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“The quintessential American road trip…” Trip of the week: Grand Southern

group of Contiki travellers in Texas, Grand Southern

You read the title, you know what this is about: the quintessential American road trip through the southern states of the US of A. You’ll leg it from LA to Miami in 21 days with cultural stops along the way and the most mouth-watering and fantastic foodie scenes this side of the planet has to offer!

Party in Las Vegas, marvel at the Grand Canyon, go white water rafting or snowmobiling in Colorado, feel the southern charm in Memphis, get with the jazz and the blues of Beale Street, and so. much. more. If you think you know the USA, no you don’t, and this is your key to all the missing knowledge. Yes you’ll get to see the dreamy and Instagram-worthy sights that’ll give all your friends FOMO back home, but you’ll also get to visit the niche spots, the real heart and soul of the land of the free. 

We could go on and on and on for days about the Grand Southern, but luckily we don’t have to because our Trip Manager Emily has spoken to us to provide all the fabulous deets about this (50) star-studded trip! 

Hey Emily, can you give me 3 reasons why I’ll love this trip?

Great mix of city and nature. So many sights. Perfect amount of time.

“For me The Grand Southern is really just the perfect imagining of an American road trip like you see in the movies, and who doesn’t want that? It has a really good mix of big city life. You get those big bucket list cities like New Orleans and Miami and LA, but there’s also a really good mix of nature in there. Like the Grand Canyon, Durango in Colorado, and Panama City Beach. So there’s all kinds of layouts there.”

“I think this trip is also the best chance to see as much of the States as possible in a short amount of time as well. I think people underestimate how big the country is – it’s a lot of driving – so joining the Grand Southern trip is one of the easiest and best ways to do it. Taking this same itinerary solo can be quite daunting, difficult, and expensive.” 

“The trip is 21 days and I think that’s just the perfect amount of time to make some really good and meaningful connections with all the other travellers in the group, which is kind of the point of Contiki isn’t it?”

Group of travellers on Contiki's Grand Southern through the Grand Canyon

Image source:Emily / Contiki

This trip is for me if…

If you want to see America.

“I think this trip is for you if you’re someone who’s always wanted to travel through America, but you’re not sure how to put it all together or where to even start.That’s what we do for you.”

“And I think this trip has been really well curated to appeal to just about anyone. There’s all the beautiful natural sights. There’s big cities and cool bars for those that like to party. There’s a lot of American history and culture, and massive foodie scenes. Really I think there’s something for everyone on this trip.”

Contiki’s version of the American Road Trip can’t be beat

Contiki’s version of the American Road Trip can’t be beat

by Jake Rich Sep 28, 2021

What’s the most spellbinding view?

Definitely the Grand Canyon.

“It’s hard to articulate that moment when you first see it and just how actually massive and grand, for lack of a better word, it is!” 

“There’s a free time add-on that the travellers can do. It’s a helicopter ride over the canyon, but you start a little away from it. So, you’ll just be cruising over the forest and then all of a sudden the ground drops out from under you and they’re pumping music, creating this crazy atmosphere, as you’re flying over the Grand freaking Canyon. It’s one of those moments that’s honestly almost spiritual.”

“It’s such a big bucket list moment for a lot of people as well, so it’s just so cool. We try to do a bug sunset there as well, which is spectacular. It’s all these crazy colours in the sky, pinks and blues and everything in between. The sky really lights up!”


Image source:Contiki

What’s the tastiest food experience?


“There’s a huge foodie scene all along the trip to be honest. But once we hit Texas that’s when it all really starts cooking. You’re getting all kinds of barbecues and grilled things. It’s mouth-watering, honestly.”

“We go to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, and everyone gets a big fat steak, but what’s most fun is that some of our travellers compete in this food challenge! It’s a 72 ounce steak (2kg/4.5lbs) which is just insane, and the challenger gets to sit on an elevated platform and everybody in the restaurant, whether they’re on the Contiki or not, cheer for them.” 

