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EF Travel Feedback - never again!

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Mar 11th, 2013, 02:53 PM
  #1
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EF Travel Feedback - never again!

Just got back from a 10 day trip sponsored by a local college in conjuction with the travel company "EF". I am amazed that EF has been described as a leader in educational travel since the only educational aspect of the trip was how not to do things and/or how to rip off students. This company is the Walmart of travel...if there is a way to squeeze a buck, or in this case, a Euro they do it.

To give an overview, let's just say that there is truth in advertising and then there's EF brochures. Every hotel we stayed in was 1 star, old, dark, dank and in the middle of nowhere...never close to the cities we were supposed to be visiting. When were not in these crappy hotels, we were usually on a bus. During the 10 day trip we easily spent the equivalent of 5 days driving up and down the interstates and back roads, stopping to eat and bathroom, maybe a 2 hour castle or church tour, then back on the bus.

The included meals were ostensibly breakfast and dinner...if you call last night's stale dinner rolls served for breakfast a meal, hats off to you. One night we had a baked potato and piece of lettuce and seriously, a tablespoon of ice cream...that was the "dinner"!

The tour guide was nice, but clearly he was motivated by trying to get a maximum tip by kissing our tour leader's butt and/or trying to sell us side trips and push certain restaraunts and businesses so we would spend money. One trip was to a glass factory...what a joke...we watched a dude blow a vase in about 10 minutes, then they locked us in a big showroom for an hour while these guys did the Italian version of QVC trying to sell us all their glass crap. Another time in Switzerland the guide sold evryone an extra trip for $100 to go up on a cable lift while he did not tell us that close to the hotel was a much, much cheaper cable car ride, for about $20! Total sleazy business!!!

The fact is this is a huge company and they totally do not care about anyone except their own wallets...this is a good case of buyer beware...if you want a trip where the highlight of the day is finding a clean toilet or you don't mind paying paying 30 Euro's to get a decent meal, they by all means, go on an EF trip. I would not wish a trip with this company on anyone...my advice...less is more and don't be greedy...they will tell you all that you can see and do, but it is a big scam. Everything is quick sneek and peek, then off again for another bus ride and very little free time to enjoy the things you really want to see...and because of all the driving in and out of the big cities where you really want to be, the days are incredibly long for very little value.
BigSplash is offline  
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Mar 11th, 2013, 03:01 PM
  #2
 
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Sorry you did not enjoy your trip, but you have just explained very well why most of the folks on this Forum are independent travelers.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 03:45 PM
  #3
 
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If you had searched this forum before booking (put EF in the search box), you would have seen EF described as the lowest level budget student travel (along with Explorica - started by former EF employees). If you want a better experience, try one of the better student tour companies, but they are more expensive (you get what you pay for). ACIS and NETC rank at the top with Passports and CHA being middle of the pack.

Sometimes it's just a random thing to get a good experience with these budget student tour companies. If you aren't traveling in a busy season you can end up with decent hotels or not. It's a gamble.

The shopping experience is typical of many tour companies and the tour director gets a kick back from the place based on sales.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 03:48 PM
  #4
 
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The good news is that the next time you take a tour you'll know the questions to ask. I took at look at that trip and there is very little information on their web site, a sure indication they're hiding something. Another thing to watch for is covering 3 countries in 9 days. You know there will be lots of bus time.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 03:59 PM
  #5
 
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Agree - on tours (of you are lucky) you get what you pay for.

This was a super budget tour. Everythng you have said is true of budget tours.

I have been on 2 tours - one free (and barely worth it) and hte other to Russia when that was the only way to go. These were upscale tours and the hotels and food in Russia were still awful (and those in Scand OK - but I could have doe better myself). But it also depends on what you are looking for. One free evening several of us went to dinner. We found a nice casuale place that provided a lovely poached salmon dinner for about $25 - and two wouldn't go in because it was "too expensive". they ended up eating hot dogs on a bench. (Even that man years ago there was NO dinner in Scand for $10.)

If you want better - either plan it yourself - or buy one more upscale.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 04:44 PM
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Not to entirely defending EF, but just noting this is a first time poster. Will BigSplash be back to answer any questions and/or help others on other threads?

If it weren't for an EF tour, I wouldn't have enjoyed my five independent trips to the UK. It took that tour to open my eyes to the possibility of international travel. Also, if not for the EF tour director on our tour, my son would not have seen the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial - a not-on-the-itinerary site but one our tour director directed the bus driver to stop.

I admit, our tour totally lucked out - one of the tour leaders had multiple trip experience, so knew some questions to ask, and we had a 5-star tour director.

Another teacher in my school district takes a group every year on an EF tour. After 14 trips, she remains happy with the company, but she also is a very experienced tour leader now and likely communicates well with the tour director her expectations before each trip.

Cadillac expectations delivered for the price of a little hatchback, yes, you will be disappointed. Talk with experienced leaders and learn how to morph your little hatchback into a hot! hatchback and enjoy yourself a lot more.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 04:54 PM
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>>>Another teacher in my school district takes a group every year on an EF tour. After 14 trips<<<

There's also a difference in their tours if your group is big enough to have your own tour and not be combined with random smaller groups from across the country. Big repeat groups get better service as do groups that do custom trips with them. If six different groups are combined on one bus, the teacher with the most repeat trips or biggest group gets preference on decisions.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 05:08 PM
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I totally agree with scotlib. Even down to the "If it weren't for an EF tour, I wouldn't have enjoyed my five independent trips to the UK. It took that tour to open my eyes to the possibility of international travel." (Except mine is 2 independent ones to the UK, 1 to Germany, 1 to Spain, and upcoming to France---AFTER an upcoming EFTour to the UK and Paris, after which I'm doing the "stay behind" waiting for DH!)

