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Hello everyone! Today’s guest post was written by Victoria Begin. She resides in Ottawa, and has traveled mostly in Europe and the United States. Victoria occasionally writes for a theater blog called, “Theatromania.” You can find samples of her work about Into the Woods and Peter Pan in Wonderland.
As you know, I love to travel solo, but sometimes traveling alone is intimidating. I personally believe group tours are worth it! Below, Victoria shares her experiences with Contiki. Happy reading! And I hope you travel with Contiki in the future.
During this strange and uncertain time, one thing I am sure about is my love of travel. I don’t know about you, but I find a great deal of comfort in reminiscing about past travel adventures as I wait for things to go back to normal. That’s why this guest blogging opportunity was such a treat!
In early 2013, I was searching for just the right kind of European trip. One that would include at least two cities and featured a mix of organized tours and free time.
I had always wanted to visit London and Paris – with some of my ancestral roots in both England and France, these places had always fascinated me.
A few friends had recommended Contiki Tours, an organized tour company for young people up to the age of 35. Everyone had good things to say about their experiences traveling with Contiki, so I picked up a catalog at my first opportunity.
Well, within five minutes, I had found my trip. 8 days exploring both London and Paris.
It was an unforgettable trip, and I have Contiki to thank for that. So, without further ado, here are 6 reasons to travel with Contiki.
6 Reasons to Travel with Contiki
Contiki is “User Friendly”
Ahead of actually getting on that plane and heading over to Heathrow, I had to book my trip a few months ahead of time.
I called Contiki and was very kindly guided through the booking process by a travel agent, who loved my energy and excitement when talking about my upcoming trip. She helped me sort out my flights, hotels, and made sure I was added to the list of travelers for my chosen trip. I was also given the option of making small payments on the trip, which was appreciated.
Your Wallet Will Thank You
Contiki is known for offering travel excursions catered to young people. They get the fact that many of their travellers are just finishing up university, starting their careers, and maybe living on their own for the first time. They’ve kept this group in mind when putting tours together, making the trips affordable and worthwhile.
I’m not saying travel is cheap, but Contiki’s prices are considerably cheaper than trying to plan a multi-city European trip on your own. The hotels chosen for each tour are spacious, clean, and close to the action (my hotel in London was just a short Tube ride away from London’s West End), and the included meals are tasty and specific to the city you’re in.
The VIP Feeling is Real
On my Contiki trip to London and Paris, we checked out a number of iconic tourist spots, including the London Eye, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles. Not too shabby, huh?
Not only did we get to see these places up close, we also had special access in that we bypassed some of the lines. To be fair, I didn’t travel during the busy tourist season (which is the summer and early fall), but I do remember both London and Paris being very busy, especially these hot spots which all had lines. Contiki set us up with quick access, so we didn’t have to wait and could make the most of our time.
Also, our trip included a theatre performance in London’s West End, so one of our nights in London was spent seeing Mamma Mia!
Talk about feeling like a VIP when you travel with Contiki!
You’ll Make New Globe-Trotting Friends
My Contiki trip left from Toronto, and at first I wondered if I would meet anyone ahead of crossing the pond on departure day.
As I mentioned previously, Contiki is fully aware that its demographic is a young one, potentially traveling on their own for the first time, and has made accommodations for this. Once I had booked my trip over the phone, I received email instructions to join an online community for my trip, where all travelers were invited to sign in and get to know each other over chat. I was able to connect with three fellow travelers who were all based in Toronto, and actually met them over coffee a few months before the trip! Of course we all chattered excitedly about what we were most looking forward to, and said, “See you in London!”. It was really nice to arrive in a foreign city a few months later and see some familiar faces!
Years after my trip, I am pleased to say that I am still friends with my Contiki pals, and have actually taken another European trip since London and Paris with one friend in particular!
Free Time is Alllll Yours
I have a confession to make. My first full day in London, we all hopped onto the Contiki bus for a whirlwind drive of the major sites. For the first time, I saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Harrod’s, and the Tower of London. The tour guide announced that we were on our way to Bath, to visit Stonehenge, but this stop was not mandatory. As much as I would have liked to visit Stonehenge, I desperately wanted to explore the Tower of London. The tour guide asked if there was anyone on the bus who didn’t want to join the Stonehenge excursion, and a few people raised their hands (myself included). I found myself dropped off outside Harrod’s with a few other people, and we all made our way to the Tower of London for the rest of the day.
I was so thankful for the opportunity to have that free time. The Tower is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, based on my love of English history and the Tudor dynasty. And it was an experience I will never forget.
The Tour Guides Have Your Best Interests in Mind
When it comes to the individuals steering the Contiki ship (or bus), these folks are the cream of the crop. On my Contiki tour in 2013, I had one tour guide who was with us the entirety of the trip, telling funny stories, sharing tips, and making sure we all had a safe and unforgettable time. In addition to him, we also had a bus driver who also shared stories and allowed us to get to know her in the time that we spent together.
To get from London to Paris, our bus took us to Dover (the famous White Cliffs of Dover, to be exact), and from there we took a ferry across the English Channel to Calais. As we closed in on the French shore, our tour guide explained to us how the border experience would go, so we were all prepared. It was about a three hour drive from Calais to Paris, and both the bus driver and tour guide knew how many Canadians were on the bus. Suddenly, the bus came to a stop at a huge field, and I realized that we were at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, which commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The bus waited while Canadians took photos of the memorial and sat quietly in remembrance.
This stop was very thoughtful and spoke to the way in which Contiki tour guides know their audiences.
All in all, Contiki is the way to go if you’re under 35 and looking for a great experience. I encourage you to check out their website for a list of their tours – even if you can’t travel right now due to the pandemic, you can start looking forward to it!
Would you ever take a Contiki tour? Have you ever been on one? What are your favorite guided tours of Europe (and beyond?) Share all your thoughts in the comments. And if you do travel with Contiki, let us know your experiences!