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Trip Report Stay away from EF Tours

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I just wanted to warn parents against using EF Tours for their kids. I went on a trip with my son to Italy and Greece (with a stop in Turkey) through his school. I was not expecting 5 star but I was expecting the students to be safe and supervised at all times. Parents should know that the EF Tour guides (while they are fantastic in some ways) have absolutely no responsibility for your kids. They do not care where they go or what they do. Chaperones are usually teachers, i'm sure some are better than others. Ours were nice but young with no kids and therefore make different decisions than parents would. Kids are allowed to wander around strange cities completely alone with no supervision. Food is just so-so. Hotels are terrible and extremely far away from anything. The worst was our overnight ferry to Greece, which turned out to be something like a refugee boat. People traveling with all their worldly possessions sleeping all over in the hallways and all public areas, drinking and carrying on. I've never been more terrified in my life. There was no excuse for booking these kids on such a vessel. We all stayed locked in our tiny rooms (the few rooms there were - most tickets were "passage only", anywhere you could find to stand) until disembarking the next day. Not that we could have gotten out of our rooms anyway, as there were people sleeping across our doorway.

EF Tours says "all the complaints are from parents". So what? Parents are smarter than teenagers! We had a few parents on the trip, all but one (who I didn't speak to) said they would never send their child on an EF Tours trip again. One mom on the trip had another EF Tours trip planned for her daughter later in the year. She came home and immediately cancelled. The kids whose parents were not there of course had a good time - who wouldn't? No rules or common sense for 10 days? Awesome! I am willing to bet that the parents of those kids would have been horrified had they known what kind of tour this was. Stay away. Save up your money and take a nicer tour, preferably with your kids. Although I did enjoy some of the things we saw, it was not worth the money we paid, or the risks that were taken with our safety.

Bottom line - do not expect your kids to be supervised. They aren't. If you wouldn't send them alone - don't send them on an EF Tour.

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    The worst was our overnight ferry to Greece, which turned out to be something like a refugee boat. People traveling with all their worldly possessions sleeping all over in the hallways and all public areas, drinking and carrying on. I've never been more terrified in my life.

    I took that ferry when I was a little older than the kids you are describing, travelling alone. I thought it was totally fascinating to see people bringing all their belongings as you say--and see the goats and calves loaded into the hold also.
    Drinking and carrying on--OH OH, I am shocked and appalled!! LOL

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    Well this should be interesting - I did two EF tours with my daughters - I paid to go, was not a chaperone. I did not go to supervise my daughters, or the other teens either, but to travel as part of a group. But to some extent - should a parent allow their child to go on these tours if they are not sure of how their child will behave?

    On the tours I went on, some of the kids did not "make good choices" as the expresion goes these days. Mostly drinking. The guides did take a gruop out in the evening to a club - evidently the kids were old enough to enter. The one group that I went with was from a Christian school - rules and behavior expectations were clearly spelled out ahead of time along with the understanding kids could be sent home. These kids were better behaved.

    And yes, some of the hotels were a bit far out, the included meals were pretty bad but at the end of the trip I had had a nice time, seen many of the A-list sights, and been bitten by the European travel bug with ideas for many future trips.

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    When you say kids, what age are you talking about? Ten? Thirteen? Sixteen? Eighteen? There's a lot of difference in how much supervision is needed, depending on age. I wouldn't let a thirteen year old run around alone in a country where they don't speak the language, but I wouldn't expect a sixteen year old to need constant handholding. Did the tour brochures promise constant supervision?

    Food and hotels on cheap tours are, of course, cheap. That means lower quality and hotels that are far from city centres. Food on tours, especially tours for teenagers, will not be the best quality. Did the kids like the food? I'm not asking about nutritional value, but did they actually eat it? Were the portions decent sizes for growing kids, or did you have to buy extra snacks for them?

    The one thing you may have a real reason to complain about is the ferry. That does sound a bit scary. The rest sounds like ordinary cheap tour issues.

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    There is a very long thread on ta about EF tours. Mostly parents complaining ,, ( some who had gone on the tours with the kids, and some complaining on behalf of their children, and some complaining about EFs horrible booking , deposit and cancellation policies)

    There are of course many first time,, one time only posts by those who claim the tours are great. Duh.. they came on the forum just once.. found the thread,, pull it up and comment , just by coincidence.. ?

    My issue with them is the product they supply is CHEAP but the prices are NOT. Hotels are out of centers.. think no tell motels on outskirts.. and food has been universally panned ..
    They CHARGE extra for side trips.(interestingly last post I saw on that was about teens being charged 40 euros to go to Versailles)
    Versailles is FREE to under 18s( which these kids were) ..

    I truly believe only inexperienced( travel wise)
    naïve parents would put their kids on one of these tours. They are not cost effective,, and basically I think most kids have a reasonable time.. but they would if they were anywhere on holiday with their peers.. so save thousands and send them to local summer camp.. and then take them yourselves to Europe one year.

    My kids offered a tour with EF.. looked at it and was disgusted by the terms.. pay tons A YEAR up front and no specific information or gurantee on where the kids will stay,, what they will see " highlights" is too vague,, especially since you may discovers many highlights are extra!

