Day 1: NYC. The meet up meeting where you just get talked at by your tour guide goes for a few hours, get comfortable!! This needs to be shorter, or given to us by email or something before the first night. Most of us wanted to get to activities, not waste time listening to a lot of stuff we may have already known. This time would be great for some team bonding/getting to know each other activities or something!
Dinner in Times Square (included) is quite good, however, because you haven't yet met anyone, it can be a bit difficult to meet many people yet as you're all sitting on different tables. The bar we went to this night was great, really chilled out and pretty cheap! Good to start getting to know the group.
Day 2: NYC. The breakfast place in New York is pretty damn shitty, "Marche Madison", this could probably be changed with literally ANYTHING else in Manhattan and it would be an improvement. Too bad the most breakfasts on this tour are all four days in NYC here...
The bus tour in the morning is great as you get to see a bit of everything and it's quite easy going, with a few stops. Do the "Top of the Rock" at Rockafella Centre here as you get a better viewpoint I think than Empire State.
I did the helicopter optional "New York, New York" which was great but is only about 22 minutes and $235USD which is quite pricey! Only 3 people in my tour did it.
Free Afternoon/Evening: This afternoon two of us went to Soho to explore as we wouldn't otherwise get to go. Interesting experience although it can feel a bit scary at night.
Day 3: NYC. Statue of Liberty this morning, good trip on the ferry. Unfortunately in winter the ferry timetables don't allow for you to get off at Ellis Island, so you can only stop to look on the ferry. The Statue of Liberty tickets Contiki gives you are to climb up to the platform (at the feet of the statue), NOT to the crown of the platform so be aware.
This afternoon is the food cart tour, which was amazing!! Pretty good value at around $45USD as you get 5 meals and a drink, you'll be rolling home!
Dinner tonight is not included at the Tapas Bar and is pretty tasty but expensive for America!
The nightlife bar tonight was pretty bad (The Mean Fiddler). A gross backpackers bar with extremely pricey drinks ($9 for a Midori and Sprite, about $4-8 in Australia depending on where you go). This place was pretty sticky and gross, a lot of our group either didn't go or left early like us.
Day 4: NYC.
Free day in the tour! Today two of us got up early as we weren't hungover and went to the TKTS stand under the Spiderman stairs in Times Square and got half price tickets for a Broadway show (Mamma Mia). Go at 11am for Matinée shows on weekends, and 3pm for all night shows and have a few options ready. You can't split the bill here or you can't get seats together. After this we walked around Times Square/5th Avenue area and then went home for a nap before going to Empire State Building (You get given a ticket on day 1) then home to bed.
Must suggest SHAKE SHACK for food in NYC!!! It's predominantly on the East Coast and is undeniably good, especially in comparison to the abundance of greasy food in the States.
Day 5: -> Las Vegas. Super early morning, meeting at 7:30am in the lobby for the bus to the airport and we had a stop over in Denver, Colorado. This is a long day of flying (8 hours I think) and in Vegas you'll be 3 hours behind the NY time so you'll be exhausted. Tonight you go to a pretty average food place (Buca Di Beppo) and meet with other tour groups doing the trip the opposite way. The food is average because it's just plates of carby food like "parmigiana" and pasta as well as a salad (If you could call it that) covered in dressing. Not much of a healthy choice here.
After this you go to a nightclub... I didn't however as I got tickets to a Cirque du Soilel show (LOVE by the Beatles, amazing if you get the chance!!) however I heard the club was ok from others who went. The Contiki "Surprise" is this night as well. It was ok from what the others say.
Day 6: Vegas.
The Buffet breakfast here is about 7/10 and literally has everything from breakfast to dessert but you only got 1 included breakfast which was a shame as this was the best of the trip. It's only about $20 for the buffet so you could easily go again.
Free day so most of us went to the Outlets. We went to the South and were very disappointed. The North ones are far better!! However we booked a limo as it was only about $10 each way for each of us each way (Same as a cab) and far more fun. We managed to tip our driver $5 to stop at the Vegas sign for a photo for us which was great as our Contiki group was so small (18 of us) and 15 people needed to sign up for the group photo for it to go ahead.
In the night most of the group went to the "Cirque" show Le Reve, which I heard was only ok. If you didn't go to this you had to make your own way to the theatre to get your 'included limo ride with champagne'. The limo does a few loops of the Strip then takes you to the club of the night "Marquee" with about 5 other Contiki groups. Most people who go out in Vegas are pretty old for clubbing, like 40+ and then over 200 of you Australians.
Wasn't that impressed with Vegas nightlife, as a basic drink was at least $20 (more with tip) and a GLASS OF TAP WATER was $8 (!!!!!!). We left after that and had a good wander of the Strip as the club was a bit disappointing.
Day 7: Vegas. Helicopter at the Grand Canyon!
