Three years ago, I took a thirty day trip to Europe with EF College Break. The company organizes trips to Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and Africa for anyone age 18 to 26. The trip you book includes flight, hotel stay, most transportation, and a welcome dinner, and a farewell dinner. You can book alone, or with friends. I booked my trip alone, which at the time, was completely out of character for me. When I was younger, I would actually beg my mom not to take me to summer camp. So, voluntarily signing up to be away from home for 30 days was a big deal – and the best decision I have ever made.
Here’s everything you need to know about EF College Break:
BEFORE THE TRIP you’ll get a chance to “meet” everyone in an invite-only Facebook group for your particular tour (time to change that profile picture to something that says “I’m fun to hang out with!”). The tour guide also uses this group, so it’s a great way to ask questions, collaborate with others about what you’re bringing (a lot of people in my group discussed what kind of phone they were using), and even meet a potential roommate.
Quick Tip: Be wary of securing a roommate before the trip has even started. You don’t want to get stuck with someone before getting to meet everyone else. By not having a set roommate, I got placed with someone new every time we switched hotels, which led me to meet a lot of new people.
ON TRAVELING: You may spend a lot of time in a bus or train. I did the “30 days in Europe” tour and while I had the time of my life, I wish I was more prepared for the long hours we would be spending in the bus. On my trip, we had 5-7 hour bus rides every three days. Though it was exhausting, it’s all worth it because you see so much! The bus trips are usually broken up with short stops along the way. The picture to the right is when we stopped in Assisi (it quickly became one of my favorite places). Another time, we stopped at Pont du Gard in Italy to swim and sun bathe beneath the ancient Roman bridge (how many people can say they’ve done that?).
Quick Tip: When booking your trip, look at the itinerary and beware of the days that say, “Travel to________”. You may want to google the distance to see just how much time you’ll spend in a bus or train.
THE TOUR GUIDES: While I can’t speak for every tour guide (though I’ve heard good things), my tour guide was amazing. She spoke about four different languages fluently and knew all the best spots to eat, sightsee, or just hang out. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she was also fun to be around. So get your idea of the typical tour guide (remember Miss Ungermeyer in the Lizzie McGuire movie?) out of your head, EF tour guides are anything but.
ON TOURING: it’s good to know that nothing is mandatory. Every day your tour guide will have the day scheduled with things to do and places to see, but you don’t need to do any of it. A lot of people go along because it’s fun to be with the group and the trips are, 90% of the time, the exact thing you were wanting to do. However, there are times when a museum or tourist attraction won’t look appealing to you, and that’s okay.
Remember: Nothing is mandatory. Don’t waste your time on something you don’t absolutely want to do, you’re only in each city for 2-3 days.
ON PACKING: I can’t stress this enough, pack light. This is not a vacation where your bag stays in the room and you can live out of your suitcase for a week. You are traveling constantly (see above) and there are many times you’ll have to walk around with your luggage. Often times the bus can’t park right in front of the hotels because of the narrow streets, so you’ll be forced to roll your luggage up and down the cobblestone side streets of whatever foreign city you’re in. And more often than not, the hotels will not have elevators. So when you’re deciding whether to bring that third pair of heels, think again.
Quick Tip: Bring non-perishable snacks from home. It sounds crazy, but you’ll be thanking yourself when everyone is spending money every time their stomach growls (it adds up!). Granola bars come in handy when you’re hungry in the hotel room at 3 AM.
ON GOING ALONE: Don’t be afraid to sign up for a trip alone. While a good amount of people go with friends, plenty of people sign up alone too. Like most things worth doing it was scary at the start, but at the end of it all I was a better person. I came home from the trip with a sense of independence, a view of the world (okay, Europe), and friends I know I’ll have for a lifetime.
OVERALL I definitely recommend EF College Break if you’re within the age bracket and looking to travel. It’s the easiest way to go- just sign up and leave the planning to the tour guides- and it’s reasonably priced.