Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Review of Traveling with EF College Break

Since traveling with EF College Break in May 2012, I've received many emails asking me about my experience with EF. I've decided to go ahead and share my opinion of the trip on here in an effort to answer questions for anyone who is considering a trip! I've tried to cover many of the things I've been asked, but if I've missed anything you'd like to know about, feel free to email me!

Apparently there are a number of negative reviews for EF College Break Tours floating around the internet. I really enjoyed my EF trip and I made some amazing friends! There were some negative aspects, so I'll share those as well, but I'll get to that at the end…

The customer service was fine, considering I didn't use it a whole lot. I got a deal through their Black Friday sale for 10% off the trip and made all my payments on time. I chose to do a 2 day stay ahead, and they were excellent with setting up my flights ahead of time and getting my trip information to me. My birthday was the second-to-last day of the trip, and apparently they provided that bit of info with our tour guide, Joel. When we all hopped on the bus that morning to head to Pompeii, he announced it to everyone and had everyone sing happy birthday to me. I thought it was pretty cool of them to make note of the fact that my birthday happened while I was traveling with them!

The hotels were pretty decent. Not particularly central to the action, but close enough that we could easily access central London/Paris/Rome by riding the Tube or metro and taking a short walk from the station. Rome was more of a pain than the others, since it required a cab ride... But the fair wasn't too bad when split among friends. The rooms are shared with 2-3 others, so if you aren't traveling with friends, I suggest you make some early on with similar sleep habits to your own. My first night in London with the tour group, I ended up getting roomed with a bunch of under-21's who were on the trip for clubbing and drinking. Being over 21 at the time and more of a traveler for the cultural experiences, I quickly made friends who were more suited to my schedule. Our rooms were comfortable and clean, and fairly sizable. Admittedly, we found a cockroach among our things one night in Rome, however I can't really hold it against an old hotel that they had a single bug that managed to outlive the dinosaurs. Generally the only problem we ran into was fighting for the bathroom, since the group I befriended and roomed with consisted of three females.

Oh, and pack light! There’s a rule of travel that once you’ve packed everything, put half of it back because you won’t end up needing it. This is an incredibly true statement. The last time I went to England, I survived for 9 days off of the contents of a backpack, and I’d even say I could have halved what I’d packed again and only taken a quarter of it! Many of the smaller independent hotels in Europe are old and don’t have elevators. I saw many people struggling up small staircases with large luggage. It’s a nightmare!

The food really ends up depending on you... Breakfast is often provided, and is a typical European continental breakfast with your choice of breads, cheeses, cold meats, fruits and cereals. The rest of the day, you're generally left to your own devices. Our tour guide was fantastic about pointing out places to eat, so if you don't know what's good, just ask! On our last night of the trip, our tour guide collected money from everyone interested and essentially bought out a restaurant in Rome so that we could have a huge family-style Italian dinner. It was incredibly fun and I strongly recommend you don't pass on those opportunities!

The flights were pretty standard... They keep the prices of the trip low by putting you on a cheaper airline. Don't expect British Airways-style complimentary alcohol and amenities on the flight. You do, however, get full meals on the flights, and most huge planes are now equipped with WiFi and/or a TV screen in the headrest, so you have entertainment. The flight over is the worst part, because you have to try to sleep to reset your internal clock. It's tough, seated with random people in a tight space and loud engines running all night. I suggest sound-proof headphones if you have them. You arrive overseas in the morning. Many people were inclined to take a mid-day nap because of the jet lag, but thankfully I was with a friend my first day over there and he wouldn't let me. When the tour group arrived 2 days later, I wouldn't let the three girls I'd befriended take a nap either. While everyone else was sleeping away their first day in London and struggling with jet lag for days, we all dropped into bed at the end of our first day and immediately set our internal clocks.

Travel between each city was fairly standard... We took the EuroStar train from London to Paris. It’s a quick trip, and most everyone slept on the ride because we were up at the crack of dawn. From Paris to Rome, we took a night train. Accounts of the trip varied for everyone. For the better part of the evening, we all hung out in our respective cabins. When we were ready to sleep, the seats folded and beds lowered from the wall. Many people complained they hardly slept because of the bumpy ride. I climbed into my rack, passed out, and slept like a rock, however the ride was very similar to being on a ship/boat and I was raised in a Navy household. My only complaint for the train ride was the bathroom, which was disgusting and after a certain point in the night, out of toilet paper. It made for a rough start when everyone awoke in the morning needing to pee! The excursions were bus trips, and consisted of your standard charter buses. Generally a tour guide sat up front and talked the whole way. Mostly people slept.

The sightseeing had its high and low points. If you can afford to, go on the excursions! My friends and I had some of our best times running around the gardens of Versailles and getting drenched in a downpour in Pompeii. The more obnoxious members of our tour group generally skipped the excursions, so you end up going on the road with some fun people who are as keen on taking in the sights as you are. On the flip side, group tours are at the mercy of the quality of the tour guide. We had a fellow driving us around Paris pointing out the sights who was so monotone and hard to understand that it really just ended up being a morning riding around in a bus. For the most part though, you are left to wander around on your own. We were dropped off one morning at the Louvre and told to meet back with the group at a certain time. We were then free to wander about the museum, or head off on our own around Paris.

