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What do you wish you'd known?

18 Jul 2007 ashleightara asked

I'm curious to know what ppl wish they'd known before they went on their trips, and only discovered afterwards...<BR><BR>For example, <BR>Did you miss something in a town you wish you'd known about? <BR>Did you pack something, and never used it?<BR>Did you NEED something you didn't pack and had to go in search of it?<BR><BR>In particular, looking for different advice to what is already available on the board...share you experience so others can learn from you 'mistake'.<BR><BR>Thanks <img src="" alt="Smiler" width="15" height="15"><!--graemlin::)-->
  • 22 Dec 2011 Dsince1984 said


    I wish I had known not to read this entire post!! I just got back from my European Magic (Winter) trip and I wish I hadn’t brought 75% of the stuff I decided to bring after reading this thread. Contiki has different types of trips some are long, some are short. Some are budget/camping, some are superior. Depending on which one you do, you need to worry about different things. I think it would be much more helpful if everyone, along with their advice, mentioned the type of trip they went on and how long it was.

    My trip was 9 days and was considered Superior.

    Here’s what I ended up needing from the list everyone suggested:
    Cold medicine (thought I was doing well but got sick on my 2nd to last day)
    Backpack – although I walked around with a large purse, I kept a backpack on the bus with some other essentials. Also, a couple of times our tour manager told us to pack an overnight bag because hotels we stayed at didn’t have elevators and it would be too much to carry our large suitcases to the top.
    My DSLR camera – it wasn’t too bad to carry around the photos are worth it. I also had my point and shoot for going out at night.

    Here’s what I didn’t need:
    Tissues/Toilet paper/large amounts of hand sanitizer – all the bathroom we came across had toilet paper, soap etc. However, you do have to pay to use most bathrooms in Europe so make sure you always have loose change.
    Big bottles of shampoo/conditioner – we stayed in hotels on our trip and they all came with soap, shampoo etc. Also, no one borrowed my stuff so I didn’t need to bring enough to share.
    Fleece Blanket – Our bus was warm so I didn’t use mine once but I heard it was cooler up front.
    Travelex card – although all the Credit Cards in Europe come with chips, their credit card readers come equipped to read credit cards with magnetic strips too. I never once had trouble using my credit card.
    Going out dresses – For a short trip, you need a couple, however, you’re not going to need one every day. Especially when it’s cold out. Most of the time we just hung out at bars either in the city or the hotel. The only time we went clubbing and I needed a dress was on our last night in Paris.
    Rehydration salts – I only brought Gatorade powder but I didn’t even need that. I don’t know how much you plan to drink where you would need that much help to rehydrate. I understand that in the summer it gets hot and it could be more useful but for a winter trip you don’t need it.
    Power Strip – There were enough outlets in the hotel for me to use and always a couple open on the bus. I didn’t need to lug a power strip around.

    Now on to some general advice/comments…
    Most people do all the optionals but not everyone so if you really don’t want to go..don’t! You will find someone to hang out with. Contiki does take you on some optionals (included) where it’s basically a sales pitch but you have the option to skip those. I do recommend the glass blowing in Venice though. It was pretty cool and not that long. I didn’t buy anything from them after but I enjoyed the presentation. I skipped the perfumerie in Paris though.

    Downside to going to Europe in the winter is it gets dark super early and most of the time you’re spending your only daylight on the bus. That leaves you only the evening to explore cities in the dark. Upside to going in the winter is no lines. We got into the Louvre in under 5 minutes, same with Cathedral of Notre Dame and etc. Also, the Christmas markets and decorations are pretty. Figure out what’s important to you.

    Contiki is not the hook-up central. Maybe on longer tours but on ours no one hooked up. We had party people that partied all night but we also had people that went to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe our group was not stereotypical Contiki group but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Don’t be scared to go just because of its reputation.

    Finally, I had an AMAZING time. I can’t wait to save up some money and go on another trip. Just stop worrying about what to bring, what it’s going to be like and just go!

