Europe Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • Recent Spam Attacks
    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Where to weekend away from Frankfurt
  2. 2 Mont St. Michel in winter
  3. 3 Honeymoon on a Budget
  4. 4 Paris and London Christmas / NY EVE
  5. 5 10 days in Paris and......
  6. 6 Summer Travel order
  7. 7 LIsbon
  8. 8 Trip Report The mouse munches her way through far off lands: The Christams Edition
  9. 9 International Flight Question
  10. 10 Luggage Storage
  11. 11 great hotel and food in Lyon
  12. 12 Which airport for Bellagio?
  13. 13 After Beaune, need suggestions for the next 10 days
  14. 14 Brugge hotel help
  15. 15 Trip Report In Search of Montalbano - the ups and downs of 10 days in Eastern Sicily
  16. 16 Driving from Viena to Frankfurt
  17. 17 Island hopping Croatia - into nature/hiking
  18. 18 Ireland in April-Day trips from Galway base
  19. 19 Another tipping question: concierges
  20. 20 Trip suggestion
  21. 21 Bernese Oberland + Luzern 4 days
  22. 22 Euro Travel & Trivia Quiz #139
  23. 23 Trip Report Back from Paris
  24. 24 Destination from London by train, advice please
  25. 25 Musee Carnavalet closed for now
View next 25 » Back to the top

Please give advice for a first - time EF tour traveler. What will make the trip better?

Jump to last reply

I signed up to do an EF tour next spring. Ok, so I have a feeling that I was not so smart when I did not check Fodor's before I signed up for this tour. Fodorites have some pretty negative things to say about EF. Is it really that bad, or is it a few disgruntled people? I have already committed to this tour(and so have some students). I am a pretty low maintainance traveler (hostels, grocery stores, etc.), so I am not used to 4 star hotels in my travels. Are we doomed to a horrible trip, or is there some way to make this a great experience for both me and the students? Please try to give me a ray of hope and sunshine. At this point, I need it. :-)

Thank you in advance for your replies.

  • Report Abuse

    I have done several EF Tours, and all have gone well. I have learned a few things along the way that I would be happy to share, but many here would not be interested in such details. If you would like for me to e-mail you, I would be happy to do so.

  • Report Abuse

    I don't know anything about EF tours, but I think a positive attitude goes a long way!! I truly believe that people find what they seek. I'll just bet you'll have a fine time!! 8-)

  • Report Abuse

    Expect:

    To not know your hotels or flights until one week before departure.

    Flight times and connections to not the be the best unless you are flying from a major hub in the northeast. One lady that reported on her EF trip last year their flights took 36 hours and they missed the first day's scheduled touring.

    To not know which tour you will be on for sure until one week before departure unless you have enough in your group to fill a bus(45-50)or are booking a private tour. They can and do change tours if the numbers don't crunch.

    Hotels not in the city center - can be as much as an hour out.

    Breakfast of bread and quite possibly tang (not OJ).

    If traveling to multiple cities - you will stop somewhere expensive for lunch with no other options around.

    To see glass blowing, leather crafting, etc. that ends in an expensive showroom.

    Early departures and little free time unless you are staying in one city.

    Dinners catered to teenagers - french fries, hamburgers, etc.

    Since you are used to budget places (hostels) it probably won't bother you much. It will bother some of you students/parents that have never stayed in such condtions. I think you should be up front with them about what hotel condtions you may encounter.

    Don't expect any refunds for your group even if promised. I'm still waiting for refunds from 2001 and a friend is waiting for refunds from a separate trip the same year.

    Many of the things listed above apply to all budget tours not just EF.

    Quality student tour companies - ACIS, NETC, CHA.
    Mid-range - Passports
    Budget - EF and Explorica.

  • Report Abuse

    I have traveled with EF twice now, first as a chaperone in 2004 with my oldest daughter and last year on a weekend to Paris orientation trip, and both have been wonderful experiences. The only thing that applies from the previous post of KY bourbon to my trips is the touring of glass blowing or leather making ending in an expensive souvenir shop. I never felt any pressure to buy in these places but looked at them as part of getting inexpensive prices for a tour. It is kind of like going to a condominium for a free or reduced weekend and having to hear a sales pitch. You can let it ruin your enjoyment or spend a few minutes enjoying the craft and walk through the shop afterward without any intention of buying anything. As I have posted here on several occasions, we had a great time with very good food and stayed in reasonable accomodations, some in cities and some not. It is largely what you make of it. I also will be glad to email you with any specifics you would like. I am leading a tour this summer and have found the EF people to be very helpful. At the orientation weekend I felt that everyone we met generally had our best interests at heart. Nothing is perfect but a lot of what you get is what you make of it. Have fun and I'll help any way I can.

    John

  • Report Abuse

    It really depends on what kind of tour you have signed on for. The private ones, which the chaperone can put together themselves, are generally pretty good. No, accommodation is not 4 star, and the food is indeed pretty bad if it is the part that is included with the tour. However, that does not mean that you are not going to see the things you want to see.

    What I have always found to overshadow any tour shortcomings are the attitudes of those on the tour. It is so important that the chaperones be as positive as possible and no, there is no reason to lie and say things like "well, I just love these french fries with gravy every night," but your attitide and energy will make the tour a lot better (or worse). Keep the group dynamic as positive as possible and you will be amazed at how good things can go.

  • Report Abuse

    I've never even heard of EF tours, but this board has great tips and advice, so go with what everyone here says/thinks. Also, you might want to check with www.epinions.com but of course if you have already signed up, you can just consider it an adventure...go with an open mind, and expect positive things and not negative things. You never know, you could make friends of a lifetime on this trip. I think attitude makes a huge difference, especially when we travel. Be flexible, roll with the punches, and don't let "little" things like meager breakfasts or cheapo dinners ruin your fabulous trip. You get out of life what you put into it. Don't go with a tained view and expect the worst, and perhaps you'll end up having a fabulous time! Let us know how it turns out!

  • Report Abuse

    My experience with EF was not at all positive BUT that doesn't mean yours won't be. You can go back and read my posts so I go on about our trip last summer. Here is my advice. I would make sure my students had extra money for meals. Our students especially the boys didn't get enough to eat. The breakfasts were the bear bones, most mornings a roll and coffee. Milk and Oj and anything else was extra. Dinners were usually pretty bad (Burnt) and the students were always hungry. I would have a good talk to all students about personal safety. We stayed in some pretty bad areas. Needless to say, I was shocked. Before someone flames me on that I am no prima dona but burnt out warehouse district motels in an area where we saw drug deals is not my idea of safe. I would bring along a guide book for the area you are going to, we used it a lot our guide didn't know her stuff. The extra side trips I would check into. Such as museums and side trips. One museum was an extra, EF charged us 20 Euro and when we went in it stated it was 7 Euro. They made 13 Euro off us! I was the same as you we signed up for my daughters french class EF tour and then read all the bad comments. I try to live my life as a positive person, so we went into this with an open mind. I would never do Ef again. I was not pleased at all with them. With our tour they failed. But that is not saying that they will fail with yours. There have been other positive posts on fodors about EF.
    PS I did think of something positive, the bus drivers were great!

  • Report Abuse

    I'm leaving in 2 weeks for my 7th EF tour to Spain (I've done France and Costa Rica as well). I've customized the last 5 and the although it costs more, the quality is much better and EF is much more committed to making it right for you than if you book a 'catalog tour'. A few things...

