So you're looking to book your first Contiki trip - Congrats!!! I've been on a few and love each one more than the last! But, that doesn't mean Contiki is for everyone. I wrote a full post featuring the Pros & Cons of traveling with Contiki. Here, I'll also discuss some things you should know before booking your trip!
1. There are a Handful of (Optional) Add Ons
Contiki's tag line is "Travel with No Regrets" which you will quickly realize is so true. Contiki includes a lot in the tour package price (typically all breakfasts, some added meals, most activities, etc). However, there are a handful of additional activities called "Free Time Add Ons" available to purchase.
You'll learn more about the Add Ons for your trip on the first day. Your guide will tell you all about them, the costs, and when it's offered. Typically, they'll require you to pay right then for any/all of the additional add on you want to do. From my experience, you always have to pay in cash.
The number of add ons will depend on your trip. For instance, when I went to Thailand there were about 4 add ons but when I went to Ecuador there were over 10 add on experiences!
2. Contiki Has a Party Reputation (BUT..!)
There is no secret Contiki has a party reputation. It's known for combining cultural travel experiences with copious partying and drinking, especially in Europe. That can be fun, if you're into that.
But, if you're not into the EXCESSIVE partying, don't fret. There are ways to avoid it. First of all, don't book over the summer months. This is typically when the younger crowd (18-22) travels over their summer break and parties. Also, Europe tends to have the biggest party trips, so maybe avoid the European tours if you're looking for something more relaxed.
Personally, I love to drink and have a good time (hello, I go to Vegas every year), but prefer to avoid the party scene on Contikis. Don't get me wrong - I still drink and have a good time, I just don't wake up daily with a hangover.
3. You'll Spend a Lot of Time On The Bus
Did you find an itinerary you love on Contiki's website and say to yourself "wow, I can see XX amount of cities in XX number of days?!" - yeah, you can because Contiki packs your schedule in tight! This often means early mornings (5AM) and hours on a bus to get to the next destination. Some trips are better than others, but definitely something to google before booking a trip (estimated distance between the two cities). While this isn't a deal breaker for me, I prefer to know how much time I'll have in the bus so I can prepare activities to do to keep me sane.
4. Bring Portable Chargers
You are bound to have jam packed schedules each and every day of your trip. Whether that's driving on a bus for hours, touring the new destination, or participating in activities, you will find yourself away from the hotel for the majority of the day. If you're like me, you use your phone for pictures, calls, texting, GPS, etc... so it dies quickly! Be sure to bring a portable charger so you'll always have access to your phone!
5. Bring Extra Cash for Tips
Not only do you need extra cash to pay for your "Free Time Add Ons" (if you want to partake in those), you'll also need cash to tip your tour guide and your bus driver! Contiki recommends $3 per day per person. Tipping is up to your discretion.
6. Some Hostels are Bare Bones
I found this out the hard way. I typically don't stay in hostels when I travel so Contiki was a bit of a shock for me! Most of the accommodations are great - but they don't always have all of the necessities. For instance, I have been in Contiki hotels that have no hair dryer, no shampoo, no AC, etc. I don't typically travel with a hair dryer but now on Contiki's I do. The trip is so fast paced that you don't have time to sit around and let your hair dry.
7. People Travel Solo, with Friends, and with Significant Others
You'll see many different types of people on your Contiki trip from all around the world. Some opt to travel solo while others come with a few friends or their significant other. Either way, you will all have something in common - excitement to see the world with new friends.
8. Tours are Fast Paced
I've mentioned it in some of the other bullet points, but almost all Contiki tours are go-go-go. You'll find yourself in a new city in the blink of an eye. It's great for making the most of your time off, but it's important to take care of yourself. People can easily become exhausted half way through the trip from lack of sleep, lack of hydration, or just general fatigue. Combat that with copious amounts of water, sleeping/napping when you can, and not going too hard every night.
9. Contiki Cough Is Real
Unfortunately, you're likely to get a small cold when traveling with Contiki. This is bound to happen with any group tour as people are all close together throughout the day. Plan accordingly and bring your favorite cold medicine from home so you can try to fight it off early.
10. You'll Make Life Long Friends
Believe me when I say, there is nothing that bonds people together better than travel and experiencing new things. I have made some amazing friends on my Contiki trips that I keep in touch with years later! We still have a group chat and touch base with everyone from time to time!
So, what do you think?! Are you ready to book your first Contiki trip?!
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