There were really only two major downsides to the trip, in my opinion…

First, the large tour group. Sometimes you get stuck waiting on people, especially if you were all given a set time to meet somewhere to tour a museum or something. It becomes problematic when you then have to rush through the place because you were late for the tour. We were practically sprinting through Bath because some girls in our tour group decided to hang out in the Roman Baths for about an hour longer than they were supposed to. As a Jane Austen fan who wanted to see more of the beautiful city, it was irritating.

And second, I don't know if you're one of these people, so if you are, I apologize in advance... One of the things that annoyed me the most on the trip was the under-21's who were there to party. Generally those of us who were there for more cultural reasons avoided the younger people who were letting loose with the younger drinking age. There were, however, occasions where they couldn't be avoided and they made quite an embarrassing scene. For example, when we were in Paris we all went on a Seine River Cruise and then we went up in the Eiffel Tower. We were told to feel free to bring along some wine or snacks on the cruise, so everyone did. The younger folks, however, got trashed and then proceeded to become obnoxious. When we reached the Eiffel Tower, they were rip-roaring drunk and some of them were hardly able to stand. Security snagged them all and refused to let them go up in the Tower. This scenario happened on multiple occasions during the trip. Considering most of them were there on mom & dad's bill, I can only imagine them telling their parents they'd paid thousands of dollars for them to then be unable to participate in the activities they'd paid for.

It depends on the trip you plan to take and the amount of time spent in each place, but you won’t see everything. I’ve been back to London twice since my EF trip and I think I could go back ten more times and still not see everything I want to! I recommend you come up with some things you want to see/do in advance so that you make the best use of the time you have. Wandering aimlessly is fun and you make some awesome discoveries, but when you only have a few days in a city, it’s not the most efficient use of your time. I didn’t go with anyone I know, so it was a bit intimidating joining up with a huge tour group of strangers. I managed to make my friends early on because I heard one of them mention they wanted fish and chips, and I’d done some research in advance of places to eat. I then became the unofficial leader of our group because I was the one who had brought some travel books with maps and suggestions of places to see.

All in all, I recommend the EF trip. It’s affordable, hits all the high points each city, and I made some amazing friends who I still regularly chat and travel with. If you go on the EF trip (or any, really), I wish you the best of luck in your travels! Feel free to send me more questions and I’ll do my best to answer them! I hope this helps!

96 comments:

  1. So using the EF trip was one of the more affordable ways to go? Also, which countries to did you enjoy most?
    Looking at going Jan 2015 and trying to figure which route to take!

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    1. I did a lot of research on tour groups and EF was definitely the cheapest option. I've since done some solo travel, which is also cheap when using hostels and such, but since it was my first time overseas I wanted to be with a group. England was my favorite, but I'm a total anglophile so it was the primary place I wanted to visit!

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  2. When you went in May...I've looked up the weather and it seemed to be 50's and 60's...did it seem chilly to you?

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    1. England and France were cool, but not too bad. We were all fine in light jackets. Italy was warm and we were able to wear tshirts and such.

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  3. I'm going to sign up for the July Italy trip for 12 days but I'm signing up alone. I'm really nervous about going alone because I have read mixed reviews online. I'm not really sure what to expect.

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    1. I felt the same way since I was going alone. It's a big group, so I promise you'll find someone to hang with! Some of the folks in my group were obnoxious, but I'm still incredibly close to the three chics I met on the first day. We make trips to see each other and video chat regularly! It's daunting, but it's also more of an adventure! Our tour guide was awesome and showed us loads of stuff, and going with the tour group got us the opportunity to see many great sights I wouldn't have seen otherwise!

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    2. Me too! I was looking at the Italy trip but now the grand europe tour and I'm nervous about going alone as well!, glad to see I'm not the only one!

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  4. How and when did you convert your money? I'm doing the London, Paris, and Rome trip and london is on the GBP and paris & rome are on the euro. Idk how to approach this!
    also, how much money do you recommend taking?

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    1. I exchanged my money when I landed, but I only got just enough to cover small expenses. Once I was in town, I stopped at the first ATM I happened upon and pulled out some cash, but again, not much. For the most part I relied on my credit card for purchases- for one, it was more efficient than trying to count coins I was unfamiliar with, and two- I wasn't left with a bunch of spare cash to exchange once I was done in a certain city. With the exchange rates constantly fluctuating, you might end up paying more for the GBP that you'd get back when exchanging it out again. I made sure I had enough for small vendors that wouldn't accept credit cards, but whenever I needed to purchase something like a tube ticket or a meal, I just used my card.

