Tour Talk: Contiki

Contiki tour 2009, Sedona
Contiki tour 2009, Sedona

Ok. I’ll start this by saying, Contiki is NOT your typical backpacker tour.

If you’ve heard about Contiki or know anyone who has been on one of these tours, you will know that it’s really a glorified holiday. They’re pretty wild and are sometimes put in that 18-30s holiday bracket. But wait, don’t be completely turned off by this. I know you are because if I had heard this before I went on a Contiki tour, well quite frankly, I wouldn’t have gone on one. When I hear ’18-30s holiday’ I think of mouthy women in white stilettos in Magaluf. This isn’t Contiki. Trust me.

Ok, you’re back with me.

So Contiki, the reason it’s more of a holiday than your average backpacker tour, is it’s more hotels than hostels, more restaurants than  camping food, more VIP areas than backpacker bars. But it’s still all about being with other young travellers, seeing the best parts of the places you’re visiting, and having a tour guide that knows what he’s talking about.

To be honest, now that I have a bit of traveling under my belt, I don’t think I would chose Contiki as a backpacker option if I hadn’t already been on one. But this was my first EVER tour on my first ever trip and it was perfect.

Contiki 'Wild Western' Tour
Contiki ‘Wild Western’ Tour

I went on the Wild Western tour of the US in 2009 and it was epic. Looping around California, Nevada and Arizona, I got to see the most spectacular sights of the Grand Canyon via helicopter, got to party in Vegas, cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, hiked through Yosemite NP,  had a hot air balloon ride over the Phoenix desert, sailed around the San Diego marina and hit the theme parks in LA. Here’s the tour reel:

Baseball Game in San Diego
Baseball Game in San Diego
Cactus in Arizona
Cactus in Arizona
Playing Cowboy in Sedona
Playing Cowboy in Sedona
Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
Vegas baby
Vegas baby
New York, New York hotel in Vegas
New York, New York hotel in Vegas
An actual Vegas wedding between 2 tour-goers!
An actual Vegas wedding between 2 tour-goers!
Tour pals
Tour pals
Hot Air Balloon ride in Phoenix
Hot Air Balloon ride in Phoenix
Yosemite
Yosemite

Now I’m not going to lie, this was an expensive trip. But it is America. And I did pretty much all the extra add-on experiences. And I had the best time ever. The trip is £1296. Ouch. I know right. I’m pretty sure it was cheaper 3 years ago… But it is epic.

You see how I slipped the price in there after the awesome photos?

You party pretty much every night on this tour. But it doesn’t actually feel excessive because it’s not proper clubbing every night. Sure you party hard in Vegas, but there was cabin parties in the Grand Canyon and just a couple of drinks after dinner in Santa Monica. So don’t let that deter you. It’s not Ibiza or anything. But I met great people on this tour so I wanted to go out every night. There’s always the option not to though, especially since you have to be over 21 to drink so the younger travellers go back to the hotel.

Contiki isn’t that well known in the UK but it’s pretty popular down under so a good 70% of my tour were Australian. But I think that’s a good thing because it was a good mix of people and didn’t feel chavvy in any way like you would assume an 18-30s holiday would be. Oh I should correct myself there, it’s actually 18-35yrs. I’ve just made it confusing haven’t I…

The accommodation and food on this trip is awesome. Sure you stay in a Motel 6 in Vegas, that I know people moan about, but it’s right on the strip so it’s ideal. There’s also a cabin you stay in at Bass Lake which is gorgeous and the San Fran hotel is down right fancy. And you visit some great restaurants. ‘Dick’s Last Resort’ in San Diego is definitely an experience!

So this sounds like a pretty awesome holiday. But why am I recommending it to backpackers? Because it’s so good for a first trip. I used this tour as a tester for travelling but didn’t want to jump in the deep end, starting from scratch in a new country without a bit of structure. This allowed me to travel solo for the first time, experience meeting other backpackers and really assess if this travelling malarkey was for me. Well, you know the answer to that.

FYI, Contiki also do tours throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and Canada. I definitely think I’ll do one of their tours again. Probably on a holiday rather than backpacking but I definitely think it should be considered. You can check out the tour here.

Get on it.

Yosemite
Yosemite
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

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