For those who are unfamiliar with Contiki and Topdeck, they are a companies which organise trips for young people throughout various regions of the world which are advertised to be low cost or cost effective.
I have recently returned from a 12 day Topdeck trip through Italy, Greece and Croatia. As you can probably tell from my recent blog posts, I had a great time. In saying this, I would not do a Topdeck or Contiki trip again.
Before discussing the pros and cons of organised trips I want to stress that this is just my opinion. Everyone is different.
They’re organised – you literally have to organise nothing!!
Before I left people would ask me, “So where are you going to be on this date?” or “How long are you here for?” My response was always, “I don’t know.” And it was the truth! I didn’t know. I booked flights and the trip. As long as I met at the right time and place at the beginning of the trip, I did not need to know anything else. Totally stress free.
Included tour guide
Having a trip leader who knows so much about each destination, as well as an included tour guide is so great! It certainly wasn’t something which attracted me to the trip, but once you’re on it you realise just how valuable it is. If I were to visit these places on my own, without a tour guide, I wouldn’t have learnt even half the amount of stuff that I did. Learning so much makes you want to get out there and learn / experience even more.
Easily meet people
These trips are good for first time solo travellers, like myself, as you know you will be with a group of similar people the whole time. This ensures you make friends quickly, which is always nice. This isn’t such an important thing to me, but to many it is extremely important to not feel alone whilst abroad.
A LOT of travelling
After the first few days of the trip I was in such a bad mood. I realised how much I was paying and how little time I was actually spending at the destinations. It is just so frustrating that the itineraries you are given don’t provide a true representation of just how much travelling is actually involved.By the time you arrive at your destination, you realise that your time is quite limited. On my trip, you would arrive at a place at midday and would be told that we were departing early the next morning. That is just not enough time. The itineraries allow you to experience the touristy bits and the highlights of each place, and that’s about it. You don’t get the chance to ‘lose’ yourself or stumble across things at your own pace.
You never quite receive an ‘authentic’ experience as you don’t usually come across locals or other people from around the world. Now I love my country, Australia, but the best bit about travelling is meeting different people with different cultures. Everyone on these trips are from either Australia or New Zealand. People will assure you that they heard differently, or that their friend had a trip of half Americans, but that is not the case. You will be with people from around the corner at home.
Another issue is that the companies have you staying in quite nice hotels. They all have pools, gyms and so on – unnecessary luxuries. I roughly calculated in my head one day while we were travelling, that I could spend more than twice as long in each destination paying no more by staying in hostels rather than hotels. This just seemed so frustrating to me, especially because I like to be a budget traveller as au pairing doesn’t generate a great amount of money.
It was a great experience and I do not regret going on an organised trip, especially as it was my first time solo travelling. However, this will not happen again. After meeting some of the people on my trip, I now realise that I am actually capable of managing myself. Throughout the trip there were parts that were patronising but I realised that it actually wasn’t, it was because people genuinely did need the assistance or guidance.
I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on organised trips.