    1. In Spain, the food has been consistently good (if you like Spanish food)- very nice selections for the kids and adults, and lunches on their own are cheap
    2. The tour guides have been great and the kids always end up loving them-even crying when it's time to leave
    3. With any type of travel, expect the unexpected- delays, layovers, a hotel that isn't smack-dab in the city center (you noted you're not a high-maintenance traveler, so you should be just fine). If you are prepared and flexible, you'll be a lot better off
    4. Big, expensive cities like Paris, London and Rome will not have the greatest accommodations due to high prices and demand. Chances are, if you are right in the city center, your hotel will be budget 1-2 star. If you have a better hotel, you might be 1/2 hour out.
    5. Be very specific about your expectations with your EF tour consultant and if possible, work with one who has travel experience in the area you are visiting- makes a huge difference! You can request this.
    6. Prepare your students before you go, keep a positive attitude on the tour and laugh whenever you can- it makes travel much more enjoyable regardless if it's a student tour, personal travel, etc.
    7. My colleagues have taken tours with ASICS, Explorica, NETC, and they all have had similar experiences- good and bad
    8. EF offers amazing incentives for teacher travel and I've spent many summers in Europe because of the free tickets they've given me- it's not the reason I take students, but for a teacher it is a great way to see the world
    9. Of all the tours and hundreds of students I've taken, every kid has come back a different person with a new appreciation for seeing the world- regardless of any glitches along the way
    10. You've committed. Make notes along the way, think about customizing in the future and stay optimistic- your trip will be what you and your students make it! I think you'll have a great time:)

  • Report Abuse

    Thank you all for your great advice. I really appreciate it. It looks like a positive attitude in all situations wil be my best bet.

    Does anyone know how much "free time" I should expect on these tours (my tour is London, Paris, and Rome). I want to know if I am going to need to find activities for the students or plan places to go not included in the tour.

    Again, many thanks for the advice.

  • Report Abuse

    hester, who knew they ate bear in Europe? And not even the meat, just the bones. Should have been big bones, though.

    Sorry to make fun of your typo, but I couldn't resist.

  • Report Abuse

    UNCalum, I would like to email you to get specifics about your experience, but I cannot find an email adress. Could you post it please. Or, if someone else knows it, could you post it.
    Thank you

  • Report Abuse

    I did two EF tours with my daughters when they were in high school. On the first one the tour leader was very good - on the second he was pretty pitiful. It helps to have a good leader! The first trip was my first trip to Europe - went to Spain and Italy. All in all it was wonderful - I was blown away by Europe. I had done NO homework! figured all would be directed or explained to me. I think you will have a better experience if you do some pre-departure reading. You will probably have some free time and it would be smart to have some options in mind. When you get your hotels try to locate them on a map so you can get an idea of public transportation options. I found both tour directors a little casual about telling us how to get to and from our hotels to any sites went to on our own. I'm a somewhat picky eater and thought most of the food was just pitiful. But there were always opportunities to supplement with tasiter options, like gelato in Italy! EF has some flaws but you can still have a great time - I have alot of wonderful memories from both of the trips. Now I travel to Europe on my own once or twice a year but those initial tours were fine introductions to the pleasures of European travel! Bon voyage! SueC1

  • Report Abuse

    I am also traveling to Europe with EF in June. We are going to France, Spain, Monaco and Italy. 2 Years ago I used EF to take students to Costa Rica. We had a wonderful time. Food was good and the guide was very good. I'm hoping this trip will be just as nice. It certainly will be an experience. We are from a very small community and most of the students haven't even flown before.

  • Report Abuse

    Check to see how many optional excursions there are. You will need to arrange or guide your group somewhere when others are on any optional excursions. Most of the time was scheduled and there were only sporadic hours of free time, except at night. A little research will help to determine something you would like to see in any city that is not scheduled for the tour. My group is leaving on June 19th and we are also going to some of the places you are. We might even cross paths. If I can help you email me at baldworth@charter.net and I'll be glad to give any info that I have. I think you will have a great time.

    Baldworth

  • Report Abuse

    I think you have to take what you read on message boards with a grain of salt. Not all the posters have the same interests, flexibility, patience, tolerance, etc. Also, you have to realize that sometimes posts could be competitors trying to make the other companies look bad.

    EF is definitely one of the most experienced tour companies and definitely on the forefront with technology - and is the lowest priced. So, naturally, they take a lot of hits on these message boards.

    But the truth is, no matter who you travel with, you can have a good time or a bad time - a lot depends on you. Having an good attitude, an understanding that travel requires flexibility, that European hotels are not like American hotels and an open mind will make a tremendous difference.

    Setting expectations is also huge - be sure to do that with your students. I find that it is one of the key differentiators in the students' experience, and they will also take their cues from you. So, if you stay positive, so will they.

    Have a great time!

  • Report Abuse

    So far, your advice has been great. Just a few more questions.

    What kind of activities or research should I do with the students in order to better prepare them for the trip?

    What kind of items should I tell them to purchase in preparation for the trip next spring?

    What kind of fundraisers could I do (those with an emphasis on travel might be fun)?

  • Report Abuse

    You might want to assign a particular country to a group or individual student. Have them look up phrases or words from the local language and/or particular places of interest. Have them look up cultural differences and talk about the ones that really matter. Travel size toiletries are great and a money belt or passport holder/wallet that hangs around the neck inside your clothes is a must. Talk to them about pick-pockets and gypsies but don't scare them. There are many topics discussed on this site that will be great if you aren't sure.

  • Report Abuse

    You should definitely prepare them that European hotels - especially in the cities - are often quaint, small - do not come with the giant fluffy bath towels that you might find in a hotel they are familiar with.

    Definitely tell them to only bring 1 hair drier per room and a converter (you can buy those at any luggage store). Definitely a secure travel purse or pouch - NEVER leave your passport in your room (always keep it on them in a secure pouch or travel purse). A travel alarm clock (1 per room) is good because sometimes the wake up calls aren't so reliable and the rooms may or may not have an alarm. They should buy a phone card - either in the country or if the tour company offers them, they are usually pretty good deals and then can be used in any country.

    As far as setting expectations, I would tell them that travel is an adventure. Sometimes the greatest experiences come out of changes, delays, etc. So I would tell them to be paitent, flexible, keep an open mind.

    They should also try to learn a few phrases in the language for the country - in Paris, it is very rude if you don't say Bonjour when you walk in - manners are important. So, they should learn that and they will find that the people aren't "rude."

    For fundraisers, they could do an international festival, sell croissants or doughnuts, car washes, be at every school event selling something, make an international cookbook and sell it, etc.

  • Report Abuse

    Instead of buying a converter and lugging it along, buy a dual-voltage blow dryer and an adapter for the plug.

    No cell phones; most of ours don't work.

    Otherwise, good suggestions here.

  • Report Abuse

    I'm still laughing at myself at my bear bones typo mimar pointed out! But on to free time on your EF tour. On our tour, we had no time in Paris. But I think it was because we lost a day because it took us 36 hours to get from Seattle to Paris so we lost a day. My daughter and I went off by ourselves because we have been to Paris a couple times before and know our way around while our group did a tour we have done a couple of times before. In the South of France and Barcelona we had plenty of free time.
    I would bring a phone calling card from costco, they work really well. Just remember to bring the card that comes with it with the international numbers. I type those numbers on an address label and stick it on my phone card so I don't have to take the card. The phones don't work in your hotel rooms (they are locked off) you must use pay phones.

    I don't know if anyone has mentioned this but if you want a wash cloth you need to bring one. I have one of those ones from REI that dries fast.

    I would also bring a map for the cities I am in. That was very helpful on our down time. I was glad that we had maps and didn't have to waste our free time hunting one down.
    London, Paris and Rome are all such great cities and you will see such wonderful things. Despite our experience with EF not being good (that doesn't mean it will not be good for you) it did not diminish the wonderful sites and works of art we saw. I hope you have a wonderful time.

  • Report Abuse

    1. If you did this trip for the bonus cash and free trip. Yes Your students will get ripped off. They move the kids around so fast you never really get to enjoy anyplace you stay. EF is terrible company for the students but a great place to make a lot of money if you are a teacher.
    2. If you are a low maintainance traveler, not to worry the hotels EF provide are not top 4 stars like they say.Have you been to a motel 6? They are nicer.
    3. If you are traveling with a small group try to get the other groups to band together to get some free time or the group guide will drive you into the ground. Let the guide know they are working also for your tip money. That seems to help calm them down.I'm sorry but no ray of hope for this trip. Sorry

  • Report Abuse

    You've gotten some good advice on this post but the last poster was a bit on the debbie downer side!

