Do you travel solo? Perhaps you’ve been thinking about going on a tour but aren’t sure where to start or which company to go with? Who is Contiki? Are they a good fit for you? Why should you go? What do people who have gone on a Contiki tour really think?

In my last At a Glance: Taste of Europe post I shared some highlights of my time in Europe, where I spent a very busy two weeks exploring 4 countries and 6 cities. After receiving many questions, like the ones above, this post focuses on tours and Contiki specifically.

A little background

The last two years I have been fortunate to travel all over the world. The majority of those trips have been with my mom, who is a travel agent, and as a result I’ve been a little spoiled staying in amazing accommodations and experiencing private/small group local tours.

When Holly and I decided a Europe trip was happening in June we spent a lot of time looking into different options. I have flexibility freelancing but with Holly’s work schedule we had a specific timeline in mind. Originally the trip was going to be just London, England with a weekend in Paris, France. The more we researched (or should I say the more options my mom sent) we realized a Contiki tour may be the way to go. It allowed us to visit more places and took the stress out of dealing with accommodations and transportation, while staying within the budget.


Who is Contiki? #1 travel company for 18-35 year olds.

We’re all about exploring the world with like-minded people, which is why we only run trips for 18-35 year olds, to celebrate being young, spirited and curious. You can expect to join a group of 18-35 awesome people from around the world on our Europe, Australia, North America and New Zealand trips, and in Asia and Latin America it’s all about small group adventures with up to 25 travellers. Don’t worry if you’re not traveling as a couple or with a friend from home – though there are plenty of pairs, 50% of our travellers set off solo, meaning you’ll have a ton of opportunities to make new friends.

With over 270 trips around the world and plenty of departure dates to work into your schedule, you’ll never be short of options on where to go for your next great adventure. Read more.

Tours + what to expect

I will be the first to admit I was skeptical. The thought of a big bus tour always sounded terrible to me. With private or small group tours, like I had done, it gives you so much flexibility. If you see something along a drive you can have the driver pull over, which is important for a photographer. Being in a large group of 18-35 year olds, without knowing the age range of your tour group, was something I wasn’t too sure about either. Would I be with a bunch of 18 year olds? The timeline and budget worked though so we booked with Contiki! It’s important to try something new, how else will you know?

Coming back, the Contiki trip has opened me to see group travel in a more favorable light. If you’re looking to relax, this isn’t the trip for you. Contiki tours are designed to allow you to see as much as possible, so while you are able to enjoy many cities and sites, it will be a whirlwind and you can’t see everything. The tours are a great taste and you leave knowing where you want to come back to and visit longer.

  • Tours are structured so that you participate in activities as a group along with additional options you can add on and free time. It is a great way to become comfortable with solo travel, the only thing you need to think about is which optional activities you want to take part in!
  • Tours take you to the most iconic spots so they are a great way to get a taste of the most popular destinations.
  • Tours mean you get access to a guide who is a wealth of information on the places you’ll be visiting and can answer your questions. You have a tour manager and bus driver who work together as a team to make sure everything is clean, running smoothly and that you are prepared.
  • Tours allow you to focus on the sites + exploring and not worry about the accommodations, transportation or organization. It is a great balance of structure and freedom.
  • You’ll make friends that will become as close as family in a matter of days, and you’ll share the most amazing memories together.

Before the trip you receive a welcome package in the mail with everything you need. Once we arrived, it was clear our Tour Manager, Kim was going to be wonderful. Since my mom is a travel agent, I know that a lot happens behind the scenes that clients might not realize. Kim was great letting us know each night, and then again the following morning, what would be going on. Aren’t the flyers cute? They were passed around the bus and then hung up in the accommodation (didn’t get a picture of the one for Rome and the tour ended in London). The bus driver and tour manager really make or break a trip and I can’t say enough good things about Kim and Raf!

For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

6 reasons to travel + go on a Contiki tour

1. See the well known iconic spots each city has to offer + skip the long lines

Every city and place has something it’s well known for. Experience as much as you can! Put yourself in the very spot you learned about in history and art history classes. I assure you it is something magical to really be standing there in person, instead of just reading about it.

Iconic spots. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

2. Explore and discover those hidden gems during free time

While the iconic spots are important, don’t forget to go explore. Wander down a new path and see what you discover. From colorful streets with surprises around every turn in Rome, Florence and London to exploring the top of the Swiss Alps and hiking up steep steps to the back of a waterfall in Switzerland, you just never know what you’re going to find. That is what makes it so exciting!

Explore. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

3. Get lost in the beauty around you + appreciate all this world has to offer

Each new place expands my mind, heart, soul and love for all that makes us unique and different. Get lost in the moment and take it all in.

Lost in beauty. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

4. Be present + live in the moment

Travel in general really forces you to get out of your daily routine and if you allow it, break your comfort zone and experience where you are right then. Some of my best ideas come from these moments. It allows you to become so many different versions of yourself.

Be present. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

5. Young, wild and free + nightlife in amazing cities

To be honest I was never a big party person, in high school and most of college my life revolved around horseback riding and showing. Do you have to be big into nightlife to enjoy a Contiki tour? No, there are plenty of options. You can choose which nights to go out and which to stay in, perhaps with new friends relaxing. I’ll admit I went out way more than I ever did but there were two big factors as to why… people and locations.

