Post by Kate Victoria Photography
I have been on a number of tours all over the world and I’ve travelled with a number of different tour operators. Contiki however, have gained the reputation of being a bit of a party bus. Whilst I don’t exclusively agree with the above comment, the four tours I have been on with them were on the louder side. Contiki offers five main types of tour. ‘Discoverer’. ‘High Energy’, ‘In Depth Explorer’, ‘Sailing, Cruise and Beach’ and ‘Independent Insider.
Here I am going to talk exclusively about their ‘High Energy’ option in relation to the ‘Grand Southern’ Tour in the USA. Ive actually written and produced content on this topic in the masses but today and exclusively for Transfer Travel I am going to talk about what I wish I’d known before going on this tour.. or perhaps what the average person may want to know.
Be prepared for very little. The Grand Southern was incredibly high paced that if you blinked you’d probably have missed Route 66. Of course there is time to sleep.. It’s not a requirement that you go out every night.. but ya know. FOMO. Be prepared for long days exploring from 8am to 10pm with only perhaps an hour to shower for the evening. You will learn that real sleep happens on coach days and if you don’t like coffee before you start this particular tour, you will by the end.
(that large group of people that take up 90% of your tour bus) n.b. I love Australians they are some of the world’s friendliest of people and some of my best friends. There’s nothing wrong with Australians and at the end of the day the tour would probably be pretty dull without them. However, not knowing that that will make up the bulk of the tour can lead to a bit of a surprise and a bit of boredom when the conversation has converted to ‘Aussie Rules’ Whilst I’m not saying that you require to know the rules to this ‘foreign’ game it is probably worth knowing what Vegemite is and that ‘Drop Bears’ aren't real.
Travelling on tour is nothing like making your own itinerary. You have to adhere to times that the tour has set out. The tour WILL move on without you if you are not there ( Trust me, I saw it happen to one of my friends). As well as potentially being left stranded you may find yourself not spending as much time as you would like in certain destinations.. or even visiting them at all. On the Grand Southern I know that several people wished that we had more time to relax in Panama City Beach and enjoy the soul food of Savanna than move on to our next destination. It’s always worth checking out the itinerary before you travel to see if you're really going to get on with it. Personally, on the GS. I was frustrated that we were due to have three nights in Washington DC ( seemed far too long in my head) but when the time came I wished we could have stayed longer.
It’s common knowledge to know that the drinking age in the USA is 21, but I was actually surprised to realise that actually, there was a little leeway for those minors. Tour managers often have good relationships with certain bars and some establishments do not even ID. In saying that, certain places such as Vegas, Miami and NYC have much stricter rules and even going in to bars for a soft drink is a no no. So whereas drinking isn’t a complete write off if you are under 21 you must be aware that some nights you may be left behind alone in the hotel and overall that may hinder your experience.
All experiences are shared, and that is something to bear in mind when you want to have your solo photo at the Grand Canyon and the group is moving on. Travelling in a large group can also effect food choices in restaurants and availability of activities. That’s just something that you have to take with a pinch of salt. The same goes for your room mate. You can’t get on with 50 people, and theres always somebody you're not going to get on with.. hopefully your roommate isn't one of them. I am still friends with my roommate from that tour, and despite the fact that she lives in New Zealand we have subsequently toured together since. On Contiki, you do make friends for life.
A brief note on this. It is a part of American culture which does not escape Contiki tours. Don’t run out of money before the end so you can’t tip your tour manager. This may seem weird… you've already splashed out £1000’s for the tour itself. All I’m gonna say is.. it is what is is. You tip. Now the TM isn't going to stand next to you with there handout waiting for their money, and I know some people don’t give anything. The thing is, most people do and by the end of the tour you will probably want to.
I’ve read this through, and I feel like this may have come across as a little negative, these are just things that you should keep in mind. I love Contiki. Ive been on four, two of them have been twenty-six days long and I’m booked on one for this summer. They are amazing experiences and the Grand Southern in particular. You will have an amazing time.
Me Time activities you must do!
Grand Canyon Helicopter
Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon
Miami Speed Boat Tour