My first time travelling with Contiki was on the Italian Espresso (winter) 8 day trip. The category for the trip was In-depth explorer and I’d say it was exactly that having spent time in Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Chianti Region, San Gimignano, Pisa, Verona and Venice.
In this Contiki travel guide you’ll find an overview with tips and opinions based on my experience travelling round Italy with Contiki.
WHO, WHAT & WHY CONTIKI?
Contiki is a travel company who organise tour groups built for 18 to 35 year olds.
Contiki reckon there’s a trip for everyone whether you are a solo traveller, adventure traveller, travelling as a couple or even a first-time traveller. With a range of locations to choose from like Europe, USA, Asia and more, it is easy to find something just for you. A trip can be a short weekend break to an epic 2 month adventure. Travellers joining you on the trip will be a bit of a mixed bag coming from all over the world.
The reasons I chose to book a trip with Contiki were:
- No one to travel with ☹
- A destination in mind but too lazy to do any research
- Scared to travel on my own (and I enjoy company!)
- Liking the idea of a trip planned out and having local knowledge from the tour manager
- Being able to meet people from around the world and making new friends
- Doing a trip by myself, my own mini adventure!
I mentioned before about Contiki catering for everyone and having trips available for a range of different activities. This is great for people looking at booking with Contiki again but wanting to change up the pace of their next adventure. A few people on my Italian Espresso tour were on their second or third Contiki trip which was encouraging for Contiki newbies like me. Contiki categorise each trip with a style making it easier to find what you want.
Here’s a list of the different Contiki travel styles:
- High Energy
- In-Depth Explorer
- Easy Pace
- Winter & Ski
- Sailing & Cruise
- Festivals & Short Stays
Due to the different types of trips, there is a range of accommodations too. From hotels to boats to shared rooms in hostels and camp sites.
Don’t be expecting a 5 star hotel when you travel with Contiki. Instead expect a decent room with clean sheets and a clean bathroom. Besides all you need it for is showering and getting a few hours sleep before you head out and explore some more!
The last hotel on our trip was the worst. Wi-Fi not working, I mean come on! A broken bed, unusual plug sockets that don’t fit any of our plugs and a shower ready to flood the bathroom. Hey, it made for some funny stories and allowed for some old-fashioned entertainment vs being on our phones all night.
Tip: If you are sharing a room, it’s a good idea to leave the room key at reception. This means you are all free to explore. Also, taking a photo of a room pin code is a safe move. You’ll all have a copy and aren’t likely to lose it.
Usually rooms are shared from one person or more. It’s best to know beforehand if you like company when sharing a room. If you prefer a private room, then for an extra cost you can do this. I’d recommend a shared room as it’s the best way to help you make your first new friend.
Tip: This one I’ve learnt whilst sharing a room with others. Ask questions and get to know how the other person likes to live as soon as possible. Things like shower routines, sleeping times and whether they sleep walk. This might sound too much too soon after the initials hellos, but honestly it makes for a funny ice breaker and I’ve found puts everyone at easy. People are too nice to say they prefer to sleep next to the door but if you can find all that stuff out straight away you’ll be in for a smooth hassle free trip.
You have the option to eat all your evening meals with the group or pick and choose. Some meals are included in the trip’s price and some are extras (payment taken during the trip). There’s a choice of evening meals, usually just two. Breakfast is always included, lunch is not and Contiki accommodate for dietary requirements.
The restaurants are pre-arranged with Contiki and unfortunately, meals are affected to keep prices low. I think the restaurants need to be looked at and altered for the Italian Espresso trip. I wasn’t blown away with the food. I was very disappointed, after all I was in Italy. The best meals I ate were restaurants myself and friends chose and a recommendation from our trip manager for a place to have lunch.
Where would we be without our trip manager Jimmy. Probably still trying to cross the busy roads in Rome.
Trying to make sure up to 50 people are having an amazing time must be a hard thing to do. Your trip manager will be very knowledgeable so ask them questions, ask for recommendations. Remember though they aren’t there to babysit you. You have to get yourself up in the morning and catch the bus on time. They will leave you if you are late!
Jimmy was the best tour manager we could have hoped for. He was friendly and welcoming from the start. Always optimistic and full of energy. He kept us entertained and shared great travel stories.
