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Trips I've Done
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7 Amazing Days!
Western Highlights 1 country \ 8 days
24 Apr 2013 - 01 May 2013 \ This tour far exceeded my expectations. It was 7 jam packed days of sightseeing and partying. I was absolutely exhausted at the end but I had such an amazing time and made such good friends. I genuinely couldn't find any low lights of the trip. People will always find something negative to say and I'm sure not everyone will have had the entirely positive experience that I did, but I truly believe if you go into the tour wanting to have a good time and are open to all experiences you will not be disappointed. The highlights for me were definitely the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon (or the Grand Canyon in general!), speed boat tours in San Diego, jeep tours through Sedona, every night out we had and just generally meeting such an amazing group of people. The schedule is designed to fit a lot into a fairly small amount of time. When you consider how far apart Vegas is from LA, you have a lot of ground to cover which means you do spend a bit of time on the bus so you have plenty of time to catch up on sleep. In almost every destination there are optional activities. I was not originally planning to do many of the activities but ended up doing most of them. In San Diego they have changed the harbour cruise (which people found boring) to a speed boat tour which is basically little 2 person boats which you get to drive yourselves and race around the harbour. I was reluctant at first but it was probably one of the best things I did. Try as we did, you can't flp these things but you can definitely race each other, not to mention its a great way to see San Diego a little differently. If you don't go on the boats you are taken to a shopping mall which isn't the most exciting way to spend 4 hours so definitely consider it! On the second day in San Diego you can do Sea World or the zoo. Contrary to other reports, you can definitely do both. If you do one you get dropped off and picked up at each destination, if you want to do both you just have to get yourself between the two, but it is definitely possible. In the afternoon you head to Mission Beach and you can do a surfing lesson (probably only a summer option though!) In Phoenix, Arizona you pretty much only spend the night although it definitely has some memorable and enjoyable night life and the weather is beautiful about 90% of the time. On the morning you leave you have the option to do a hot air balloon ride. I didn't do this one but everyone seemed to enjoy it, although a few found it a bit slow. You head out very early as you are supposed to be up there for sunrise, so the views are undoubtably amazing. From Phoenix you head to Sedona which is set amongst these amazing red rock cliffs. Although the scenery is amazing from the bus and walking around, I definitely recommend the jeep tours which are run by (for want of a better word) cowboys who are absolutely hilarious. They weave you through this amazing scenery and you see things you just don't from the road. From Sedona you head to the Grand Canyon. When you arrive at its quite late in the evening so you get just a quick look at the canyon which is enough at first for you to appreciate the magnitude of where you are. The next day you have the whole day to explore the canyon. Unless you have great plans to hike all day or you are afraid of heights, definitely consider the helicopter tours - especially the 45 minute one. It's quite expensive ($260 from memory) but completely worth it. You get the see the scenery in a way you can't even imagine by land and it is completely breathtaking. The other option is 25 minutes, but considering you have about a 5 minute trip each way over the forest to get to the canyon, its really worth while paying the extra $70 for the extra time. In the afternoon you have the option of doing bike tours, which I didn't do but I'm told were also very enjoyable. As I say, if you don't plan to spend the whole day hiking its great to have another activity to do during the day. That evening, if you have awesome tour manager like we did, they might take you somewhere to watch the sunset. The accommodation here are these tiny little cabins right on the south rim of the canyon so you literally only have to walk about 3 minutes to get to edge of the canyon but fair warning, especially in spring/summer, its very hot during the day and absolutely freezing during the night so pack accordingly. It is also high altitude and very dry which can play havoc with your breathing a bit. From the Grand Canyon you head to Vegas via Route 66. This tour combines with a few others. The Wild Western, LA to the Bay and you are joined in Vegas but people doing the California Highlights, but whether it's your last nights on tour or not, the partying in Vegas is epic. We stayed at Harrah's right on the strip, so you are central to everything. It's in Vegas where you also do your surprise. I won't mention what it is but it is amazing and so much fun, especially as a group so for $10, just do it. There's no way you can't have fun. On both nights in Vegas you head out to two different clubs (not sure if they vary depending on your tour manager) but be prepared for a considerable increase in the cost of your alcohol. Good news for girls, everyone pays $10 to cover entry for both nights, guys sometimes have to pay extra and we usually get a couple of free drinks! Depending on your stamina these nights can finish very early the next morning. You have one whole day to yourself in Vegas but definitely don't waste it sleeping! There is shopping, amusement parks, crazy attractions like an indoor gondola ride and of course gambling. If you do this tour this is your last night in Vegas so you spend it at another awesome club. A lot of people carrying on with other tours choose not to go to bed. As exhausted as I was by this point, I was definitely sad to be leaving all my new friends but for me this tour was the perfect amount of time. Just some general tips about the tour, try everything! Obviously everyone has different budgets but definitely do as much as you can. The best way to get to know people and really see the sights are to get out there and do the optional activities. I genuinely didn't regret any of them. Also, as dorky as this will sound, go into the tour wanting to have a good time. Contiki run a pretty smooth tour but not everything will go according to plan. Just roll with it and don't be the person who complains about everything and I'm sure you will have amazing time. If you have an amazing tour manager like we did, definitely tip them well. It might seem like an easy job, visiting these places and going out with you but when you don't see them they are busy organising everything to make sure it runs smoothly so it's definitely not a week long party for them. This was probably one of the best weeks of my life and I would recommend this tour to anyone. The places you visit, the optional extras, the accommodations, included meals - can't fault any of it!