  • 27 Dec 2011 ChristineB said


    I wish that I had found this discussion before going on my trip. But I would have to agree with nearly everything that has been said so far. I went on my first contiki in May, and will be going again in 4 short months.
    I wish that I had stayed longer. I did the England & Scotland tour, and left in Glasgow where some of the group continued on to tour Ireland, and I made such great friends, I wish I was able to finish the trip with everyone.
    I wish that I had saved more money before going. I felt that I had to really ration my money when I wanted to go crazy. So those of you who are over budgeting, kudos!
    I wish I had branched out and tried more of the local food. My black pudding stopped the adventure.
    I wish I had brought medicine. I got the cough on my last day. I didn’t recover for about a month. And the plane home was the worst experience of my life, 7 hours of agony, because of the pressure on my already hurting sinuses.
    I wish I had brought a lighter suit case. Mine was incredibly heavy, and only full of clothes. Next time I will pack much better (thanks to everyone’s suggestions, and personal experience). Only bring one pair of heels (for the England/Scotland) tour. The bars we went to with the group were only heel worthy once, maybe twice. Going in May, it rained a lot, so my rain jacket came in handy. And barely anyone used umbrellas. So as long as you have a hood you should be ok.
    I wish I took more pictures with me in it. I also gave up taking pictures after 3 days. Who cares if you look like the biggest tourist, you will want those memories.
    I wish we had more time to predrink in the hotel rooms. We just got changed and had to run. I wish we were able to save money by having a few vodkas before leaving.
    I wish we had an alarm clock!!! Most of the rooms didn’t do wake up calls, and I didn’t bring a cell phone. Having to depend on others to wake you up at 630am was not fun.

    I’m glad I didn’t travel alone. I went with my best friend, and it was the best. I have nothing bad to say about anyone who goes alone, I think that would be GREAT. But I am not as outgoing, where my best friend is. Together we were able to meet new people, and then didn’t feel we had to be together all the time. We still talk about the trip all the time, so it’s great to have someone to relive it with.
    I’m glad that we went out when we stayed in Loch Ness. Anyone who will be going to Scotland, you will get to stay right on the lake, which is beautiful, but also about 20 minutes from civilization. A break is sometimes nice, but the night out in Inverness was one of the best nights of the tour. We talked to the hotel staff to see where the good clubs are- always a good idea, no matter the city. We found a student bar with £1 pints.
    I’m glad I went out every night. We got to see the local party scene as well as the contiki recommendations. Also, staying out after everyone went back to the hotel and talking to the locals to see what cool places were close by.
    I’m glad I went single. There were a lot of couples on our tour, which was great. But being the partier I am, single is the way to go.
    I’m glad I didn’t bring my phone. It would have cost so much, and this way I was able to spend a lot more time with my new friends. I called home twice in 12 days. And I did use the computers in the hotel, which cost a lot, but it gave me my quick Facebook fix for a while. Also, definitely bring an iPod! The TM had his playlist on the entire time, and sometimes it’s just not what you want to hear. I’m glad I brought my portable battery operated speakers to have dance parties in the hotel room post-bar, or for getting ready.
    As for the optionals I’m glad I only did some of them. High roping was amazing in the Lake District. But I’m glad I didn’t do the lake boat ride in Bowness. It seemed boring and the weather was sh*t. Much better to sit in a café with tea and biscuit to pass the time. I wish I didn’t do the ghost walk in York. Boring and we were tired from walking all day already. The Scottish dinner and the bar hopping at the end was a great time!
    I’m glad I chose Contiki for my first European vacation; I wouldn’t do it any other way.

  • 29 Dec 2011 Sharna said


    Thanks to everyone for the great advice…… I am going over in June 2012 I am doing 3 contiki tours…..Ireland then London the Europe…….totalling 4 weeks….. Just wondering a few things:
    in regards to I.D over there do we just use pass ports? Or do I need my Australian Driver License?
    Can I take a suit case aswell as a bag for the bus and a handbag for day time etc?
    I was planning on taking thongs (being true aussie that I am, I find them sssoooo comfy) plus a pair of wedges for night time is that ok?? or do some “optional” places in europe ask that you wear enclosed shoes?
    also I have heard some funny weird things that I am unsure if its true or not….. one of my friends said its illegal to chew gum in public in France is this true?
    Does anyone know a great overseas mobile phone provider??? As I would like to take my iPhone with me…..

  • 4 Jan 2012 Eliza said


    Heya! This is soo helpful. I’m going on the Ultimate European in March (Spands over March April May)
    What is the weather like at this time in Europe? Heard so manny different stories… and need some idea of what to pack!!!

    Also, I’ve heard that flying home from Amsterdam was hell bad! Why’s this?

    Thankyou!! Peace out

  • 5 Jan 2012 Anthraxitus said


    Any suggestions to pack for a March European Vista?

