20 Jul 2016 - 15 Aug 2016
Doing this month long trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I have always been a big fan of the American culture so to be able to immerse myself in so many different sub-cultures within that was an absolute highlight. It was my first solo trip so I was quite nervous but the majority of girls on this tour were solo so if you're doing it on your own don't stress because there surely will be others in the same boat as you.
I loved this tour as it gave you an awesome look at quite a lot of the States. Our Tour Manager was Jack Larsen and he had the most incredible knowledge about all the places we visited and was always giving us great recommendations for places to eat or things to do and he was always right. Our bus driver Marquis was a laugh as well and they both make sure you're having a great time and look out for you.
All of the included activities were great so make sure you utilise those and don't miss out! I did quite a lot of the optionals and enjoyed them all but my favourites were:
- Grand Canyon Helicopter ride: absolutely amazing, I keep going on about it being my favourite thing as there is no other view like it (definitely do the longer ride).
- Cirque show in Las Vegas: we went to the Beatles LOVE show and it was absolutely amazing. Definitely a different experience from seeing one at home.
- Rafting in Durango: if your trip is in the summer then definitely do this. It was super hot when we were out but the water was cooling and you get a chance to get in for a dip!
- Hot Air Ballooning in Albuquerque: This was an amazing way to see the city, I was pretty nervous about it but really glad I did it.
- New Orleans Swamp Tour: I intended doing this with the Contiki group but it clashed with a friend leaving the tour so we went as a small group and did a small boat which was so cool! Or guides were great and we saw lots of alligators and our guide was kissing them on the head and playing around with them! It was crazy but such a ridiculous and cool thing to see. Our Contiki group then went off to do it that afternoon (they would have been in bigger boats that may not have seen as many gators so be aware) and in the end it rained so they didn't actually get to go out at all. So just be mindful of weather or the season if there will be gators! So maybe look into booking it on your own in smaller groups.
Universal in Orlando: pretty straight forward on how awesome this is. A few others went to Disney themselves but if you want full on rollercoasters then this is the place. We smashed out almost all the rides in the two parks from open til close - we were exhausted but it was well worth it. The time we were there was also monsoon season so it did pour down a few times which was a pain.
Miami Speed Boat - this was really cool, it was like a party speed boat as they guides were rocking out while taking us around seeing all the amazing houses and views of the beaches.
Newseum in Washington - this again was by far one of the coolest things on the trip. I'm quite into newsey things so I absolutely loved it, but even if you weren't so much it had some really cool exhibits about the different ways media have reported historical events etc so I'd highly recommend.
You also don't get the opportunity to explore your start and end points with Contiki. I had been in California for three weeks before my trip so was able to explore places like Anaheim for Disneyland and shopping as well as Santa Monica. I went to downtown LA for one day during this time and it's really not that exciting. I did go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame the day before the trip started which was cool but LA was really not all that exciting. I do wish I had gone to Warner Brother's studios but other than that it's not all that great. On the other hand, DEFINITELY spend more time in New York for sure. I did the four day New York Uncovered tour straight after the Grand Southern, and even though I was so shattered and all my new Contiki friends were leaving, being able to get around their with Contiki was a huge plus as there were heaps of included activities for the area and great optionals.
All in all this trip was the craziest, coolest thing I've ever done. I met some amazing people who I now call close friends, the accommodation was all great and the food was good too. You'll have late nights and early mornings, but you'll be doing and seeing things that will blow you away so why the hell not do it??
Review written Sep 2016event 0.3
08 Jun 2016 - 04 Jul 2016
Ahhh literally got back from the Grand Southern two weeks ago and I can honestly say I had the best month of my life with the best people! I quit my 9-5 office job to travel on a solo adventure for the first time and it's the best thing I've ever done! Contiki is so well run and so well organised, from accommodation to food to optional activities, that you literally just have to turn up on time at the coach each morning and then you're free to enjoy your amazing holiday!
