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Need some BIG Advice

23 Jun 2009 Explorer1140740 said

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First off, I'd like to say, I would really appreciate it if this thread could be steered away from me purchasing a Contiki Tour, as I am in major advice for my trip. If it's right for me to buy the tour with Contiki, I will.

Now, back to the advice! I'm 17 years old, turning 18 in August. I have a nice sum of money coming to me, and I plan to spend about $10K on a trip to Europe for 3 months.

My original plan was to go alone and just backpack around and see the sites myself, until a friend had suggested Contiki. I've been searching the website & it looks like an amazing idea, the only thing I have a problem with is.

1) The longest I can find is 39 days, and I want to get away for 3 months. I'm not too worried about this, but if anyone has any suggestions that I'm missing on the main website, that would be awesome!

2) The main reason I want to go to Europe when I turn 18 is so that I can grow as an individual and mature, and have a life experience. I want to be able to do EVERYTHING myself and learn what it's like to be an "adult". I've seen that Contiki basically guides you along, brings tour guides, etc etc. I've been holding onto my parents hands for long enough and I want to break free, and I'm not sure if Contiki is the right thing for me to do this.

If anyone could share some light on what I should do in this situation, and please regard what I've said at the beginning of this post, I really need someone who can give advice right now - not a salesperson.

Thanks,
Keegan
  • 23 Jun 2009 Courtenae said

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    Hi Keegan!
    Wow i must admit, i am feeling a little jealous Smiler<!--graemlin::)--> 3 whole months will make for an awesome holiday!

    Have you thought about doing more than one Contiki tour, or even trying a mix of travelling by yourself and going on a tour as well? Sometimes you can get discounts on muliple tours… I def know Contiki offer this, not too sure on other companies, but it is well worth looking into.

    Personally i am doing a mix… i figure that any place i want to visit that is not included in my tour, shouldn’t be skipped just because i am too afraid of venturing off on my own. you can also set your own pace travelling this way.

    In saying that though, i have done quite a bit of research, looking at various travel companies, reading travel blogs and stuff out of books (think lonely planet, etc…) and even just talking to family and friends who have travelled. Travel agents are also good to talk to!

    Ultimately it is your decision, so if you don’t feel comfortable with something, don’t do it.

    I hope this helps a bit Smiler<!--graemlin::)--> if you have any other questions, feel free to PM me.

  • 23 Jun 2009 Chris S said

    Chris S

    Personally, if I had 3 months to see Europe, I wouldn’t want to do it all on a tour, I’d probably start off with a tour and then move on to independant travel. But look at other tour companies to see if they have longer tours available.

    But I think your budget will be a huge concern for going to Europe for 3 months. What currency is your $10K in? And is that for everything? Or is it in addition to airfares, etc.? I’m going to Europe for just under a month, and all up I’ve budgeted about 10k AUD

  • 23 Jun 2009 Beck in Oz said

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    Hi Keegan,
    I to am doing something similar to yourself, 3 months in europe for a holiday to have a life experience etc although I am 27 not a youthful 17!

    Firstly the cost as Chris said sounds concernting, im not sure where you are from but im in australia and my 3 month holiday is going to cost me upwards of $25k and that is with doing a camping contiki, staying in hostels and with friends where possible. If you would like to have a slightly more luxurious holiday then you would probably need to budget upwards of $30k for flights, accom, meals and the rest.

    Secondly, if your intention of the tour is to have a life experience I would say definately do some time travelling on your own, I havnt gone yet but I believe that is the best way to become independant and learn the most about yourself. I would advise to do a Contiki however but do one at the start to find your feet over there, and maybe go to some of the more out of the way countries when you have the tour guide and people to travel with. If you do a short one at the start not only will you find your feet but you will meet like minded people who will be able to give you advice about the rest of your trip and you can go off and have an awesome time. Contiki is an awesome way to see a bunch of places quickly and easily and can give you some of the skills you need to travel alone.

    Anyways, just my 2 cents – either way I hope you have an awesome trip and get what you are looking for!!!

  • 24 Jun 2009 Explorer1140740 said

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    Thanks for the advice.

    I’m not too sure on the $ part though, I’ve been asking many friends and travel agents about pricing, and everyone is saying $10K ($10,000) is quite enough money for me to spend, with hostels, cheap food and plane tickets.

    3 Month EuroRail = $1400
    Plane tickets, return-trip = $1500
    3 Month $30 a night Hostel = $2700
    (Possible cheap flights I need = $1000
    Food for 3 months, of eating $10 a day = $900

    = $7500 and I’m being very generous on the $1000 for possible flights. Which, leaves me still $2500 to spend on myself.