    I'm about to leave on my 3rd EF trip. Is it a trip I'd want to take on my own? No, but I don't like being shuffled about. Is it a good trip for high school kids? YES! It gives them a taste of places - most teens are more in the more is better camp and would vote on seeing more in less time.

    I have had two positive experiences and expect a 3rd in a few weeks. The hotels weren't luxury but they were clean and safe which is what matters to me. I am a budget traveler like you and have stayed in hostels far sketchier than the hotels EF used. In London and Paris they weren't super central but were right by the Tube so they were fine. In Italy, we were outside the city center which was a disappointment, but not a trip breaker.

    The food wasn't always the greatest BUT they are trying to find food the average teenager will eat. Not all teens are ready to experiment so expect fries, etc. You always have lunch free so take that time to enjoy the local cuisine.

    As for free time, I've found you have a lot more than the trip description makes it seem you have. It is true that if you make your wishes known to your tour director, you will be able to do more things you might like. I've had two very good tour directors who have made sure everyone was doing what they wanted to do. No doubt there are some bad ones but that's true of anything.

    I've never had EF ask for money from students to purchase tickets - either we toured free attractions together or the ticket was included in the trip fee the students paid (who knows how that money was divided).

    So, it's not a luxury trip and I wouldn't suggest it for most adults (as it is VERY fast past - great for teens!) but all my kids have had a blast and many are eagerly awaiting the chance to travel further - and that's what we want right? Keep a positive attitude and remember that any bad stuff will give you a lovely story to laugh about later :-)

    As a disclaimer, I am traveling for free with EF but they aren't paying me to say nice things! I think it is wrong to assume that a teacher would take students on a trip as a money making venture. Could this trip be done more cheaply? Yes, BUT you are paying EF to book and arrange things for a large group (I'm taking 30 this year). That's what the students are paying a bit extra for. And considering the cost of airfare these days, they aren't getting ripped off by any means.

    Feel free to email me as well if you have other questions.

  • Report Abuse

    I have to concur with kybourbon. Categorically---DO NOT use EF. My son just left today with EF, one day late, missing a full day in Madrid. The airline had to work magic just to get the kids off a day late because yesterday we showed up 3 hrs late to the airport..as EF did not know that UA moved our flights 3 hrs up to allow enough connection time. Originally we only had 30 mins in ohare. When we tried to get it improved by EF -they were arrogant and wouldn't talk to parents or do anything about it. We warned them the airlines wouldn't do 30 mins..and parents were right.

    Other problem is hotels look to be in middle of no where. How will kids walk around town safely?

    Other problem is that I couldn't arrange to meet up with my son at the end because they wouldn't tell us dates until after their own deadline for changing kids' travel. I wanted to use freq flyer but couldn't do that 3 weeks out.

    Sorry I can't give you better story. I'll let you know in 2 weeks when kids return if they loved it or not.

  • Report Abuse

    Janisi-Did you happen to see if the trip went well for amcquiggan. I didn't realize the q was from last year. I'm crossing fingers its not all bad for ef travelers... Don't see any follow up postings from amc.

  • Report Abuse

    I know the OP has come and gone, but for others who might be considering EF -- here's another vote against it.

    I went to Spain on an EF tour while I was a senior in high school. On the plus side, our tour guide was delightful and sweet. We did hit all of the major sights in the cities we visited.

    But, as others have noted, the hotels were not the greatest. There was the one in Sevilla that was a 45 minute bus ride from the city; the one in...I can't remember the city!!...that refused to turn on the heat in November and was FREEZING; the one in Malaga that we were told was a "hip resort" but where we were the only people in the place under 65 and, due to its cafeteria-like eating facility, felt more like a nursing home. Furthermore, one of the Spanish teachers leading the group had been on a previous tour that had stayed in the freezing cold hotel and had specifically asked that we not stay there, and EF had assured her that we would NOT be staying there...yet, there we slept shivering for several nights.

    But the thing that to this day stands out in my mind is the food. Oh god, the food. My favorite was when we were served for dinner -- I am not lying here -- cold spaghetti noodles in tomato sauce (not marinara or anything like that, just tomato sauce) with canned tuna mixed in by the hotel we were staying at that night. It was disgusting.

    I left the EF tour with such a negative impression of the value that organized tours give you for your money that I haven't even considered taking another one since (7 years and three trips to Europe later).

  • Report Abuse

    Wow, talk about reviving a dead thread.

    I'll put in my bit. I am taking my 12th or 13th trip with students in less than 2 weeks. We chose not to go with EF and probably wouldn't choose them again. Our one EF experience was not as bad as Dawn's, but was definitely inferior to other companies.

    Don't panic if you or your child are scheduled on an EF tour, I don't think they are so awful you would be better off staying home. In our trip with them, the food and hotels were just adequate, but the kids still had a great time. After all, it is better to think of it as an adventure.

    I would advise organizing teachers that they should really consider other companies instead.

  • Report Abuse

    Goforaker, sounds like you've been doing this a while and I'm happy that you're done with EF Tours.
    Who are you traveling with this time around?
    EF literally has the worst reputation in the industry for student tours. Any parent that would trust their students with that company is just asking for trouble. How they continue to stay in business with that word of mouth is just beyond me.
    Oh well. I guess teachers don't think they can sell a trip that's 100 times better that costs a few bucks more.
    My wife's a teacher and every teacher she knows travels with ACIS Tours. I hear they are the best and take extremely good care of their groups. The Cadillac of student travel companies they call them.
    Anyway, that's my two cents. For what it's worth:)
    Safe travels!

  • Report Abuse

    I was with an EF Tour Group (parent of a student) which just returned from England (6/22/07).

    We were notified 6 days prior to departure that we were being moved from a hotel (which was booked for over 3 mons) to a college dorm. We were never compensated for the change and I can tell you that the services/accommodations were far from similar. I paid > $2,700 to stay at a college dorm for a week.

    On our 4th day at the college dorm, while we were gone on a day trip , there was money stolen from the rooms (over $300 US dollars) and other
    rooms rummaged thru looking for money. There was no forced entry , someone had a key. Security Personnel at the dorm and EF Tour Guide
    basically said that it was our responsibility to report the loss to the local police and assumed no liability , offered little assistance. You
    are truly on your own.

    Some individuals/parents in our group spoke to the employees at the restaurants we visited. Those employees said it was a joke passed amongst
    the restaurants and that EF pre-arranged for lesser meals/samples in order to cut cost.

    No amount of follow-up by the trip sponsor/teacher could have prevented the issues.

    I would never recommend EF Tours or University of London Queen Mary.

    Also, based on other comments/reviews, I’m not the only one.

    http://teachers.net/mentors/fieldtrip/topic884/4.10.07.06.59.51.html

    http://www0.epinions.com/166155424641-EF_Educational_Tours/display_~reviews/pp_~1/sort_~prdrt/sort_dir_~asc/sec_~opinion_list

    http://rss.epinions.com/rss/linkin_id-8003929/product-166155424641

  • Report Abuse

    bondj2000: Your experience seems to be similar to others and EF doesn't come off smelling very good.

    BUT - having said that - you cannot blame EF or anyone else for the stolen money. Who in their right mind leaves cash in a hotel room, hostel room, B&B room, or college accomodations??? Unless there is a room safe, and even then it isn't fool proof.

    That was very foolish . . . . .

  • Report Abuse

    The London School of Economics lets you book their dorms during school vacations. Some of them are quite decent, although I think you could probably do better on Priceline for London.
    http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/vacations/

    People traveling with EF have better experiences if they are not going to Europe (especially not during spring break times)and if they have their own private tour group.

    bondj2000 - Wow! Was that $2700 for 6 hotel (dorm)nights and airfare? What was the student price?