“There isn’t just Texan style barbecue either. Once we keep heading east there’s also Memphis style barbecue and you really just get a taste of everything. The foodie scene in America is amazing and a lot more diverse than you might think.”

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Kate Jarmyn
by Kate Jarmyn Apr 09, 2019

Has anyone ever completed the 72 ounce steak challenge?

“There’s always at least one participant on my trips, so out of all of them I’ve had loads of challengers, but only one completed it and he was almost right on time with the Man vs. Food guy.” 

“He just went to town on it, it was honestly impressive. He was laser focused, and when he finished everybody cheered and he got a t-shirt, we took photos. And when he came down from the platform he came over to me and was like ‘Em, are you gonna eat your dessert?’ and then he ate it!” 

The sweetest stay?

The glamping stay.

“I think this is one of the most unique stays and I always rave about it: it’s a night under a canvas, so like a glamping experience, and we get to sleep right under the stars. Everybody stays in these really cool tents and we have a campfire and smores.”

“What also makes this stay so great is that we have it quite early in the trip, so it’s kind of the first night that everyone truly gets to hang out all together and really get to know each other. It’s that classic campfire feel, you know? Roasting marshmallows and telling stories.” 

“The atmosphere of it is just crazy: we’re not close to cities so you just look up and see the sky and the stars they’re crazy, they’re insane.”

How about the best spot for culture vultures?

New Orleans.

“It’s always a crowd favourite on our trips. For the foodies there’s obviously that amazing Creole scene and the beignets, and for those that like to go off the beaten path New Orleans is such a bubble of culture. From the Cajun influence, to French influence, all the voodoo and witchcraft, to the delicious food and the smooth jazz music. There’s so much to do in this one neighbourhood – it’s a really fun time.”

Does the trip ever run through New Orleans during Mardi Gras?

“Depending on the timing it can. This year it actually did and… yeah, the group had an amazing time.”

Meet Brandan ‘BMike’ Odums, the New Orleans legend inspiring a new generation of artists

Meet Brandan ‘BMike’ Odums, the New Orleans legend inspiring a new generation of artists

Ginny Copestake
by Ginny Copestake May 18, 2017

What’s the most jaw-dropping included experience?

The night in Vegas.

“It’s a banger of a night. We have an included dinner at Hofbrauhaus on the Strip, so you get authentic German cuisine with all the big beer steins and live music. This sets a great tone for the evening. We head off to Fremont Street and we see a spectacular light show, you know, the kind that Vegas is known for. We spend about an hour there and then we go to one of the city’s top nightclubs. Everything is all included as well so no one gets left out from the fun.” 

“But, what I specifically love about the night in Vegas is when we take the group to the Graceland Chapel. We have one fake wedding, and again, it’s one of those scenarios where everyone is in a great mood and they all cheer and laugh and go along with it.”

On the topic of the Graceland Chapel, has anyone ever gotten married there?

“Well, technically yes, because it is technically a legal wedding and you can go down to the courthouse and file the paperwork to make it official. Though no one I’ve had on a trip has done that. I generally pick two people who seem to just vibe really well with each other, but it’s always all friendly and just for fun and for the experience.”

Which Free Time Add-On will give my friends the most FOMO?

The airboat ride in New Orleans

“So this is a boat ride out in the Louisiana Bayou, which is such a staple and interesting kind of biome – there aren’t many environments quite like bayous, so that in itself is really unique.”

“But part of the tour is that we get to see alligators – in a safe way of course – and specifically baby alligators. So, usually people will take lots of pictures and post them and I think that generally gets some really good reactions from their friends and families back home. Definitely FOMO inducing!”

10 weird and wonderful things you need to see on your American road trip

10 weird and wonderful things you need to see on your American road trip

Jess Borten
by Jess Borten Jan 30, 2020

What will surprise me about the trip?

Everything in between.

“I think that most people come into this trip thinking ‘I’m so excited for Vegas, I’m so excited for Miami’, and Vegas and Miami are great, but when I ask them at the end of the trip which place was their favourite they’ve completely changed their tune.”