I would highly recommend staying at the Contiki hotel the night before your stay, or even a few days before so you can explore your starting city as I didn't get to see any of LA unfortunately! I'd also recommend staying for a few extra days after the tour ends to explore the final city as, again, the tour ends once you reach NYC and nothing is included after that point. I spent over £450 delaying my flight for 24hrs just so I could have one night in NYC celebrating 4th July with all my new friends! For me it was totally worth it but I wouldn't recommend the stress or financial implications of this to anyone!! Oh well... YOLO! #noregrets
Personal highlights included helicoptering over the Grand Canyon, parasailing over Daytona Beach and running around Walt Disney World for 15 hours like a little child - this isn't a Contiki option but I booked this myself! If you're a sports fan there's chances to see some epic baseball games (seasonal obviously) and explore an NFL football stadium whilst in Dallas.. but don't do what I did and expect the Dallas Cowboys to be a horse rodeo show (still disappointed haha)..
Anyway, aside from that we had the BEST Contiki team in the form of John our TM and Ray-Ray our driver. I honestly think we got super lucky with these two, they were incredible and ALWAYS went above and beyond to make our trip that extra bit special. John is super knowledgeable about like the whole of America and his passion for his job and his country shines through. Ray was amazing at keeping us in check, getting us round the country safely and keeping us entertained with his funny jokes and pranks - the amount of times he made me jump when scaring me though! Thank you to both of you for being truly amazing, miss you loads! x
Then there's your Contiki team mates who genuinely become your family during your trip - I became close to sooo many people and I know we will remain life long friends. Be prepared not to have much sleep, not to wear much make up or care what you look like and just live out of your suitcase for the best part of a month! The only bad thing about Contiki is that you have to come home and it all has to end one day :( I'm still gutted not to be on tour but the memories I have made will last a lifetime. I would do it all again in a HEARTBEAT- thank you Contiki for giving me the confidence to travel solo and for giving me the time of my life! I'll be back!
Review written Jul 2016event 0.3
13 Apr 2016 - 09 May 2016
When I say that I had the time of my life on this tour, I mean it. From soaring high above the majestic Grand Canyon in a helicopter to hot air ballooning in Albuquerque and parasailing in Daytona Beach, Contiki's Grand Southern tour is truly extraordinary.
No day is the same on this tour. As opposed to going to all the 'touristy' areas, this organised vacation allows you to immerse yourself in the good ol' southern lifestyle. While most tours encourage you to simply 'look' at the sites, Contiki invites you to actually experience the cities like a true local. Every single city we visited (whether it be the ones we stayed in or the ones we passed) had a history of its own. Our tour manager (Rachel) truly encapsulated the spirit of these places and explained their histories in a simple and incredibly fascinating manner. Once the tour finished, I had so much knowledge and experience of the American lifestyle; something I wouldn't have acquired if I had travelled on my own or with a different company.
But, the travelling and knowledge aren't the only things I earned. It's also the longterm friendships. In all honesty, my fellow travellers are more than friends now; they're family. The relationships you build with each other is extraordinary and an experience in itself. All you have to do is be yourself and you're bound to meet so many new friends.
In terms of accommodation, each of our hotels were fantastic and super clean. The staff of each hotel were very welcoming and helpful, and made us feel at home.
If I had to give a recommendation to future travellers, I'd suggest you do all the optional excursions on offer. They're all picked for a reason, and are truly worth the extra cash. Some of them may not seem appealing to you, but these are often the ones that surprise you!
If you're looking for a trip around America which incorporates partying, history and new experiences, then Contiki's Grand Southern is what you're looking for! I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Review written Jun 2016event 0.3
05 Nov 2015 - 30 Nov 2015
So honesty. November 2015 was a VERY warm November for the USA, so while this is true for my time, it is probably not true for a usual November tour!!!
The Grand Southern is a combination of two tours (LA-NOLA) Southern Adventure and (NOLA-NYC) Eastern Discovery.