The coach is not only your form of transport but another place for social time and possibly used for napping. On our trip Jimmy had us publicly introduce ourselves to the rest of the group and answer a few questions. I hated it at the time but it was a great idea and meant we could at least hear a little bit about each other. We also had a game of Couch Olympics which my side of the couch killed! Journey times will vary depending on your trip and destination.
Tip: for surviving the coach journey, have food supplies (take an extra piece of fruit at breakfast and save for later), sit next to someone you like, sit next to someone different (I wish I had done this more) and lastly have some game ideas like random question scenarios. For example, ‘If you could have dinner with one celebrity dead or alive who would it be?’
The people on your trip will vary between the ages of 18-35 year olds. I’d say on my trip the average age was mid to late 20s. You are all there for the same reason whether you are doing it alone, In a couple or with a friend or two. Everyone wants a fun adventure, to be shown the sights and to meet new people. You will make friends that’s a definite.
In my trip to Italy we had people from, UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong! We had couples, friends and solo travellers. I can safely say I made some awesome friends! It was only 8 days but you get to know people when you travel with them.
Tip: This tip I’d wish I’d done more of. Chat to as many people. Dependant on the group size and the length of your trip it can be hard to have a conversation with everyone. It’s hard to branch out from your new circle of friends, having just got comfortable chatting with them let alone the other 40+ people. I’d say try sitting next to someone new during meals. Everyone likes food and talking about it. Plus no one likes awkward silence.
PARTYING & ALCOHOL
On your Contiki trip there will be a party. It might even be themed! Drinking might not be everyone’s cup of tea, partying might not be either. That’s why those questions to your roomies I talked about early are important. You can find out whether they too are party animals and you can plan to hold up each other’s hair the next morning. Alternately you can work out whether you need a change of rooms and different roomies asap!
Tip: This one might make me seem a bit of a kill joy but plan the night ahead. Have an idea of when you want to call it a night. You might find some want to leave before others. Pick the group you want to leave with and let them know. Leave your room key at reception, that way you don’t have to wait up for your dirty stop out roomies.
INCLUSIONS & ME TIME
Inclusions are prearranged activities included in the price. Me time is a prearranged optional activity not included in the price. If you don’t fancy the me time options, then this means free time for you away from the group. This works well for couples and those traveling with a friend. The me time activities are listed when you book your trip but you don’t need to decide if you are going to partake in all of them until after you arrive. This means you can see what others are doing and plan your trip accordingly.
The me time activities can vary from meals, guided tours and extreme sports. There is cost involved but being able to pick and choose means you can work it around your budget.
- Don’t be late. Keep an eye on the time and know exactly when you need to be back on the coach. The coach won’t wait for you.
- Don’t overpack. Luggage limits apply. One reasonable size suitcase or rucksack per person for under the coach and then a day bag for on board the coach with you. The limits for my trip to Italy were (73cm x 50cm x 25cm). With a maximum weight of 20 kilograms.
- #NOREGRETS. Have fun! And get lost!
This all depends on your budget and where you want to travel. Contiki is not bad price wise seeing how everything is organised for you. You must remind yourself that flights are unfortunately not included.
Contiki has a payment plan so you can pay a bit at a time. Full payment is needed 45 days before travel.
Transport that takes you from place to place is so easy. Maybe you could get your cost down if you did it by yourself. Public transport maybe, but who really has the time and patience for all that planning. You want a break away from work, deadlines and stress not more stress planning your break. You are also paying Contiki to bring likeminded travellers together to make your trip a great one!
Here’ a breakdown of my trip cost:
Contiki Trip: £736
Extra Night Stay In Venice: £55
Me Time: £175.86
Spending Money: £332.14
Grand Total: £1,609.47
Tip: Plan early to save on flight costs. I decided to book my Contiki trip pretty late on in the day. Call me spontaneous. So, I had to cough up a little extra on flights. I could have saved about £200 if I had booked earlier.
If like me, you are a solo traveller then Contiki is a great way to travel and meet new people. It’s great if you don’t want the fuss of research and planning. It’s relaxing before you even start your break. All you need to do is book and turn up!
Tip: Depending on your trip it is likely it’s going to be Go! Go! Go! throughout. Make sure you have a day to recover before returning to the real world.
Do you have any tips on Contiki travel? Let me know in the comments below!