    Although, I’ve been talking with people and I believe I’m going to do a 22 day tour for around $2500 then head into Spain and Portugal for a month and spend another $5000

  • 24 Jun 2009 lozzib said

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    Based on previous travel I have done, $10 a day is not the best budget for food. I’m Australian, and I know that when I convert A$10 into euro, it ends up being only about 5 or 6 euro max – a coffee in Italy is about 4 euro in some places. I know our exchange rate isn’t brilliant at the moment, but even if you’re talking another dollar currency, you are really going to struggle to survive on that much a day for food. I’ve just booked all my flights for my next trip around Europe, and some of those inter-country flights aren’t cheap at certain times of the year. I had huge troubles finding a flight from Madrid to Rome for less than A$900 in the first week of January!
    You would be much safer off saving more, or maybe going for a shorter trip. You always need to make sure you have extra cash just in case of an emergency (lost luggage, broken leg, etc – it does happen, trust me).
    But, it is your decision. I hope that gives you another insight to consider though.
    And either way, enjoy your trip! There’s nothing better than travel!

  • 24 Jun 2009 said

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    Firstly I hope that 10,000 is in Euros, otherwise we are talking more like 7,120(US 10K exchanged to Euro), 6,215(CAN 10K exchanged to euro) and 5,695(Aus 10K exchanged to Euro) respectively. The exchange rate is what really kills you, thats what takes a 20 dollar a night hostel and turns it into 40 a night.

    10euro a day is far to cheap for food, you should budget double that to be honest.

    Hostels, the ones worth staying in that is, are normally around 20-40 euros + depending on the type of room. If you have a euro rail pass for 3 months, you should really not bother with any flights.

    You also need to budget inter-city travel, subways/trams/buses, day passes for most are around 10 Euro, You will need intercity travel as most Hostels are situated far away from the sights.

    Next we have entrance fees. You pay them to get into everything from the Churches to Museums and even the Bathrooms sometimes lol The price here is really dependent on the structure. The Louvre and Ann Frank House were the two most expensive I went to, at 12 Euro and 9Euro.

    I would say you should forsure take a tour first. The reason I would say that is just so you make sure you can land on your feet. It will give you a bit of a buffer zone before you need to be really independent and it would also give you a bit of time to see Europe so you know which cities/countries you would like to spend more time in.

    Over all the tours I think you should check out are European Experience, European Spirit, European Highlights and the European Whirl. The camping tours are great, but in my mind they wouldn’t give you a broad enough taste for Europe as some of the budget tours would. The longest tour offered is 47 days, but costs 7K(Canada) so my guess is that would be a forsure no for you, but worth checking out, with that 7K you see all of Western Europe and Egypt and a bunch of Eastern Europe also.

  • 24 Jun 2009 Alicia said

    Alicia

    I think it’s definately a great idea but I have to agree with everyone else – 10K is not nearly enough for a 3 month trip even if you go WAY budget.

    I’m going for 5 weeks and it’s costing $10,000 to $15,000 (AUD).

    I’m not sure what you’re into but but I assume you’ll be doing a fair bit of drinking? Not cheap… Also I don’t think anyone could live off $10 a day for food over there – unless of course its 2 minute noodles for breakfast lunch and dinner! Smiler<!--graemlin::)-->

    If you’re after the life experience – definately travel by yourself. You’ll come back a different person. Doing a tour first and then heading off on your own could also be a good idea though.

    P.S. Don’t forget TRAVEL INSURANCE!!

  • 27 Jun 2009 cdm115 said

    cdm115

    I would definitely suggest starting with a tour, especially if you’ve had your hand held your whole life. The tour will let you make a more natural transition to traveling on your own. You might also be able to meet up with people on tour that you can travel with after.

    As for your budget, 10 euro per day is not enough. You might be able to do that a couple days but you wont for your whole trip, you might starve to death over 3 months!

    If you use a eurail pass then skip the flights, if you’re going to fly then why bother with a eurail pass, go where the pass will go. Also with the train you are more likely to end up in a city center and not have to pay much for transportation from the airport to the hotel. Spain isn’t terribly cheap these days, you might want to look to do your independent travel in cheaper areas, like the former eastern block countries. They’re not cheap these days, but their not as expensive either.

  • 1 Jul 2009 Twisty said

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    As mentioned above, 10 euro per day is not possible. 10 euro per meal is what you should budget for. Add in your drinking costs after that, I spent about 3000 euros on a 25 day tour.

    Id say you do a tour to begin with. Tours are like a sampler. You spend 2 days in a place and your gone. You’ll get a feel for the place and then your gone.

    So once you get a feel for being away from home and being semi-dependant. Then spend the rest of your time going back to the places you enjoyed or going places that werent covered in the tour.

  • 2 Jul 2009 ChrisSoll48 said

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    Keegan,

    First off congrats on such an amazing opportunity! If I were you, I would take half of your money and do a tour that gets to as many places as possible. As everyone else mentioned on this forum, contiki is a great company to do this with. After the tour I would just go do whatever you want with whatever money you have left. No one can tell you how much your going to spend going on a trip. Every person is different! So i would say go do your thing for as long as you have money left and once it runs out, go home. That’s just my idea though, it may be a little reckless. That’s another thing you need to consider about your own personality. Do you like to ahve everything planned out or does it excite you more to go with the flow and decided as you go? Do whatever makes you the happiest!!
    Good luck!