The first half of my trip is a fantastic mix of party, history and natural wonder. The second half is a lot more party. History and culture is more focused on DC on this half.
My guide Rachael Bushner was freaking amazing! Info, playlists, local insights always on point. She made it a really fantastic trip. Really approachable. More than earned her tip! The driver, less amazing.
This tour can be super fun. Relax and let everything else go. I held on to work pressures for a while, but after a while (particularly Vegas) you bond and end up with new friends.
We missed seeing Little Rock, which left a bad taste in my mouth. But I still had a great time on tour.
Weather: Pack layers. Admittedly it was super warm, so I only really needed them in Grand Canyon, DC and NYC, but have options. The canyon gets super cool, particularly at night.
Group Photo: I like them, they are nice to look back on.
Cirque Show: Worth it, seeing a show in Vegas is always different.
High Roller Pass: The people on my trip that did it said it was great for views of the strip (better at night).
Canyon Helicopter: No question, do it! I did the longer one, the shorter one apparently can be a little short. We went all the way over to the North Rim (far side). I am still in awe!
Canyon Jeeping: My group went Jeeping around the canyon, a great way to cover a lot of ground and our guide was super knowledgeable and hilarious!
Durango stuff: None was in season when we were there, and there is really nothing in Durango before noon.
Ballooning: Couldn't operate, but I am told it is amazing.
Cowboy Stadium Tour: I wouldn't do it again, but it was interesting. Their guides will spend a lot of time talking about tiles and the number of TV screens. It is more a funny story later thing, particularly if everyone is relaxed and having fun.
Rock and Soul Museum: If you are hard core muso or enthusiast it is great, if you only do one in Memphis do Sun Studios. If doing both you will have virtually no free time in Memphis.
Sun Studios: A bit of fun, but between this and Graceland most of your full day in Memphis is gone. I would go to the Lorraine Motel (Civil Rights Museum) instead of either.
Taste of New Orleans: Not worth it. Pretty much everyone on my trip did it, but everyone on my table was disappointed.
School of Cooking: Fun, but the class is with the general public. Also it is watching someone else cook, not cooking yourself, just a heads up, I misunderstood.
Swamp Tour: Check if it is alligator season! The people on my tour saw some and had fun, but the warm weather really helped in that regard.
Universal Studios: Fun day. A bit of something for everyone. Some demonstration shows, meet characters, rides, etc. I liked it. Choose LA or Orlando, not both!
Party Cruise: Can be a bonding experience and a fun night. Drinks are super expensive in Miami, there are some included. I stayed at the hotel drinking on the roof top with some of the other travellers which was super fun too!
Bike Tour: You don't have to be super fit, so it can be a great way to kick of your day.
Speed boat: A bit of fun, seeing the homes of the rich and influential. Can also get you soaked!
Parasailing: Didn't run.
Speedway: If you are a serious rev-head it can be great, otherwise it is a long time at an empty race track.
NYC Pass: Great. If you are doing NY Uncovered, it is included in that.
Other NYC extras: Base on your own likes and dislikes. Note, they only run on certain days, so unless you are in NYC for over a week you can plan it, otherwise wait and see what is there on your days.
Would I recommend anything?
New Orleans, do a ghost tour.
Dallas, go to the rodeo.
Canyon, get up for the sunrise.
Pack a sense of adventure!!!
Review written Mar 2016event 0.3
14 Jul 2014 - 08 Aug 2014
This trip was seriously great. We had an amazing tour guide and a great bunch of people on our tour, which I've learnt is very important. Loved the combination of big nights out in places like Vegas and Miami and the more relaxed places like the Grand Canyon.