“They’ll tell me it was the little stopover at So Durango in Colorado, in this little mountain town with breweries and good food. Or they’ll say it was Panama City Beach, and going there people haven’t heard much about it, but then they hang out with their new friends and witness the most insane sunsets.

“It’s the unique places that you haven’t necessarily heard of before or thought that you’d ever visit, and then you do visit, and it becomes something really special.”

group of Contiki travellers in the USA

Image source:Emily / Contiki

If this trip was a song it’d be:

“‘Country Road Take Me Home’ by John Denver. That classic American tune, it can’t be anything else.”

If this trip was a drink it’d be:

“A Hurricane. It’s a classic drink that was supposedly created in New Orleans, and it’s always the first stop when we get to Bourbon Street – we try a world famous Hurricane.”

Describe the trip in 3 words:

“Beautiful. Powerful. Adventurous.”

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Nashville has quietly become the American city that seems to have it all

by Chantal Ford Mar 27, 2017

What’s the funniest story you’ve heard/seen happen on this trip?

“Okay, so, this is going to sound like a really crazy story. But, once I had a group who were just fascinated by Walmart, but especially the fact that you can pretty much buy anything there. And we stop at Walmart every couple of days to buy supplies and stuff – you know water, snacks, all that – and one group, it just became their mission to see who could buy the most outrageous thing. They bought a bowling kit and they’d set up the skittles in front of the bus and play; they bought a leaf blower and everyday they’d blow all the trash down the coach aisle to make it easier to pick up.”

“But then one day, a guy showed up with a chainsaw and immediately I vetoed the chainsaw. ‘We’re not having that on the bus’, and they complained and they were like ‘well what if we need it? What if there’s a tree blocking the road?’ and I explained that in all the Contiki tours I’ve lead, I’ve never had to personally cut down a tree.”

“So naturally, guess what happened? We’re in Florida and we hit a mini hurricane and right in the middle of the road was a tree. And the boys were just itching to use the chainsaw. So I let them, and they got it all cut down and cleared away for the coach and the other cars that had started accumulating behind us. These guys were like big construction workers, they knew what they were doing so it was all safe. And it’s probably one of the funniest and wildest stories to have happened on this trip.”


Image source:Contiki

Which part of this trip makes you love your job?

“For the Grand Southern in particular there’s a real opportunity to see a lot of growth in your travellers over the 21 days. Those people come on and they’re shy at the beginning, and it can be quite intimidating to step into a coach with 50 people you don’t know. But, you know, by the time we get to Texas those shy ones are the first ones out on the dancefloor every night, they’re the ones two-stepping with cowboys and dragging everyone out. It’s just amazing to see that growth in people.”

“It’s also such a proud moment for me to be able to show so many people my home country, and especially those parts of the states that tourists don’t necessarily think to visit or get to see. That’s so rewarding to me. Being a Trip Manager is honestly the coolest job because I get to create such a community on the coach, that Contiki family that we always talk about. You get to see people be their authentic selves and it’s so special to be a part of that.”

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about this trip that you think I should know?

“Just that I think this is a really good trip for solo travellers, and it’s a great introduction to Contiki if you’ve never been on one before.”

Finding myself and my soulmate on Contiki’s Grand Southern

Finding myself and my soulmate on Contiki’s Grand Southern

Monique Lopes
by Monique Lopes Jul 05, 2023

Here’s what our travellers have to say:

“Everything was so well planned and fun. The activities were so worth it, and I made amazing friends and even better memories. On top of that, our Trip Manager was fun and knowledgeable and she gave really great recommendations for our free time.”

“It was an amazing experience and all the add ons are amazing and a must do! Our Trip Manager and driver were the best people and helped us out so much.”

“Everything was amazing! I loved every moment and will cherish this experience for the rest of my life. I have memories that will last me a lifetime.”

Girl with USA flag

Image source:Contiki

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