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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?

Dec 15th, 2007, 08:34 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
Cmt - EF is a low-end student tour company based in Boston.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 12th, 2008, 02:04 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 707
I was not happy with EF Tours:

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

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

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

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

5) Had a group of 48.

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

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

I highly recommend Rick Steves tours. www.ricksteves.com
KL467 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2008, 02:17 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 136
KL

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

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

2. That is common with tours.

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

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

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

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

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

These EF tours are designed for high school students on a budget. These are not designed for adults as paying customers. I find it sad that teachers will sign up non-students just to fill a trip. Trying to compare with Rick Steves much more expensive tours for adults is silly.
gforaker is offline  
Jan 14th, 2008, 03:42 PM
  #44  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,006
Hey amc,

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy your trip!

Layla
aucho53 is offline  
Jan 14th, 2008, 05:27 PM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
gforaker - EF does not limit their tours to high school students. They are open to students 10 and up. EF doesn't care if they combine middle school students with college kids. They do it all the time. Most groups are not planning their own tour, but are taking one of the stock tours which includes groups from other schools/states/countries of various ages. Many mornings are very early departures on the stock tours.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 15th, 2008, 08:33 AM
  #46  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 707

gforaker,

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

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

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

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

KL467 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2008, 08:39 AM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
The teacher usually doesn't have the info more than one week in advance or at least that's been my experience. Perhaps if you are booking a private custom tour, they give the info earlier. I haven't done this, but it does seem they treat custom private groups better since they are usually paying more.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 16th, 2008, 01:17 PM
  #48  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 136
I didn't say that EF restricts it's tours to only high school students, of course not. It is clear, though that the tours are designed for high school students, just look at the web site and promotional materials. I believe EF has another company marketed to College age students. I said that on our student tours with whatever company we organize through, my wife and I choose to only take Sophomores through graduated Seniors. We have taken other adults in the past and it just makes it a different type of trip and for a number of reasons keeps us from maximizing the experience for the students.

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

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

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

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

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

gforaker is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 06:32 PM
  #49  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 4
I was with an EF Tour Group (parent of a student) which returned from London 6/22/07.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bondj2000 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2008, 10:49 AM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,604
Went along with a school group on EF Tour to Germany,Austria,Switzerland Venice and Verona in July of 2004.(paid full adult price) We had a nonstop flight both ways, an awesome Tour Guide and a good bus driver. We did stay at hotels away from anything but that was OK. They were always clean. Safety was never an isssue except when we stayed at a beach location 30 minutes from the Venice ferry landing. EF has a better location there but we stayed in a run down scary motel with a flimsy door and serenading drungs cruised the boardwalk in front of the place all night long.
We were fed some form of pork our first 5 nights. The only odd thing served was pretzels in a broth. It was tasty...or were we just starved?
Anyway, it was a busy but wonderful trip that gave me the confidence to start traveling to Europe independently.
deladeb is offline  
Mar 28th, 2012, 02:59 PM
  #51  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1
Make sure you completely understand their cancelation policy before signing up a high school student for a tour. European tour - original plan they sold us on was 5-6 countries, then changed down to two countries.

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

Seems like a huge scam!!
ReneeLoves2Travel is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 11:05 AM
  #52  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,082
I guess this thread was resurrected to warn others but almost all tours have penalites for cancelation after final payment, and that is usually about 3 months out. On any tour, with any company or cruise, it is a good idea to be aware of penalites that can be imposed and buy travel insurance with the option to cancel for any reason.