On my 3 EFTours with students to the UK (one as mom, 2 as teacher), we never had a tour director push anyone to buy anything. On an EFTour training tour to Rome, we were left in one particular craft-selling spot a while, but we were free to not-buy, which is what I did! My husband had the insistent-tour-guide experience in China on a totally adult, totally commercial tour. If you meant to imply that such a practice is common with or unique to EFTours, I heartily disagree.

It does have much to do with expectations and a lot to do with communications (I've already communicated with my tour group director, who is the same one I had 2 years ago and we are joyous to be able to be together with my group this time.) And a lot to do with individual tour directors. And maybe a lot to do with where the tour is?

If you have legitimate concerns, BigSplash, which it sounds like you might, you should address the company as you call them. Of course you are free to express opinions of travel experiences on this a travel forum, but I hope you are also contacting them so they can make improvements in the future-if not to change practices, at least to improve communications about expectations. If you read the tour itineraries, and look at maps, you can see if there's going to be some probable long hours on the bus/train/whatever.
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Mar 11th, 2013, 06:05 PM
  #9
 
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i'm guessing BigSplash is going to be another Fodor's "one and done" ;-)

complaining about a guided tour on here is like complaining about a $150 oil change you got at the dealership
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Mar 11th, 2013, 06:22 PM
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>>>we never had a tour director push anyone to buy anything. <<<

I had an EF tour director selling her own music cd's on the bus.

>>>If you have legitimate concerns, BigSplash, which it sounds like you might, you should address the company as you call them.<<

EF does nothing. Multiple people contacted EF on that tour (people were actually contacting them while we were still traveling) and they promised money back (no one received it) and that they would look into problems with the tour director. Years later she was still working for them. Since these EF complaints appear every year, it's safe to say EF doesn't change their practices.

While I don't think it's common for the tour director to be selling things, it is common for the EF tours to go to shops or restaurants where they are going to get a commission (kick back) from the facility.

I've traveled with the better student tour companies and with
EF and Explorica. There is simply no comparison. EF and Explorica are really bottom of the barrel compared to even the middle or the road companies. A better student tour can "open your eyes to the possibility of international travel" also.
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Mar 12th, 2013, 01:40 AM
  #11
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Thank you for the many good responses. Do not over interpret my experience level by the fact I just joined this forum. I was born at night, but not last night. I have had experince with EF before...and ours was a single group and not the first time with EF...so much for the preferential treatmentsuggestion. We surely did not get any upgrades because we were a repeat customer. I can also tell you that EF as a company has gone down hill from years ago...they were at one time a first class operation, but not anymore! I will for sure look into the other companies mentioned above.
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Mar 13th, 2013, 05:08 AM
  #12
 
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There are a LOT of people who have experienced something travel-related that helped them realize they could do the same stuff more efficiently, or on their own, or whatever.

And I suspect more than a few of those people are the ones who are constantly acting as if they have never EVER been on any sort of "organized" anything because to admit that seems to be akin to saying you murdered your Mother just for fun.

BigSplash, fear not. There are a couple of people around here with the apparent sole purpose in life of worrying about whether or not somebody who posts is "legitimate" or has some sort of evil ulterior motive.
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Mar 14th, 2013, 07:26 AM
  #13
 
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Well I think this post has more or less run its course but I'll post anyways for future "searchers". My first two trips to Europe were with high school groups in conjunction with EF. I survived and have thrived. Yes there were negatives but for student group travel, it wasn't a particularly bad experience and most of the kids seemed to be enjoying it (probably due in part to traveling with friends). But we saw alot of sights, had the experience of overnight trains, yes we ate alot of mediocre food dumbed down for american palates (think chicken and fries three evenings in a row!) but I discovered gelato! It was like being in the shallow end of the pool with swimmies! but for myself and my daughters it made us comfortable enough and sparked interest for repeated trips later on our own. For anyone reading this booked for an EF tour, do some research, have a plan for free time if you are given some and get ready to make the best of the time - you're going to Europe, lucky you!
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Jan 12th, 2014, 11:20 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
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I contracted the services from EF 25 years ago to spend a year studying in an American High School. I paid about 10,000 dollars as today money at that time.

Well when I arrived to the US I did a two week preparation course in a college in Boston which was a complete rip off. I learned very little english and I was most of the time with students of my same country.

After the preparation course I was told I didn´t have a foster family because they couldn´t find me one so I stayed with a retired couple in New York for 2 weeks. Finaly the organization found me a forter family in Ohio (6 months of snow) and I took a plane to Cleveland.

When I arrived to the home of my forter family everything seemed OK, well the family´s only son was not very social. For the next following 2 weeks everything went bad. After 25 years I still don´t know what I did wrong. The only conclusion I have concluded is that the family did not want someone of my race. Even that I am European from Spain, they spected probably a white person. Even that I don´t consider myself hispanic they did. The foster family had had the previous year a blond tall student from Sweden.

Things went to worse and the EF Coordinator did not even talk to me. I did not even know her.

With the problems in communication, in those years there was no Internet and a 10 minute call to my own family could cost 100 dollars for ten minuts.

What happen at the end? I explained the problem to Mrs. Bates, the Spanish Teacher at my High School. She asked through her classes in anybody wanted to adopt a Spaniard student for a year. And it happened. I found a humble family which I was very greatful.

The point at the end: I paid $10,000 of today money to EF to find me a family where to stay a whole year and they did not do almost anything. They normaly tell you that if you don´t agree with the family they provide you you can swith to another family. NOT THAT EASY.

Good luck EF future students who travel abroad to the US for a year.
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