Some people had been on the tour for 2 weeks before we joined so they all knew each other and picked when to go out by the end. Being new, and having such an amazing group of people, we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. Locations ranged from karaoke at Red Garter (which I never do, but did) and dancing the night/morning away at Space Electronic Disco (Florence’s biggest club) to a local bar in Switzerland, drinks under the sparkling Eiffel Tower and a final night celebrating in Paris. One thing that was refreshing, and really made for fun nights, was the fact we had a great group. Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a better one and wish we had longer together. Everyone knew how to have a good time (luckily no drama) and look out for each other. I can’t guarantee every tour will be like this, but I can only hope.

Nightlife. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery

6. Share your passion for adventure, good times and creating memories that define what it is to be young, wild and free + build long lasting friendships

If you’re traveling solo and your main concern is making new friends to share the experience with then this is a great option. Everyone is exploring a new place and trying new things together, allowing for strong friendships to form. At the end you’ll be surprised you only just met the person a week or two ago, because it feels like they’ve been your best friend for years. THIS is why you go. Travel is amazing in the way it brings people from all over the world together and you bond so quickly.

I traveled with Holly but we also made sure to branch off and meet new people. If you come with someone it’s important you don’t just stick together. Get to know someone else, you never know who you’ll meet. If you traveled alone don’t worry, the majority did as well and you will make friends faster than you ever expected.

Friendship. For all pictures: click on one to bring up a slideshow gallery


Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the tour and would definitely do it again. As I mentioned in the beginning, I was skeptical but it really was a great time and only wish we had longer together.

Check out what others in my group thought too. These are the questions I asked:

  1. Was this your first time going on a Contiki tour? Why did you pick them?
  2. What are your overall thoughts about the experience (can get as detailed as you want)?
  3. Do you typically prefer group tours, traveling solo, or a mix?
  4. Would you go on another Contiki tour in the future?

“This was my first time going on a Contiki tour. I’d spent months looking between different travel companies and Contiki was the one that allowed me to travel the most places in the shortest amount of time. And with the European trail in particular I was visiting places that not a lot of people go–like Poland, Czech republic, Slovakia etc. so that was also a plus. My overall thoughts on the experience are all positive. We had a Contiki team that was really good at their jobs and made the trip run as smoothly as possible allowing us travellers to not have to worry about anything, and do what we came there to do–explore. I went as a solo traveller so being forced to make friends and interact with the group helped make the trip fun because I was not the only one who came alone either. Looking back I prefer traveling solo as if I travelled with a partner I would be attached to them and wouldn’t have formed the bonds I did with the people on the trip. Being 19 years old, I definitely prefer traveling with a group tour for the safety net it provides. Maybe the more traveling I do, and places I see I’ll be confident enough to travel and explore on my own. I would definitely go on another Contiki trip and I’ve already began planning to go on one next summer.”― Jade (19, Canada)

“First time going on a Contiki tour and picked them because I knew people who had done them in the past. Plus, they are somewhat legendary, a right of passage for a lot of young people–esp in Australia. Overall thoughts, it was a great experience. Makes the trip more than just seeing sights!!! It’s about an all round experience meeting new people, sharing your stories and embracing lots of difference cultures. Plus, it’s a nice load off not having to organise too much yourself. Most things are taken care of. And it’s great to always have a bunch of mates to go out with at night–a group of like minded people all wanting a great night out. Sure you might not get enough time in each place to get too deep under the surface, but you can do that any old time. Contiki is about having fun and letting loose, you just also happen to be roaming EUROPE at the same time!!! I like both group and solo travel for different reasons. I get more personally out of traveling alone, because you have more freedom, independence and you go at your own pace. But traveling in a big group is completely different and you can’t really compare the two. Contiki is an experience in itself and I would highly recommend it to any new traveler. Absolutely would go on a Contiki tour again. I also would now like to return to Europe and do some independent travel. Contiki gave a good oversight, allowing me a taste of lots of diverse places which I would supplement with a return trip, to do the places I liked in more depth.”― Kieran (23, Australia)

“This was my first time going on Contiki or any group tour. I picked Contiki because I was planning to travel to Europe while I had time off but didn’t have time to plan the trip itself. I knew there would be some free time in each city so I let Contiki handle the details of transportation and accommodation. I also picked Contiki because I knew there would be people around my age on the trip. I thought the trip was fantastic. I didn’t expect the tour manager and driver, Kim and Raf, to play such a large and valuable role in the trip. Everything was very well organized. The accommodations and included meals were hit or miss but that’s to be expected. I’ve had hits and misses while travelling on my own so you can’t complain. It’s a for-profit company so you wont be staying in four star hotels but they were all adequate. I met a lot of great people and had some amazing experiences. The pace was hectic but that also meant there was little downtime where I would have felt I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. I typically prefer travelling on my own, I enjoy taking time to do what I want and relaxing to take in they city I’m in. That being said, I think the Contiki trip has opened me to see group travel in a different, more favourable, light. I would definitely go on another Contiki in the future. It was an excellent experience and I will be passing on my recommendations to others in the future.”― Erik (28, Canada)