I'm a bit surprised at the drastic itinerary change, after final payment? but the details here are pretty slim so I am wondering how this actually played out.
suec1 is online now  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:04 PM
  #53  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,387
You may actually be better off anyway. I used to do these tours with students. I always took time to calculate how much total time was spent on the bus during the trip. Some of the tours that whirl you through 5-6 countries have students on the bus everyday for hours with very little real sight-seeing time. The ones that stick with one or two countries do a much better job of letting kids really see things and have a little time to explore on their own. usually though, if they have to cancel one tour, they try to offer you more than one other option.
Sassafrass is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 11:04 AM
  #54  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 7
I just got back from an EF tour and I was extremely disappointed at how my entire trip was over all. The reason for this was, mainly because of my tour guide. Her attitude from the very beginning was off putting. She was very abrupt, borderline rude, unprofessional, as she had to inform the chaperones of her financial difficulties, homelessness, pending separation from her significant other and lack of interest in our overall well-being. The first day In Berlin was awful. Most people were awake for over 24 hours. When we arrived there our guide took us on a tour. After walking for an hour and a half in the hot and humid weather, people in our group became very dehydrated and need to use the bathroom. Our guide would not let us stop because, we were told there was not enough time. This problem was on-going for most of the trip. This problem was baffling to me because bathroom and water breaks should have all been planned out ahead of time in our schedule. Another issue we had was safety. There were numerous times when we would have to use a public bus. This was fine, but there we a few times where the bus would already be full and our guide would insist that 50 more people could fit on. This caused practically our entire group to be standing on a tiny bus which made it a very uncomfortable situation. Another safety issue that we had a problem with was the train we took to Amsterdam. When our trip was first booked 18 months prior we were told we would be taking the second fastest train in the world to Amsterdam and it would be a comfortable ride. However, when we arrived our guide said she had to cancel it. This was a bit disappointing, but everyone was brushed it off .Before we boarded the train our guide informed us that some people in our group may have to room with strangers, which was very inappropriate and not safe. When we boarded this new train we were taking to Amsterdam it was a nightmare. We boarded to a foul smell, the hall ways had drunken people loitering as well as drunken men hanging out of their rooms groping two girls on the trip, multiple teachers and students were crying with disgust and fear. My bunk mates and I entered our room, which was about 6 feet by 5 feet with 6 bunks. The bunks had stains and did not look clean; there was no air conditioning and absolutely no room for 6 suitcases as well as back packs and other bags. Another thing that was upsetting was the fact that we had been sweating all day in Berlin before we boarded the train, then got on the train without showering and did not shower that night. That would have been fine if we checked into our hotel that morning in Amsterdam but we did not do so until late that night. This would mean we wouldn’t have been able to shower for almost 48 hours, making many of us feeling grimy, sweaty and irritated. Something else that upset a great deal of people was the fact that some people got first class accommodations in our group, this was not fair because we all paid the same price for this trip, this just proves how disorganized our guide was.
Our guide seemed to be booking activities on the itinerary for that day, that very day. When we went to the Anne Frank house we waited in line for 30 minutes, when went to the desk for our tickets the man asked our guide how many were over 18 and who was 17 and under because of the price differences. Our guide did not know so she had to try and figure it out but in the end just made and estimate of who was what age. This wasted more time we did not have. When our guide finally went to pay she took out a wad of cash. My confusion about this whole situation was why were not these tickets pre-booked? Because of all the time wasted we had to quickly rush through the house. Another place I was very disappointed in was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial which was also on the itinerary. When we arrived we went to the building where we were met by an employee who asked if we had reservations, Mirjam told the employee that we did not, so we wasted an hour just walking around the Memorial with little to no education of what it was even about.
On our trip many group members noticed that our guide would be on her cell phone and lap top a great deal of the time. She would usually be doing this when would stop at a site which proved her lack of interest. On one occasion at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial our guide was laying out on a pick-nick table sunning herself .Our guide also had a great deal of lack of knowledge when would travel to new places. She would often leave it up to our teachers to talk about certain things she should have been educated about. Our guide was also very pushy with time. She would get very irritated if you were 5 minutes late and would threaten to cancel things. The ironic thing was, our hotels were often an hour to two hours out of the main cities which meant we spent the majority of the time on the bus and we would have to wait in line ups because she almost never pre-booked things which wasted a great deal of time as well.
Some other disappointments on the trip were many things that were on the itinerary were not visited such as; Unter den Linden, Reichstag,which we were led to believe we would be going into but the bus driver needed to end his shift so there was no time, Koninklijk Paleis, the Apeldoorn Palace, Neuve Chapelle (Hitler’s Bunker), and Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb). We paid thinking that we would see all these things, but did not, which lead to people questioning what we did pay for?
Our guide was very ignorant when it came to food allergies. She is a vegetarian, and every night her meals would be made for her. I am lactose intolerant and my meals would often contain lactose. When I would remind her she would get very rude and tell us nothing could be done. I am also gluten free and informed EF tours about my allergies months prior to leaving. When I first boarded the plane I had no supper and no breakfast because the airline was not informed. This was just the beginning of many issues I had with my meals. About half my meals were actually specially made; however, these specially made meals would often contain either lactose or gluten. This was very frustrating to me and caused me to spend extra money on food. The meals were also small and cheaply made, meaning things such as French fries and a slice of canned meat were examples of things we would eat for supper.
Our guide had certain behaviours that were very suspicious for the most part. When she would cancel activities or change things, that was money we were losing (and not be reimbursed) but someone had to be gaining. This caused concern and made people wonder whether or not our guide was pocketing some of the money ,seeing how she did have big wads of cash even though she was homeless. There was one situation where our guide got very rude about money. When we arrived at the checkpoint Charlie museum our guide had told our group that we could go in the museum if we wanted or we could shop around. So three other girls, a parent and myself decided to look at the gift shops. About 30 minutes into looking at the shops our guide hunted us down and told the parent we were with, in a rude tone the next time we were not going to go to a museum to tell her so she does not have to waste money buying tickets. She then shoved the tickets at the parent. This made us all very upset because we paid $3,400 for this trip which would most likely cover the cost of those tickets, so there was no need to tell her because it was our money being wasted.
fcat is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 12:19 PM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
Sorry you had such a bad trip, but EF is the very low end of student tour companies. Some of your complaints have to do with EF, not the guide. If you had searched on the web about EF before booking, you would have found out what kind of service they give.