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  5. Hi! I'm thinking about going on one of the EF tours, but I'm ... well, how do I put this ... really, really not into partying? Clubs, all-nighters -- not my thing. I'm more of a "drink espresso and read a book" type of person, and I'm really concerned that if I go on one of these EF tours, I'll get thrown in with a bunch of partiers and end up in a situation I can't deal with. Is it really common for everyone to party a lot, or is it kind of a "who you hang with" thing?

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    1. It's totally a "who you hang with" thing! I'm not a partier AT ALL, so I was worried about that also! When we were first dropped in the middle of London by our guide (he had to leave and get the other half of our group from the airport), a lot of people immediately set out to find a pub because they could legally drink. I managed to immediately meet a few girls who I overheard saying they really just wanted to find some food. We ended up being inseparable the entire trip, and they're still some of my best friends to this day. We had a blast seeing the sights, trying different foods, and getting lost in each city. Unlike many of the folks in the group who stayed out all night clubbing and therefore didn't enjoy much of the sightseeing during the days, we were the losers who happily crashed in bed around 9-10 o'clock each night and thoroughly enjoyed our explorations each day. When the tour groups are so large (many of the EF tours have 30+ people), you're guaranteed to find at least one other person you'll get on with, I promise!

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  6. Hello! I've came across the EF group tour. And I absolutely am in love with the fact of traveling...just don't know how to approach the start of traveling, but like I said. I've come across this and found that it is affordable. How do I go about signing up, and knowing more information? I'm very interested!

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    1. I did a ton of research on different trip options and found EF to be the most affordable. I toyed with the idea of doing one of their trips for a long while, and when they released a Black Friday deal for 10% off I took the plunge and bought into a trip. They do a solid job of keeping you updated on your trip itinerary and stuff. As far as finding out what to take on the trip, I just researched the weather in the areas I'd be traveling to and determined what I needed to bring based on that. There are tons of resources on the net for new travelers!

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  7. Hello! I've came across the EF group tour. And I absolutely am in love with the fact of traveling...just don't know how to approach the start of traveling, but like I said. I've come across this and found that it is affordable. How do I go about signing up, and knowing more information? I'm very interested!

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  8. Did anyone go as a couple? My husband and I are wanting to go together. Also, he has to eat gluten-free. Any recommendations?

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    1. There were a number of couples in our group! As for gluten-free, I honestly don't know... Once you decide which trip you plan to go on, I would do some research on the areas you'll be staying- Urbanspoon would be an excellent resource, as you'll be able to filter the local results by gluten-free friendly restaurants.

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    2. How is the rooming done? Are couples likely to end up together?

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    3. You're given free reign of the rooming, so you'll be able to pick whoever you want to room with when you arrive :)

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  9. Im interested in taking the New Years London, Paris, and Amsterdam trip, but how can I be sure that this is legit and not a scam?

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    1. I was a little concerned about it at first too... Especially since it was so cheap compared to other trips I'd checked out... But honestly, it ended up being an amazing trip and I made some awesome friends!

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    2. Are you still taking this trip?

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  10. I'm going next summer thanks for this awesome and honest blog you posted. 30 days in Europe woot woot!

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    1. Congrats! You're going to have a blast!!!!

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  11. I'm debating on going on the Ultimate Europe trip next May and your review totally helped! Thanks, Lindsay :)

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    1. me too!! I just need to figure out the money situation haha

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    2. I'm going on the ultimate europe trip on may 14th next summer! Maybe we'll be on the same trip! lol.

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  12. Hi Lindsay! Thanks so much for your review! I'm graduating next summer and my gift is a trip to Europe! I'm thinking of doing the London, Paris, and Rome trip with EF. I didn't really think about the implications of traveling with the under 21 crowd, so thank you for making me aware of that! I'll be signing up solo (by choice, I feel more adventurous that way haha) but it is a little nervewracking. Do you have any other opinions on Rome (the city, is it clean, what are the people like, etc)? And would you say there was ample time to go off into smaller groups during free times? Thanks so much!

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    1. The city is more clean than any US city I've ever been in, and I never felt unsafe wandering around. The people were all fantastic! They were all very nice, and I remember my first night in Rome, a restaurant owner was so excited that we came to his place that he offered us all free wine with our meal (just a heads up- it's considered an insult to refuse a drink offered by your host in Italy). Rome and London were both great about us Americans. Paris, on the other hand, gave a fairly strong "get the hell out" vibe. I distinctly remember one shop owner just glaring at us the entire time we were in her shop.

      Definitely loads of free time :) Usually we did organized tours and things in the mornings and then we were released to do whatever we wanted for the remainder of the day. And for some of the larger activities, like touring the Louvre and Versailles, they essentially just transported us there, gave us an idea of things worth checking out there, and then let us go on our merry way.

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  13. My mom booked me the New Years Amsterdam, London, Paris trip for graduation and I'm so excited. I've always wanted to travel and this is my first. since I didn't sign up, I don't really know much. Once I arrive, how do I go about getting with the group? Are they all there at the airport and we know who our tour guide is? Like others, I'm nervous I'm going alone.

