My Upcoming Contiki Tour: The Mini Rider

I browsed through the Contiki tours and discovered on somewhat within my budget and target duration. It’s the Mini Rider, a 15-day tour through London, France, Spain and Italy. I want to see the major Euro tourist attractions — the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, London Eye, etc.– since this will be my first trip through Europe. When I go back after graduation, I’ll explore the off-the beaten path spots.

TOUR TYPE

This is a camping tour, which means I will be sharing a tent with another traveler. It’s not as glamorous as staying in hotels, but camping is more adventurous and fun– and it’s a fraction of the cost. Along that note, I am assuming my tour mates will also be adventurous and open — and hopefully as broke as I am, since they, too, chose the budget tour.

COST

The tour is $1,620 with an additional $250 for food. In total, it will cost $1,870. I didn’t purchase the traveler’s insurance, which was another cost. Luckily, Contiki has a layaway option, so I can pay two to three hundred dollars toward the trip every month, or as often as I would like. Contiki layaway also allows other people to donate money to the fund through a link that users can email to others. On that note — I am writing this post on Dec. 24 and hoping tomorrow may bring some monetary gift from my parents (I’ve been good this year, I promise!)

TRAVEL PATH

Commencing on June 16, 2014 and concluding on June 30, the tour follows a curved path though southern Europe. Travelers are to fly into London on June 16, meet the tour mates and receive a Contiki orientation, then depart for Paris on June 17 (I plan on flying into Europe a day or two early to have more time to explore there). We’ll spend a few nights in Paris, then head to Pamplona, Spain. After leaving Pamplona, we will head to Barcelona for two days before traveling back to France, along the French Riviera. We’ll stop in Monaco along the way, then embark into Italy, where we will spend a few days in Florence and then swoop down to Rome. After two nights, the tour ends, and travelers are responsible for getting ourselves home.

 

the-mini-rider-map-600x600
From contiki.com.

As many of the reviews mentioned, the trip involves a significant amount of time on the bus. As someone who spent her childhood on road trips, though (and who, even at age 20, is rocked to sleep like a baby on any mode of transportation), I am fine with long bus rides. As long as I am sitting where a video is visible, I’m set.

ATTRACTIONS

But along with those long rides, there are also tons of sightseeing and cultural immersion opportunities. These are the major sights and destinations the tours covers:

Paris

Image from wikimedia.org
Image from wikimedia.org

Arc de Triomphe

Eiffel Tower

Louvre

Notre Dame Cathedral

Champs-Élysées

Château Versailles

Loire Valley

Pamplona & Barcelona

Image from independent.myreaderoffers.com
Image from independent.myreaderoffers.com

The Lighthouse & Bay in Biarritz

Sagrada Família

Rio Ebro

Montjuic and the 1992 Olympic Games complex

Zaragoza

Gothic Quarter

Parc Güell

French Riviera 

Image from royalcorrespondent.com
Image from royalcorrespondent.com

Côte d’Azur

Arles

Royal Palace in Monaco

Monte Carlo

Florence

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Duomo Cathedral

Statue of David

Image from thewondersoftheworld.net
Image from thewondersoftheworld.net

Ponte Vecchio

Medici Palace

Duomo

Basilica Santa Croce

Giotto’s Bell Tower

Baptistry

Piazza della Signoria

Rome

Vatican City

Image from destination360.com
Image from destination360.com

Colosseum

Roman Forum

Piazza Venezia

Trevi Fountain

Pantheon

Piazza Navona

St. Peter’s Basilica

Sistine Chapel

This extensive list of sights is, of course, paired with a list of night clubs, restaurants, bars and shops for souvenirs and nightly outings. I am beyond excited. As more plans unfold, I will be adding posts with details regarding the Contiki Mini Rider Tour!

 

 

Contiki Holidays: afforable tours for young travelers

Image from www.tntmagazine.com
Image from http://www.tntmagazine.com

I’m sure most people prefer to make their own travel plans, selecting their own destinations, accommodations and traveling pace, but I’m not prepared for that yet. This will be my first time traveling abroad by myself, and I would prefer to do it as part of a group. I’m cognizant that I’d be able to meet people while staying in hostels or joining day-long activities, however, my preference is to spend an extended period of time with the same people to build relationships and, hopefully, lasting friendships.

CONTIKI HOLIDAYS

Hence, through my quest to find an inexpensive trip, I stumbled across Contiki Holidays, a company that provides tours for travelers ages 18 – 35. As a 20-year-old, I am part of the younger crew, but I was very pleased with the age range. It looks the tours are geared toward people who are agile and love adventure — which is definitely me!  Their tagline is:

TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW YOU WILL BE MORE DISAPPOINTED BY THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T DO THAN BY THE ONES YOU DID DO.

YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LIFE, ONE SHOT, SO MAKE IT COUNT #NOREGRETS

Cheesy, yes, but it’s still the kind of sentiment I’m seeking.

