Should you travel to Greece with your family? The answer is a resounding “Definitely, YES!”. Kids Love Greece is a travel agency focusing exclusively on family vacation to Greece, helping families to create amazing memories that last forever.
Kids Love Greece is a labour of love of three mums, Katerina Makatouni, Maria Tsigoni and Maria Giannouli, three entrepreneurs who were all born and raised in Heraklion, Crete and have been friends since meeting in kindergarten about forty years ago.
In just seven years since the business was established, Kids Love Greece has already helped over one thousand families to create amazing family memories in Greece.
The business concept was developed over the years when the two Marias and Katerina were approached by other parents – friends, colleagues, and relatives who live abroad – asking them questions such as “We’d like to go on a family vacation to Greece but where exactly should we go?” and “Do you know any nice hotels which are kid-friendly?” or “Which island should we visit with our families?”
These days Katerina Makatouni lives abroad in the United States whilst the rest of the team remains in Crete, with staff members in Thessaloniki as well as in Athens and Rhodes.
The mission of Kids Love Greece is very simple, but powerful; “To inspire families to explore Greece and create amazing family memories together”.
Greek City Times was fortunate to be able to catch up with co-founder Katerina Makatouni who talked us through all things Kids Love Greece, providing helpful “DOs and DON’Ts” plus handy tips for seamless and unforgettable family travel.
“Creating family memories through travel is one of the best ways you can bring your family together. There is something magical about those travel memories; they last much longer than the trip… they are memories which last forever.” – Katerina Makatouni
How were you inspired to create the concept for your business ‘Kids Love Greece’?
The short answer: There was no independent information on the Internet about family holidays. We had no business plan whatsoever at the beginning … only passion to share our experiences and love for Greece.
The long answer:
It started in 2014 as a blog, where us (three Greek moms) shared travel tips and advice to other parents from around the world who wanted to travel to Greece.
We thought at that time that there was a gap in terms of independent information about traveling to Greece with kids and really wanted to fill in that gap. The main trigger was the following:
I (Katerina) personally have been living abroad for the last 14 years and all my acquaintances and friends have always been asking me for advice about where to go in Greece and what to do with kids in Greece. After doing some research, we realised that there was not enough information available on the internet in relation to holidays in Greece for families. Even the information we did find was not clear and helpful enough. So, we decided to create our blog and Kids Love Greece became our 7th (combined) child.
Initially, our tips and advice were based on our own personal experiences and trips that we had taken with our own children. On top of that, we had created a community of local families (“a local knows best”), whose members shared with us their travel experiences in Greece with their families (we used online questionnaires).
Could you tell us a bit about Kids Love Greece? Are you travel agents that book accommodation as well as organise tours?
Kids Love Greece books accommodation, transfers as well as activities and tours, all suited to the needs of each family.
Although we started as a blog in 2014, in 2016, our own readers started asking us for advice on how to plan their trips to Greece as to them Greece as a travel destination seemed amazing, however, chaotic in terms of trip planning (they did not know where to start).
Therefore, since 2016, we have been operating as a travel agency headquartered in the US (where I live). The rest of the team is in Greece.
Our team of trip planners (all Greeks living in Greece) help our clients from the first stage of planning their trip to the last detail during their stay in Greece. We help them to enjoy their family holidays to the fullest, experience authentic experiences and collect beautiful family memories.
Before we start crafting any travel itinerary, recommending places to visit as well as accommodation and things to do, we always ask parents about the travel needs and wishes of their families (here is a quick questionnaire we sent our clients). We always take into consideration the ages of the kids and the interest of each of the family members.
Kids Love Greece has grown into an online portal offering online learning, cooking, Greek mythology classes. How did you find Dr. Maria Hnaraki, your educational consultant who oversees all of these educational resources?
Dr. Hnaraki is another long-time friend from Heraklion, Crete. We studied in Athens together before she moved to the US. Recently, she moved back to Crete, and she has been for almost 20 years another amazing ambassador for Greece abroad.
We have successfully co-operated with her on various projects as a Director of Greek Studies and a teaching Professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, US. We all believe in teaching in classrooms with no walls and in experiential learning.
Who creates all of the content on the site?
Initially, all articles published on our website were written by us, the three co-founders of Kids Love Greece. In order to be able to do that, we did extensive research ourselves and also created a Community with Local Families (“a local knows best”)”, a group of parents from different parts of Greece, who provided us with information, suggestions and tips through online questionnaires.
As Kids Love Greece has been growing, we decided to hire local freelance writers and bloggers. Depending on the subject of the article we want to cover, we select local writers with an expertise on the specific area/field.
One of our key priorities has been to offer our readers objective information about Greece and therefore we decided not to include any advertising content on our webpage. This remains one of our main principles to date.
When people ask you which is the best place in Greece to visit with a family, where would be your top picks?
That’s a very frequently asked question but at the same time very complicated as the answer depends on answers to the following questions:
- When are you planning to visit Greece?
- How many days are you planning to stay?
- How old are your kids?
- What is your budget?