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    1. Your tour guide will meet you at the airport. I'm assuming they'll contact you a couple of weeks before your trip and give you the full info on the when and where. I ended up doing a stay-ahead, so I was given the hotel address and told to meet the group there at 11AM. Our tour guide picked up half the group, brought them to the hotel, then gave us a quick intro tour to London, and left us near Covent Garden saying, "See you in the morning!" before heading off to pick up the other half of the group from the airport.

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  14. Hi Lindsey,
    My daughter is in college now for painting and art history. Her college program lost their overseas semester so i've decided to take her and her bestie to England, Scotland, and France. They will be 21 and I will be 43...were there any other parents on this trip? I'm considering this college group tour b/c 1) I want them to have a good time and make lots of friends, 2) I don't want to be on a bus with a group of retirees OR the family bus with a bunch of little kids (I'm leaving one of those home with my hubby). what are your thoughts? Check out a blog on NomadicMatt, he travels all over the world and has a special section on woman traveling alone. I lived in Italy for 3 years, remember you are an Ambasssador to your country! When in Rome...or anywhere for that matter have a map and know where you are or need to be, ask for help!, say basic manner in your host country's language, and wear pants w/front pockets b/c there are pick pockets out there. Always know how to reach the U.S. Consulate and BEFORE you go give your travel docs, copies of your passport and credit cards to a trusted loved one JUST in case you have your stuff stolen. It's just a back-up plan but you should always have one. Another thought, if you are going to be overseas, change your cell phone plan for just that month so that you can make calls. The cost to change will FAR outweigh the calls you make, this will also give family members a warm and fuzzy b/c they know they/you can chat anytime. Don't be afraid to travel, just travel smart! Good Luck EVERYONE maybe we'll meet you at a local pub for some fish & chips and a pint!!!

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    1. Thank you for the additional tips!

      On my tour, there were only a couple of people who were older than myself. Most of the tour was folks from 18-23. I would imagine older folks occasionally accompany the tour, since they have the add-on option for people over 26 to go on the trips, however I'm not 100% certain of that fact.

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  15. I really appreciate your honest review. Now it's made me want to dive right in to signing up for the Europe Grand Tour! But do you know if they do the Black Friday sale every year? Because I would definitely wait it out if they do it again...

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    1. I think they do! If not Black Friday, check again Cyber Monday... But just keep an eye out for it, because they only offer it during a small window of the day to limit the amount of people that take advantage of it.

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  16. I really want to go on the Ultimate Europe trip as well!!!
    Any recommendations on how to figure out the amount I should save for extra costs?! Food, events, and what not?

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    1. Food costs would be comparable to the states, as you can essentially pick your choice of cost- cheap street food or an expensive restaurant. But remember that you're essentially eating out at least twice a day, every day, which adds up fast!

      As for events, I'd have a decent amount on hand. When we arrived in London, we decided to catch a show (Wicked), which was not cheap... In Italy, our tour guide had some friends that owned a restaurant and held a HUGE dinner for our group. They closed the restaurant and served us a multi-course dinner of all of their traditional foods. The process took about 3 hours. It was awesome! But it was also about 50 Euros or something crazy expensive like that. I'd say if you're looking to have an immersive experience, have a decent amount of backup cash.

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  17. I am looking into taking an EF trip through Europe in the summer of 2016. I am currently 16, but by the time I would go I will be 17. Do you know if there are any age requirements for a trip like yours, where you go alone but in a group. I have looked but have not found any information on the site about age requirements. And do you think it would be safe for me to take a trip with EF at such a young age, so long as I do not drink.

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    1. EF has an age limit of 18-26. Folks older than 26 can go at an increased rate. I don't think they allow anyone under 18 though, as it becomes a liability issue since you're a minor.

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    2. Ok thank you. I am looking into taking a trip of some sort during the summer before my freshman year of college, but the time that I am wanting to go is before I turn 18. I am looking into other organizations too but if you happen to know of any that allow under 18 I would love to know!

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    3. MsJem98, when I was in high school I went with People to People Student Ambassadors. It was GREAT! The trip was pretty pricy but I had an absolute blast. We were in Europe for 21 days and got to visit 7 countries. It’s been 5 years and I still talk to a couple of people I went with. I highly recommend it!

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  18. Lindsay,

    Do you think the 25-35 day trips are too long of a time to spend with EF? I am looking at either the "Highlights of Europe" tour or "The Ultimate Europe Tour."

    Thanks!

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    1. No! Most of my travels have been only 7-10 days, and I regret not going on some longer trips. Thus far, my work hasn't been conducive to long trips. Shorter trips feel rushed, like you have to toss in anything and everything with no time to breathe. If you can, you should do the longer trip. Not only because you'll get to see more, but because finding time to do a long trip in the future may not be very easy (that, and you have no way of knowing what sorts of life costs will inhibit you in the future)

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  19. I've heard that one of the main issued with EF is transportation time, For example, the hotels are really far away from the main city center on getting from city to city or place to place takes up a lot of trip time. Is this true? Do you think the price could be comparable to just flying over to a country in europe and finding cheaper hostels/booking things on your own? Thanks!