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

If you want to attempt to get some money back for excursions that were listed as included that you didn't receive, they are located in Boston. You can complain through the BBB in that area. First you need to read the actual tour brochure to make sure those things were actually included. If it says "visit" then you should have gone inside the attraction. If it just said "view" then it's just a drive by or walk by, not entry.
http://boston.bbb.org/
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 12:27 PM
  #56  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,648
You can read through the complaints on the BBB website and see what EF did (or didn't do) to resolve them.

http://www.bbb.org/boston/business-r...ridge-ma-15313
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 12:38 PM
  #57  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 7
I just got back from a trip with EF tours and I was extremely disappointed at how my entire trip was over all. The reason for this was, mainly because of my tour guide. Her attitude from the very beginning was off putting. She was very abrupt, borderline rude, unprofessional, as she had to inform the chaperones of her financial difficulties, homelessness, pending separation from her significant other and lack of interest in our overall well-being. The first day In Berlin was awful. Most people were awake for over 24 hours. When we arrived there our guide took us on a tour. After walking for an hour and a half in the hot and humid weather, people in our group became very dehydrated and need to use the bathroom. Our guide would not let us stop because, we were told there was not enough time. This problem was on-going for most of the trip. This problem was baffling to me because bathroom and water breaks should have all been planned out ahead of time in our schedule. Another issue we had was safety. There were numerous times when we would have to use a public bus. This was fine, but there we a few times where the bus would already be full and our guide would insist that 50 more people could fit on. This caused practically our entire group to be standing on a tiny bus which made it a very uncomfortable situation. Another safety issue that we had a problem with was the train we took to Amsterdam. When our trip was first booked 18 months prior we were told we would be taking the second fastest train in the world to Amsterdam and it would be a comfortable ride. However, when we arrived our guide said she had to cancel it. This was a bit disappointing, but everyone was brushed it off .Before we boarded the train our guide informed us that some people in our group may have to room with strangers, which was very inappropriate and not safe. When we boarded this new train we were taking to Amsterdam it was a nightmare. We boarded to a foul smell, the hall ways had drunken people loitering as well as drunken men hanging out of their rooms groping two girls on the trip, multiple teachers and students were crying with disgust and fear. My bunk mates and I entered our room, which was about 6 feet by 5 feet with 6 bunks. The bunks had stains and did not look clean; there was no air conditioning and absolutely no room for 6 suitcases as well as back packs and other bags. Another thing that was upsetting was the fact that we had been sweating all day in Berlin before we boarded the train, then got on the train without showering and did not shower that night. That would have been fine if we checked into our hotel that morning in Amsterdam but we did not do so until late that night. This would mean we wouldn’t have been able to shower for almost 48 hours, making many of us feeling grimy, sweaty and irritated. Something else that upset a great deal of people was the fact that some people got first class accommodations in our group, this was not fair because we all paid the same price for this trip, this just proves how disorganized our guide was.
Our guide seemed to be booking activities on the itinerary for that day, that very day. When we went to the Anne Frank house we waited in line for 30 minutes, when went to the desk for our tickets the man asked our guide how many were over 18 and who was 17 and under because of the price differences. Our guide did not know so she had to try and figure it out but in the end just made and estimate of who was what age. This wasted more time we did not have. When our guide finally went to pay she took out a wad of cash. My confusion about this whole situation was why were not these tickets pre-booked? Because of all the time wasted we had to quickly rush through the house. Another place I was very disappointed in was the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial which was also on the itinerary. When we arrived we went to the building where we were met by an employee who asked if we had reservations, Mirjam told the employee that we did not, so we wasted an hour just walking around the Memorial with little to no education of what it was even about.