THEIR TOURS

I looked into the tours Contiki provides, and found they have a dynamic and reasonably priced selection. They have tours through North and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and, of course, Europe. Most of the tours are multi-city and entail sightseeing during the day and free-time during the night. The tours range from two days to several months, and they come in different accommodation options:

Superior Easy Pace (hotels & relaxed pace)
Superior (hotels)
Budget (a mix of hostels, cabins & budget hotels)
Camping
There are also different methods of tours, including sailing, snorkeling and skiing. Contiki even plans trips based around events such as New Years and Oktoberfest.

Image from lukehimself.net
Image from lukehimself.net
Prices, of course, vary according to length, type and accommodation. Lengthy “superior” trips are way out of my budget, but fortunately Contiki compensates for expensive trips by offering the budget and camping tours. They’re fairly cheaper, and provide most breakfasts and dinners — though I cannot vouch for the food yet.

REVIEWS

The reviews of Contiki are mixed, but generally positive. The majority had fantastic descriptors. These are a few from the review page on Contiki’s site:

“I could not speak more highly of Contiki if I tried. It was an absolutely fantastic trip.”

“Incredible experiences, Booze, Friend for life”

“Party, Long-Lasting Friendships, Adventurous”

“You’ll be tired and you’ll want to sleep for days but it’s all part of the experience. YOU’RE IN EUROPE! This may or may not be a one in a lifetime opportunity, so make the most of it. Seriously, have NO regrets… do everything you want to do and I promise you’ll have an amazing time.”

My personal favorite:

“I have travelled a ton before, but never with a tour, so I must say Contiki is great for new travellers and experienced travellers! The great thing about Contiki is that everyone is young and wanting to experience the same things as you. Everyone has the love for travel and adventure!”

Of course, with every positive review there are the negative ones:

“You will spend a lot of time on the bus—about 40% of the trip…A lot of people spend their time on the bus sleeping off their hangover or socializing.” (thesavvybackpacker.com)

“I have heard from multiple sources that many of the tours quickly turn into drunken parties with lots of sex.”

“…tours on Contiki tend to be filled with parties, young people, and alcohol.” (nomadicmatt.com)

“I was not happy with the accommodation…The tour guide and bus driver were awesome, and they tried their best but the group dynamic was poor and awkward at best.”

Image from broke.travel
Image from broke.travel

Essentially, it sounds like Contiki tours will be drinking-heavy and action-packed, but I am definitely okay with that. Most of the negative reviews were written by people who said they preferred solo travel or were not fans of drinking –but they did have positive comments otherwise. I think Contiki Holidays will be able to suit my needs for my first time travelling to Europe alone, and I am looking forward to the adventures I am going to have.

I’m going to Europe!

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m young, and I’m broke. As a 20-year-old college student, though, what else would you expect?

But the thing is, I am dying to travel.

I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain last summer, through a program with my school, and the experience undoubtedly changed my life forever. Leaving the States for the first time, I was not prepared for the awakening the trip would spring upon me. The ensuing wanderlust when I returned has been so extraordinary that it is almost unbearable. Each night before I sleep, I browse through pictures of Santorini, Prague, Mahcu Picchu, Granada, Johannesburg, Nice, Zurich, Buenos Aires, Lagos, Dublin and every other beautiful city abroad. I have dreamed of returning the Europe since the day my plane touched down in at Newark Liberty International Airport.

So I started planning. I spent the rest of my summer working part time during the day and researching at night. I looked for every possible opportunity to return to Europe. I searched for other study abroad opportunities, teaching English abroad programs, volunteer trips and international conferences. Every single one though, cost thousands of dollars and was completely out of my budget.

I left for Spain with about $1,500 in my bank account after purchasing my $1,450 round trip plane ticket to Madrid. I returned with $100. I had to beg my parents for rent money, and the thoughts of buying new clothes, going to concerts or eating out for the rest for the summer were completely out of the question. Albeit, every penny I spent in Spain was completely and utterly worth it. I just did not know how I could ever afford to travel again while still a student.

By some strange, twisted stroke of luck, however, I received two part-time job offers at the start of the new semester. I already had one job, but the thought of increasing my weekly salary was enticing. I now work about 27 hours per week along with classes, but I would not change anything for the world. I happen to love all of my jobs and am using them all to boost my resume — the most significant benefit, though, is that now I can afford to travel again!

I found a trip through Contiki Holidays, a company planning trips for those aged 18 – 35, which is a 15-day camping trip this summer through four European countries: England, France, Italy and Spain. Sure, we will be hitting the most toursity destinations, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum, but those spots were on my bucket list anyway. Reasonably priced at $1,650 plus taxes, the trip was something I could afford. I have to pay for the flight to and from London, plus food and souvenirs once I get there, but if I start saving now, I should be fine.

And now my head is bursting with excitement, anxiety, and above all else, anticipation .Consequently, I created this blog for organizing my thoughts, plans and ideas for the trip.  I plan to post my research and discoveries on this site in hopes to help and inspire other young, broke travelers.

Stick with me kids, and you’ll go far.