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    1. The hotels were rather out of the way, but honestly, I liked it that way. The travel time wasn't horrible- generally you can catch the nearest metro and get from city center to the hotel in 15 minutes. My first trip to London was with EF. It gave me the opportunity to do guided tours which gave us early access to locations (we were first in the Vatican in Rome and therefore we were able to spend time in the Sistine Chapel before it was packed with people) and to learn things from tour guides that I would have otherwise not seen or learned on my own explorations. On later trips, I went on my own and stayed in hotels/hostels for cheap, but I was also a fair distance from city center. I prefer to be a little ways away from all the traffic and noise. The price ended up being comparable, but at the same time, I wasn't taking all the same tours and things I did with EF, my transportation wasn't covered, and my meals weren't included.

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  20. Did you purchase the travel protection?

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    1. I didn't... Mainly because I didn't know much about it. But I've used travel protection since... I recommend it. I've never had to use it, but better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

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  21. Hi Lindsay,

    First, thank you for continuously answering everyone's questions. It's a wealth of information. My question pertains to free time. You said there was ample free time and you took travel books with recommended sights.

    My fear is I won't know where to go/what to do and don't want to sit in the hotel/miss out on an adventure! Would you recommend looking at sites and activities ahead of time, before the trip? Would planning some of this out be helpful or was city by city, day by day a better approach?

    Thanks in advance,
    Nicole

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    1. No problem! I'm just glad I can help some people!

      I'm a planner... I spent weeks browsing sites of the top things to see in each city, must-eat places, etc. The girls I linked up with didn't have any plans, so they tagged along with me while I went to the places I wanted to see. That said, I like to go with the flow. Our travel guide made some recommendations that we checked out, and if we found time, we wandered aimlessly just exploring. These aren't lengthy trips, so it's beneficial to have some ideas ready in advance. It took me 3 trips to London to finally see everything I wanted to see!

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  22. Did we choose our roomates ? How were the rooms ineach city? Different people from straight to bi and gay attend the tours?

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    1. My first night there, I didn't know anyone so I didn't pick my roomies. If you know folks in advance, it's easier. But from that night on, we picked who we roomed with and I stayed with my new friends. The rooms were decent. I've never been intense about my room situation because it's just a place to crash. I spend a lot of my time out and about. But the rooms were clean and I never had anything stolen. And we had all sorts of people on our tour!

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  23. Hello! First off, thanks for answering so many questions! I come back every once and a while to see if have any new questions and answers, they are very helpful :)
    Well I really want to go to a London/Paris/Barcelona trip with EF but I still haven't made up my mind. I want to go during winter because that is the only time off I have off because of school. What time of year did you go on any of your trips and do you prefer a season in Europe over the others? Also I really wanted to know about your experience on the plane. I haven't been on a plane since I was 4 years old and I have no idea how I feel about it, especially because it is is such a long trip I want to know how you felt about the plane ride. I would really like to know what airlines, services and what type of seats were provided with EF. I am sorry I'm asking for so much I just really want to enjoy it all. Thank you so much for your time!

    -Gina.

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    1. I'm happy to help! :) If you end up going in the winter, I think you'll be well covered by just rocking winter-wear the entire trip. I went in the Spring and it was cold in England and hot in Italy. I've always gone in the Spring, but that's because I was limited by school and went while on spring break. Just remember that if you go in the winter, there's the possibility of winter weather that could impact your flight to London. But I'd love to see London in snow :)

      EF used Delta when I went and we were flying in coach. My flight over sucked... I was in a center row of 3 seats in the righthand seat and the woman in the middle felt it was socially acceptable to lay with her head in her husband's lap and her feet in mine. I just kept punching her in the ankles every time she tried. I respect her tenacity... She continued trying ALL NIGHT. Honestly though, that was the worst flight I've ever been on. Of the other flights I've made overseas, they've all been great! If you can pick your seat, get one by an emergency exit. There's a TON of space. The flight isn't too bad... Long, but they feet you dinner and breakfast. Bring headphones or earplugs- the engines on those big planes are LOUD. And get up and walk around when you can- DVTs can kill you. And have water on hand. The air in the plane cabin is very dry and personally, I always feel so dehydrated on planes. I also recommend keeping chapstick on hand for that reason. The flight over is overnight so sleep as best you can. Most folks in my group napped half of their first day away. What a waste! If you're tired, try to press on. I dragged my new friends around to keep them awake all day and we all slept like champs that night... but we were also on the new schedule much faster than the rest of the group. The return flight is during the day and I just watched movies. Other than that... I can't think of much... But feel free to ask more questions!