    As for supervision.. if your kids are under 16 you should not consider this company.. I simply do not think its safe. If your kids are over 16 then just consider your child.. my daughter is a good kid and I would trust her to wander a bit on her own.. my sons.. no way in hell. So a bit of on their own time is not always a bad thing..

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    One of our grandkids went on an EF tour with her school. She said the food was not local but rather catered to American taste, very disappointing to her. And that hotels were, as stated above, not in convenient locations and of poor quality.

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    Re: Greek Ferry, I found myself as a young adult on one such, there was a Romanian religious destination for some specific holy day and every Romanian near Greece at that time was on our ferry. So crowded, but worse, they didn't know how to use the bathroom (some of them) so they pooped on the floor....not kidding. Try being on a ferry for eight hours and not using the bathroom which is what we resorted to as it was so gross. Of course it wouldn't occur to me to blame the tour group for booking us on that ferry, how would they know that would happen?

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    I think a lot of this is expectations. The hotels and food sound like what you get with any budget tour (Yes, it's usually cheaper to organize your own trip).

    As for chaperones - are the guides positioned that way. I'm assuming the bulk of the students are of legal age to drink in most places (16) and that they will go to student pubs and cafes and do so. If one wants a chaperone for one's kids - then either go with them - or make sure that a "chaperone" versus a "guide" is provided.

    I recall when I started college (at 17) my parents had to sign a document acknowledging that I was an adult and that the school was NOT acting in loco parentis. And we had quite a few NYC early graduates who started at 16. We were completely on our own along with everyone else.

    If you think your kid can't be responsible then don't send them on this type of tour - since they are likely to find a way to make bad decisions.

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    Nytraveler,

    Have to agree.

    I took students on trips, with EF and other companies. How could a parent entrust a young student to a "tour director" they have never met? How could a "tour director" take on the care of a young student they do not know? It is quite clear. The teacher, not the "tour director" is the person responsible for students. I prepped students by having history, language, art and culture sessions; and parents by having meetings to thoroughly describe the trip and my expectations of and for the students. Parents who sent their children with me did so because they knew and trusted me to be with their kids and to look after them as if they were my own. It is a huge responsibility.

    A big problem I saw, regardless of the company, was teachers who had never traveled independently and did not know good from bad tours, did not have any idea how much time would be spent on the bus, etc. and who took way too many students to deal with properly, ending up with kids drunk in the emergency room in Paris and picked up by the Italian police in Florence. Teachers can send kids home, but rarely do. They should because they are responsible if anything happens to the student.

    At least once every trip, I took my students to a teen dance club and stayed with them into the wee hours of the morning. I had their parents permission for them to have a glass of wine. In return, I expected nearly perfect behavior and got it.

    The second problem, regardless of the company, was parents who saw only base price (teachers did not always include excursions) and thought tours that flew through 5 countries in 10 days gave more for the money than one that concentrated on two or three places in one country or narrow area geographically. Information about the itinerary is clear, but people do not take time to read it. I carefully calculated bus time versus sight seeing time before selecting a trip, but with several teachers offering trips, parents often opted for those with more travel.

    Many hotels do not want teen student groups, so choices are limited and companies often do not want kids running free in a large city.

    Is EF probably the bottom of the barrel, tour wise? Yes, but schedules are no worse than some of the supposedly better ones - personal experience speaking here. Food is poor. However, cost is so much less that some students can go only with EF and if they save a bit over the others, they can buy extra food.

    Despite the food, the schedules, the hotels, even an EF trip can be life changing for a student. One of mine returned to Florence to study languages and art at the Academia. Another became an Archeologist because they saw Pompeii. The "tour director" can offer only a limited amount of knowledge during the trip. Preparation by the teacher prior to the trip is key.

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    I came to this thread expecting a rant from the OP and sort of got it, but the responses were outstanding, pro and con.

    My son did an EF tour between his junior and senior years in high school and had the kind of life changing experience that Sassafrass describes. He sought out opportunities to practice his French and German and reacted very, very positively to the surprise and enthusiasm of local people when he did. As a result, he had a wonderful time in France as a college student spending most of his time with local students rather than with Americans in his program. I have no doubt that he also sought out opportunities to drink local beer and wine on his EF tour. Why not? It was perfectly legal.

    I am surprised by the seeming naïveté of some posts. Trust me as a former college dean, there are no temptations in Europe that are not available to your children at the nearest shopping mall or convenience store, to say nothing of a boarding school or college dorm. If they have made good decisions at home, they will make good decisions abroad. And vice-versa.

    Beyond shocking to me are the almost -- almost -- racist reactions to the way poor people, culturally different people, have to travel. Don't you think they would like a stateroom? How would you know how to use a flush toilet if you have only ever used an outhouse or a hole in the floor?

    Seeing, questioning, understanding such things ARE THE WHOLE POINT OF TRAVEL. How much better off these kids are for experiencing how the 90% live than they would be had they spent the time in EuroDisney or some gated resort. Perhaps they will be motivated by this experience to do something about these conditions.

