I recently interviewed 19-year-old Shay, from Canada, who just returned home after an incredible 3 week tour through Europe with Contiki. Before she left for her trip, she had the same questions and concerns that most of you probably have if you’ve never taken a Contiki trip – or never been to Europe, for that matter.
If you haven’t already checked out Part 1 of the interview with Shay, I definitely recommend reading it first. It’s a good general overview of what’s it’s like to travel with Contiki, including how much to budget for the dreaded “Extra Costs”.
In Part 2, we’ll get more specific as to what to pack (and what not to), what the food and accommodations are like, and more helpful tips so that you’re prepared and know what to expect on your Contiki Trip.
To recap, Shay went on the 21 day European Experience Tour (now promoted as 20 days) with Contiki, and had an absolutely amazing and eye-opening experience!
Let’s get right into it…
While traveling you’re constantly moving from one place to the next. What luggage would you recommend bringing?
Shay: Half of the people on my tour brought suitcases (usually huge bags) and half brought backpacks (packed full).
I brought a Osprey Porter 46 with me, and I by far had the smallest bag on the tour. I brought this particular bag because after the trip I was going to Greece and had three back-to-back flights. I didn’t want anything going wrong with my luggage, so I wanted carry on. It worked well for me. I didn’t need to bring every item of clothing I owned, and I didn’t need a lot of hair or face products as most mornings there wasn’t enough time to do a full routine anyway.
I would highly recommend the Porter 46 if you want to travel light. Best decision I made.
Traveling to so many different countries where the weather varies greatly can be a challenge. What did you end up packing?
What packing tips can you share for future Contiki travelers?
- I recommend bringing more of a variety of night-out shirts as there were more dressed up evenings than we anticipated.
- Bring good walking shoes! Before the tour even started, I had to buy new walking around shoes -toms- because the ones I brought were killing my achilles heel and it hurt to walk.
- I didn’t end up needing the socks-such a waste of space.
- I didn’t need three bras – could have survived with two.
- I should have brought more summer type clothes.
- Ladies, don’t bring all your makeup with you. Seriously don’t do it. You really don’t have much time to get ready anyway, and when you do, you don’t want to waste time on what eyeshadow or blush to wear. I brought my daily essentials (bb cream, a blush/bronzer palette (which was only 1 of each so it was small), mascara, eyeliner, eyelash curler, 4 lip products, and 1 eyeshadow palette that had neutrals and night out type colours. It worked PERFECTLY! – and it was small. If you can’t fit your face wash, moisturizer, and hair stuff in a ziplock then you’re taking way too much. You can always buy something on the trip if you need it.
For those tech savvy travelers, dependent on internet and social media, what was the WiFi like?
How were the meals that were included in the cost of the trip?
What were the accommodations like?
Shay: If you’re doing this particular tour (European Experience), it’s budget; expect budget accommodations. The website does state that you’ll be staying in Contiki villages and campsites, so you’re not going to be staying in fancy hotels.
We stayed in five hotels during the trip: London, Paris, Munich (more of a hostel), St. Goar (Germany), and Amsterdam. Yes, they were hotels, but they were budget, which was fine… I was there for the experience of the city, not to stay in my overpriced hotel room all day.
Were you ever concerned for your safety, or being pick pocketed while on your Contiki tour?
Shay: I had been warned by lots of people about pick pocketing in Europe, and our Tour Manager was always sure to warn us to be careful and know where our belongings were. I don’t know if it was because we were in a group most of the time, or that most of the girls carried small bags, but no one on the tour encountered pick pocketing problems.
I for one never really used my daypack out and about. Instead, I used a little purse that was only big enough for my wallet, phone, and camera. It had a zipper in the front and a zipper for the main pocket. Luckily the zippers had looped pulls, so if I was ever unsure in an area, I was able to put my fingers through the loops and keep it shut. Felt very safe and not uncomfortable.
There has been a lot of discussion about the Tour Manager’s kick-backs, and the tours they take you to in hopes of getting kick-backs. Did you feel a strong presence of this?
Was there a lot of time wasted on the “included” activities?
Shay: There weren’t many of these, and the only one that really sticks out to me is the ‘included’ bike tour in Amsterdam. I found this to be the biggest waste of time.
First, we all know included means that we’ve already paid for it in the tour cost, and we just go. Secondly, this was the only bike tour we did that I didn’t like. It felt like 20 minutes, and we did 2 things: stopped at the dyke for way too long to learn how it works, and then stop at the windmill – which groups usually get a photo in front of- but it was being maintained. That was it.
What additional advice do you have for anyone wanting to do a Contiki trip, or the European Experience?
1. Arrive a few days early.
2. Know the currency conversions.
3. Make sure everything is set up correctly with your bank.
4. Don’t be fooled by Contiki “days”.
5. Create a Facebook Page for your Group
6. Know what you are getting yourself into.
Ready to travel Europe with Contiki? What else are you dying to know before your trip?