  • 3 Jul 2009 Kiwi_Kazz said

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    Hi there, as you want to spend 3 months and see as much as you can, I suggest you go through busabout. You can purchase tour loops to go via the places you want but its up to you how long you wish to stay in each place its a a hop-on, hop-off tour. You start on one tour group but if you want to stay in a destination longer you can and you just join up with the next group in 2 days time. Its fantastic way to meet new people but also get what you want out of the trip – its also really reasonable.

    Check out www.busabout.com

    Goodluck!

  • 6 Jul 2009 PinaI said

    PinaI

    I have to reiterate what the others have said, money wise.

    3 Month EuroRail = $1400. Not sure about this one but, let’s just say it’s right.

    Plane tickets = $1500 – not sure where you’re from in Australia but you might need a tad more than that. Cheapest I’ve found from Perth recently is about $1600.

    $30 a night Hostel = $2700 – Not likely. $30 is equivalent to about 15 euros and you won’t get much for that! I would look at about $50 per night, for something decent and safe.

    Possible cheap flights I need = $1000 – smart budgeting.

    Food $10 a day = $900 – definitely a big no. You’ll need at least $40 per day to get by. Remember, you can’t drink the water in a alot of european cities so, not only are you paying for food but water too.

    $2500 to spend on myself – bear in mind that this will need to cover all your entrance fees, all your everyday travel, any extras you might need sundry wise, tips etc. If you do actually travel for 90 days then that’s only going to be about $30 per day, or 15euro. Again not enough to get by.

    Travel wise – you said you want to get out there and experience everything on your own however, you’re still very young and there is a lot out there that you really don’t want to learn the hard way!

    I wouldn’t recommend you doing three-months solo as a first trip. I think it will be overwhelming for you just because you simply don’t have the experience of travel or the life experience behind you to deal with whatever may happen while you’re there. I’m not trying to insinuate that you are immature or can’t handle yourself, I just know that there are a lot of differences out there and it’s probably going to be a bit harder than what you might think.

    I think most of us on here who have traveled extensively can understand your thought process and your desire to go and I’m all for that, just make sure you think it all through properly before you decide. Don’t do something because you’re trying to prove a point to others. Do it for yourself and be smart about it.

    My opinion would be to start with a tour. Find one that captures 5-10-15 of the places you want to see most and get your bearings first. A tour gives you plenty of opportunity to see the main sights whilst also allowing you the chance to explore on your own during the day, if that’s what you want to do. It’s also good to have someone to kick back with at night, share your experiences with, etc.

    It’s a great way to see what it’s like to be in a different country but, at the same time, you’ll have the support of a group and an experienced guide in case something goes wrong.

    Contiki might be for you, it might not. If you’re looking for something cheaper there’s Top Deck, a bit older and there’s Trafalgar. There are endless tours out there for you to pick from.

    Once you’ve seen what you really want to see then maybe you can hit a couple of the big cities on your own, like London or Rome. Still, I wouldn’t stay out too late and I wouldn’t hang around places like the Stazione Termini after dark! You might even opt to go back to something you saw on tour to spend more time there.

    I don’t know if that has helped or confused you but, whatever you decide, good luck!

  • 7 Jul 2009 cdm115 said

    cdm115

    One thing that Pinas post reminded me of… When I started my euro discovery tour I was almost afraid to get off the hop on and off bus, I did it and didn’t get lost and all was well. By the time I got back to London at the end of the tour I felt like the city was my oyster and wasn’t afraid of a thing – that’s the confidence that a tour can give you. Fast forward a year and I get off my plane in Copenhagen with what was the wrong directions to my hostel and ended up god knows where. I wanted to sit on my suitcase and cry, but it started to rain so I asked someone for help. I got directions to central station by bus, then had to exchange money so I could pay for a taxi to the hostel because I was done with the whole being lost thing and wouldn’t even consider leaving the hostel that night. Everything worked out ok and I’ve returned to normal, though I do still have a fear of getting lost.

    My point is that you can and will have great moments of confidence and moments of freaking out because something got screwed up. That’s something you need to be mentally prepared for because sitting on my suitcase and crying wasn’t going to get anything done. It’s also something to be aware of as it cost me money and you’ll run into issues where something is just going to cost you more then you want and you don’t have much choice. It could be as simple as ordering the 5 euro soda in Rome and finding out when you get the bill.

    Also be careful what other people think can be done for x number of dollars. People who say they traveled for 3 months for $10,000, ask where they stayed and ate. You’ll probably find they spend at least some time with family saving on both money and food. And/Or stayed in large dorms in cheap hostels, which you might not be willing to do.

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