  • Report Abuse

    My son returned yesterday from a 2 week trip with EF. His first words off the plane was an expletive about EF tours. One hotel had NO running water..they already messed up the departure flights so all the kids missed a full day of their trip...food was horrendous..kids were stuck in hotels every night because they were so far from the city. The teacher did not want to trust public transp. which I appreciate. but evidently EF didn't care that kids spent their vacation in a hotel room...without water, no less. One hotel's pool was bug infested with a tarp over it.. kids were bussed so much they never got to just "be" somewhere for a day. The worst part is that EF scheduled so many 'tours' that teenagers couldn't care less about..but didn't take them to the cool stuff. They went to capri..but NOT into the blue grotto, which kids would have loved. They were in Barcelona and Nice, but never even saw the beach..They were in Rome, but not to the Crypt of the Monks bones.. Horrible, Horrible. Teachers-I beg you not to book another EF for your students. My daughter went with People to People and had an unbelievable experience. I wish had repeated that for my son.

  • Report Abuse

    Dublinohmom, have you talked to EF about possible compensation for your son's missed day of tour? If the missed day was caused by EF as you say, and not the airline, perhaps you can get some $$ back for that lost day. Schedule changes occur all the time with airlines. I have had my flights changed on the day of departure due to airlline schedule changes (nothing to do with EF)! These types of things get caught when travelers (in this case the teacher) calls to reconfirm the flights 24-72 hours prior to departure. Did the teacher/chaperone reconfirm the flights?

    I have traveled with EF for many years, and things do go awry along the way, but all the things you mention are not necessarily EFs fault. In EFs booking contract, there is no guarantee of having centrally located hotels. If at times the hotels are out of the city, there is usually some mode of public transportation available to get in and out of town if you so choose. You said that the teacher didn't want to take public transport while there? Plus many teachers like the fact that the students cannot "venture out unsupervised in the middle of the night". All depends on the teacher/group, I guess? I don' believe that there are promises for hotels with pools (working or not), although is would be a plus!

    Many of the hotels that student tour operators book are not always within the city limits or "downtown". Many centrally located hotels won't even consider taking student groups because they prefer the big bucks that the businessmen/women will bring in. Plus, expensive downtown hotels means higher prices for you, the parent! If you are traveling during peak season (summer!) with the rest of the world, there's bound to be some hotels outside of the city.

    Almost all of EFs itineraries are designed for students and are jam-packed with activities, so that students can see as much as possible, it mainly depends on what tour the group is going on. Cool stuff? You didn't give specifics, but generally things not listed as on the EF itinerary are done during free time. In Rome, you get at least a half day to do free time activities. The tours the group go to are things that you have paid for. If your son wanted to not participate in them to go do other things of interest to him, I imagine that would have been possible.

    I have been to Capri with EF and we "floated" by the Blue Grotto and we were allowed to get as close as possible to it to take a look however we could not enter due to high tide, so it was not physically possible (and highly dangerous) to attempt to enter the Grotto.

    For the crypt with the Monks bones- does your son mean the Catacombs? If so, I do believe EF offers that as an optional excursion on some of it's itineraries, or that's something groups do in their free time while in Rome if it is not already on the itinerary. Same with beaches- you can go to them on free time. Items on the tour can not be passed on outright unless it's a group concensus and people are willing to forego any future compensation for it. If you paid for the Catacombs optional on the tour and it didn't make though, then you should be getting a refund for it.

    If you haven't done so already, I would suggest writing a letter to EF to express your issues. Your hotel without running water sounds strange. I wonder what happened there?!?!?

    As for the food, more often than not, it will be something like chicken and fries. most kids I know won't go near foie gros. The more adventurous ones tend to experiment during the lunch meal as that is not included on the tour.

  • Report Abuse

    I, like a previous poster, had wished I had read the reviews on EF before I agreed to chaperone and take my family of 4 at a cost of over $8000 on a 10day tour to the US East Coast. Positive attitudes do go a long way in making a trip, but just as excitement can make a trip great; exhaustion, poor food, little sleep in uncomfortable hotels can dull the overall experience. As a teacher, I thought that this would be a great learning experience for not only my students but my children as well. We just got back from our 10 day East Coast trip to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Jamestown a couple of weeks ago.
    Our problems started before we even got to the airport. Our EF travel rep did not return calls or emails promptly (it was not unusual for her to reply 2 or more weeks after the initial contact had been attempted--sometimes not at all). Moneys to student accounts were not posted promptly thus students incurred late fees (later removed but still a headache). As I was not the lead teacher, I let that person take care of details. However, a couple of weeks before the tour we had still not received a finalized itinerary or airline information, costs were charged on our accounts that we had not been pre-notified about, and the travel rep was blaming our travel leader. Result: I as a paying parent and non paying chaperone had to call the company and insist on talking with our rep and her supervisor. An hour later not much was resolved but our tour leader received a very nice flower arrangement the next day (what was that!?), it did not compensate for the long distance phone call I had to make, my time, or the loss of one full day because of travel.
    Upon finally arriving at our destination on the East Coast (we were traveling from the west coast) our group was taken directly to Court Street in Boston, given coupons to some fast food stands and allowed to wander around for an hour. At about 6:30 pm the bus drove us to the Prudential Center where we stayed for over an hour before finally making it to our hotel (9:30 at night, our students had been up since 3 am Pacific time to make their flight). Our ‘down time’ was until 8:00am when the bus would leave again. From that point on it was walking tours and bus tours. Every thing was so rushed that students were not able to really take everything in. Coming from a rural town of less than 10,000 residents (many of our students had never traveled any substantial distance from home); Boston was an assault on the senses. We did not return to the hotel until after 10pm. Yes, hotels were all in suburbs (which was fine with the chaperones, though if they had been in the city I doubt the students would have tried to leave simply because they were too tired). Our group was routinely given 6-7 hours from the time we arrived at a hotel to the time we had to meet to get on the bus for the next day. We all averaged less than 6 hours of sleep per night.

    Hotels were in the two-star range, which I understood because of cost. Beds were uncomfortable, rooms smelled, mildew in the showers was the norm. Continental breakfasts were substandard yet we all knew we had to eat because we did not know when we would eat again. It was typical to eat at 7-7:30 in the morning and not have lunch until 2 or 3pm. Students had snacks that they bought from the hotel vending machines or fruit that they took from breakfast, they were not allowed to go to convenience stores to get supplies such as snacks or drinks (there were none within walking distance of the hotels and a local mini-mart was not on the itinerary) but our tour guide did offer to sell us ice cold water bottles at the cost of two for a dollar (what a deal!) that he had stored under the bus in an ice chest.

    Our tour guide was not very informative and when we did do bus tours he would not elaborate on what the students were seeing. Our walking tour guides often could not answer questions or did not speak loud enough, over the traffic, so that our students could hear them. Other times they would focus on the trival rather than historical landmarks. Example: While at Arlington National Cemetery our tour guide spent about 10 minutes in front of the headstone of Audie Murphy but merely pointed out at from a distance, without elaboration, the monuments dedicated to the Challenger and Columbia Disasters, or the mast of the USS Maine (immediate cause of the Spanish-American war) which were in the same area. Our team leader was reluctant to make changes to the itinerary because EF personnel were the “experts”.

    In 10 days, our group of students ranging in age from 8-18 years of age had one evening of down time and that started at 6pm.

    All students had budgeted $10 a day for lunch and some additional monies for souvenirs. Because of the high cost of traveling many were out of money by the 6th day. Luckily most parents were able to provide credit cards to their children for emergencies but some had not and the chaperones started to lend out money. Even the thriftiest spender over spent. Our tour guide would not allow students to go to street vendors who were selling t-shirts at the price of 3 for $10 but rather would only take them to ‘official’ souvenir shops where the least expensive t-shirt could easily cost over $10.

    Our tour guide was somewhat dismissive of students during the first part of the trip, but about 3 days before our trip was to conclude he really started to warm up to them. One student loudly commented that it was probably because he wanted a larger tip. What students couldn’t see was the tour guide rolling his eyes regarding students’ comments or actions when he thought no one looking. EF recommends tips for tour guides to range from $3-5 dollars per day and bus drivers to be tipped $1-3 dollars per day. The tip cost for a 10 day trip can add up to anywhere from $50-80 per student. Tips are expected.

