OT: Guided youth tour of Europe...any suggestions?

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by busy mom, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. busy mom

    busy mom Mouseketeer

    Mar 30, 2001
    MY DD's, 18 & 21, are interested in visiting Western Europe next summer. Has anyone had any first hand experience with this? Should I visit my local travel agent for info? It obviously would have to be a guided tour, but geared towards a younger participant.

    Any planning suggestions, tips, etc would be appreciated!
  2. katrina1122

    katrina1122 My Tag Fairy Tag went bye-bye :(

    Jul 8, 2003
    At that age they could easily get a youth hostel international card and a train pass and just back pack. I did a few times with a friend and it was easy. Staying at hostels you meet others and can share expenses, experience etc.

    So much fun!
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  4. shortbun

    shortbun <font color=green>Peacenik<br><font color=purple><

    Aug 21, 1999
    aesu and contiki have been around the longest. I sold them to students at Ohio State when I worked there in the 70's. Most students were travelling with backpacks, a Eurailpass and a Youth Hostel card then and I think lots still do it now. Get a copy of Lets Go Europe either from the library or the bookstore and read about independent travel. I did it at 19 with a group of girls-there were 5 of us but we weren't always together. We had some 'adventures' and still laugh about it today as nearly 60yo women. When we needed money, we'd head to a vineyard, show them the callouses on my best friend's hands-her family owned and operated a big farm and orchard-they would hire us based on her abilities and when we had enough money to move on, off we'd go.
    I'd also look at Rick Steves and Globus tours depending on how much time they have and how regimented things need to be.
  5. java

    java <font color=darkorchid>I am embracing the Turkey B

    Jan 18, 2005
    Yes I did it on my own at 21. I think they would be fine with a rail pass and hostels. I don't think a tour would be as much fun. You really get to know the culture walking around the cities vs. driving through on a bus.

    I had great experiences all over Europe- but my favorites were Italy and Greece.

    I also did tours in high school and they were fun but I was ready to do it on my own by the time I was 21. I lived off that Let's Go Europe book.

    cracking up that the place I stayed out for "one night" that turned into 3 nights is still around

    $12 you get overnight lodging, breakfast and DINNER! (back then it was half a chicken with veggies) for $12~ I paid $10 25 years ago back then you could sleep on the roof for only $4 and get breakfast and dinner. And I'm still alive!
  6. cornflake

    cornflake DIS Veteran

    Jul 31, 2011
    Why would it have to be a guided tour? They're awful. They're also expensive and boring and etc.

    Get them plane tickets, maybe a couple of rail passes if you're really nice, rucksacks, some spending $, and a Lonely Planet app, a hostel/Y locator and tell them to have a great time!
  7. CoP Luv

    CoP Luv DIS Veteran

    Jul 25, 2008
    My SIL and her BF did a Contiki tour this summer and loved it.

    When I was in Europe at 19, we did it all on our own: Eurail pass, hostels, or cheaper hotels.
  8. MichiganKris

    MichiganKris Mouseketeer

    Oct 13, 2008
    I don't think they would be happy with a tour either. Just get a couple good guide books and research before they go. They will be fine. I went to Europe with a few friends the summer I graduated from high school. We had a great time staying in youth hostels and saw much more of Europe then we would have if we had been on a tour.
  9. busy mom

    busy mom Mouseketeer

    Mar 30, 2001
    It sure sounds like touring on their own is the consensus here. That will take a little getting used to for me. ;)

    If they decide not to go that route, what is Contiki?
  10. caborst

    caborst Earning My Ears

    Feb 1, 2003

    I can't believe this is still standing. What great memories this brings back. Here's another vote for a backpack, Eurail pass, hostel card and Let's Go Europe. They will have the adventure of a lifetime. At least nowadays you have cell phones, back then it was pay phones.
  11. disykat

    disykat DIS Veteran

    Jun 5, 2000
    I went for 5 weeks in my 20's with a friend. I wanted to do it on our own, she wanted a tour. We compromised and did a 3 week European tour and then 2 weeks on our own in England,Scotland, and Wales.

