If you’ve read my previous posts, I think it’s overwhelmingly clear that I had an amazing time on my Contiki European Vista. For those considering a trip and looking for more info, here’s my guide to all things Contiki.
Photo credit: Contiki
Q: Is Contiki for me?
A: Maybe! I think certain types of travelers will embrace the Contiki Experience more than others. As a single female who hadn’t done any traveling abroad previously, this was the perfect option. Below is my list of pros and cons to help you decide if it’s right for you.
You’ll see a TON of cities, sights and cultures within a VERY short amount of time. Ideal if you don’t travel often, or are lacking vacation time.
Every step of the trip is planned for you by Contiki and your tour manager. Just enjoy the ride!
You’ll always have fellow travelers to explore with. Particularly appealing for those planning to travel alone.
The tour manager and tourmates provide a sense of security. If you’re nervous about international travel, traveling with a group can help put your mind at ease.
You always have the option to do things with the group, or to head off on your own to explore. Perfect for travelers who want a bit of flexibility.
Your tour guide is there every step of the way. Get sick? He’ll help you find a pharmacy. Something wrong with your room? She’ll work out the problem with the hotel. Need recommendations for lunch? They’re on it. They’re a fantastic resource and take so much of the stress off of the traveler.
Because you’re scheduled to see so many cities and sights, you’re not spending much time at each place. I’ve called my Contiki an “appetizer trip.” You’ll see the highlights, but won’t explore every city in-depth.
You won’t head off the beaten path. This can be a pro for safety & efficiency, but a con if you’re looking to really mingle with locals. For this type of travel, I recommend backpacking over tours.
You eat what’s served. At included dinners, there often aren’t a ton of options to pick from (i.e. you typically aren’t ordering off a menu). You’ll have more choices at Optional Extra meals.
The included & Contiki Optional Extra dinners can be a bit hit-and-miss. Some were fantastic and some were less so. Research your chosen tour to see what others have said about the extras. (Scroll down for a list specific to European Vista).
Q: How much should I pack?
A: Contiki limits your bags to 73cm x 50cm x 25cm (29″ x 20″ x 10″) & weight of 20kg (44lbs) plus one hand/day bag. Contiki does not have luggage drop service like Trafalgar and other tour groups, so you will be carrying your own bags everywhere. If you can’t lug it, leave it!
On the European Vista, you’re in hotels the whole time, so you’ll always have access to towels, some bath amenities, and hair driers. No need to pack those!
A few things you shouldn’t leave home without:
One or two dress-up outfits. If you plan to attend the Moulin Rouge, Austrian Mozart Concert, or Monaco Dinner/Monte Carlo, you’ll wish you had something nice to wear! Also, there are many other nights where people dress up just for fun. Guys should bring a button-up collared shirt and nice jeans/slacks, and ladies will do just fine in a dress (short or maxi, whatever tickles your fancy).
A swimsuit. You can’t go all that way and not go for a swim in the Mediterranean while in Nice! Also, several of the hotels have pools/spas.
Flip flops. I forgot these and regretted it. There will be many times when you’ll want to slip these on to run to your friends hotel room, or run downstairs to grab a beer with tourmates.
A power adapter. Plugs are different in Europe and England, so a universal travel adapter is really helpful.
Q: Is it awkward traveling with strangers?
A: Honestly, a little bit! But only for the first 24 hours or so. After that, everyone has started to mingle and settle into the groups they’ll be hanging out with for the trip. There’s no shortage of conversation though, because you’re all from different countries and here for different reasons. It’s fascinating to hear their stories. Conversations can get very deep very quickly when you’re on tour, so open yourself up and you’ll be just fine. By the end, we were all sobbing having to say goodbye, so trust me, the awkwardness goes away!
Q: Were there a lot of people traveling alone?
A: YES! By my count, we had 16/36 on our tour traveling completely alone, who didn’t know anyone before the tour started. I completely recommend going on these tours alone – don’t worry if you can’t find a friend from home to join you. You’ll have more fun and freedom to hang out with whomever you please, and you’ll meet others on tour more quickly.
Q: Is Contiki only for single people?