    Travel for those of us who are well-off is a precious gift. For some, it is a desperate economic migration to avoid privation or, more hopefully, improve the lives of their children. For others it is a way to flee oppression, rape, ethnic cleansing at home.

    This is the reality of the world. Be glad you can expose your children to them.

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    Well, its not an unchangeable "reality". I would rather refugees cease to exist than to be regarded as valuable learning experiences for affluent children or memorable tourist moments. One is tempted to ask some of the people who were so thrilled to see refugees and the poor for the first time what they did with their "changed" lives to help put an end to it.

    There is a long and rich literature describing the various purposes of travel, dating back to ancient times and as soon as yesterday. I don't think it should be reduced to one DICTATE IN CAPS ABOUT WHAT THE WHOLD POINT OF TRAVEL MUST BE FOR EVERYBODY. People travel for different reasons. I doubt anybody who wants to know about the lives of the poor, the raped, the oppressed doesn't need to get on a plane to do that.

    For what it's worth, I also took ferries in Greece and Turkey in my teens, unchaperoned. I was deeply moved by some of the trips, but nearly raped on one.

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    It just occurred to me I'd better add that the attempt at rape was not by a refugee or someone who had brought goats or all their belongings on board, but by the captain of the ferry and a steward.

    If people here travel to question, see and understand, one of the experiments they might conduct the next time they travel is to ask fellow travelers -- strangers -- why they are taking their trip. There is always a problem with getting truly honest answers, but most people will be willing to tell you, and probably the majority of the answers would be an educational surprise to people who think the "whole point of travel" can be summed up in a few words. Just the sheer variety of reasons people undertake all the discomforts of travel might shake up some assumptions and worldviews for people who routinely (emphasize routinely) hand out travel advice to others.

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    I don't get it. Some comments are very naive. More or less you'll often find people sleeping or sitting down and chatting etc on the floor with their belongings near by, wherever on a long ferry ride in Greece. I do not think this is specific to this ferry and I do not think you would expect EF to hire a whole ferry for your group.
    I do not see age of the group mentioned, but anything around 16 and above, I do not think it is unreasonable to let them free for a few hours.
    On the hotel and food aspect I think that many people do not realise that you get what you pay for. From what I understand maybe at homme it seems a large ammount of money but in practice it is not. I know what some buisiness are paid by EF and I can assure you that service received is excellent comparing to what EF pays to local buisiness. Some restaurants get the equivalent of 2 pitta souvlaki (not a portion, the wrapped thing) in order to provide a full dinner. Honestly now, what quality meal would you expect for 3-5 euros???

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    I have done two adult – only tours with EF. For both, I do think the itinerary was very good – I saw a lot. Being in a group got us whisked into many attractions without a line.

    The food was not great, but most annoying thing to me was how far away the hotels were located. Overall, these are not cheap tours in comparison to doing it yourself. However, when I read the itineraries for any teen type tour, they all seem outrageously expensive.

    Let's be honest, most kids aren't interested in touring art museums and churches. They want to be hanging out with other kids. While I liked our itinerary on both EF tours, I don't think my son would've found them very interesting.

    I spent three years at my sons sleep away camp working in the canteen, and at that camp there was almost zero supervision as well. I think some parents are not aware as to just how much their kids are on their own at camp, on these type of tours, etc.

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    Well surely the parents can figure out if there are more than 5 or 6 kids to a chaperone the kids will be on their own most of the time. Do they think the kids are prisoners. The intention all along is that the kids will be on their own at times and will visit student pubs and cafes. If anybody doesn't want this they need to stick to family vacations where they are with the kids every moment.

    I recall when my eldest cousin first got her license. That summer we (she 16, me and her younger sister 15) took one of the cars every evening to go to the drive in movie or one of the diners or beach hangouts looking for boys. What else would teen girls do at a summer resort???

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    Miriha.. the point many of us trying to make is you DON'T get what you pay for with a tour.. you get less. EF tours are not cheap.. if one does the trip on their own they can definitely find more central hotels and eat better.. on their own .

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    I was going to stay out of this but have decided I want to add my few cents’ worth.

    I have to say that almost every “EFTour” bashing I have read, here or elsewhere, has come from parents or people who it seems like hadn’t read the details of what they were going to experience beforehand and/or had unrealistic notions of traveling with a tour group. Here’s my EFTours experience:

    1.I have been on 3 EFTours and have another planned for next summer. My first was as a parent going with my 15-year-old along with a group of about 20 kids (from a school where she did NOT attend) and about 5 other adults, faculty and not, who acted as chaperones. In 2011 and 2013 I was the group leader/ faculty chaperone for a small group of students (6 and 10) and a few adults (2 and 4) from the private school where I now teach. So I do have repeated experience, both as a parent and as a group leader.

    2.I have also taken several trips with my husband to the UK, Spain, France, and Germany, all independent travel, so, yes, planning your own trip is DEFINITELY cheaper.

    3.However, I have been very pleased with EFTours. Are they perfect? No. Are they “expensive?” All travel overseas is. Do they provide good value? I think absolutely. Would I take students on an independently-planned trip? I seriously doubt it, not if I was the only one doing the logistics or if the group was very big. The reality in my situation is that the vast majority of the students I have taken will NEVER be taken by parents overseas, and most will probably never return. And the parents know this, so they are willing to pay a bit more than it might have cost them to do it themselves to provide this chance.

    4.I think it all comes down to expectations. I take it as my responsibility to try to apprise the students and ESPECIALLY THE PARENTS of what traveling with a tour is like. This is a STUDENT tour. It is also a BUSINESS. So of course it’s charging “more” than it “costs” them. The staff doesn’t’ live on tips. You pay for the work they do in all the planning. Which is worth a LOT to me, and I’m just dealing with small numbers of wonderful kids and a few adults. I can’t imagine trying to arrange all the logistics. Some do, I know, but I don’t want to.

    It is fast-paced and involves a lot of walking. A LOT of walking. And depending on the tour that the teacher chose, it could involve a lot of travel time. If a tour covers like 6 cities in 9 days, well, it’s gonna have a lot of bus/train/etc., time.

    An EFTour is not for “foodies;” I have found the food to be acceptable to good and almost always plenty even for growing teen boys, but it’s not “local cuisine” or gourmet. If this is important, then an EFTour is not for you.

    They also try to provide (in all my experiences) rooms that are safe and pretty comfortable. That may mean small and/or not in city-central. If you know this before, you won’t be surprised.

    The tour director is the TOUR DIRECTOR; chaperoning is the responsibility of the group leader. I make sure I have a faculty member or a parent I would depend on for every 4-5 students. I also make it very clear that MY STUDENTS MAY NEVER BE WITHOUT AN ADULT with few exceptions, except inside the hotel. (E.g., once we get into a museum, we don’t stick together necessarily. In places like York or Winchester, they went off in pairs or small groups. But for the most part in bigger cities, we were definitely always together when not with the EF tour director.)

    EFTours also provides a “no-alcohol” form that parents and students can choose to sign. This is just a piece of paper, but it does then set out expectations. As I teach at a small private Christian school, I opted to provide this, and the parents all appreciated this. This doesn’t mean that a student couldn’t do some sort of sneaking anyway (they aren’t supervised after curfew in their rooms—adults have to sleep, too!), but it does set out expectations.

    I also have chosen tours that aren’t moving every day, and I give every detail about the days that I can, including how much travel/bus time they might expect. I read the details about whether we are “seeing” or “touring” or “visiting” or “taking a walking tour of” particular places, so none of us are surprised by not spending time somewhere.

    And the tour director can certainly make a difference. I have had phenomenal “luck” perhaps with the two I have dealt with. (The one I had in 2011 was so great I requested her for 2013, and she was glad to arrange to be the director for “my” tour again.) As with any group of people and staffs, not every employee is going to be great. I could get a poor one in 2015. But so far my experience with ALL the staff, both tour directors and those in the office, has been good.

    If an adult went on an EFTour without being apprised of details of what to expect—food, housing, supervision, types and times of travel-- he or she could certainly find things to fuss about. But I feel like, as I said, much of my responsibility as a group leader is to try to set out all the expectations I can. I feel like the parents’ responsibility (especially those who are on the tour) is to know these things fully so they can help make the experience great by being flexible and not complaining along the way! (I’ve seen what that does to a group, watching what happened to other groups on our bus (groups are combined with other schools to “fill up” a bus) who had griping adults.) And the parents not going should be made fully aware, as much as possible, also of what their children can expect.

    Travel is life-changing. And it doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

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    very well said texasbookworm - as noted above I did 2 EF tours with my daughters when they were in high school - I had few complaints even tho one guide was pretty sad.

    As you note - this may be the one chance of European travel that many of the young adults will ever have. Complaining about the cost and saying the family should go instead - that really gets expensive!

    Or it may be, as it was my case, it plants the seed for future travel - for both my daughters as well as myself. But when we returned we had the expereince gained from the tours to help with planning and figure out where we wanted to revisit.

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    justineparis--Well, for all the folks that I recruited, all this information WAS available, as I made very sure they knew very well what they were signing up for. I did my due diligence in research; I had first hand experience; I encouraged all the parents to read every word that EFTours has available, and I did not let anyone sign up until I had spoken directly about all the above, very openly, with the parents. So.....I'd say it was the "fault" of the local group leader and/or (don't take this wrong) the parent for not checking out thoroughly the info. Perhaps to recruit the most travelers, someone might gloss over some things (that is NOT in any way an accusation) or perhaps the group leader had no personal experience and didn't read carefully enough. But for everyone I've ever included, all the info IS available.

    Now in all honesty, one thing that is not readily available is the specifics of hotel address and even exact dates and times of travel until about 60-90 days out, but this fact is also CLEARLY stated by EF and I make sure the parents know this also. (This is actually my least favorite thing about traveling with them, but I know why this is so and I think other tours may do this, to0.)

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    As with any tour the devil is in the details - or the small print.