    I ended up LOVING the tour. (We did AESU, 35 and under) It was so much fun to be with other people from all over and we saw so much. In general, we rode on the bus to each destination, they put us up in a hotel, gave us a city tour, and then we had time on our own. The group quickly sort of divided into groups according to interests. (For example, we started in Amsterdam, so part of the group immediately hit the red light district, some immediately rented bikes, and my roomate and I headed for Ann Frank house, where we saw a few others from our group.) My roommate and I ended up spending a lot of time with one other girl and two guys, one of whom I kept in contact with for years. I was glad we had both experiences.

    On the tour, there are some dumb, moneymaking kinds of things you have to go on - like wooden shoe or diamond factory tours etc., but there were also places we went I never would have gotten on my own. Especially in that time frame!

    My parents have done lots of traveling. They do a mix of all three, tours, train and rental car. It really depends on how much they're trying to see, and the costs and logistics of that. Even after years of travel expertise, they don't rule out tours. We found we covered less ground on our own, but were able to be more in depth.

    Contrary to the belief of some, the tours don't babysit you. If you miss the bus at any destination, you're on your own to meet them at a future point. It is, however, an "easier" option in that the decisions are made for you and you're just along for the ride. There are positives and negatives with that.
  12. lost*in*cyberspace

    lost*in*cyberspace DIS Veteran

    Dec 30, 2005
    I'm not so sure a tour would be a bad idea. It depends on your (adult) children. If they have never really traveled and don't feel comfortable with the idea of doing this on their own, a tour might be a good starter trip.
  13. Tinkerbellie16

    Tinkerbellie16 <marquee><font color=deeppink>Certified <font colo

    Apr 3, 2009
    I went on a few guided tours of Europe (and I've backpacked as well). I loved my Contiki tours and they were so inexpensive! For young adults, you don't really need the fancy hotels or rooms and its fun to share a room with someone as well - and this really is where you save on the money. The tour, the guides, the places you visit, and everything is really worth it. I highly recommend the company. I wish they would let me travel with them still but they have a strict 18 to 35 year old age range. :rotfl:

    Now I also backpacked through Europe several times. And I can do this and I can do it 'cheaply' but honestly, the tour is worth it. It is especially good if it is your first visit to an area, or are traveling alone or just with one other person. It is really helpful to have that group of people you are with for the entire tour. You meet friends for life (yes, I did!) And then you aren't just by yourself or just with one other person for a couple of weeks. It is also greatly reduces the stress to the individual when traveling abroad since you don't have to worry about a lot of the things you do by yourself - from carting your luggage, to figuring out where you have to be, to finding all these sites around the city.

    I still love backpacking (hostels or hotels) but for the first time experience, Contiki ALL THE WAY!

    And I forgot to add that I have traveled to over 30 countries so I am a WELL seasoned traveler. I love the variety of ways to travel. But when my kids get to 18, I am sending them on a Contiki tour!! And I'm backpacking with them too but for their first 'alone' trip, I am sending them on a tour.
  14. MomToOne

    MomToOne DIS Veteran

    Mar 18, 2010
    Add me to the list of Contiki veterans. I did a 2-1/2 week bus tour of Italy with a friend. I generally enjoyed it, although it did have a few boring moments and the guide and I had a few run ins about some small things (long story). I considered it a great way to see ALOT of Italy - more than I would have ever covered on my own - and get the know the areas I'd like to go back to someday and cover more in depth.

    Just be aware it is definitely geared to younger customers, so there tends to be a lot of drinking by some of the group. Not that you are forced to participate or even feel pressured to, but that can be the mentality of many in the group. Let's just say I was personally OK with it back then :rotfl2: We had a lot of Austrailians on their gap year in our group. I personally didn't make any lifelong friends, although I do have lots of fond memories of people here and there.

