Both Crete and Santorini to Athens flights are less than an hour. There is likely to be more flights from Crete (as it’s a much bigger island than Santorini). Prices will depend on whatever offers are on at the time but if you are already in Crete it’s always going to be cheaper than hopping back to Santorino first
Also if you are going at peak times the experience at Crete is going to be much better that the nightmare that can be departures from Santorini.
Doing 3 islands is bound to be more relaxed than doing 4 and you will have more holiday and less travelling. Crete is a very large island and you cannot do it justice in a few days. Most Europeans will spend 2 weeks on Crete and still not see it all.Edited: 25 January 2018, 06:15
It will be a long day of flying to return to LAX. 20 hours is not unusual, especially if you are on a flight that makes multiple stopovers at other airports before reaching LAX. And LAX itself is a nightmare these days. I strongly urge you to make sure you are not arriving there during the mid-day rush. Last time I returned to LAX from Greece it took 2.5 hours to go through the passport/custom procedures there and get out of the airport.
Brotherleelove: You're right, 20+ hours is to be expected, which even that is exhausting on an adult. I can handle 16 hours no problem. I've been lucky at LAX, 7/2017, Italy back to LAX around 2pm, we escaped getting out through customs in less than an hour, our checked in luggage was not so lucky. I'm willing to pay a tad more to not have so many stop-overs, 1 max with an hour between flights.
Hope you enjoy ATH, EFL, JMK, JTR and HER. I had to add some more text because TA said I couldn't post in all capital letters!
Your itinerary is too rushed. Allow a day travel time between your destinations. Wouldn’t fly out if Santorini - international flights out will be a nightmare. Worth the extra money for a hotel in Athens for one night. Taxi from hotel to airport in Athens is a fixed rate, I think 35-40 euros when we were there last year. We stayed at Athens suite hotel - great breakfast, contemporary decor but walking distance to syntagma, shopping, Plaka, Monastraki, Acropolis, etc...
We did NY to Athens...3 nights...ferry to Santorini....5 nights Perissa Beach.....ferry to Heraklion 7 nights in Crete in friends Villa near Rethymnon. We flew Heraklion...Athens..... NY. Crete is very different from the other islands,parts of the southern coast are still untouched .I would spend more time there and skip one of the other islands. We did the ferries between islands by choice to get the experience. Flights are reasonable and you can skip the ferries if you want to save some time. If you go to Crete visit Ligres Beach on the southern coast ,it is stunning.