    The last few days of the trip the students were exhausted, ready to go home, and not enjoying the sight seeing anymore. The price is good, especially for a non paying chaperone but the hidden costs are numerous. Many students told me that they loved the experience, would do it again but differently.

    Bottom Line:
    Make sure your tour leader knows your groups needs and is willing to be flexible with the group.
    As a group leader, be ready to actively advocate for your group. Demand downtime, decent accommodations and the ability to visit a local Wal-Mart or convenient store at some point so students can ‘stock up’ and save valuable money.
    Expect to pay premium costs for snacks, drinks, and souvenirs
    Expect to spend at least $20.00 per day or more.
    Expect to be eating artery clogging food from a ‘tour friendly’ menu (all the cheap stuff)
    Expect to eat when you can, even if you’re not hungry because you don’t know when you’ll eat again.
    Carry a bottle of water at all times and fill it at a water fountain whenever you can, the trip is not the place to be a water snob.
    Eat fresh fruits or veggies whenever you can, a body can only eat so many hamburgers before it revolts.
    Take at least two pairs of comfortable walking shoes
    Pack enough clothes for each day of the trip, some hotels may have laundries but don’t expect that you will have the time to use them.

    In summation, though long I hope my advice will help future travelers. As parents, teachers and chaperones a lot of time, money and sacrifice has been invested into making a great trip and wonderful life long memories for your students and children. Expectations should not be placed high or even at an average range. Expect less, know what you’re getting into, prepare for it and you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you may even find yourself pleasantly surprised. Safe travels and Godspeed to you all.

  • Report Abuse

    Have just read through this thread and my thanks to everyone who has posted it has been very informative. I have a tour to New York booked with EF, wish I had found these postings before I had booked. Still I have got a positive attitude and do want my students to have a great time. Our hotel is the Holiday Inn Hasbrouck Heights in New Jersey, which seems a bit far from the New York tourist sites. The itinerary said that we would go on a walking tour from the airport and not reach the hotel until the evening after visiting the Empire State Building. But as the trip is booked for February I have emailed my tour manager and told her we will have to go to the hotel to leave luggage there before the walking tour and hopefully have an hour to freshen up first. Would be grateful for any advice that anyone has. I have 36 enthusiastic sixth form students who have saved hard for this trip and four teachers in addition to myself so any advice would be welcomed.

  • Report Abuse

    Zenotia, I am guessing that you will leave your luggage on the tour bus.

    I went on an EF tour when I was 17 and had a fantastic time. I thought the hard rolls and coffee for breakfast were simply the European way. Now that I am much older, I know that many of the things I took as simply being "different" were actually because I was on an extremely inexpensive tour.

    The bottom line is that all I expected was to be wowed by Spain and I was.

    I live in NYC and you will have a fabulous time. I recommend that you simply go with the flow. The tickets are purchased, the tour is booked. Any hiccups you can blame on simply being "the American Way!"

  • Report Abuse

    I was not happy with EF Tours:

    1) I was not given flight information until the afternoon before departure. I was not given hotel information until the day of departure. I was a basketcase.

    2) I live five minutes from an airport, but had to drive two hours to fly out of a different airport.

    3) Hotels are not usually in city center. We stayed one hour outside of Rome in a dark, scary place.

    4) Had a piece of hard bread and Tang for breakfast most mornings.

    5) Had a group of 48.

    6) Because our hotels were not in city center, we would leave most mornings around 6 a.m.

    7) EF Tours called my phone when I was on the plane DEPARTING THE UNITED STATES to tell me that I had to pay a supplement for my ten-year-old daughter.

    I highly recommend Rick Steves tours. www.ricksteves.com

  • Report Abuse

    KL

    You don't mention who organized the tour - usually a teacher for her/his students. I'm not a big defender of EF, other student travel companies are usually lots better, for only a little more money.

    1. I bet the local organizing teacher had the info earlier. Blame her.

    2. That is common with tours.

    3. One of the more common complaints about EF. Out of the city center, but usually not scary.

    4. EF is bargain basement. No way can they compare with Rick Steves.

    5. So? You knew you were on a tour. They try to fill a bus.

    6. Leave 6 AM? To go where? Even if you were an hour of of town that doesn't make sense unless whoever planned the trip planned a 4 or 5 hr bus trip each day with way too much traveling. Anyway, that couldn't have much to do with your being out of the city center.

    7. 10 year old daughters have no business traveling on a trip full of high school students. On the tours we plan out, we don't even take non teacher adults. We only take High School Sophomores through graduated Seniors with sufficient working chaperons.

    These EF tours are designed for high school students on a budget. These are not designed for adults as paying customers. I find it sad that teachers will sign up non-students just to fill a trip. Trying to compare with Rick Steves much more expensive tours for adults is silly.

  • Report Abuse

    Hey amc,

    I did an EF tour when I was in high school and loved every minute. I am also a low maintenance traveller and I didn't see anything to complain about other than the hotel that we stayed at in Paris MR BED CITY was the name. HORRIBLE is the only word I can think of for it. Not in a nice area, very dirty, smelly etc etc.

    But you know what it's all part of the adventure I guess...
    We started our days very early 5:45am-6:45am on average, but that's the only way to fit everything in. I didn't mind it at all.

    Out guides were great, friendly, knowledgeable, patient, accomodating etc. I may have been young but I remember most details and really had a great time.

    They look after you, and so what if you're staying a bit out of the way in some places?? They show you into the city anyways so you have nothing to sweat!

    There was some free time usually 1 to 2 hour segments where you could shop a bit or grab a bite or just relax, walk around etc.

    I'm sure you'll have a good time if you have an open mind and a good idea of what to expect.

    I hope you enjoy your trip!

    Layla %%-

  • Report Abuse

    gforaker - EF does not limit their tours to high school students. They are open to students 10 and up. EF doesn't care if they combine middle school students with college kids. They do it all the time. Most groups are not planning their own tour, but are taking one of the stock tours which includes groups from other schools/states/countries of various ages. Many mornings are very early departures on the stock tours.

  • Report Abuse


    gforaker,

    You are correct. A local teacher organized our EF tour. The teacher did have the information earlier, but did not give tour participants the information. Whenever I called EF, they would not give me information because they said they only gave information to the group leader. I do not like having subgroups within a tour group.

    Staying one hour away from city center adds two hours of extra driving time per day. That is why we were up so early in the mornings.

    First of all, it is my business at what age I take my daughter to Europe. Second of all, I didn't say anything about a trip full of high school students??? And third, this trip was sponsered through my daughter's middle school teacher.

    Comparing tour companies is never silly. We are all different and have different lifestyles. By letting others know what types of tours are available, they can make decisions that are in line with their desires. I wish that I would have had some of this information three years ago.

  • Report Abuse

    The teacher usually doesn't have the info more than one week in advance or at least that's been my experience. Perhaps if you are booking a private custom tour, they give the info earlier. I haven't done this, but it does seem they treat custom private groups better since they are usually paying more.

  • Report Abuse

    I didn't say that EF restricts it's tours to only high school students, of course not. It is clear, though that the tours are designed for high school students, just look at the web site and promotional materials. I believe EF has another company marketed to College age students. I said that on our student tours with whatever company we organize through, my wife and I choose to only take Sophomores through graduated Seniors. We have taken other adults in the past and it just makes it a different type of trip and for a number of reasons keeps us from maximizing the experience for the students.

    KL I am not telling you that you can't take your 10 year old daughter to Europe, just not on our student trip. If your daughter's middle school planned a parent / child trip that is new to me, but I would agree with you that the EF Hotels barely acceptable to high school students, might not be acceptable to 10 year olds. When is 10 years old a middle school student?

    I can't imagine the wisdom of taking middle school kids to Europe without their own parents along. Many situations can come up which small groups of high school students can handle but middle school students probably wouldn't. If they don't require the parents to go along, what ratio of chaperons to kids do they have?