    Anyone who signs a contract to pay so much without really looking into the details (especially when it involved an underge child) is simply abdicating their responsibility. Like buying a house without reading the contract (or making sure your attorney has done so).

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    Texas bookworm - I don't doubt that you were responsible for the kids in your group. But I don't think every leader is as diligent.

    I agree with you about the itinerary and the food. It was what it was. I had an overall very good trip on both my tours.

    I do think that EF is not as upfront as they could be about the hotels. When we were in Rome, we were told we would be in Travertste. We had a last-minute change to a location very far outside Rome. It was €100 cab ride into Rome. It was in such an out-of-the-way location that our one cabdriver did not know where it was and he could not find it on his GPS device. It was a very isolated spooky hotel.

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    Texasbookworm, You did an excellent job explaining all of this.

    Our school offered a trip through EF. We attended the meeting, but we had the advantage over most of the parents in the room in that we had already visited most of the places on the itineraries with our kids. We made up our minds on the spot that there was no way we were shelling out more for a "revisit", one that we knew automatically was overpriced,but still, we stayed because we were interested in the details.

    Nytraveler is right that there was a lot in the fine print that should have been a red flag. But most of the parents in the room were NOT sophisticated travelers, even though this was a solid middle class/ upper middle class mix. As I know so many posters understand, people with money who only "do" country clubs often do not travel to Europe, so they were as naive as (or perhaps more so than) the people with less means in the room.

    Therefore, I think this OP has done parents a favor.

    But let's look at the most pertinent of the posters' points:

    This was the only shot the kid had at visiting Europe.

    Sure, our family could have done it for less per person with better meals and a better location. But we were a family of four. Some of those families in the room could never have afforded--or were fearful of affording--a trip on their own.

    For the kids with means whose families never could get out of their comfort zone, these trips were very important.

    The downside--the lack of supervision meant that after the trip we heard about horrible, disrespectful behavior. I don't care about who drinks what when--your kid either understands and accepts your rules or he doesn't. He will do that at home or away. I do have a problem with destructive and disrespectful behavior.

    As to freedom. Well, a teacher we all regarded highly gave his kids a lot of freedom in annual trips to NYU. I think some of the parents back home would have been appalled at what he allowed. But here's the deal: he had two-hour "catch-points". If a student did not report back by such-and-such a time, he was sent back to the school at his own expense immediately and suspended. So in other words, 16, 17, and 18 year old were allowed to experience some freedom to explore, but little room to screw up. As a control-freak chaperone who had taught high school, I liked his style. He made sure he drafted a ton of chaperones who paid their own way just to sort of be on "stand-by". And that system worked.

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    I just completed a 14 (2 full days were travel) day trip to Spain, France and Italy with EF Tours (custom trip). My husband and I went with our 13 yo son. I will start with positives: tour guide IRIS was great and we were able to see so many places from Barcelona to Nice to Monoco, Assisi, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Pompeii and Capri. Motor coach travel was comfortable. Entry into museums, etc was convenient - group entry was immediate with no wait.

    Negatives: Cost for family of 3 for 14 days (including 2 days of travel) was 14,400 U.S. dollars which would be fine if accommodations were better. Flight was economy. 9 hour flight in economy seating is uncomfortable at best. Travel was 24 hours each direction. Flight was from NO to Houston to Frankfort to Barcelona. Hotel information and final itinerary was not provided until one week prior to departure.

    First day of arrival, after 24 hours travel, we were not allowed to check into room, shower or even brush teeth. We were forced to walk a mile to a train station for a ride into Barcelona for a 1.5 hour walking tour then a walk back to the train station for return trip to hotel with another mile walk from train station to hotel. Dinner that night was stewed chicken with potatoes and water to drink.

    After @ 38 hours between travel and trip to Barcelona my initial reaction was to return home and not finish the trip. I was made to feel guilty and told stories about how much work was done to plan the trip. I'm sure that's the case but at what cost to the teachers? Did they have to pay full price for the trip? If not, how can they complain? How much you pay for something determines the value to you. In other words when you make a decision to purchase something you compare it to what you're giving up to make that purchase. If you're not giving anything up, how can you give an honest assessment? This goes for students as well, their parents are paying for the trip so they have no concept of the cost vs value.

    A few days into the trip we decided we needed to make the best of the situation. I am happy we completed the experience but if I knew before booking the trip what I know now, I never would have gone. I would have booked myself and hired a guide. (lesson learned).

    Hotels were mostly awful budget grade and 40 minutes or more from the destination city. As a result much time was spent in route to each destination for daily activities. Rooms varied in cleanliness (some really bad) and AC if they worked were not adequate for summer heat (105 degrees July 2015) Hotel information and final itinerary was not provided until one week prior to departure.

    Food provided included breakfast and evening meal. All were ok but inexpensive options with chicken, potatoes or pasta. Wine and soda was extra cost. Best meal each day was lunch but this was paid by travelers so extra 800-1000 us dollars for 3 depending on your selection. Average was 15 - 20 per lunch per person. We walked an average of 7-8 miles per day which was difficult in heat (several people had fitbits and recorded steps and miles walked). We were rushed and not allowed a relaxed pace necessary to appreciate each location. I will return to Italy at some point but not with EF.

