Big yellow bus
Anyone else visit Washington D.C. in 8th grade?
My memories from our middle school trip to Washington are pretty fuzzy. We saw so much so fast, and our attention was at best, distracted. I remember my two friends and I running through the Smithsonian Museum with two missions, a.) avoiding a particular group of boys, and b.) finding a women’s restroom stocked with tampons. Both seemed to be matters of dire gravity and hilarity. I also remember seeing the Lincoln monument and the Declaration of Independence so it wasn’t a complete waste of my parent’s money.
Our trip of eastern Europe was a little like my trip to D.C., seeing so much and trying to absorb it all and have fun at the same time. I bring this up for those of you who may happen upon my blog and might be planning a trip of your own.
So what did I think? You know, the sight-seeing Europe via a big bus kind…
It’s definitely a fairly inexpensive way to see Europe without having to worry or plan anything. All we did was pick the dates, pack our bags, and book our flights to and from the start/end points. It is fair to point out that there are some extra costs in terms of extra event/activities that are not covered by the tour package. Also, not all meals are covered, though I would say about half were. Breakfast is included everyday. Additionally, if you want to go out, there is the bar tab and possibly taxis. But if you have a itch to visit Europe, Contiki or a similar type tour company may be something to look into. I would not say every vacation should be like this one but it was a great time.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to this kind of vacation?
- As I already mentioned, the trip is all planned for you – the city, the tour, the activities – all you have to do is pay for the tour and arrive.
- You can come as a single person and make friends fast. You know the situation, you are dying to see Italy but none of your friends have a vacation stash. Many of us linked up after on Facebook to share photos.
- If you are a little hesitant about visiting a foreign country, or getting lost once you get there, this is definitely the right kind of vacation. There is almost always someone you can talk to if something goes awry.
- People speak your language. A whole bus full. Good if you aren’t trying to practice your French, Spanish, Italian, etc…
- You are not on your own schedule. Our guide actually told us if you aren’t at the bus at time X, he will leave without us. And that if this happened that we should try to rejoin the tour at the next destination. Truthfully, no one was really late, we had a couple of stragglers who were ~15 minutes tardy but the bus waited. Still, if you can’t keep track of time, you need to make sure you don’t wander far from the group.
- The tour schedule is full and preset. And as such, some of the visits did feel a bit rushed.
- 50 people on a 50 person bus. I think all the summer tours will be close to full. As you can imagine, it’s occasionally close quarters with a very loud or irritating voice/personality. This wasn’t really a problem on our tour but you never know. Being laid back goes a long way.
- You may not meet as many locals. On these tours there are so many people you meet on the bus that you mostly likely will hang out with them (which is is fun anyway).
- A small pillow and blanket may come in handy. At very least a warm, fuzzy sweater for the bus. Extra socks are always a good idea too!
- Don’t forget your extra camera battery or plan ahead for how you can charge up. Outlets are different in Europe also.
- Don’t expect to find the internet. In Europe there are definitely internet cafes but free wireless isn’t common at all. Hotels often offer internet but it’s pricey (like 15-20 Euro/day). At best you may find a computer in the lobby to access your webmail.
- Bring a rain jacket. It rains in Europe often, you may get lucky but you may not. (Unless you are going to Greece in the summer. According to my Greek friend’s mother, it NEVER rains in Greece in the summer and she would know.)
- Keep your passport safe, and it’s a good idea to keep it on you while in the bus. Our tour bus got pulled over twice for passport checks. Digging through your luggage at the border is nerve-wracking.
Finally, condensed links for our trip: