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A Backpacker’s Take on Contiki


Think Contiki isn’t right for your backpacking heart? Hear how Contiki goes from a backpacker’s perspective.

A white backpackers' bus parked in a parking lot.

Tour groups? No thanks. Fixed schedule? Pass. Eye-opening and life-changing experiences? Sign me up! As a backpacker to the core and more independent than I like to admit, the thought of a group trip sent shivers down my spine. I always understood how people could like them and that they could be a great travel style for many, but after backpacking more than 25 countries, I thought I was too advanced of a traveler and that Contiki wasn’t for me.. I don’t do this often, but I will happily admit that I was wrong.

When you work full-time and try to have some semblance of a grown up life, it’s hard to plan a quick vacation that maximizes your time, without leaving you feeling like you just want to sleep on a beach for a week immediately after you’re done planning. So, I did something I never thought I’d do, agreed to go on a Contiki trip.

I endeavored on my first Contiki in April and decided to go with ‘Sweet As’ South in New Zealand. I’d always wanted to go to New Zealand but had no idea what to do there, other than every kind of activity that brought me plummeting to the Earth quickly (skydiving, bungy jumping, canyon swinging etc.). This was the first vacation I’d taken where I didn’t even google “what to do in New Zealand” or research at all – so much so that I didn’t realize they drive on the WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD and quickly realized that if bungy jumping didn’t kill me, a car probably would when I looked the wrong way to cross.

Yes, I worked for Contiki and knew exactly how the trips work and encouraged lots of my friends to take them (my friends actually told ME about Contiki after going on one and loving it, that’s how I found out and got the job). However, when you’re the one going on a trip, you begin to question and second-guess things that you’d told people a thousand times.

Things I was scared of:

Reasons I ended up loving Contiki:

So what were some of the highlights of my trip?

Taking a swim in a glacial lake with 10 new friends the first night of the trip and immediately heading to the jacuzzi.

Two backpackers in bikinis standing in the water.

Jumping off my first bridge with 26 new friends cheering me on.

A group of backpackers on a rope hanging over a river.

Dressing up like the characters of the Lord of the Rings (and nearly falling off a stool making me a tall Gandalf).

Lord of the Rings

Taking a rainy day hike to and through Tartare Tunnel to see glow worms (our spontaneous adventure when the helicopter ride to the glacier was cancelled).

tunnels new zealand

Eating more Fergburgers than I’m willing to admit to.


Flying to Milford Sound and seeing the most stunning scenery (and having the pilot point out which LOTR scenes were filmed where).

helicopter milford sound

I could talk about how beautiful the country is, how incredible the friends I made were, and that it was the best travel experience of my life, but photos and videos might do a better job of convincing you.