    Understand with a group tour your day is scheduled and you are not able to make any decisions regarding when you wake, when and what you eat (except lunch) where you stay or when and how long you sleep. With a group I understand the need for a schedule but there was no flexibility regardless of situation - even if feeling bad or ill.

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    It is a tightly scheduled, fast paced, cheap, big bus tour for kids that takes them to a lot of places. That is the product!

    Parents often turn down slower paced tours because they, "want them to see a lot." Never mind that it is from a bus. It is a 100% sure bet that more students will sign up for tours to 5 or 6 countries in 2 weeks while almost no one will sign up for a 10 day to 2 week tour to 1or 2 countries.

    Visits to that many places in that short of time is of necessity shallow with no lingering time.

    The logistics of just getting to that many places requires careful timing. Drivers can be on duty only so many hours total. They can't linger at lots of places and continue driving.

    Getting to a sightseeing place by a certain, reserved time, means getting on the road by a specific time.

    Getting to the next hotel in time for dinner for a bus load of teens means getting back on the road at a specific time.

    Hotels used are those that will take a bunch of teens. Small hotels can't and nicer hotels won't!

    Food - cheap, boring, but a step up from Mickey D's.

    Is the product expensive for what you get? Perhaps, but it never promises an in-depth, leisurely tour. Even a cursory read of the itinerary and a quick look at a map will make it clear that there is a lot of time on the bus compared with time sightseeing.

    It is a big ticket purchase. People often do a lot of research before purchase of big ticket items. The same is necessary for travel products.

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    SondraDee: Thanks for your post. Your information is very, very specific, and it provides the exact information of why the "bargain" is not a bargain. By not talking about the behavior of other kids on the trip, you were able to focus on the lack of value in the product provided. And Sassafrass's reply sums up beautifully the economic realities of the purveyor.


    As I implied in my reply to the original post, parents would often ask my husband or me about whether or not they should let little Johnny go on an EF trip because we had traveled so much with our teens. It was hard for us to give advice to parents considering the EF trips without more or less insulting them about their
    naiveté, and I would have to do a lot of hemming and hawing. Your post, SondraDee, would have made our response to queries a snap.

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    The post which is very helpful seems to be also a school arranged tour ("teachers" mentioned). If you break out air fare at $800 each with 12 days on the ground, it is $1000 per day for 3 people. Plus lunches!!
    For good tours, but poor hotels and food of the area, that is a high price. Teachers often get these perks for trips, but ones I have known about did ensure better arrangements than these. Beware--have they gone before and can vouch for the accomodations?
    This amount rivals some pretty good tours we have been approached about. SO note to self--research the tour company for satisfaction.
    It does remind me of the GREAT value of my college tour--6 weeks, bicycle and bus/hostels and hotels. Led by a darling Norwegian couple for a tour group. And going with a group of friends from College, along with others. You couldn't touch it now.
    OH, including going on a Greek steamship to get there and back!!

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    SondraDee

    Thanks for your perspective. Like AlexandraZoe, being very specific helps.

    I agree with TravelBookworm that one must expect to pay for having things planned, and to build in a profit margin for the firm that markets the tour. And if teachers are acting as chaperones for young kids, they probably more than earn that 'free' trip. But yes, it does add to the cost.

    Regarding the long trip: in fairness to the hotel, they can't admit people into hotel rooms prior to early afternoon in most cases because the rooms are either still occupied or being cleaned. One option would have been to book an extra night, starting with the night before you arrived, at the first hotel so as to have a hotel room that you could check into whenever you arrived the following morning. This option could have been presented to you by whoever organized the tour, even if you didn't know the exact hotel at which you would be staying until very shortly before departure (they could still have arranged it.) However, that said, a) that would have meant paying for an entire night for only a few hours room use and b) it can be helpful to keep going, tired as you are on arrival, so as to force your body into the local time zone.

    Regarding food: It is not uncommon for tours not to include drinks with meals but bill these separately, since depending on what is ordered there can be a lot of variation in the price (local soft drink brands are often much cheaper than international brand names, but kids are apt to order the Coke or Pepsi with which they are familiar.) And snacks and drinks on the go are usually not included, but yes, I agree that these add up.

    Perhaps the most important benchmark for a tour is not the number of places visited but how many hours are spent on the road each day. More than an average of 2 -2.5 hours per day gets old, as you found, very fast.

    The standard advice I give anyone trying to rate an itinerary is to compare it with what a fairly upscale company like Tauck tours attempts. Tauck's 'classic Italy' tour spends 13 nights all in Italy; their fastest France tour is 7 nights and many are 10 or 13 nights. This gives you an idea of how fast a tour must be that attempts France AND Italy, plus a bit of Spain, and cross Atlantic travel time in 13 or 14 nights. And your tour looks cheap by comparison - Tauck's Italy tour costs $7000 US per person triple occupancy, PLUS airfare and some meals and extra expenses, so 3 people would be easily be over twice what you paid. As for business class airfare, that is often many times the cost of economy. I am not disagreeing with your assessment that you didn't like the product, only trying to show a benchmark for comparison. The cheapest tour on the market often is a poor relative value.