  • 6 Jan 2012 Explorer1307236 said


    Hi Sharna,

    Most places will not ask for ID but most of the time an Australian Drivers Licence was accepted. There was one place you needed your passport but i can’t remember… our tour manager told us we would need it though. You can take a bag on the bus but it can be quite squishy on the bus so i only took a small one. You will need one big enough to use as an overnight bag. Some places will not allow suitcases to be carried through the hotels. It’s usually only for single night stays.. Thongs are fine. I wore them all the time except on free days. Try wearing something more comfortable because it will hurt your feet after a few hours. I have never heard of the bubblegum story. It is illegal to buy alcohol, bags etc off gypsy’s. I used the contiki sim which you can get. It was still a bit pricy but honestly i hardly used my phone. We were to busy to txt people all the time. I only used it to txt my parents to let them know i was safe. If you go to the Swiss alps you will need a different Euro adaptor. You need the smaller style one..

  • 6 Jan 2012 Explorer1307236 said


    Hi Eliza,

    I went to Amsterdam in September last year and while it was supposed to be summer the weather was really cold. It was mainly because it was so windy. Most of our group were from OZ so we felt the cold quite easily. Being the end of winter i would suggest packing warm clothes. Even a wind proof jacket would come in handy! Hope this helps

  • 6 Jan 2012 Sharna said


    thanks for that……. it helps heaps……. yeh I only want to take my phone to text my parents and family back home….. plus while im away I have quite a few birthdays I am missing from my family and best mates so I would like to contact them aswell……… can you purchase the contiki sim before going abroad or do you purchase it at the meeting before your tour????
    with the adaptors…….. I got a pack thing that has a few different ones in there…… so im guessing it will cover swiss alps if not then ill just have a dead phone and make sure i have a spare camera battery for there.

  • 6 Jan 2012 Eliza said


    Thanks Explorer1307236,

    Will most probably be quite cold when I go to Amsterdam in March.

    Thanks heaps. This discussion is sooo helpful!!!!

  • 6 Jan 2012 Anthraxitus said


    Eliza. Any packing lists to share would be appreciated. Going in March as well on Vista.

  • 13 Jan 2012 Kate said


    What a great thread question. First I am glad I stayed at the Royal National Post Tour – Its packed with Contiki people coming and leaving on various tours.

    My last tour I just got home from, Paris NYE had two groups.
    - Wish had known that we didn’t stay at the hotel,
    - or the fact we do not spend any time with the other group.

    There were some people, friends we talked to on facebook pre tour that ended up in the other group – so we did not get to spend as much time with them :(

    If we had known we could have planned better to hang out more in Paris.

    Packing Tips – do not bother bringing your straightener, buy one when you get to europe.

    Another Tip – buy a international phone card, it will save you heaps for texting. Do not bother buying data, just use the wireless when at the Hotels during the night to update your facebook status for friends and family to know your still alive ;) … your in europe you do not need data on your phone, because you’ll spend all day sight see, partying. you do not want to be on the coach on your phone and miss something.


  • 13 Jan 2012 Megs said


    Multivitamins to prevent you getting Contiki cough and baby wipes for those long days! :)

  • 18 Jan 2012 Tara89 said


    I did the Road to Athens + 3 days Greek Islands (21 days) and the Grand Southern (26 days) in Sept/Oct/Nov 2010.
    Planning on doing Grand Northern (26 days) May 2012
    Here’s a list of things I’m glad I did or what I plan to do differently come by next trip:

    Tour and Money
    -Don’t worry about going solo! I did my last trip by myself and there were lots of others like me. You will make friends so easily even you are a shy person.
    -Leave a few days before/after your tour. A lot of the tours don’t necessarily spend any time in the cities they depart/arrive in eg NYC and London. This also means if a flight is delayed/lost luggage etc hopefully it won’t impact your too much.
    -My bag got weighed in London the day of the tour and never again after that. It wasn’t weighed in New York before the Grand Southern. Have to keep weight in mind though when flying home.
    -Make sure you budget your spending money before you go and work out what you will have to spend on so you know how much you’ll have left over to spend on other things. I ran out of money and had to get my parents to transfer me money.
    -Work out how many meals are not included on the tour or with optionals. Surprising how they add up. For my trip in May I have allocated $10 each for breakfasts and lunches and $25 for dinners. All up including my 5 days in NYC before the tour and this comes to $900!
    -Make sure you allocate tip money for your tour manager and driver. In the book that comes with your travel documents in says something like “if you think they have done an excellent job to tip them but its completely up to you". I know in the US they rely on their tips. You may not think they have been super fantastically awesome but unless they do and absolute crap job then definitely tip. Is the US it’s about $3 a day and in Europe about 2 euros a day I think.
    -Before I left I said to myself I wouldn’t be going out every night and drinking. How wrong was I! I did a 21 and 26 day tour and drank pretty much every night except 1 I think. Drinking adds way up! It’s either a club/bar/pub/or someone’s hotel room. So definitely over budget to accommodate for the unexpected.
    -Drinking in the big clubs in cities like Miami and Vegas is expensive. Cheapest was a Corona for $9 plus tip! If you like to get a bit tipsy I would suggest having pre drinks in your hotel room with a group or a few drinks with dinner. It’s a great way to meet other people too.
    - In saying that, I wish hadn’t drank so much. Being hungover on that bus is not fun and it’s no good missing a day of sight seeing because you would rather stay in bed. Even if you do manage to get up, seeing the sights is not as fun when you have a blistering headache. I was so hungover from the Miami Booze Cruise. I made it into Miami for day but felt awful so didn’t really enjoy myself which I regret.
    -If you don’t want to miss out on getting to know people when out maybe still go out but monitor how much you drink and or stick to soft drinks? Don’t go all out every night. Ask your tour manager what the big nights will be. Eg. Miami Booze Cruise, Vegas, Cabaret in Paris.
    -Travel Pillow! I didn’t bring one and I regret it! Sleeping on the plane and bus without one gave me neck pain.
    -Budget to do all the optionals at least. You say before hand you won’t do something to save money but you don’t want to be left out when everyone else is doing it
    -From memory there was nothing that was terrible that I wish I hadn’t done. Even if there was something that was a bit dulll it’s an experience anyway. I’m glad I did the white water rafting in Austria. I wasn’t going to do it but I thought since I’ve never done anything like it I would. I regret not doing the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and New York as I just didn’t have enough money for it. Doing it next time though!
    -I wish I had planned more to do in my free time. I think I would have spent the time better.
    -Don’t just go along with want group of people want to do. You’re there for a good time not a long time. Make you see all the things you want to see.

    –First note, everyone is so different when it comes to clothes so it’s hard to say. This is just what I have learnt from myself and what I plan to do next time.
    -Look up the weather in each city before you go to see what the temp will be. I went on my last trip Sept/Oct and I travelled across Europe and the US and the temp changes so much across a continent/country. It was really hot in Greece and Florida but freezing at the Grand Canyon and London.
    -I’m planning on wearing comfortable clothing on travel days on the bus and nicer clothes on the sight seeing days.
    -I’m going to bring dresses that I can wear alone and with tights and cardigans in case it gets a bit colder.
    -I didn’t bring heels last time and don’t plan to again. I don’t wear heels out anyway.
    -I took black ballet flats that served me well. I could wear them during the day with jeans or at night with a dress. They got so tattered though. I bought some nice flat sandals in Miami.
    -I brought one nice party dress but bought another while over there. I needed them for Paris, Florence, Miami, and Las Vegas.
    -Most of the time you go to pubs over big clubs so as long as you wear something nice like jeans and nice top I found that alright. I’m more of dress and skirt girl though.
    -I took one pair of jeans over and bought another in NYC. I didn’t wear the other pair again.
    -I took boots but mainly wore them in London when it was colder and wet. I wore them on the plane to save on weight and it was such a hassle taking them on and off through security and on the plane.
    - Thongs are a must for beach, bus and dodgy looking showers.
    -Closed in pair of shoes are good. I wore Converse.
    -Cardigans and good for mixing and matching with different tops/skirts/dresses etc.
    -Bags I’m taking my suitcase, a small carry on bag to take on the bus for magazines, ipod, water bottle etc and a cross body bag that closes all the way around so take out with money, passport etc. Same bag for going out.