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  24. Great blog! Thanks for all the valuable info. Did you use a suitcase or backpack when you traveled? Which do you recommend? Also, did you bring your computer with you? Merry Christmas!

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    1. I used a rolling duffle bag. In subsequent trips, I used a backpack. It was much less cumbersome when heading to Heathrow on the Tube than trying to squeeze in with a giant suitcase. I've learned that the whole travel mantra of "Pack everything, then halve it. Then halve it again." is absolutely true. I used to overpack for my trips. Now I can survive a week on the contents of a backpack. I didn't bring a laptop. One guy on my trip had the contents of his backpack stolen (I'm assuming by hotel staff) one day while we were all out. I lock my bag, but better safe than sorry!

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  25. Hi!

    How much money did you extra from just the program fee? Also do you know anything about the contiki program and how this program differs from that one? THanks!

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    1. I ended up paying a few hundred extra because I did all of the optional excursions. We also had a few extra expenses because our guide set up things like the big dinner in Italy. We closed down a restaurant and did a massive multi-course traditional Italian dinner. It cost a pretty penny since they closed the place down. But it was totally worth it for the experience!

      I've honestly never heard of the Contiki program... I was just looking at it and it looks very similar, but it takes and older group of people (up to 35 as opposed to EF only taking up to 26).

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  26. Wondering how your doing, we lost touch! Big hugs

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    1. Hi!!! I'm doing well! I'm working as a physician assistant in Urgent Care and I've got a boyfriend, so life is good at the moment! How are you??

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  27. Hi! I was wondering what was included in the EF trips? Flight, hotel, and food? It seems too good to be true! Are there any hidden fees? Thank you!

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    1. All the major travel (flights/trains) is covered. If you decide to use a taxi or metro in your destinations, you have to cover that yourself. Hotels are covered. We stayed in hotels that offered a breakfast so that was covered. A few other random meals were covered, but for the most part lunch and dinner are on your own as you roam the cities so you have to cover it. There weren't any hidden fees- they were very up front about the costs I would incur (covering meals and such) and while we were travelling our guide offered opportunities to us (catching a show in London, family-style dinner in Rome) that we would have to cover but that he emphasized were 100% optional.

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  28. Hi!

    I am thinking of the European highlights tour.
    You said hotels are decent- have you heard any bad stories with dirty rooms or bugs? I could NOT deal with that.

    I will be 24 at the time of the trip and am worried about being the oldest one there and meeting people who are young and not bonding well with them.

    Also, I read the the bus rides take up a LOT of time. Do you know if day stops are planned or if stops are just for meals basically and then back on the road?

    THANKS!

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    1. I haven't heard any bad stories and there were no complaints from anyone on my trip regarding dirty rooms or bugs.

      I was also worried about being the oldest on my trip, but there were a few of us that were in the upper age range when I went. I actually found a couple of chics who, although a few years younger than me, they were incredibly fun. The tour group is pretty big, so your chances are pretty decent that you'll find someone to hang with!

      Travel time is definitely time consuming. Depending on where you're headed, there may or may not be stops along the way. I did a tour of Florence and Rome once and on the drive to Rome we stopped off at Pisa to see the leaning tower. But in the grand scheme of things, you're driving around to European countries like you're doing a tour of the US going state to state- unfortunately travel time just takes a while!

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  29. Hi

    I am 18 years old and am wanting to go on one of EF's Europe trips. Are there a lot of 18 year olds who go on these trips? I am worried I might be too young, especially since I will have just graduated college.

    Thanks

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    1. There were a lot more young folks than older folks. I felt like one of the oldest when I was 24. I honestly don't think you'll have any problems!

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  30. the hardest part is choosing were to go.

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  31. Im not sure if my question posted so I apologize if someone asked this already or that my post is a duplicate. My question is in regards to the tours, are you given the option to just meet back at the hotel? I know you mentioned sometimes having to wait on others at certain meet up locations, are you able to say to the tour guide hey I'd like to freely explore on my own or with a few friends and we'll meet back later at the hotel? because this does appear to be a cheaper way to get to Europe so I can imagine a lot of people use this option to get there but would prefer to explore on their own so they can use their time freely.

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    1. Yeah! I'd recommend letting the guide know you aren't coming along for a tour, but ours was really chill about folks going off and doing their own thing. They aren't there to be a parent. You spent the money, so if you'd rather not go on a guided tour, that's your prerogative. That said, if you're aiming to just do the whole thing on your own without any of the guided tours, this is honestly not the cheapest way to go about it. It's a nice method of getting in some tours so you see the highlights of a city (i.e. tour groups get to bypass the crazy lines at the Vatican), however if you're not keen on the guided tours, it's not worth the money. A lot of the money spent on the trip is for the tours and transportation. On my other trips overseas, I found cheap flights on Kayak and then found some well-reviewed hostels.

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  32. Hey!