- Are you comfortable renting your own car?
- What type of accommodation are you looking for?
- What are the interests of your family?
There are so many places for families to visit in Greece so answers to the above questions will help us to recommend the best places for each family.
Are there any places in Greece that you would recommend that people DON’T visit with a family?
It all depends on the ages of the kids, although in all honesty, it is up to the comfort levels of the parents.
For example, we would never recommend Samaria Gorge in Crete to families with young kids but in the past, we had families who did the gorge with babies in baby carriers (or even 5-year-old).
If there is one place that we would say is a bit “complicated” with families is Santorini as there are hotels that do not accept kids who are under 13+ (and even some others which do not accept kids at all).
In addition, most villages of Santorini have quite a lot of stairs which could become challenging for families with teenagers and grandparents (multigeneration).
Also, we avoid recommending places such as Meteora or Olympia as destinations for day trips from Athens as the vast majority of children do not like long car drives. Instead, we recommend multi day trips from Athens for destinations such as Meteora and Olympia.
Also, most of the ancient archaeological sites such as the Acropolis are not stroller friendly because of the uneven surfaces so families with babies should be aware of that.
We also mainly recommend Mykonos to active families with teenagers since younger kids might find the island to be too vibrant for them.
What are your top tips when it comes to travelling with a family and children in Greece?
We try to be realistic in our tips because we want families to be prepared for what to expect when they are in Greece. Our clients appreciate when we tell them in advance that:
- 5-star hotels in Greece are not necessarily comparable to 5-star hotels in other parts of the world.
- Service can be slow in restaurants and hotels (even in high end hotels) so try to be patient.
- If they are visiting any of the archaeological sites during summer, have a water bottle with you all the time and wear comfortable shoes.
- Our general advice for archaeological sites is to avoid going there between 12-4 pm because of heat. In the Acropolis, visit very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Buy Skip the Line tickets in the Acropolis to avoid the long lines.
- Visit the archaeological sites with licensed guides that have experience with kids. We have handpicked all guides that we use (we have tried most of them ourselves with our own kids).
“There’s nothing more precious than spending quality time with the kids. Creating family memories is more powerful than any gift one could ever get them.”– Maria Tsigoni
What do you find seem to be the biggest challenges faced when travelling with children?
Many families when they come to Greece want to visit as many islands and places as possible but in reality, this is very challenging from a logistic point of view. Although Greece is not a huge country it is widespread, and you are depending on ferries for island hopping. That can be time consuming and also requires some effort on behalf of the families (i.e., changing hotels/ packing/ unpacking and so on).
One of the main challenging faced when traveling with children is to keep everyone happy (children get easily bored/tired). This is why we customise all our itineraries to meet all family members’ needs and adjust our private tours to kids’ ages. Another thing we do is to carefully design itineraries with multiple stops which are though convenient for each of our clients and their needs.
What would you say are the most popular destinations chosen by your customers?
Athens as a start, a few days to see the Athens Highlights i.e. Acropolis and Acropolis Museum as well as stroll in Plaka and Monastiraki. We have lots of fun activities and family friendly tours there, including our Mythology Tours inspired by Percy Jackson as well as Food Tours, Cooking classes for families and biking tours.
Crete is the biggest island in Greece and an absolute paradise for families! It offers a wide range of accommodation choices, lovely beaches and various activities a family could enjoy during their stay. The famous Palace of Knossos is located in Heraklion- a great opportunity for another family friendly Tour- together with many other interesting sites and attractions. Cretans are famous worldwide for their hospitality as well as for their delicious traditional cuisine!
Another wonderful option would be Naxos Island, as it is among our favourite family destinations in Cyclades. Besides its amazing “Greek island” atmosphere, its long sandy beaches are ideal for families with children (not windy, shallow, and crystal-clear waters). Our favourite is Agios Prokopios! Overall, the whole island is fantastic since it combines great beaches, lovely small villages, and delicious food! Furthermore, it offers various accommodation options and has so many different things to see and enjoy with the family. The only thing with Naxos, is that it does not have such a variety of bigger hotels/resorts with kids’ clubs. It has, however, various beachfront family villas, suites, and beautiful boutique hotels. In that context, Paros is a good alternative to Naxos, and we often propose that island to our clients.
Mykonos is also lovely and offers an amazing “Cycladic atmosphere”, really nice beaches and picturesque villages. We always recommend a visit to Delos to those who are fascinated by Greek Mythology! It is a high-end destination though and not everyone can afford a family vacation there.
Lots of our clients want to visit Santorini. Although Santorini is not traditionally a family destination, we have handpicked hotels as well as activities suitable for kids. As a result, we are very proud of our offerings in Santorini which include sailing tours, volcano visits, and tours of the island with our fantastic guides there.
There is an excellent ferry connection between all those islands (and Athens).
Tell us about the additional resources that you offer such as your online classes. How did this part of the business start? Did this part come later?
In Spring 2020 and when the COVID-19 epidemic started, we saw our travel agency business crashing as no travel was allowed. During that period, we tried to reinvent ourselves and stick to our values “promote Greece”.