Review written Jan 2016event 0.3
10 Dec 2015 - 04 Jan 2016
Trip was awesome!! The Grand Southern was a blast. It exceeded my expectations by so much. I had a great guide and bus driver (Sexy Chocolate). Our guide James was so knowledgeable about the history of the places we visited. He knew all the best place to eat and drink and made recommendations that were spot on, so we didn't waste our time trying to figure things out. Also he managed to score us a dinner reservation at the famous Mrs Wilkes Dinning Room in Savannah. Obama has eaten there. By far the best southern food I've ever had. If your tour guide can't get you in there, go and line up as soon as you get into Savannah, it'll be worth it.
All the places we hit were fantastic. There wasn't a spot where I thought "Meh could have skipped this". If anything I'd wish we'd had longer in some places, especially the places we hit up for just one night.
Great people on the tour. I was worried it'll just be a bunch of people looking to get drunk but it wasn't like that at all. I think when you spend that much money, people actually want to experience the trip and not just drink through it. At least that's what I found with my group.
If you're on the fence about doing this trip...jump! Don't hesitate, you won't ever regret it.
Review written Jan 2016event 0.3
22 Oct 2015 - 16 Nov 2015
This trip was incomparable to anything that I have ever done in my entire life. It was by far the best experience that I have ever done in my entire life.
The places we visited were amazing, from Vegas to Miami, from the Grand Canyon to Memphis, from Savannah to Panama City Beach - every place was a perfect stopover for another beautiful day with everybody on the trip.
It's crazy to think what suddenly becomes the norm, waking up every morning hungover and yet, still so ready for the day ahead with the people you love, is all but over now. While the majority of the people on the trip were Australian, we had influences from the UK, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland who were all just the loveliest of people.
Our tour guide Serena was the perfect leader for a group so kind and caring and I can't thank her enough for making my first Contiki trip so enjoyable that now I can't wait to do many more. Money is all but irrelevant to the time you spend gaining such an enriching experience on Contiki.
The places were great, the tour was great, the options were great but what trumps all were the people on my trip. They are what made our trip the best time of my life and while I like to think I've made everyone's trip just a little bit more enjoyable, I'm grateful and humble that they have made such a positive impact on my life.
Book this trip, enjoy the journey and when it gets to the end, don't be upset that it's over and it's "goodbye", it's just a "catch you later".
Review written Nov 2015event 0.3
24 Aug 2015 - 18 Sep 2015
I could go on and on and on about this trip because it really was the most incredible time in my life. But, honestly for anyone who is even mildly considering doing this tour - do it! I cannot give you my experiences but I can promise you it will be absolutely incredible.
I went on my own and made lifelong friends that I'm already planning another trip with.
From the moment you start this tour it's high intensity, lots of drinking, lots to take in and super fast paced - and that never stops. The entire time is crazy busy, crazy partying and crazy fun. Some of the destinations where you think you'll have a quiet night and just wash your hair are the nights that you end up naked in the ocean at 3am. I'm not by any means a big partier, but this trip brings the best out in you and I cannot emphasise that enough.
My favourite places were Vegas and Miami - just for the atmosphere and weather, but absolutely everywhere was a new and exciting experience. I did the majority of the optionals and for the most part they were really awesome. And the accommodation is amazing (the Grand Canyon being the exception)!
If you're lucky enough to get Harold (sexy Chocolate) as your driver and Serena as your Tour Manager, you'll have an absolutely amazing and hilarious time.
For anyone who is like me and is reading reviews to work out whether or not you want to do the tour, DO IT. You will have #noregrets :)
Review written Oct 2015event 0.3
25 May 2015 - 19 Jun 2015
I would do this trip again in a heartbeat! Such an amazing way to see and do so much in a month! Don't plan on sleeping - you get used to it! You also get used to the large alcohol consumption everyday/night... Long live the American free pour!
The huge cities are amazing but so are all the little ones in between, the trip is so well planned out! Do all the optionals if you can! Especially the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon!
We had the BEST tour guide Maloney, I love you doll! And our bus driver Big E was such a honey!