    Cheer up, you learned a lot about travel, and that is to your credit. Looking forward to hearing about your next trip, maybe with a different tour group, maybe independently.

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    As I stated, the places we saw were amazing and I'm happy we saw so much. I agree, next time I will do more research or actually, next time I won't do a group tour. Based on this experience, I learned we are to independent for that type of tour.

    I'm mainly commenting to help others that may be offered a similar experience. I think the best advice is ask lots of questions and get it in writing. Since we were not provided an itinerary I should have asked more questions, LOL. I think I trusted more than I typically would have because it was through the school and because the teacher that planned everything had done this multiple times.

    I don't want to give the impression that we didn't enjoy it at all because we did enjoy the beautiful country, architecture, Art and friendly people. Amazing things to see and so much history. I will go back!

    The teacher that headed the trip did a tremendous amount of work and I think she deserved a reduced rate or free trip (don't actually know how that works) but the other 7-8 teachers did not do a significant amount of work. My child did not need a chaperone since my husband and I were with him as were the parents of many children on the trip. Bottom line, I think they need to be more transparent regarding who is paying for what in detail. I actually asked for a detailed line item invoice before the trip and it was never provided so I guess on some level I was already skeptical because of the lack of details.

    My main point for these postings is to perhaps help others make a more informed decision. Make sure you fully understand what's included before jumping in. As another poster indicated, we do research for large ticket items like vehicles and we should do similar research when planning an expensive travel experience. I learned so much from this experience and I hope this gained insight may help someone else.

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    My son loved the 14 day middle-school trip he took with EF to the South Pacific. It was organized by a popular teacher, and chaperoned by several parents who accompanied their children. The itinerary was much too fast paced for me, but my son loved it, and now he has been to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii while his mother and I have not!

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    I know this is an old thread, but I thought I might offer up the perspective of a student who did the EF Tour, in case anyone finds this topic while researching EF (as I just did!) I went to Spain & Italy my senior year of high school, so I was 17. Pretty much everything I read in the original post was completely accurate to my experience as well.... except I loved every minute of it.

    Maybe my mom was a bit more lax than the OP (which I don't at all mean negatively), because when I was in 8th grade I was part of a student exchange program to Germany (where I now live, ironically!) that lasted three weeks. Talk about not being chaperoned!! I was treated just the same as my "exchange sister", which meant a hell of a lot of freedom - as parents in Europe generally give their children a lot more space and responsibility. So at 14 I was wandering around Germany with my 14 year old guide, no adult in sight. So compared to that, the EF Tour was like being on a leash.

    As far as the price, I agree the tours are way more expensive than it would be if you just did it all yourself - something I only realize now, as an adult traveling on my own or with my husband. However, taking a family trip to Europe wasn't an option for my family; my mom was a single mom, she's never left the country, I have younger siblings, and her trying to organize a European vacation for us all would never have happened. The EF Tour was the only way it would have happened for me - and at 17 I had a job, so I contributed to the trip, my mom contributed, all I asked for for Christmas and my birthday the previous year was money to put towards a senior trip. So between all the parties involved, it wasn't too much of a financial burden on her!

    So the supervision. I won't sugarcoat it for any parents out there reading - our chaperones (who were all teachers, our favorite teachers, no parents) would take us around, and then say "Okay, here's a map, meet up here in three hours." They made sure we were in groups of at least four, and then we were allowed to go wherever we wanted! The chaperones did their thing, and we did ours. Completely unsupervised. Like people have said, a lot of the trip probably depends on the teachers leading it - and since this trip was ONLY for juniors and seniors, maybe they gave us a bit more freedom. But we definitely had a hell of a lot of freedom.

    They counted heads each night, but they didn't check people's bags - so some of the kids bought alcohol and then brought it back to the rooms! It was legal for them to drink, and so they did. They experimented! We stayed at one hotel where there was another tour group from France, and they invited us to go party with them that night. The chaperones turned a blind eye to it - one of them even asked me to go check on the party to make sure everything was all right (I was 17 going on 37) and I said, "Why don't you go check?" His reply was, "Don't you think the kids deserve to handle it on their own?" My reply at the time was a big fat resounding NO, because I was one of those kids who lived for school and was not on that trip to party - I was there to see the world. But looking back on it, I'm glad they left us alone. The trip wasn't just guided tours and museums, we were able to go around and talk to people, to try and communicate on our own without an adult to do it for us. We had to be our own advocate when it came to buying knockoff purses from the guy wandering around Rome with a giant satchel. We had to study up on our Spanish if we wanted to buy any souvenirs in Madrid. It was amazing.

    I went on to get my college degree in Cultural Geography, and I was never afraid to travel on my own. I packed up and moved across the country because I drew a state out of a hat, I now live in Europe and am not afraid to buy a pocket dictionary and hop on a train to wherever - and that's 100% because my mom let me spread my wings when I was a teenager.