    I was just wondering if there was anyway to connect with members of your group before the trip leaves? I'll be taking this trip by myself and thought it might be less nerve wracking to talk with some of the tour group before we left the states. Your blog is super helpful, thank you!:)

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    1. Our group had a facebook page, so yours might as well! They set up the private group for our trip and sent out an invite to everyone in advance!

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  33. Hey, I love your blog! It is super helpful and I really appreciate your continuous responses to people's questions!

    Me and my boyfriend have been thinking about going on one of these trips, but are worried about the rooming situation. How many people sleep in one room and do they try to enforce same-sex rooms? I don't mind sharing with another couple or something, I just don't want to go and have to worry about whether or not I can stay in the same room as my boyfriend.

    Thank you!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad I'm helping folks! There was a married couple on our trip and they were allowed to room together, so I'm sure they'll let you. The room sizes varied, although most held 4 people so you'll likely be rooming with 2 other people. Hope this helps!

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  34. Hey! Does each traveler sleep in their own twin bed or do they share double beds?

    Thanks:)

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    1. Depends on the room you get... We had double beds that we shared in most of our rooms, but in Paris we had a couple of twin beds and a double so a couple of us got our own bed.

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  35. Hi Lindsay!

    First of all thank you so much for this blog, it's SO helpful! I have a couple of questions... I want to make sure to have enough money for the trip so what's an average of US dollars I should have as spending money for the "highlights of Europe trip"? I mean it's 25 days so I don't want to run out of money. Also, I know you did a lot of research before you went as to where to go and what to do. My trip covers, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, London, Nice, Florence, Dublin, and Lucerne. Do you know of what websites I should do research on or any places you would personally recommend in each city? Definitely want to max out my time in Europe since it is my first time and I don't know where I'll get to go back. Thank you and any other helpful info you have would be appreciated!

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    1. Honestly, I carried about $100 with me and then made sure I had my bank card. You don't want to carry too much cash on you because pick pockets are EVERYWHERE and you don't want to leave money in your bag in your hotel room either (one guy had a necklace he'd purchased stolen from his bag).

      As far as resources for things to check out, Fodor's is excellent. reddit.com/r/travel is also a great resource. I just googled a lot. Basic searches like, "London must-see sights" will give you lists upon lists of things to check out!

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  36. Hi, thank you for all the information you have provided. Hope you find time for another. I was wondering are the beds twin or full? Also about the bus trips are there bathroom breaks in between or just during lunch break? Lastly I read there is a fee for bathrooms, around how much is it?
    Thank you in advance ��

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    1. Depends on the room you get for the beds... In some places we shared double beds, in others we had twin beds. But I think you can ask your group leader to make sure you're in a room with a twin if you won't want to share a bed.

      For the bus trips, it depends on how long the trip is. Some of the bigger buses had bathrooms on them. For really long trips they occasionally stopped for food/bathrooms.

      Bathroom fees depend on where you are. Throughout London the prices change based on how touristy the area is... But it's only something like 5-20 pence. Just keep some change in your pocket! Also, there are apps if you'll have your phone that have bathroom finders on them and will tell you if it costs money.

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  37. We are traveling with a Group of adults on the EF tour of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Anyone taken this tour? Also, I have a Medical condition which requires need of rest room, sometimes quickly. Do the buses have bathrooms?

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    1. Most of the drives were on charter buses due to the size of the tour group, so they had a bathroom. Be sure to keep some change on you- many public restrooms over there have a fee to use. This may be a bit of an overshare, but I have UC... I recommend if you'll have a smartphone with you, download SitOrSquat or ToiletFinder.

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  38. Any suggestion for programs like this for adults over 28?

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    1. I've heard good things about Contiki... I'm not too familiar with other travel groups, but I see there are quite a few on Google.

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  39. Would you say that traveling with EF is more or less expensive than planning and traveling on our own? My boyfriend and I would like to visit Europe, but not have to sleep in youth hostels. I saw that you can upgrade your room to be able to share a room with only one person and it's about $30 more per night per person. At least for our first trip, do you think this is worth it?

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    1. I honestly found it to be comparable in price... They manage to get you lodging, airfare, and transport, which can add up quickly when traveling on your own, and they get group discounts. When I traveled with EF, I went on a lot of tours and into a number of museums and such that were included in the cost of the trip. I hit up some free museums and such when I traveled solo, however I mainly kept my costs down by doing free stuff like wandering parks and open markets and such.

      As far as paying for a solo room... it really depends on the experience you're aiming for. I went solo so I roomed with 3 girls I met on the trip. They're some of my closest friends now- we video chat regularly and get together whenever we get the chance. Obviously you'd make friends on the tour regardless, but I will say some of my best experiences were with those 3 when we were just chillin in our hotel room. If you'd rather have some alone time, paying for a single room would be best.

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    2. MariaJose Cardenas I am kind of in the same boat! My best friend and I want to have our own room, if you do end up doing the trip, can you please post how it went! THANKS

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  40. My friend and I were thinking about doing a trip through EF College Break and we were wondering about possible hidden charges that don't show up until after you commit. We understand that the price of the trip changes slightly based on the departure date and city. And we understand the things we need to pay for that aren't included in the program fee. But were there things like extra taxes or orientation fees that you didn't originally plan for when you signed up? We don't want to sign up and then realize that we have an extra $450 tax fee that we didn't originally plan for.

