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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?

Old Apr 7th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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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.
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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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
Bob_Kirkman is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2007, 01:43 AM
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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.
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Old Jun 12th, 2007, 10:57 AM
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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.
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Old Jun 12th, 2007, 11:15 AM
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Not quite sure why Bob_Kirkman topped this thread - but amcquiggan's trip has probably come and gone - she posted this 15 months ago . . . . .
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Old Jun 12th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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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.
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Old Jun 12th, 2007, 11:57 AM
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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).
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Old Jun 12th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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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.
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Old Jun 21st, 2007, 08:45 AM
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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!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2007, 06:10 AM
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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.




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Old Jun 23rd, 2007, 08:19 AM
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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 . . . . .
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Old Jun 23rd, 2007, 10:05 AM
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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.

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?
kybourbon is offline  
Old Jun 23rd, 2007, 01:04 PM
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No one should leave cash around their hotel room. Tour or not, no matter the class of hotel. That's just not smart.
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Old Jun 25th, 2007, 11:15 AM
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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.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 11:32 AM
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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.

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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 01:47 PM
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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.
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Old Aug 19th, 2007, 05:52 AM
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dublin, just so that you know, the beaches at Barcelona and Nice are topless and even completely nude in places so EF does not take teenagers to the beach.

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Old Dec 13th, 2007, 02:34 PM
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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.
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Old Dec 15th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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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!"
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Old Dec 15th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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What's EF?
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