You truly make the best memories and friends for life! If you are thinking about booking this trip just do it! #noregrets #maloneycontiki
Review written Oct 2015event 0.3
28 May 2015 - 22 Jun 2015
I can see why this trip is so popular!!
Seen so much in such a small amount of time, such a well organised trip with the best road crew (Dylan & Ricky) who made it the best trip!!
Being underage did limit the nightlife experience for me - but planning to do it again when i am 21.
Only negative - i wish i was still there :(
Review written Jul 2015event 0.3
16 Apr 2015 - 11 May 2015
Review written May 2015event 0.3
08 Jan 2015 - 02 Feb 2015
Review written Apr 2015event 0.3
06 Nov 2014 - 01 Dec 2014
Honestly this was the most amazing experience of my life!!! My friend and I come from Australia and were only 18 when we did this contiki tour and although there is +21 drinking age limit it was fairly easy to score drinks where ever we went - we were never ID'd.
Now I thought I would right a review on what to expect for this tour, what I would recommend and what I wouldn't.
Now I would first of all recommend rocking up to the night before get together, as it gives yourself the chance to meet the tour manager as well as the other people you will be travelling with for the next month. I would also HIGHLY RECOMMEND staying in the hotel where you will be meeting the next day. Although it can be pricey (especially if you are starting in New York) it is well worth it and you don't have to stress over catching a cab in time.
Also incase you didn't know, no matter where you start (whether it be New York or Los Angeles) you will not be given the opportunity to explore that city with Contiki!!! The moment you hop on that bus you set off to your next location (e.g. Washington D.C. or Las Vegas), so make sure you give your self at least a minimum of 4 days to explore the city your in (I recommend at least a week).
Also whether you start in New York or end there I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing the New York Uncovered contiki tour. It not only gives you accommodation at a cheap price, but it also takes you absolutely everywhere you want to go! They get you tickets for Nix games, Broadway tickets etc. Remember #noregrets
Now do not forget to bring your drivers license as a form of photo ID, as you don't want to be bring your passports with you to clubs etc. My tour started at the beginning of November and it was so cold it wasn't funny! Make sure you pack way more warmer clothes than shorts etc.
Now as to the ME Time optionals, here is what I recommend and what I don't etc.:
- Cirque du Soliel: even if you have seen this show in your own country, it is nothing like it is when you see it in Vegas! A must do!
- Grand Cayon Biking: It wasn't available when I went on this trip
-Grand Canyon Helicopter: ABSOLUTELY MUST DO NO EXCEPTIONS!!! Also I would recommend going on the longer more costly flight as you see more, plus it takes 5 minutes to fly to the Grand Canyon and then fly back.
- Group Photo: up to you, I didn't get one. Plus members on Contiki tag you in them on facebook, so there really isn't any need.
- Rafting: It wasn't available when I went on this trip
- Snowmobile: It wasn't available when I went on this trip
- Horseback riding: It wasn't available when I went on this trip
- Hot Air ballooning: It was too windy the morning we went to do it, but apparently its breath taking!!!
- Cowboy Stadium: you might be thinking it sounds crap, but it is absolutely cool and worth doing even if your not into sport (which I'm not). Well worth the money for the tour.
- Stockyard Championship Rodeo: was cheap and actually a good time, plus its one of those stereotype American things that you can say that you've gone and done.
- Sun Studios: I wasn't particularly fond of this mini museum (lasted for about 20mins), but I think it was worth it to go and see it, besides you probably will never be back again!!
-Rock & Soul Museum: I wouldn't recommend this as there are better things to do and see while in Memphis.
*When in Memphis make sure you go and see the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum (its not included in ontiki) it is worth it for the history alone.*
- School of Cooking: I didn't do this as I wanted to explore New Orleans in my own time, but I heard it was enjoyable, but just a reminder you don't get much of a chance to explore New Orleans (so consider your options).
- Airboat Swamp Tour: Do NOT do this if it is not alligator season!!!! We went out for two whole hours and saw absolutely nothing because it wasn't the season. I think the season is from June to September.