This tour far exceeded my expectations. It was 7 jam packed days of sightseeing and partying. I was absolutely exhausted at the end bu... read more
The best NYE of my life!
New York, New Year 1 country \ 4 days
30 Dec 2011 - 02 Jan 2012 \ So this tour was quite literally the best NYE of my life and I suspect it’s going to take a fair effort to top it. To anyone considering this tour, it is a great way to see one of the most amazing cities in the world in a very short period of time. Although I would recommend some extra time in NYC, certainly if this is all you had you would feel as though you have seen the best. A brief overview of the tour (presumably it will follow a similar schedule next year): Day before (December 29th) There is a tour meeting at the hotel where you are staying. I didn’t know about this until I got my documents (although perhaps if you had been on a contiki before you would have). This is certainly helpful to go to if you can manage it because you receive itineraries and a weekly metro card – so basically you get free travel sooner. And you get to meet up with your other tour mates. Day 1 (December 30th) The day starts ridiculously early at 7:30am with a guided bus tour of the city. The guide was great; knew so much about the city, was really funny. You see most of the major sites and get off at a few places like Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central Station. The tour ends after lunch down at the 9/11 Memorial where you have included tickets to the actual memorial itself, which is quite and experience (and I think there will be more there by next year as well). After the memorial is the first optional extra – the helicopter tour of the city. I originally had no intention of doing this but peer pressure got the better of me and I am so glad it did! See my photo album for a picture but it is the most amazing experience. We went right at sunset, which meant the skyline was stunning. As our guide said, you will never see the skyline in the same way and he is absolutely right. There are 2 options, 1 is $137 and the other is $190. The $190 one is about 15-20 minutes (the other is less than 10 I believe, so definitely go the $190) and you basically go up and down the Hudson River – amazing experience. That night you have an included dinner and then you head to Times Square for the group photo. This is another optional extra, everyone is included in the photo but it costs $17 to purchase. Another strong recommendation – you can see ours in my photo album. The photo taken by a professional and is well worth the $17 – a great souvenir (everyone knows how hard it is to get a good group photo!!) Afterwards you have to option to go out to a bar with the tour guide. The bar we headed too was pretty far away and a lot of us were pretty exhausted so I went for a walk around Rockefeller Centre (amazing with the Christmas lights) and had an earlyish night. Remember, Day 2 is a big one! Day 2 (December 31st) This morning you head over to Brooklyn to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. This is a great way to see the skyline of the city and also a good way to meet and chat with other tour members. (I have also uploaded a photo in my photo album). Afterwards you take the subway down to Battery Park to catch the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty (ticket is included). You can spend as much or as little time there as in the afternoon you have free time, unless you decide to do the Sex and the City optional tour. Having never really watched the show, I didn’t do it, however if you are a fan, I am told it is good fun and costs $40. I chose to spend the afternoon shopping for a NYE outfit ;) Actually not a great idea because the streets are crazy at that time of year. It’s also a good time to sneak in a nana nap before the big night. This year we went to Planet Hollywood and I would be surprised if you didn’t do it again. I certainly hope that you do. The atmosphere is amazing, you have an included (albeit kind of small) buffet dinner but most importantly, open bar. The party starts at 9pm but you have to leave the hotel at like 8pm to fight the crowds through Times Square. There is no outside viewing of Times Square from Planet Hollywood, but I really believe you aren’t missing anything. Someone who did wait from 2pm in Times Square (and you can’t leave for anything – including the bathroom once you go in) has told me that the ball is quite small and then there is a lot of confetti. So I definitely think we had a better deal. Just before midnight you can head to the dance floor and you are surrounded by huge tv screens which makes you feel as though you are right out in Times Square. Honestly, it was the one of the best nights of my life. To put it in perspective, if you chose to go to Planet Hollywood, not as part of the Contiki tour, it would cost you $250 – so a pretty good deal to have that included. You get kicked out at 1am and can head to another bar. Some of us chose to just walking around Times Square and soak up the environment before heading back to the hotel/hotel bar, which was a great experience too. Day 3 (January 1st) If you are up for it (or you feel guilty because you paid for it already), the TV and Movie Tour takes place at about 10am (don’t worry, it’s a bus tour, not much walking required!) This tour isn’t quite as good as I expected, mainly because I expected to see more famous places. However, you see places like the FRIENDS building, the Soup Nazi store, the inspiration pub from How I Met Your Mother, the Ghostbusters firehouse, something from the Cosby Show to name a few. You also get to see a lot of other parts of the city which you didn’t see on the bus tour on day 1, like Soho (great shopping) and