    Staying an hour out of town might take 2 hours out of your day, I did not disagree with that, but I still doubt that it would make you leave the hotel at 6:00. Get up at 6:00, yes, we did that a few times, but nothing is open in the city at 7:00. The original comment was that the distance outside of town was what caused the early departure, not a travel day.

    kybourbon You may be right about advance notice, out of our 12 trips with students, only one was with EF and that was a custom trip. All of our trips are now custom and 33 to 45 kids. We do now use other companies than EF.

    Some of our early trips were catalog trips combined with other schools and I understand how that can change things.

  • Report Abuse

    I was with an EF Tour Group (parent of a student) which returned from London 6/22/07.

    We were notified 6 days prior to departure (see attached letter) that we were being moved from a hotel (which was booked several months prior to departure) to a college dorm.

    We were never offered any compensated for the change and I can tell you that the services/accommodations were far from similar. I paid > $2,700 and my daughter > $2,000 to stay at a college dorm for a week , never received clean towels or new bed linens for the week.

    By creating the potential excitement & enjoyment for the students and the penalty for cancellation, EF Tours creates a “no win” situation for the parents. Thus the bill is paid.

    On our 4th day at the college dorm, while we were gone on a day trip, there was money stolen from several rooms (over $300 US dollars). There were other rooms rummaged thru looking for money. There was no forced entry, someone had a key. Security Personnel at the dorm and EF Tour Guide basically said that it was our responsibility to report the loss to the local police and assumed no liability, offered little assistance. You are truly on your own.

    Some individuals/parents in our group spoke to the employees at the restaurants we visited. Those employees said it was a joke amongst the restaurants regarding EF Tours and their meals/samples negotiated for the tour groups, in order to cut cost.

    I would never recommend EF Tours or University of London Queen Mary and I have posted my comments on several web-sites…including Fodors , Teachers.net , etc…..

    Also, based on other comments/reviews, I’m not the only one. I have written a letter and received a reply (a sorry) from EF Tours.

  • Report Abuse

    Went along with a school group on EF Tour to Germany,Austria,Switzerland Venice and Verona in July of 2004.(paid full adult price) We had a nonstop flight both ways, an awesome Tour Guide and a good bus driver. We did stay at hotels away from anything but that was OK. They were always clean. Safety was never an isssue except when we stayed at a beach location 30 minutes from the Venice ferry landing. EF has a better location there but we stayed in a run down scary motel with a flimsy door and serenading drungs cruised the boardwalk in front of the place all night long.
    We were fed some form of pork our first 5 nights. The only odd thing served was pretzels in a broth. It was tasty...or were we just starved?
    Anyway, it was a busy but wonderful trip that gave me the confidence to start traveling to Europe independently.

  • Report Abuse

    Make sure you completely understand their cancelation policy before signing up a high school student for a tour. European tour - original plan they sold us on was 5-6 countries, then changed down to two countries.

    If you cancel less then 110 days before departure your refund is less 50% of the Program fee ($2995. for his), Enrollment Fee ($95) and All Inclusive Ins Plan fee ($145). So they took all of that money from us for nothing!!

    Seems like a huge scam!!

  • Report Abuse

    I guess this thread was resurrected to warn others but almost all tours have penalites for cancelation after final payment, and that is usually about 3 months out. On any tour, with any company or cruise, it is a good idea to be aware of penalites that can be imposed and buy travel insurance with the option to cancel for any reason.

    I'm a bit surprised at the drastic itinerary change, after final payment? but the details here are pretty slim so I am wondering how this actually played out.

  • Report Abuse

    You may actually be better off anyway. I used to do these tours with students. I always took time to calculate how much total time was spent on the bus during the trip. Some of the tours that whirl you through 5-6 countries have students on the bus everyday for hours with very little real sight-seeing time. The ones that stick with one or two countries do a much better job of letting kids really see things and have a little time to explore on their own. usually though, if they have to cancel one tour, they try to offer you more than one other option.

  • Report Abuse

    I just got back from an EF tour and I was extremely disappointed at how my entire trip was over all. The reason for this was, mainly because of my tour guide. Her attitude from the very beginning was off putting. She was very abrupt, borderline rude, unprofessional, as she had to inform the chaperones of her financial difficulties, homelessness, pending separation from her significant other and lack of interest in our overall well-being. The first day In Berlin was awful. Most people were awake for over 24 hours. When we arrived there our guide took us on a tour. After walking for an hour and a half in the hot and humid weather, people in our group became very dehydrated and need to use the bathroom. Our guide would not let us stop because, we were told there was not enough time. This problem was on-going for most of the trip. This problem was baffling to me because bathroom and water breaks should have all been planned out ahead of time in our schedule. Another issue we had was safety. There were numerous times when we would have to use a public bus. This was fine, but there we a few times where the bus would already be full and our guide would insist that 50 more people could fit on. This caused practically our entire group to be standing on a tiny bus which made it a very uncomfortable situation. Another safety issue that we had a problem with was the train we took to Amsterdam. When our trip was first booked 18 months prior we were told we would be taking the second fastest train in the world to Amsterdam and it would be a comfortable ride. However, when we arrived our guide said she had to cancel it. This was a bit disappointing, but everyone was brushed it off .Before we boarded the train our guide informed us that some people in our group may have to room with strangers, which was very inappropriate and not safe. When we boarded this new train we were taking to Amsterdam it was a nightmare. We boarded to a foul smell, the hall ways had drunken people loitering as well as drunken men hanging out of their rooms groping two girls on the trip, multiple teachers and students were crying with disgust and fear. My bunk mates and I entered our room, which was about 6 feet by 5 feet with 6 bunks. The bunks had stains and did not look clean; there was no air conditioning and absolutely no room for 6 suitcases as well as back packs and other bags. Another thing that was upsetting was the fact that we had been sweating all day in Berlin before we boarded the train, then got on the train without showering and did not shower that night. That would have been fine if we checked into our hotel that morning in Amsterdam but we did not do so until late that night. This would mean we wouldn’t have been able to shower for almost 48 hours, making many of us feeling grimy, sweaty and irritated. Something else that upset a great deal of people was the fact that some people got first class accommodations in our group, this was not fair because we all paid the same price for this trip, this just proves how disorganized our guide was.
    Our guide seemed to be booking activities on the itinerary for that day, that very day. When we went to the Anne Frank house we waited in line for 30 minutes, when went to the desk for our tickets the man asked our guide how many were over 18 and who was 17 and under because of the price differences. Our guide did not know so she had to try and figure it out but in the end just made and estimate of who was what age. This wasted more time we did not have. When our guide finally went to pay she took out a wad of cash. My confusion about this whole situation was why were not these tickets pre-booked? Because of all the time wasted we had to quickly rush through the house. Another place I was very disappointed in was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial which was also on the itinerary. When we arrived we went to the building where we were met by an employee who asked if we had reservations, Mirjam told the employee that we did not, so we wasted an hour just walking around the Memorial with little to no education of what it was even about.
    On our trip many group members noticed that our guide would be on her cell phone and lap top a great deal of the time. She would usually be doing this when would stop at a site which proved her lack of interest. On one occasion at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial our guide was laying out on a pick-nick table sunning herself .Our guide also had a great deal of lack of knowledge when would travel to new places. She would often leave it up to our teachers to talk about certain things she should have been educated about. Our guide was also very pushy with time. She would get very irritated if you were 5 minutes late and would threaten to cancel things. The ironic thing was, our hotels were often an hour to two hours out of the main cities which meant we spent the majority of the time on the bus and we would have to wait in line ups because she almost never pre-booked things which wasted a great deal of time as well.
    Some other disappointments on the trip were many things that were on the itinerary were not visited such as; Unter den Linden, Reichstag,which we were led to believe we would be going into but the bus driver needed to end his shift so there was no time, Koninklijk Paleis, the Apeldoorn Palace, Neuve Chapelle (Hitler’s Bunker), and Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb). We paid thinking that we would see all these things, but did not, which lead to people questioning what we did pay for?
    Our guide was very ignorant when it came to food allergies. She is a vegetarian, and every night her meals would be made for her. I am lactose intolerant and my meals would often contain lactose. When I would remind her she would get very rude and tell us nothing could be done. I am also gluten free and informed EF tours about my allergies months prior to leaving. When I first boarded the plane I had no supper and no breakfast because the airline was not informed. This was just the beginning of many issues I had with my meals. About half my meals were actually specially made; however, these specially made meals would often contain either lactose or gluten. This was very frustrating to me and caused me to spend extra money on food. The meals were also small and cheaply made, meaning things such as French fries and a slice of canned meat were examples of things we would eat for supper.
    Our guide had certain behaviours that were very suspicious for the most part. When she would cancel activities or change things, that was money we were losing (and not be reimbursed) but someone had to be gaining. This caused concern and made people wonder whether or not our guide was pocketing some of the money ,seeing how she did have big wads of cash even though she was homeless. There was one situation where our guide got very rude about money. When we arrived at the checkpoint Charlie museum our guide had told our group that we could go in the museum if we wanted or we could shop around. So three other girls, a parent and myself decided to look at the gift shops. About 30 minutes into looking at the shops our guide hunted us down and told the parent we were with, in a rude tone the next time we were not going to go to a museum to tell her so she does not have to waste money buying tickets. She then shoved the tickets at the parent. This made us all very upset because we paid $3,400 for this trip which would most likely cover the cost of those tickets, so there was no need to tell her because it was our money being wasted.