It's an early morning as you get a bus to Boulder City then use Papillon Helicopters to get to the Canyon. You get a champagne breakfast, which was really lunch at about 10:30am (Sandwich, chips, soft drink, champagne and a brownie), with only about 5-10 minutes to spare to wonder around the small rock and get photos after eating. Frustrating it worked out that way. We went to the South part of the canyon I think, which was in Arizona. If I had my time again, I would have found a way to get out to the Canyon to go on the SkyWalk and have a better look around. The helicopter was great though!
After this you have a free afternoon so we wondered around the inside of the casino's on the strip and went to SHAKE SHACK as we found a newly opened one!
The nightclub tonight has a good view but we decided not to go in the end as it was an early morning the next day for San Fran and we wanted to get a good rest.
Day 8: -> San Fran.
Another early morning for a flight to San Fran (Oakland airport) which was short and sweet thank goodness!
When we land we did our bus tour for the bulk of the day (probably until 3pm?) where we stopped at a few places like pier 39 (good clam chowder!). It was a good tour overall.
Dinner tonight was an included one, at APPLEBEES. Awful awful food! Contiki should really consider changing this as there are fantastic restaurants and Applebees gave me a bowl of dressing with some pieces of lettuce in it to be frank.
We went on a catamaran trip tonight on the water, freezing but amazing!! Be careful of dropping your phones and cameras in the water.
The nightlife tonight was at a duelling piano bar, we didn't go as we went on an epic Target excursion (We'd heard it was totally different in the States and we weren't disappointed!) but I heard the bar was great!
Day 9: San Fran. This was the designated day for people who wanted to/had booked already to go to Alcatraz. I didn't go and I kind of wish I had.
I did the optional bike tour over the golden gate bridge (22km!!!) and it was tough but amazing! Our tour guide was ...interesting. He was young and in a group of all girls so was doing it tough fitness wise as we weren't very fast haha!
Dinner tonight is an included Chinese meal in Chinatown. It was pretty good although there was no honey chicken, we were absolutely stuffed with food!! There was nightlife after this but we went to Cheesecake Factory in Union Square instead and it was amazing!
Day 10: San Fran. A free day so we did our laundry at a cool place, then some went to the shops, some went and got drunk in a park and people watched (?), and we went to check out some touristy things like the Painted Ladies in Alamo Park and Lombard St (The crooked st!), after this we found some cheap souvenir shops down near fisherman's wharf, and we had some seafood for dinner. After this we went walking around Fisherman's wharf and got an Uber to the hotel.
Day 11: -> LA. After our short flight we had our bus tour around LA (The best way to get around as LA is really spread out). We had an hour stop in Venice Beach (Too long, as it was almost lunch time and we were told Lunch was at the next stop, although not included). We then stopped at Santa Monica but only for 1.5 hours (Not long enough! Especially as this was the lunch stop so after that there was only a little time to walk down to the pier and that was it :( We also stopped in Hollywood which was good as we had a good look around.
There was some nightlife but I didn't go as we had Disneyland the next day.
Day 12: LA. Disneyland Optional Day. It's a super long day so be prepared. The bus company is Lux buses, and because Anaheim is so far away its about a 45 minute trip each way. Warning, you will not be able to see the fireworks which is disappointing but oh well (The bus picks you up at 8pm). No nightlife tonight that I know of.
Day 13: A free day or Universal Studios Optional.
We went to Warner Bros Studios tour this day instead which was great, then got the train back to Hollywood on the way home.
Included dinner tonight at the hotel which is ok. Nightlife tonight is the Pub Crawl. A bit disappointing to be honest. You only go to crappy bars/pubs like backpackers places that I can't believe they even asked for ID hahaha!
This is where I went completely off our tour guide as he took one of the girls home with him and lied about it to everyone else.
Day 14: End of the tour! Really nothing happens today as you don't technically see anybody from tour, except that most of us arranged to meet up for breakfast this morning.
Optionals I did:
New York Helicopter $235
NYC Food Cart tour $45
Grand Canyon Helicopter $366
Vegas Club money ($30 to some sleazy club promoter who didn't look older than 17 - regret)
San Fran Bike Tour $45
Disneyland + Transfers (2 parks) $179
Hollywood club crawl $22.
I did absolutely everything I wanted to on optionals which was great. I was disappointed with our tour guide as I found him to be really pushy about the nightlife and drinking, and we could tell he was really disappointed to get a group which was small and not many partiers. He continually would say things like "I wish more people came out last night... you missed a great chance to bond", not everyone want to be hungover all day on an expensive holiday and this needs to be respected. I found him to be sleezy and he asked for "between $50 and $100" even though the Contiki suggests $3 a day for great service. To be honest, in our group of 3 we gave $20 each as it was the end of the trip and we weren't impressed. Others gave up to $120 (!!!) and regretted it later that night when he took home someone and acted quite sleezy. Overall, I enjoyed the trip and make great life long friends but probably will be deterred from all Contiki's due to the hassling about drinking/partying and our Tour guide trying to bully everyone into doing heaps of optionals to get his commission money.
My Contiki was: Fast-Exhausting-Fun