credit cards or ID. Just the hassle, alone, to cancel the cards from overseas was enough to kill my entire vacation. And we hadn’t even left the ground yet. Jeez, I was still in San Francisco!
4. Okay, are you still with me? We get to the fun stuff now…Greek jewelry. Oh, but not just any Greek jewelry. Not the Greek key in every possible variation. Not thick gold chains.
Here are my faves:
Thallo—Yes, the ring in the picture is from Thallo. I have one just like it. My mother has an entire dresser drawer filled with their jewelry. I am addicted to the stuff. Here’s the catch. See that daisy (margarita, the Greeks say)? It is a real daisy! The actual flower is inside. Now, others have done this with leaves and more solid plant parts, but flowers? It’s remarkable. I usually bring back one or two items for me and several for the women in my family. Christmas is really boring for them, because they already know what their gift will be. They are located in Kolonaki in Athens. For more beautiful examples, see their website: http://www.thallousa.com
5. Breakables that I’m too scared to place in checked luggage. There is a lot of crap-pottery in Greece, but there are also some really beautiful pieces. Each location has its own unique type. On Skopelos, Rodios creates amazing black pottery in ancient forms. They’ve recently branched out and have created some with a silvery tint and others with a khaki army look. They are located in the main town at the end of the harbor (on the road that heads out of town) between Hotel Eleni and Skopelorama Holidays agency. Watch him in action, and listen to some Greek at this site. Warning: this youtube video will make you want to take up ceramics! The pottery on Skyros is also quite beautiful and unique. Their museum shop has a lovely selection.
6. Mamma Mia poster ads, all rolled up
And last, but not least, probably the most essential items:
7. Cell phones—yes, plural—and appropriate phone cards. I have my American, unlocked phone and my Greek phone (in case my American phone goes on the fritz or has inconsistent service). Words of caution: just because it says “world phone” doesn’t mean it will work everywhere. One of my phones only worked in towns and cities, not on the water—which was a problem since so much travel in Greece is on the water. Phone cards includes: a sim card for Greece (remember, your phone must be unlocked to use a different sim card), sim card for the U.S., prepaid phone card for cell phone service in Greece (there are many; I use Vodafone ala carte), and a phone card for public Greek phones. I always bring back one of each so that I won’t be caught without on my return trip. The type of prepaid card I have for the cell phone requires purchasing one card minimum each year—so (if hell freezes over) I don’t make it back to Greece within a year, I will still be able to keep my cell phone coverage.
Let me know what you bring back from Greece in your carry-on!
Future post: My fave Greek gifts.