A: NO! We had six couples (both married and dating) or 12/36 on our trip and they had a blast. There was plenty of mingling and we all had a great time when out together.
If you’re in a couple, I recommend taking a couple of nights on your own to go for romantic dinners/adventures throughout the trip. I think this helps strike a healthy balance between group travel & romantic getaway. (P.S. I recommend Rome for this – one of the most romantic cities I’ve ever seen!)
Q: Which Optional Extras are worth the price?
A: It really depends on your travel priorities (are you there for outdoor adventures or cultural activities?), but below is my list of the Optional Extras and how I rated them.
European Vista Optional Extras
Paris: Moulin Rouge
Expensive but lovely. Fantastic cabaret show, and delicious meal.
Lucerne: Mt Pilatus
Must-do. Fantastic experience from the cog-railway to the views from the top of the mountain.
Lucerne: Lake Lucerne cruise
Beautiful views of Lucerne and surrounding mountains. Two drinks included, pay bar for additional.
Lucerne: Swiss fondue lunch & folklore show
A slightly “cheesy” but quintessential Swiss experience. Fun time to drink and be merry with friends. Includes one glass beer or wine.
Monaco: Monaco restaurant
Delicious dinner, stunning views. Includes trip to Monte Carlo casino after dinner – worth it!
Florence: Tuscan evening
My favorite meal! So many delicious courses of Italian favorites. Definitely a venue catering to tour groups. Unlimited wine.
Florence: Space Electronic Disco
Fun night of dancing with friends, but the friends really made the experience for me.
Florence: Souvenir group photo
Perfect way to remember your tourmates.
Rome: Imperial tour
Access to Colosseum & Roman Forum, guided by local expert.
Rome: Vatican Tour
Knowledgeable local expert. Access to Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica.
Rome: Cooking Class & Dinner
Fun underground cooking experience. Meal was average – no protein, only pasta & sauce. Cool to eat the pasta you made. Unlimited wine.
Venice: Venetian walking tour
Knowledgeable guide, great info on history of Venice.
Venice: Gondola ride
Lovely experience. I’m told you can do this cheaper if you go off on your own.
Venice: Venetian restaurant
Delicious dinner! Huge assortment of meats, pastas and bruschetta. Unlimited wine.
Venice: Tour t-shirts
Trust me – you’ll want a memento from the trip!
Austrian Tyrol: White water rafting
A personal favorite. Adventure, beautiful views, fun with friends. Must be able to handle the cold water.
Austrian Tyrol: Mountain bike tour & BBQ lunch
Cancelled due to weather; did not participate.
Austrian Tyrol: Tandem paragliding
An amazing experience! If you can handle heights, don’t miss these views!
Munich: City Bike Tour
A favorite among my tourmates. Fantastic, animated guide. Explored Munich by bicycle and stopped for beer at an outdoor biergarten.
Vienna: Old Vienna Schnaps Museum
The schnapps tasting experience was delightful (and delicious!)
Vienna: Dinner & Mozart concert
Least favorite meal of the tour. Concert is nice if you appreciate classical music. Concert hall is beautiful!
Prague: River Cruise with Buffet Meal
Worth it for the beautiful views of Prague! Buffet meal was average.
Prague: Ghost Walk
Delightful to see Prague by moonlight!
St Goar: Wine tasting
Fun experience in a tasting cave. Very sweet wines.
Amsterdam: Volendam restaurant
Volendam is beautiful. Last group dinner.
Amsterdam: Canal cruise
Unlimited beer & wine. Don’t miss this op to say goodbye to your tourmates.
*Note: Contiki periodically changes the restaurants they visit for Optional Extras, so you may visit a few different restaurants than I did. If you’re a foodie, ask your tour guide which restaurants you’ll be going to and find them on Yelp or TripAdvisor before committing to attend.
Overall, Contiki is what you make it. If you want to stick with the group, you can. If you want to go off on your own, you can. If you want a bit of both? Make it happen! It’s your vacation – make it exactly what you want it to be!
Have fun, and safe travels!
Have questions about Contiki or European Vista? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll respond here!