Over the next 25 days, follow my Contiki European Vista review day-by-day. Stay tuned for full reviews on each stop, as well as tips and tricks I learned along the way.

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“We should go on an adventure, now that you’re finally going to start living your life.”

Those were the words that my long-time friend Troy spoke to me after hearing about my plans to take some time away and travel over the month of May. Troy, my perpetual white knight, had swooped in and saved me in my life before, and he probably doesn’t even remember the first time. But the last time was three months ago, when he messaged me out of the blue and began telling me about his most recent life adventure, complete with travel, risk, and plenty of dream-following.

The conversation came when I was feeling very stuck in my life. I was in a point in my career where I had learned all I could learn at my level, and was facing a lack of opportunity to move up. I was starting to look at new jobs, and new opportunities. I was also battling regret of my lack of adventure and discovery through college. I had been very focused on internships, school and jobs, and was always so worried about what would come next. I let my future job prospects, my relationships, and a few other things happening in my life at the time, control it, and I didn’t take any time for myself.

After a few too many years of regrets, and a few moments of clarity, I decided it was time to leave the regret behind and finally take some control. I cut a few ties that were holding me back, and booked a trip to Europe. Just like that.

This is where I should be telling you about how I spent months researching and planning, trying to find the best rates, and the best itinerary, and the best travel buddy…except I didn’t. I decided on a Tuesday that I wanted to go to Europe, and my flights were booked by Sunday. When you decide you’re finally going to go live your life, there’s no point in waiting another day.

Because of this time crunch, and lack of a travel buddy who had the funds or flexibility to drop everything and leave on a trip in three weeks, I decided to book a Contiki tour. With Contiki, you travel on a snazzy bus from destination to destination, all with like-minded people between ages 18-35. In most places, you have the option to explore on your own, to participate in guided tours with Contiki, or to pay a little extra for “excursions,” like a trip to the Vatican or a mountain biking tour through the alps.

Here’s a look at the itinerary of the trip I selected, the European Vista:

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My good friend Christa, one of the people most supportive of my adventure, suggested Contiki as a great option for my introverted, never-been-out-of-North-America self. I hadn’t heard of the company before, but after some research, I learned that there were plenty of both pros and cons to traveling with Contiki. Still, it seemed like a great option for a female traveling alone abroad for the first time. I would always have friends to hang out with (I hoped), and I wouldn’t be moving on from the people I built relationships with, like I would moving from hostel to hostel.

Here’s what you get for your $$$ with Contiki:

  • 21 nights twin share hotel accommodations
  • 20 continental breakfasts; 11 three-course dinners
  • An experienced and professional Tour Manager & Driver team
  • Sightseeing tours of all major cities plus orientations in all other destinations
  • Modern, air-conditioned coach with electrical outlets for charging
  • Hotel tips, local taxes & service charges, ferry crossing fees, etc. covered for you

I was so thrilled and excited to be off to see places I’d only read about in books, or seen in movies. I couldn’t say what I was looking forward to most: Taking a cooking class in Rome, practicing my French in Paris, taking in the view from the top of Mt. Pilatus in the Swiss Alps, riding a gondola through the waterways of Venice, or seeing the Austrian Alps from above in a tandem paragliding adventure. All of these options were on the menu of things to do through Contiki.

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All I knew was, I was ready. Finally. 24 days, 13 stops, 10 countries, new friends, and memories that I knew I would never forget. Still, with all my excitement, I had no idea what was waiting for me when I stepped off that plane in London.

Next up: Oh hey, London


Follow along with the day-by-day reviews:

Introduction: An American Girl in Europe
Day 1: Oh hey, London
Day 2: Bonjour, Paris!
Day 3: Parisian Adventures
Day 4: Lookin’ Good, Switzerland
Day 5: All Things Swiss
Day 6: Switzerland, Italy, France…oh my!
Day 7: Bond. James Bond.
Day 8: Buongiorno Italia!
Day 9: When in Rome
Day 10: That’s Amore
Day 11: Vatican City to Venice
Day 12: The Last Italian Adventure
Day 13: Hop-fer-gerten
Day 14: Soaring Over Austria
Day 15: München
Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
Day 17: Vienna to Prague
Day 18: Ahoj, Prague!
Day 19: St. Goar, Rhine Valley
Day 20: Amsterdamage
Day 21: Even more Amsterdamage
Day 22: Back to the Start
Day 23/24: The End of a Great Adventure
Contiki in a Nutshell: Know Before You Go
Contiki: What Should I Pack?