    The OP said she didn't care if all the complaints were from parents - "Parents are smarter than teenagers." That's true! They are. I'm smarter today than I was then, than I was a year ago, than I was two days ago. But that's okay. Especially at that age, 17, I was just a few short months from moving out and doing it all on my own - I didn't need to be smarter than my mom, because I was still learning. I'm still learning now! And I can definitely say that a huge part of who I am/who I became was due to those trips, and the trust my mom put in me as a teenager to make my own way, make my own mistakes.

    As a disclaimer to this, I will say that the teacher who led the trip was pretty dang clear about the fact that we would be allowed to have free time each day to wander around. And I will also say that a cheap hotel miles outside of the city is 100% preferable to staying in hostels in the center of the city - especially if you're worried about safety. And I will alsoooo say....I'm pretty sure we were on the same ferry! We all had our rooms (maybe 6 bunk beds a room) but the top of that boat was definitely a casino and cute older boys were definitely were offering the girls alcohol.

    I completely respect any parents out there who don't trust their teenagers or the chaperones enough to let their kids go on a trip like this! I just want everyone to know, it changed my life and my perspective, and helped me find the confidence to travel the world as an adult!

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    whyhellolizzie,

    I liked your post, and after reading yours, I hurried up to read what I had written eons ago.

    Thank goodness! We really are on the same page (as was texasbookworm and SondraDee and some others).

    You are the proof that kids who have certain priorities keep to those on these trips. You wanna party and drink? You are going to party and drink. You want be on your own to experience life in a city for a few hours? You are going to be on your own to experience life in a city for a few hours.

    As I emphasized and you emphasized, EF is not a financial bargain if one has the opportunity to seek alternative travel arrangements. But if EF offers the one kid in the family that cannot plan or pay for such a trip a shot to see something beside his own backyard, the EF trip could be priceless.

    I am so very happy that you used this experience to enlarge your own world in such a great way! Congratulations.

    AZ

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    I'm pretty sure I took an EF tour the summer before junior year of high school. One other girl from my high school went - it was to Amsterdam and Germany. I dont' remember much, Our parents drove us to JFK and we too were on a different flight. In Amsterdam there was no one waiting for us to take us to our hotel - pretty scary for two 15 year olds from a small town, but I made a decision to take a taxi to the hotel. I remember they played Beatles music on the bus; I dont' remember any cultural attractions. In Amsterdam I met a pen pal at a nice restaurant/cafe on my own. We were in Hamburg, Heidelburg, Dinkelsbuhl, Berlin. Dinkelsbuehl was quaint and small - and we were there a number of days. In Belin I remember sitting at a cafe (by myself) writing letters and observing things. I dont' remember the food. There was no supervision.

    I do remember a young girl (13) going to a nightclub, and I went to one too and danced with an Army man and drank rum and coke.

    all in all, not a really memorable trip - but it was the first time I flew and flying them (in the 60s) was special - I even bought a special outfit and we had menus! I flew KLM.

    I think my parents would have had a fit if they knew what it was like.

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    I have had a consistently poor experience with EF Tours as a parent of a child registered for the trip to Italy.

    The company is remarkably unprofessional and provides a sub-par level of client service. I've been flabbergasted at the poor level of customer service - 7 months after registering (and paying nearly $4,000) they provide zero information or support about the product we've purchased.

    Clearly, the focus is on selling, not servicing existing customers - totally disappointing experience and poor value for money.

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    Canadiantravelbliss,

    Is your child going with a teacher or other adult group leader? If so, that is who you should be speaking with. Except for payments, companies usually do not work with each individual. That adult leader should be your contact person for the company.

    Before you signed up, you should have received an information packet from the teacher about the trip and what it does and does not provide, the itinerary, etc.

    Then, you signed a contract with the company. It delineates the itinerary, rules, possible changes, etc. It is a pretty long contract. Since you must have signed something, you can't possibly have zero information.

    While I am not crazy about EF, and much preferred other companies, many complaints are because the purchaser was very casual about the trip in the beginning. When you are spending 3/4 Thousand dollars for something, a fair amount of research is necessary.

    Hope you get answers to your questions from the group leader, but if not, post your trip here on Fodors and any specific questions you have. There are teachers here who have used EF and other student travel organizations, and they can probably answer at least some of your questions.

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    I am a student, a sophomore in highschool and I went on a 12 day EF Tour Trip (London, Paris, Rome, Milan, and Capri) I couldn't be more happy with how it went. I really learned so much about the countries I visited. To say that EF is bad for your children is no where correct. If your child is not mature enough to follow the rules, then don't send then on the trip. The tour director is not his/hers mother, they have shaparones for these things. My trip went great. The food was good and the hotels were nice! They weren't close, but sometimes you would use the Public Transportation or even a bus that EF has provided. By taking Public Trasportation, I was exposed to a new view. It showed me what it was really live to live there! I believe that's what the whole tour should be about. For parents, I would just set the rules for your children and make them clear. You have time to be on your own, but you always have to have an adult and you know where you are, as for the guide tells you. EF does an exceptional job, I was pleased and will take a tour again if the oprotunity comes along!

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