  • Report Abuse

    Sorry you had such a bad trip, but EF is the very low end of student tour companies. Some of your complaints have to do with EF, not the guide. If you had searched on the web about EF before booking, you would have found out what kind of service they give.

    If you are the teacher that booked for your group, next time look a higher end student tour such as ACIS, NETC or CHA. The food will still be geared to high school students (french fries, etc.), but the hotels will be better located/quality.

    If you want to attempt to get some money back for excursions that were listed as included that you didn't receive, they are located in Boston. You can complain through the BBB in that area. First you need to read the actual tour brochure to make sure those things were actually included. If it says "visit" then you should have gone inside the attraction. If it just said "view" then it's just a drive by or walk by, not entry.
    http://boston.bbb.org/

  • Report Abuse

    I just got back from a trip with EF tours and I was extremely disappointed at how my entire trip was over all. The reason for this was, mainly because of my tour guide. Her attitude from the very beginning was off putting. She was very abrupt, borderline rude, unprofessional, as she had to inform the chaperones of her financial difficulties, homelessness, pending separation from her significant other and lack of interest in our overall well-being. The first day In Berlin was awful. Most people were awake for over 24 hours. When we arrived there our guide took us on a tour. After walking for an hour and a half in the hot and humid weather, people in our group became very dehydrated and need to use the bathroom. Our guide would not let us stop because, we were told there was not enough time. This problem was on-going for most of the trip. This problem was baffling to me because bathroom and water breaks should have all been planned out ahead of time in our schedule. Another issue we had was safety. There were numerous times when we would have to use a public bus. This was fine, but there we a few times where the bus would already be full and our guide would insist that 50 more people could fit on. This caused practically our entire group to be standing on a tiny bus which made it a very uncomfortable situation. Another safety issue that we had a problem with was the train we took to Amsterdam. When our trip was first booked 18 months prior we were told we would be taking the second fastest train in the world to Amsterdam and it would be a comfortable ride. However, when we arrived our guide said she had to cancel it. This was a bit disappointing, but everyone was brushed it off .Before we boarded the train our guide informed us that some people in our group may have to room with strangers, which was very inappropriate and not safe. When we boarded this new train we were taking to Amsterdam it was a nightmare. We boarded to a foul smell, the hall ways had drunken people loitering as well as drunken men hanging out of their rooms groping two girls on the trip, multiple teachers and students were crying with disgust and fear. My bunk mates and I entered our room, which was about 6 feet by 5 feet with 6 bunks. The bunks had stains and did not look clean; there was no air conditioning and absolutely no room for 6 suitcases as well as back packs and other bags. Another thing that was upsetting was the fact that we had been sweating all day in Berlin before we boarded the train, then got on the train without showering and did not shower that night. That would have been fine if we checked into our hotel that morning in Amsterdam but we did not do so until late that night. This would mean we wouldn’t have been able to shower for almost 48 hours, making many of us feeling grimy, sweaty and irritated. Something else that upset a great deal of people was the fact that some people got first class accommodations in our group, this was not fair because we all paid the same price for this trip, this just proves how disorganized our guide was.
    Our guide seemed to be booking activities on the itinerary for that day, that very day. When we went to the Anne Frank house we waited in line for 30 minutes, when went to the desk for our tickets the man asked our guide how many were over 18 and who was 17 and under because of the price differences. Our guide did not know so she had to try and figure it out but in the end just made and estimate of who was what age. This wasted more time we did not have. When our guide finally went to pay she took out a wad of cash. My confusion about this whole situation was why were not these tickets pre-booked? Because of all the time wasted we had to quickly rush through the house. Another place I was very disappointed in was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial which was also on the itinerary. When we arrived we went to the building where we were met by an employee who asked if we had reservations, Mirjam told the employee that we did not, so we wasted an hour just walking around the Memorial with little to no education of what it was even about.
    On our trip many group members noticed that our guide would be on her cell phone and lap top a great deal of the time. She would usually be doing this when would stop at a site which proved her lack of interest. On one occasion at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial our guide was laying out on a pick-nick table sunning herself .Our guide also had a great deal of lack of knowledge when would travel to new places. She would often leave it up to our teachers to talk about certain things she should have been educated about. Our guide was also very pushy with time. She would get very irritated if you were 5 minutes late and would threaten to cancel things. The ironic thing was, our hotels were often an hour to two hours out of the main cities which meant we spent the majority of the time on the bus and we would have to wait in line ups because she almost never pre-booked things which wasted a great deal of time as well.
    Some other disappointments on the trip were many things that were on the itinerary were not visited such as; Unter den Linden, Reichstag,which we were led to believe we would be going into but the bus driver needed to end his shift so there was no time, Koninklijk Paleis, the Apeldoorn Palace, Neuve Chapelle (Hitler’s Bunker), and Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb). We paid thinking that we would see all these things, but did not, which lead to people questioning what we did pay for?
    Our guide was very ignorant when it came to food allergies. She is a vegetarian, and every night her meals would be made for her. I am lactose intolerant and my meals would often contain lactose. When I would remind her she would get very rude and tell us nothing could be done. I am also gluten free and informed EF tours about my allergies months prior to leaving. When I first boarded the plane I had no supper and no breakfast because the airline was not informed. This was just the beginning of many issues I had with my meals. About half my meals were actually specially made; however, these specially made meals would often contain either lactose or gluten. This was very frustrating to me and caused me to spend extra money on food. The meals were also small and cheaply made, meaning things such as French fries and a slice of canned meat were examples of things we would eat for supper.
    Our guide had certain behaviours that were very suspicious for the most part. When she would cancel activities or change things, that was money we were losing (and not be reimbursed) but someone had to be gaining. This caused concern and made people wonder whether or not our guide was pocketing some of the money ,seeing how she did have big wads of cash even though she was homeless. There was one situation where our guide got very rude about money. When we arrived at the checkpoint Charlie museum our guide had told our group that we could go in the museum if we wanted or we could shop around. So three other girls, a parent and myself decided to look at the gift shops. About 30 minutes into looking at the shops our guide hunted us down and told the parent we were with, in a rude tone the next time we were not going to go to a museum to tell her so she does not have to waste money buying tickets. She then shoved the tickets at the parent. This made us all very upset because we paid $3,400 for this trip which would most likely cover the cost of those tickets, so there was no need to tell her because it was our money being wasted.

  • Report Abuse

    fcat: You already posted that and got two nice/informative replies from kybourbon. Absolutely NO reason to post the same thing again.