    Health and Toiletries
    –I took an Immune tablet every day and didn’t get sick. There were a lot of people with coughs on the tour though.
    -I was away for 10 weeks and took regular size bottles of toiletries and had to buy more toothpaste, face wash and shampoo. It’s better to buy more there than take extra though.
    - I didn’t take a hair dryer or straightner. Most hotels in Europe didn’t have a hair dryer although most in the US did. They are typical little ones that are attached to wall. Don’t really do much. I’m taking a little fold up one this time. Some girls brought their GHDs and we shared. I’ll bring my own next time though.
    -GIRLS If you are going away for more than a month and with it will TTOTM when you’re away I would suggest going on the Pill before going away. I can’t think of anything worse than having uncomfortable cramps/wondering when the next toilet stop is while holiday. You know what I mean.

    -Don’t buy things just because. Think about what they mean to you. I bought so many souvenir t-shirts and I’m not even a t-shirt person! I haven’t worn any of them.
    -I collected a magnet from each place I went to and have put them on a whiteboard with photos. I look at it every day.
    -I have a Pandora bracelet and bought a charm for the major places I went to. I look down at it every time I wear it and think of my holidays.
    -Photos and prints are good because they can lie flat in the bottom of your suitcase. You can have them framed and hang them on your wall at home forever.
    -I didn’t keep a travel journal last time and I regret that. When putting my photos on Facebook and in a photo album I had forgotten the names of some buildings and statues etc. I’ll be taking a journal with me next time. It’s also nice reading back on them in years to come.

    Hope this is helpful!

  • 22 Jan 2012 Aleisha91 said


    Hey Tara89 i was wondering how much spending money u brought with u to Europe? just worried i haven’t budgeted enough :/ great and useful info tho thanks :D

    Hartsj9 75 euros sounds good to me.. that was enough? u packed well lol im thinking i have no idea what to bring, does it get really chilly at night? Also i would love to read your blog!!

    So excited for my tiki.. only 132 days to go :) im doing Euro contrasts!!!

  • 23 Jan 2012 LC said


    Oh my god – it took hours but I’ve finally finished reading every single one of these posts. Phew!
    Thanks for posting so many tips and ideas on here! I’ve created a list of things to note from all of your great ideas. So thank you!
    I’m planning on doing Grand Southern (NY to LA) early next year, but I’d like to see San Fran too. Went to Hawaii for a week in June last year so will definitely be visiting again post-tour. Also thinking of working in the States for a year and wind up back in NY for NYE if I can get the Visa.
    I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread and I’ll definitely add my own tips once I’m done!
    Now to pore over my Europe Contiki brochure…. Oh the possibilities!

  • 23 Jan 2012 Jess said


    I’m going on the European Inspiration tour April 7th just wondering if there was anyone else out there going as well?? Really want to make some friends before i leave. I’m budgeting 75 Euro’s a day and i’m going to do all of the optionals as well. Would love to hear people’s thoughts on what to bring and also what the weather will be like then as i haven’t had a clear answer yet.

    Thanks :)

  • 23 Jan 2012 Jess said


    I’m going on the European Inspiration tour April 7th just wondering if there was anyone else out there going as well?? Really want to make some friends before i leave. I’m budgeting 75 Euro’s a day and i’m going to do all of the optionals as well. Would love to hear people’s thoughts on what to bring and also what the weather will be like then as i haven’t had a clear answer yet.

    Thanks :)

  • 27 Jan 2012 Tara89 said


    Hi Aleisha91,
    I had about 2200 euro on an ANZ travel card. I spent about 500 euro on the optionals. I ended up withdrawing money from my Australian debit card as well. You know yourself and spending habits. I bought some realy pointless things that I wish I hadn’t. I drank every night on the tour wich probaby ended up being a couple hundred euro itself over 3 weeks. I think it would be easier to over budget and not have to worry about money while you’re there. Have a great time!

  • 27 Jan 2012 Aleisha91 said


    2200 euro for your Road to Athens + 3 days Greek Islands tour? thats pretty good.. considering you did all the optionals and drunk most nights, which is what im budgeting for, im thinking of bringing AUD4000 which should be heaps then :D hopefully lol
    So u went with a travel card? im thinking of the NAB gold visa debit? i hear no fees and its a good card :)

    Thanks for the tips :)

  • 27 Jan 2012 Sharna said


    Aleisha91…….. go to your travel agent and ask them about Cash passport……… new card out that allows you to have up to 10 different currencies on one card…….. no fees for withdrawing or using ATMs overseas……. like most banks charge you……. no fees for tranferring money from AUD to other currencies…….. its the best thing ever!!!! my travel agent got me set up with one…… im doing Ireland, London and Europe for 4 weeks in June/July this year…….

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