One of the best ways to start is to take a guided tour. Contiki (and its founder John Anderson) has been introducing young travellers to the big wide world since 1961, and over 40 years on, group tours are more popular than ever. Here are 10 reasons to kick-start your gap-year with a group tour rather than go it alone.
Perfect for first time travellers, solo travellers, social travellers and adventurers alike. Other than having a general idea of where you want to go (Europe or Asia?) you can leave all the rest to Contiki – where to stop, how to get there, where to stay, even where to eat. They’ll organise accommodation, transportation and all the little bits in-between. Planning your own trips takes a lot of time and research. a group tour makes it as easy as “bags to coach”, so all you need to do is get there on time.
At each destination, you can either have some ‘Me Time’ and explore at your own pace, or opt for one of Contiki’s “Me Time” optional day trips. Me Time Optionals are a great way to bond with new friends, and see things (and learn things) you may not have found on your own or are maybe too expensive to do on your own, such as a gondola ride in Venice, dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge, sharing fondue in Lucerne or learning about Berlin’s tumultuous history on a historical walking tour.
All aged between 18 and 35 years old, the average Contiki tour is a mix of traveller dynamics. It won’t take long to find your little people amongst the selection of solo travellers, couples, friends and siblings. Your Contiki Family will become your family away from home, probably friends for life, not matter where on the globe they reside. The groups can range up to 50 people, so you’re guaranteed to meet people you jive with.
With your new friends and your Trip Manager (TM), there are plenty of people looking out for you. Particularly when going out clubbing, you aren’t as vulnerable to the normal threats of drinking alone – you have a whole family with you.
5. Your own personal tour guide to everything – even Oktoberfest!
Your Tour Manager knows everyone and pretty much everything you need to know about each destination – they’ll answer any questions, give you a potted history lesson on each destination and the best ways in and around the more crowded attractions and events, like the insanely popular Oktoberfest, for example. Your guide will give you the low-down on what to expect, and how to make the most out of it, escort you inside and then spend a good amount of time with you getting merry before they leave to experience Oktoberfest for themselves.
6. Taste test the world, or take it easy and specialise
A tour can sometimes seem pretty fast paced, because they’re trying to give you a taste of a fair range of destinations in a short period of time. But if you’d rather a slower pace, there are also tours that offer a more relaxed pace, with more time at each destination to see and do more; everything from ‘High Energy’ to ‘In-Depth Explorer’ and ‘Easy Pace’ in fact.
If you want a world-sampler, however, this fast pace though, is perfect for taste-testing destinations so that you can grasp an idea of what you’d like to come back to in the future.
7. You learn to maximise your time while travelling
Something you learn while on a group tour, is how to make the most of a destination in a short period of time. The Me Time Optionals give you an introductory experience and your guide will explain the other places worth visiting during your free time. With a tour group of up to 50 people, there will always be someone who wants to do the same things as you, and it’s up to you how much you fit into your time.
8. You can party all night, and then nurse your hangover on the way to your next destination (meaning you don’t waste a day of travel!)
A company like Contiki is pretty well-known for its party scene. Travelling with a group of young people, it’s not hard to see why. A perfect way to get to know your fellow travellers, it allows people to let off some steam, get more comfortable around these strangers and dance, a lot. How much you drink is up to you – just as long as you can make it to the coach on time the next day. You quickly fall into a routine of staying out late before coach days, as you can nurse the hangover without wasting a day of travelling.
#NoRegrets is the Contiki motto, an often chanted excuse for doing whatever you want while on tour. Like watching Yes Man for the first time, it allows travellers to maximise their experience, making sure they aren’t leaving with any regrets. It’s the perfect way to ensure that you have the most amazing experience.