We decided to launch the “Greece Online” program which aims to bring Greece abroad to people/ families who could not travel. Until that time and as a travel agency we were only promoting Greece as a destination to those who could travel, so “Greece Online” was in a way a new endeavour.
The Kids Love Greece online Greek mythology classes are very popular. Can you tell us about these?
We initially launched a series of online classes centred around “Greek Mythology” i.e. Greek Mythology Behind Harry Potter, Greek Mythology Camp of Kids as well as The Myths of the Palace of Knossos. Later on, we added online Greek Cooking Classes for Families, we organised Virtual Parties with a Greek theme as well as Online Trivia for Families and Arts and Craft Classes centred around Mythology.
See a sample of all of our online Greek Mythology classes.
Although we started those online Greek Mythology classes on a trial basis during COVID-19, we are very pleased with the impact it has had so far on kids, even if the classes were online. After all, if there is one thing we have learned over the years, it is that children all over the world love Greek Mythology.
We had kids from all over the world who participated online in our highly engaging classes, led by our fantastic storytellers who are all based in Greece. All classes are synchronous and are on zoom. Each class lasts an hour and is very interactive as we use polls and quizzes to make them as engaging as possible. Our online classes do not feel like a presentation, our enthusiastic story tellers encourage conversation between participants. It is really nice to see kids who do not know each other from different parents of the world to interact with each other.
We have also done private online Greek Mythology classes for various schools in the US.
Can you tell us a bit about your themed trips such as the Percy Jackson tours?
Kids Love Greece offers a wide variety of themed tours/trips centred around Greek Mythology and History, Sailing, Self-Drive and of course Percy Jackson.
When it comes to Percy Jackson, we were inspired by our kids’ favourite book hero and created a series of customised tours and trips for Percy Jackson fans. In order to design those themed tours, we studied Rick Riordan’s books thoroughly and tried to follow the steps of Percy Jackson and his fellows in Greece.
Our aim is to help Percy Jackson lovers see the highlights of Greece for a different perspective, discover the wonders of Greek mythology and visit some of the most famous monuments of the country included in this popular book series such as the Acropolis, Ancient Olympia, Mycenae, Delphi, and the Palace of Knossos.
We work with licensed tour guides, who are specially trained in Percy Jackson-themed tours and are huge mythology fans themselves. We organise private or small groups Percy Jackson tours and Multi Day Trips in Greece.
Greece is not only about history and mythology. In order to discover the real Greece, one also has to “taste” it! Tell us about the cooking classes that you offer for the whole family!
We at Kids Love Greece, believe that the Greek diet and gastronomy represents one of the main aspects of the rich Greek culture.
Our team offers culinary experiences in various Greek destinations, including both cooking workshops for families and family food tasting experiences. We have handpicked our local hosts in each destination, aiming at offering authentic culinary experiences to our clients. Through our fun, hand-on cooking workshops, families discover the secrets of Greek cuisine and learn various traditional Greek recipes.
Most of our cooking classes take place in local farms or even local houses. Depending on the season, kids are being given the opportunity to pick fresh fruits and vegetables straight from a local garden and then use those materials to prepare some of the most famous Greek dishes themselves. At the end of our cooking workshops, families enjoy a family meal the “Greek way”. We tend to say that it is not only about cooking. It is about living the whole experience of Greek hospitality to the fullest.
In 2020, when people were not able to travel to Greece due to the pandemic, we decided to move one step forward and design a series of online cooking classes for families, aiming at bringing Greece closer to families living abroad. The positive feedback we have received has inspired us to continue working on this area and keep enriching our online portfolio with new cooking workshops for families. We have realised that cooking together with other families, even online, is an experience that helps kids and their parents get a taste of the Greek temperament while interacting with our culinary experts broadcasting live from Greece.
“We keep reading about the importance of spending on experiences rather than on things. I definitely think that a trip to Greece is more powerful than any material gift.”– Maria Giannouli
What are your future ambitions and plans for the business?
We believe that thematic tourism is the way forward for Greece and our plans entail launching a series of thematic packages (private and small group) for families and not only (adults only!). For 2022, we are launching a Greek Mythology Sailing Trip as well as Multi Day Trip for Sports Lovers among others.
Greece is an all-year destination and off season might not be the best period to explore its multiple islands. The Greek mainland however also offers so many beauties waiting to be discovered by nature lovers. We would also like to launch themed travel packages for off season family travel and take advantage of the mild weather in winter and spring.
We will continue capitalising on people’s love for Greek History and Culture and promote our “Greece Online” initiative. That means that we will continue offering people the opportunity to travel, even online, to the fascinating world of Greek Gods and heroes and to discover Greek flavours through online cooking events. Specifically, we are preparing with Dr. Hnaraki a Greek themed curriculum for schools and various other educational institutions which will promote Greek History and Culture abroad via online classes.
So to answer those who ask the question – “Should I travel to Greece with kids? ” We answer “Definitely YES!”. Visit the Kids Love Greece website to book. your next unforgettable family holiday.