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    1. I didn't run into any hidden fees. There were a few occasions where we decided as a group to do some fun side activities like a family style dinner in Italy or catching Wicked in London, but they were all optional.

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  41. Did you bring your laptop with you when traveling? Also during the free days..do they transport you or do you need to figure out the metro on your own?

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    1. No I didn't. I don't trust leaving it in my bags in the hotel during the day. I do recall one guy having a bracelet stolen from his things that he had bought as a gift. Fortunately it was an inexpensive one.

      On the free days, you're left to figure out transportation yourself. In Paris and London we caught the Tube/Metro everythwhere, but in Rome the bus and metro lines were on strike so we took a cab everywhere.

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  42. Hello! Great post btw! I love when bloggers actually take the time to be thorough!
    But my best friend and I were planning to go to Italy tour...and I am concerned with safety and language constrictions in Europe....any thoughts about that? And I'm down for group time but I would also just want alone time with my best friend, is there a lot of room for that?

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    1. In Italy I had no language barrier! I spent a ton of time prior to going learning some basic Italian and then I never even had the chance to practice it! The first time I ever went to Italy, my friends and I stopped at a cafe in Florence. The girl working there was so stoked to meet Americans that she begged us to let her practice her English. I don't recall running into a single person who didn't speak English there.

      As far as free time, you have a ton of it. Most of the organized group stuff was done by lunch time every day and we were left to our own devices for the remainder of the day!

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  43. Great post!,
    I just booked the Ultimate Europe Trip for next summer and I have to say the only thing i'm nervous about is the flight and being alone on that flight! Are there any other recommendations for on the plane? I probably will end up not sleeping the night before so will hopefully sleep the entire way!

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    1. If you're given the chance to pick your seat, I recommend the aisle. You don't want to climb over random strangers in the middle of the night while they try to sleep, and you can stretch your legs in the aisle. And make sure you have a toothbrush with you. You'll feel refreshed in the morning if you can wash up a bit before disembarking. Oh! And have a water bottle with you! I always end up feeling super dehydrated on flights because the a/c they pump in is so dry.

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  44. I just booked my 25 day European tour with EF and I am both nervous and excited! Your blog has been a lifesaver so thank you so much!
    I am just wondering how much do you think I should budget every day for meals/ transportation etc...?

    What kind of phone plan did you have for your trip? Did the hotels offer Wi-Fi? I'm still figuring out what kind of phone plan I need to get…

    Final question… You said you didn't pack much… About how much do you think we should pack? A couple pants, a couple shirts? Was there a laundry services that you used? Also what kind of purse/bag would you recommend for sightseeing each day?

    Is it safe to leave your luggage in the hotel or did you get some sort of lock?

    Thanks again!

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    1. Happy to help! And I'm jealous! I would love to spend that much time over there!!!

      Budget really depends on where you are... I strongly recommend checking out the exchange rates, because you may budget $75 for food only to realize it only gets you £47, which won't get you through a whole day of meals, shopping, Tube tickets, etc. It may be excessive, but I'd say $150-200/day for everything. Better to budget too much and have some money left over than to fall short!

      My phone plan was pretty basic. Pretty much any phone plan will cost you an arm and a leg over there... I STRONGLY recommend checking out the prices from your carrier. I know folks who came home to bills in the thousands of dollars because they didn't realize how much every minute of calling and every text cost. Honestly, if I really needed to send a communication, I usually dropped into a Starbucks for their wifi or waited until I was in the hotel.

      A note about hotel wifi: the hotels will often tell you they have wifi. You will have to ask the front desk for the password, and what they fail to tell you is it will require you to sit near the front desk (it usually has a very short range and isn't usable in your room).

      I never used laundry service. I had a couple travel packets of Tide detergent for emergency wash jobs in my hotel bathroom sink. You'll be on a much longer trip than I took, so you may have to pack more than I did. But bear in mind you won't be hanging in one place for too long, so no one will judge you for rewearing an outfit that you wore for a few hours and is still clean. If you're planning on hitting up clubs, one or two nice outfits should do the trick. If you're going to the Vatican, make sure you have pants or a long skirt. Shorts/short skirts are not allowed.

      For a bag, I recommend something small. You'll be carrying it all day every day and don't want something heavy pulling down your shoulder. Also, make sure it zips closed. Pickpockets are EVERYWHERE.

      I left my baggage at my hotel but I kept it locked. I recommend having some non-TSA locks for once you get to the hotel because TSA locks are standard so anyone else with a TSA lock key could get in your bag. I ran a Pacsafe retractable cable lock through the zips of my bag.

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  45. Hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all our questions! Would you say that every Black Friday EFCB has some sort of sale?

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