I think that’s a great plan. Santorini is a must and Milos and Naxos are two islands that have both great beaches and lots to do and see away from the beach. Renting a car and exploring the interior villages of Naxos is a must-do and so is a boat tour around Milos. If you’re willing to cut Athens to 2 days, I would recommend Santorini 5 days, Milos 3 days, Naxos 3 days, and Athens 2 days.

Lefkada is the island that’s not an island. You can drive to it across the causeway from the mainland, but it feels every bit an island. Aristotle Onassis bought the satellite island of Skorpios here as his own bit of getaway paradise. Beaches, windsurfing, boat hire, good food and wine are all here and there are few built-up package resorts. The main tourist area is centred on Nydri.
I would recommend Naxos over Mykonos and with 12 days you could easily add Paros too. With Santorini, Paros, and Naxos you’ll get a good mix of different delights and some ferry island hopping too which is fun in itself. 1.5 days in Athens is perfect for most – 1 day for the Plaka, Parthenon, Acropolis Museum area; and a half-day to visit the Archaeological Museum which is a short drive or walk from the Plaka but hard to fit in one day along with the other sights.
Glad to see you mentioned the Cook Islands – my husband and I went to Rarotonga for a week in 2008 and fell in love with it – can’t wait to someday bring our kids back there – they would love it, too! Very few people have actually heard of the Cooks, or know where they are, and while I like the “secrecy” of it, I wish more people would visit! Currently there are only 1-2 flights/week from the US – makes planning trips there a bit tougher!We only took a day trip to Aitutaki because of time, but it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Glad to see you agree!

As soon as I think of travel, it’s not long before my mind drifts to white sand beaches, azure blue water, and palm trees in tropical locales. When most people think of paradise, chances are they’re thinking of tropical islands is far-flung corners of the world. Lounging with a good book, drinking from coconuts, soaking up the rays. Does it get any better than that?
Budgeting for Greece is always going to be subject to what your expectations and needs are. Assuming that you, like many travellers, like to eat a filling breakfast, savour maybe a light lunch and feast on a heavier dinner (or vice versa), enjoy a drink with your meals and are not totally vegetarian/vegan and prefer to sleep in comfort and cleanliness, then there is a set of figures that can be guesstimated.

Travel here is now easier than ever thanks to recent renovations at both international airports. One of Grand Cayman’s first hotel openings in years, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa opened in November, with 266 design-centric guest rooms along a 500-foot coral sand stretch of Seven Mile Beach. At the grass-and-teak filled, flip-flop friendly Margaritaville Beach Resort, which will open in early 2017 with 286 guest rooms, kids can cruise down the two-story waterslide and you’ve got a License to Chill at the bar with the same name.

These groups are generally better connected among themselves than with other groups, so you are probably better advised to target them on this basis. As it’s your first time to Greece, you may want the full-on Greek island experience and you could easily fill your five weeks flitting from one island to the other in the Cyclades. You could start in Kea and work your way down to Milos via Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos then segue to Paros and Naxos. Dip down to Santorini, up to Mykonos and back to Piraeus. The map will also show plenty of other Cyclades islands to pick and choose from such as Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Amorgos, Syros, Tinos and Andros – yes! too many choices, but you will find that sticking to one group it will be easier to get between them. Realistically for a period of five weeks you will not want to be doing more than 6-8 islands.

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