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

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

Mar 31st, 2006, 01:19 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 43
Please give advice for a first - time EF tour traveler. What will make the trip better?

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.
amcquiggan is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 01:37 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 173
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.
UNCalum is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 01:37 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 748
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-)
nevermind is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 02:08 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
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.
kybourbon is online now  
Mar 31st, 2006, 03:57 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 198
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
baldworth is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 04:10 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,850
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.
laclaire is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 04:19 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 665
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!
wanderlust5 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 06:34 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 683
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!
hester is offline  
Mar 31st, 2006, 10:15 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 26
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
bmarie85 is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 07:51 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 43
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.
amcquiggan is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 09:08 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,145
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.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 10:25 AM
  #12  
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 43
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
amcquiggan is offline  
Apr 4th, 2006, 11:05 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,082
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
suec1 is online now  
Apr 5th, 2006, 06:24 AM
  #14  
vjs
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 7
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.
vjs is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 07:49 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 198
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 [email protected] and I'll be glad to give any info that I have. I think you will have a great time.

Baldworth
baldworth is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 08:41 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 8
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!
2Brownchubs is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 10:27 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 43
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)?
amcquiggan is offline  
Apr 5th, 2006, 03:37 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 198
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.
baldworth is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 07:31 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 8
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.
2Brownchubs is offline  
Apr 6th, 2006, 08:52 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,145
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.
Mimar is offline  

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