- Universal Studios: A MUST DO, NO EXCEPTIONS!!! This is the mecka of all theme parks, don't bother doing the one in L.A. if your doing this tour.
- Thriller Speed Boat Ride: Really enjoyable and a great way to see Miami and the rich suburb/islands. Tip: don't sit at the back if you don't want to get wet!
- Group Photo: not really worth it to be honest
- Newseum: by far the best museum in Washington D.C. So therefore a must do.
- New York City Pass: a must get if you a planning to stay in New York for a few days, it allows you to see absolutely everything you wan't to see. Don't get it however if you a planning on doing the New York Uncovered (they will provide you with a free one).
- Sex and the City Tour: didn't do it but wished I had, apparently it was amazing!!!
- Gossip Girl Tour: didn't do it but wished I had, apparently it was amazing!!!
- TV & Movie Tour: again didn't do it but wished I had, in this tour you see scenes from Friends, How I met your mother etc.
Review written Mar 2015event 0.3
25 Dec 2014 - 19 Jan 2015
This was our second Contiki and just like the last one it was an incredible experience. Our tour manager Rachel was so blimin good, and always went out of her way to make sure every single person was doing good. Marquis our driver was 1. an incredible driver (have you ever parallel parked a bus) and 2. hard case! such an awesome guy.
We were really lucky and had a great, diverse mix of people and everyone kind of found their "place" quite quickly.
The accomodation and the included meals were pretty decent and i'll be honest some of those early starts were hard work!
If you're looking for a way to see the USA in a hurry this is for you, don't over think it, just book it!
Highlights for me had to be NYC, Charleston and the Grand Canyon.
If anyones interested I was away for 5 weeks and did a weekly blogpost while I was there, heaps of photos and info on the stuff we did for anyone yet to make up their mind on this trip =)
Review written Feb 2015event 0.3
08 Jan 2015 - 02 Feb 2015
Awesome trip, very fast-moving and so much fun
Review written Feb 2015event 0.3
01 Aug 2013 - 26 Aug 2013
Trip of a life time
Review written Jan 2015event 0.3
23 Jun 2014 - 18 Jul 2014
It's hard to put into words how amazing this trip was. There was countless moments when I felt like pinching myself because I didn't believe I was there. I really recommend this tour if you want to see a great snapshot of America. I would love to list all my favourite moments but I would be typing an absoltute novel. Big shoutout to my amazing tour manager, Jack Larsen and our driver Marcel "E" - who helped make the tour so incredible!
Review written Dec 2014event 0.3
04 Apr 2013 - 29 Apr 2013
Had a great tour with a great group of party goers and the trip was made all the better with Jack Larsen as our Tour Manager!
Review written Dec 2014event 0.3
02 Oct 2014 - 27 Oct 2014
What an amazing trip! I highly recommend everyone to do this trip. What an unbelievably great Contiki crew that I had to make my trip absolutely awesome. Rachel and Ricky were so helpful the whole trip AND after the trip. I had an absolute ball. #family #noregrets
Review written Nov 2014event 0.3
31 Jul 2014 - 25 Aug 2014
This is an amazing way to see so much in a short space of time. From biking around the Grand Canyon to pool parties in Vegas to boat rides in Miami, there was so much to see and do. The optionals were fantastic, great variety of activities. I went on my own and it was my first time travelling out of Europe but I met so many great people, there was a fantastic atmosphere between everyone. The accommodation was good, some lovely hotels and some basic but we were so busy that we hardly spent much time in the hotel rooms. Our tour manager and bus driver were amazing, they were always there to help, give advice and just have a chat. It takes the hassle out of planning and organising and allows you to make the most of travelling and having fun!
I would highly recommend doing a contiki tour, it is one of the best things I've ever done. I'm doing another contiki next year in Australia!
Review written Oct 2014event 0.3