    (BTW - it would really help if you used paragraphs - i.e. double returns)

  • Report Abuse

    Thank you Kybourbon for the tips. And for your information janisj, it didn't appear on my laptop that I posted it twice. I'm sorry for the mistake if it bothered you that much but there is no need to be rude. Thank you have a nice day.

  • Report Abuse

    "there is no need to be rude."

    "A well educated person should be able to understand it either way.
    "

    So who exactly was the rude one here?

    Of course I can understand it. However it isn't worth the time/hassle to wade through something like that. (An 'educated' person should know - one needs to double return to get paragraph breaks . . . and to use the preview function)

  • Report Abuse

    Since you were paying for your trip, I guess you weren't the teacher as they travel free. If your school plans trips every year maybe you can convince them to use a better company next time, but many teachers want to use the cheapest company.

  • Report Abuse

    Seriously janisj what is your problem with me stating my opinion of how my trip was? I am a 16 year old student who had an awful trip. I am not the first one to put negative comments about EF tours. So maybe you should just get over the fact that they are a terrible student tour company. Let me guess why you are defending them, is it because you work or are a teacher that travels with them? Probably. Frankly I don't care. It’s sad because you're most likely a grown woman sitting at home waiting for someone to speak against EF tours so you can immediately defend them. I spent close to 4 thousand dollars on this trip and had a negative experience, and I would want others to inform me of a bad tour company. Sorry I am being a considerate human being.

  • Report Abuse

    You had a bad and, for you, expensive trip. That is a shame. Your report was extremely hard to read. That is also a shame. Your response above is rude. That is a fact. I hope you treat your teachers with more respect.

  • Report Abuse

    "Let me guess why you are defending them, is it because you work or are a teacher that travels with them? Probably."

    " . . . waiting for someone to speak against EF tours so you can immediately defend them
    "

    hardly . . . if you had read the thread you would see I agree they are a bad choice. I just couldn't wade through your rant.

  • Report Abuse

    I shouldn't get in a spitting match w/ a child, so sorry.

    But if you re-read my post I was not being rude. I simply said you didn't need to re-post the whole thing and that it would help if you used paragraphs. I guess me capitalizing the "NO" may have upset you. But I certainly wasn't rude -- was actually trying to help you get better response in future.

    Most of us know EF is a crap company.

  • Report Abuse

    fcat - well I hear you - I did two EF student trips with my daughters, the first one was OK, the second had a guide like yours. He was a student (doing graduate work on Norwegian lit.) and he led us from Rome to Madrid.

    The first night in Rome he took the group on a walking tour - fortunately I did not go as I was meeting a friend. The group got back to the hotel at 2am! he had planned to bring them back on the bus but did not realize that the buses stopped running at some point so they walked for hours! death march! I also remember an incident like the money for tickets - asking the kids for money for tickets that you would have thought were pre-purchased.

    Even tho he was European he seemed ignorant of train travel - we were all boarding a night train in Paris and he told us to just find a seat - night trains don't work that way. But as far as your complaint about how jammed the sleeping cars were, someone should have prepared you for that before hand. As we loaded into a car some of the ladies with much luggage declared the car was "full" because their bags were taking up too much room - nope, you need to travel light!

    It does not surprise me about the special diet issues - almost all of our included meals were bad - by the second EF tour I knew I would need money for supplements! I was especially disappointed because even in Italy they geared the meals towards imagined US tastes instead of better Italian choices. At one point we had roast chicken and fries for four meals in a row!

    Anyways I hope you had some pleasant moments on your trip and eventually you want to return. Both of my daughters were intrigued enough by Europe, in spite of EF, that they both did study abroad and now vacation there when they can. EF is not high end but it can cover alot of ground and maybe give you an idea of where to return to for a more enjoyable trip, next time.

  • Report Abuse

    *This is long, but I wanted to address a lot of complaints all at once.
    *Most of the people who have posted here seem to have had unrealistic expectations and little pre-trip preparation when they signed up. I have lead 3 EF tours, and have 2 more coming soon. As the Group Leader, I take the time to prepare my students and fellow adults in what to expect:

    *They know about the small hotel rooms, tiny bathrooms and elevators, and lack of American-style air-conditioning, as are typical in many older hotels in Europe. Europeans are not going to change they way they do things because a tourist MAY be American--they serve other Europeans, too!
    *Bread for breakfast? Read the literature, it says "continental breakfast".
    *Catering to teenagers on the tour? OF COURSE they do!! This is a company that specializes in STUDENT travel!
    *What can you do?: try something new whenever possible, and be polite and save any meal complaints for the plane ride home. Don't ruin it for those who have been enjoying themselves. Oh, and on free time, buy snacks to eat later--there are lots of cool things to try when abroad! We like to gather in the courtyard or lobby and compare finds!

    *Paying for extras: Read the "what's included" in your tour brochure, and/or ask your Group Leader before you go!! You want extras, you pay for extras. Talk to your Group Leader in advance.

    And, yes, the tour is packed with stuff to do. It's a student-oriented tour, and the busier EF keeps them, the better☺☺

    *Missing the bus/subway: Happened to us, too. But that's because I pre-booked Eiffel Tower tickets for 11pm, and missed that the subway shuts down at 12. But we gathered enough money that our bus driver was willing to come get us. He spoke no English, we spoke no Italian (we used French and German to get along)--and our kids LOVED him !!

    Speaking of which: Grumpy tour guides: Did you attack him/her right from the start with the "I'm an American, hear me roar"? Or did you attempt to be pleasant? We have had a newbie to the industry, a disenchanted veteran, and a super-pumped-can't-wait-to-show-you-this! All 3 were more willing to help the groups that were pleasant in their requests or concerns...

    *Not knowing hotels or tour dates or flight info? Dates are confirmed WAY in advance. If you didn't get them about 3 months early, blame your Group Leader. The other info may have been held hostage due to someone still owing money. Happened to us once--the individual paid, and we got our info☺

    Why do I choose EF? Because the bulk of the population I teach have limited resources. One of the other post-ers was right: this may be their ONLY opportunity to EVER go. This isn't for me--it's for those kids. I want them to get out there and experience this great big world and to come home so pumped that they can't wait to go AGAIN!

    *To the folks who have written in to say "What I have always found to overshadow any tour shortcomings are the attitudes of those on the tour" and variations thereof, I couldn't agree more. I have had the pleasure of traveling with some genuinely excited-to-be there groups, as well as some who do nothing but complain. I try to steer my students away from the complainers, and have even had kids from those other groups ask to share activities with my kids.

    *Because to them, this is (supposed to be) an adventure. They feed off of the excitement or the dissatisfaction of the group. Deal with problems if they are real problems (blown fuses) and use distractions when they are not. Yeah, yeah, night trains SUCK. BUT--have the kids take notes of the most interesting or creepy or funny things or people they experience until lights out, and tomorrow's breakfast is a BLAST!

    EF has been good to us. Just remember that you DO have to do some research and prepare yourself/ your students for what to expect realistically. And if you truly have a bad experience, ask: is it the fault of EF? Or do I leave negative feedback on the hotel or restaurant or bus company, etc.

    *As stated previously: "EF is not high end but it can cover alot of ground and maybe give you an idea of where to return to the next time."

  • Report Abuse

    DunkirkDave: I notice this is your first posting. Welcome to Fodor's. Thanks for your comments and your attempt to put a balance to some of the discussions. I am sure you realize that the original post was started in 2006 and the posting previous to yours was done about 15 months ago.

    Some posters at Fodor's are so comfortable with their style of travel that they sometimes find it a challenge to grasp that others can travel differently. Group travel, especially student group travel is a horse of a different colour. The entire dynamic is different. You sound like a group leader that balances excitement, common sense and education. Congratulations.

    I hope you will continue sharing your experiences on this forum. Would you be willing to provide us with a trip report on your most recent expedition - or tell us more about the trips you presently have planned?

    tC

71 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.

Advertisement