Tribecca. Afterwards you meet up with the rest of the group for a walk through Central Park – also optional. A lot of people have seen Central Park by now so you don’t have to go if you’d rather do something else. That night dinner isn’t included but a lot of us just at together at the hotel restaurant and then you head to the Empire State Building (ticket included). It will undoubtedly be absolutely freezing but well worth it for a stunning view of the NYC skyline at night (I love me a good night photo!) You can stay up there for as long as you want and then head to a local bar afterwards for one last night of drunken craziness. Day 4 (January 2nd) You have until 12pm to checkout and head your separate ways! You can also choose to do the optional Gossip Girl tour ($38) but there actually isn’t an allotted time for this, you get a voucher at a discounted rate and do it whenever. The Hotel There were 3 groups all doing this tour. My group stayed at the Skyline Hotel a few blocks from Times Square and the other 2 stayed at the Sheraton in Brooklyn. Basically it seems that the people who booked first stayed in Manhattan. Obviously I can’t comment on the Brooklyn hotel and whilst I hear it was very nice, it was so convenient being so close to Times Square. We could walk home from Planet Hollywood. I don’t know if this is something that frequently happens or if it was just this year? The hotel was also very comfortable and my room had a pretty sweet view as well (see photo album). I did however hear rumours of using a different hotel next year. Try to get confirmation from Contiki as early as possible but don’t be surprised if they don’t give it. Top 3 favourite moments: 1. NYE 2. Empire State Building 3. Statue of Liberty Tips: 1. Book early!! This will hopefully ensure you get the hotel in Manhattan, in case this happens again where they decide to use one in Brooklyn as well. I paid the deposit in around February and the rest in October. 2. If you are travelling alone, I highly recommend a single room. It might sound unsociable and it is more expensive but it is so nice to have your own space especially because you know every tour has more than one of “that person” who drinks too much and vomits everywhere. 3. Don’t worry too much about booking pre/post accommodation at the same hotel as contiki. A lot of people tried to do this assuming that everyone was staying at the Skyline and ended up staying in Brooklyn (or visa versa). The hotel is actually quite expensive and you can do a lot cheaper and just get a taxi/subway the morning of the tour. I recommend the Pod Hotel (about a $10 cab ride away from the Skyline) or the Hilton Garden Inn. 4. Budget for some of the optional extras. It’s a great way to meet more people on your tour and really gives you 3 solid days of sight seeing. 5. Plan a couple of days after the tour to stay in NYC and do all the things you didn’t get time for (you do a lot but there is always more to do!!) 6. Pack a lot of warm clothes, including boots and good coat. We had pretty mild weather but it did drop to around -11 a few days after which was ridiculously cold. 7. Pack nice clothing for NYE. It is inside so you can rug up just to go outside. The idea is “dress to impress” and most people make a pretty nice effort. I don’t recommend leaving shopping til the few days before NYE. Way too hectic! Pros: 1. Get to see so much. You can really cover a lot of the city in 3 days if that is all the time you have. 2. NYE night is sensational. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to stand out in Times Square. This is much better. 3. You get a lot for your money. I think to stay at the hotel around that time was over $200 per night, plus NYE night, a few meals, a few included tickets, included 7 day metro card ($29) so no paying for travel – well worth the price. 4. The optional extras are great and you still have enough free time for anything specific you want to do. Cons: 1. For a big company, Contiki could be a bit more organised. Expect to be left in the dark a bit about accommodation. Try to confirm you accommodation with them as well. We had people receive documents with the wrong hotel name on it and thus turn up to the wrong hotel. 2. I could be wrong, but I think staying out in Brooklyn would really have been a pain so hopefully they don’t do this again, but book early and it shouldn’t be a problem!! I hope this is helpful to potential travellers. This was my first Contiki tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met a great group of people and spent the best NYE of my life in one of the most amazing cities in the world. I can’t recommend the tour enough. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know anything else about it.
So this tour was quite literally the best NYE of my life and I suspect it’s going to take a fair effort to top it.
To anyone consider... read more
1 country \ 8 days \ from US$1328 per person
See what the Golden State of California has to offer! From the City by the Bay known as San Francisco to the beachside city of Santa Barbara to the entertainment capital of the world Los Angeles, get the full experience of California. And if you're still beggin' for more, be sure to check out the Western Highlights tour where you'll see one of the awe-inspiring natural world wonders (the Grand ...
1 country \ 8 days \ from US$1112 per person
Everybody's guilty of some sweet, innocent California dreaming, which makes a two-day, San Diego sun-n-surf stop, a great western start. Continue on to the Grand Canyon, a desert phenomenon in Arizona. And later in Nevada, with party people and poker champs, we'll show our hand.....your final destination is Sin City itself, Las Vegas.
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