    And I'll never forget the bathrooms that WERE the shower. It only took us 2 seconds to figure out to take the toilet paper out of the bathroom before you showered! :rotfl:
  15. punkin

    punkin <font color=purple>Went through pain just to look

    Nov 28, 2001
    Oh my, the pink palace. Togas. Ouzo. Second Worst hangover of my life. Why did you bring this up?
  16. ZephyrHawk

    ZephyrHawk Confirmed Disneyphile

    Feb 15, 2007
    Let me be another voice in the "don't go the tour route" crowd. I was brought up going on tours as that's what my parents prefer, and there are some definite benefits to traveling that way, but in general you can see more and spend less if you plan your own vacation. Especially if you're willing to stay in lower cost hostels and the like. Also, there are some great places to visit where the majority of tour companies just don't go, or if they go there they only give you the watered down 3 hour tour of the location.

    For example, completely coincidentally my parents planned a trip to France and Italy last year, two months before we planned a trip to France and Italy. They took a tour, I made all our travel plans myself. We probably spent approximately the same amount. But DH and I traveled for 3 weeks (to their two), stayed in hotels that were closer to the action (and sometimes nicer), and visited a lot more diverse areas. For instance, my parents tour took them to the Cinque Terre (an idyllic little area on the west coast of Italy). They spent a couple hours there, visited 3 of the 5 towns, and walked between two of the towns (taking the easiest route). DH and I hoofed the train from Florence to the Cinque Terre and spent all day hiking between all 5 towns, ate lunch on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, and caught a late train back to Florence at the end of the day. The latter is a lot more of a "young persons" type thing to do.

    Now, that being said, my parents also didn't have to contend with a rental car in France (something my DH now regrets), nor did they ever have to drag their suitcases through city streets to the train station at 7am. So yeah, there are benefits to a tour. You worry less, and stress less, but you also (I personally believe) experience less.
  17. bumbershoot

    bumbershoot DIS Veteran

    Mar 5, 2007
    Rick Steves' son, Andy, has started his own college-age focused tour company of his own. I think the info is on ricksteves.com.
  18. englishteacha

    englishteacha Have courage and be kind.

    Apr 2, 2006
    I didn't do a Contiki tour but my best friend did. She loved it. I backpacked around the UK when I was 20 with a Britrail pass and my then-fiance (now husband). It was super fun. We were there for a semester on exchange, so we had lots of adventures from our university, as well as two weeks to travel on our own. We did 3 days/2 nights in Paris on our own as well. Not being a fluent French speaker (I could get by, thank goodness for a really excellent French teacher my senior year of high school!), it was tough, and my husband spoke no French at all and felt very lost and uncomfortable at times. When we go back to Europe, we'll definitely do some touring with a group, partly to alleviate the discomfort of not knowing the languages. We'll certainly explore on our own, too.
  19. tinytinkmom

    tinytinkmom I work to support my vacation habit!

    May 29, 2007
    Another Contiki vet!

    Did a two week tour that went through 8 countries.... Loved it! It was a great way to figure out which countries I wanted to visit later... And I enjoyed the friends I made. People on the tour were from all over - Australia, UK, Puerto Rico, South Africa and the US.
  20. HM

    HM My tag from the Tag Fairy is now too long to use.

    Mar 8, 2001
    My son did a trip with Explorica. They conduct tours for mostly high school student groups. Individuals can get spaces on group tours in many cases. I was looking into this for my daughter because a trip has not been planned for this year at their school. His class went to Spain and France for 10 days. Check out the website.
  21. Pretty Poly

    Pretty Poly Relaxing with a mai tai

    Feb 26, 2012
    I did the Contiki tour of Italy when I was 19 with a friend! I really loved it. I'm absolutely not one who could have wandered around Europe on my own. I'm a planner and I like a schedule and I don't like taxis and trains, especially when I don't understand the language. It was wonderful! At the time, I hated that they always got us up and out so early, but there is no way I could have seen everything that we saw in 13 days by constantly sleeping in. It's absolutely what you make it, and most of the day is on your own with the option of excursions, like a gondola ride in Venice. People were lined up all over the place and we just walked on! It was the same thing in at the Eiffel Tower when I went with a group in high school. The tour groups never have to wait in those hours long lines! My vote is for the tour, but they can always plan a little bit of time to hang out wherever before and after :)

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