“Yes it was my first time. My cousin had done a similar tour with Contiki 4 years ago when she graduated from college. I think it was an amazing experience. I loved meeting all new people and experiencing a lot of firsts together as a group. I was super skeptical at first. But overall I am surprised at how positive the experience was. It kicked my ass, but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience. I have never traveled solo so I can’t say for sure but I really enjoyed going with a group. It added a lot to the trip. It wasn’t only about seeing Europe, I made a lot of great friends as well.  If I answered this question (if I would go again) right after the trip I would have said no. It was hard to say bye to everyone. But as difficult as it was, the experience was so amazing. I enjoyed the setup and organization of the tour experience. So I think I would do another one. Lastly. Kim and Raf, you two were absolutely incredible. I wasn’t expecting you guys to be such an important part of the trip, but the tour would not have been as incredible as it was with out both of you. You went above and beyond to make sure we all had a great time, in every city we went. Love you guys xoxo”― Amanda (22, USA)

“No, not first time on Contiki. I picked it because I have limited time off and had to cram in as much as possible… and I hate planning, they have it all sorted. Overall experience was great!!! Worth doing and would do it all again. I typically travel solo. Contiki tours are good because you’re already in a group and always have that family and familiarity. I have another Contiki tour planned in August and yeah will be doing more in the future.”― Josh (27, Australia)

“This was actually my third Contiki, and I’ll get more into why I picked them next. I really enjoy Contiki because it brings together so many people I would most likely have never met. I get to spend anywhere from 7-21 days with a great group of people, and it honestly feels like a family. Everyone likes, dare I say loves, to go out at night, but we are still able to go sight seeing the entirety of the next day. I guess it depends on what I’m specifically looking for on the vacation. It’s hard to beat something like Contiki as far as fun is concerned, but you don’t get to see the entirety of a city (except Venice). For me I’d say that I enjoy more of a mix of the two, traveling solo and as a group. Would I go again? I think you know the answer considering I’ve been on 3 and I have loved them all.”― Allen (22, USA)

“In May of 2015 I embarked on not only my first Contiki tour, but also my first trip to Europe. Travelling with one of my best friends, McKenzie, we weren’t sure what to expect, but we had heard amazing things about Contiki. Overall Contiki exceeded my expectations. I could not have imagined how close I would become with the people on my tour. We experienced so much and got to enjoy the trip of a lifetime together. I certainly wouldn’t call Contiki a “vacation” company; every single day was jam packed with sights, tours, museums and parties. I would love to do another Contiki tour sometime in the future, but I would definitely pick a different location. The next time I travel to Europe I would go on my own or with a couple of friends and spend a few extra days in each city to really enjoy the diverse cultures. I will remember my time in Europe as one of the best experiences of my life with absolutely #noregrets.”― Samantha (20, Canada)

“Yes, this was my first time on a Contiki tour. I wanted a trip that was economical, yet efficient in how much I could see over a relatively short amount of time. I wanted a structured and convenient trip where the trip was planned and the countries and places we visited were of interest to me. Having a group to travel with was a good way to socialize and explore. The trip was great in that we were able to spend 24-48+ hours in each major city we visited. Of course, one couldn’t see everything each city had to offer, but the trip did afford us to see most of the major sites and attractions. While the food across Europe was amazing, sometimes the paid dinners and free ones weren’t, which at time combined with not so modern hostel accommodations wasn’t always a welcoming thing after a long day of travel. Some places I would have liked to stay longer, while there were cities and countries in Europe that weren’t on the itinerary that would have been amazing to see. But for a 24 day trip, being able to see 14 countries while maximizing each day of sightseeing, creates a lifetime of memories that one may never have a chance to do again. I typically travel with friends for weekend and 1-2 weeks trips, but this is my first solo adventure abroad and I knew nobody when I first started my travels. If I was younger, yes I would go on another tour. But, unfortunately this was my one and only trip with Contiki (However, I would recommend to friends and family). It was a trip of a lifetime. Now I can say I have no regrets, as I move onto the next stage in my life, Medical School.”― Ben (28, USA)

“I went on the Simply Italy tour through Contiki in June 2014. It was a 13 day trip and definitely a trip of a lifetime! Visiting and touring Italy had always been a dream of mine and so after I realized that I could spend the time and money to do it, I knew I just had to go sooner rather than later. It was an amazing journey to different cities in Italy-Rome, Forence, Venice but also some smaller, charming towns in between. Maite, our tour guide, made the trip even better than I could have imagined! Going to Italy was one of my dreams, and I felt so complete after finishing the trip. Who knows if I’ll ever go back, but Contiki, Maite, and the friends I went with made it a memorable experience that I will never forget!”― Kara (27, USA)

THANK YOU to all those who shared! Hopefully this post has answered some of your questions and put you in a traveling mood! Who’s ready to start planning a trip? Still have questions?? Comment below.

Note: For all pictures I am in, photo credit goes to tour group members (all pictures from my camera).