On our trip many group members noticed that our guide would be on her cell phone and lap top a great deal of the time. She would usually be doing this when would stop at a site which proved her lack of interest. On one occasion at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial our guide was laying out on a pick-nick table sunning herself .Our guide also had a great deal of lack of knowledge when would travel to new places. She would often leave it up to our teachers to talk about certain things she should have been educated about. Our guide was also very pushy with time. She would get very irritated if you were 5 minutes late and would threaten to cancel things. The ironic thing was, our hotels were often an hour to two hours out of the main cities which meant we spent the majority of the time on the bus and we would have to wait in line ups because she almost never pre-booked things which wasted a great deal of time as well.
Some other disappointments on the trip were many things that were on the itinerary were not visited such as; Unter den Linden, Reichstag,which we were led to believe we would be going into but the bus driver needed to end his shift so there was no time, Koninklijk Paleis, the Apeldoorn Palace, Neuve Chapelle (Hitler’s Bunker), and Les Invalides (Napoleon’s Tomb). We paid thinking that we would see all these things, but did not, which lead to people questioning what we did pay for?
Our guide was very ignorant when it came to food allergies. She is a vegetarian, and every night her meals would be made for her. I am lactose intolerant and my meals would often contain lactose. When I would remind her she would get very rude and tell us nothing could be done. I am also gluten free and informed EF tours about my allergies months prior to leaving. When I first boarded the plane I had no supper and no breakfast because the airline was not informed. This was just the beginning of many issues I had with my meals. About half my meals were actually specially made; however, these specially made meals would often contain either lactose or gluten. This was very frustrating to me and caused me to spend extra money on food. The meals were also small and cheaply made, meaning things such as French fries and a slice of canned meat were examples of things we would eat for supper.
Our guide had certain behaviours that were very suspicious for the most part. When she would cancel activities or change things, that was money we were losing (and not be reimbursed) but someone had to be gaining. This caused concern and made people wonder whether or not our guide was pocketing some of the money ,seeing how she did have big wads of cash even though she was homeless. There was one situation where our guide got very rude about money. When we arrived at the checkpoint Charlie museum our guide had told our group that we could go in the museum if we wanted or we could shop around. So three other girls, a parent and myself decided to look at the gift shops. About 30 minutes into looking at the shops our guide hunted us down and told the parent we were with, in a rude tone the next time we were not going to go to a museum to tell her so she does not have to waste money buying tickets. She then shoved the tickets at the parent. This made us all very upset because we paid $3,400 for this trip which would most likely cover the cost of those tickets, so there was no need to tell her because it was our money being wasted.
fcat is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 01:59 PM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 64,758
fcat: You already posted that and got two nice/informative replies from kybourbon. Absolutely NO reason to post the same thing again.

(BTW - it would really help if you used paragraphs - i.e. double returns)
janisj is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 04:36 PM
  #59  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 7
Thank you Kybourbon for the tips. And for your information janisj, it didn't appear on my laptop that I posted it twice. I'm sorry for the mistake if it bothered you that much but there is no need to be rude. Thank you have a nice day.
fcat is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2012, 04:37 PM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 7
Oh and I did type this into paragraphs, but it did not seem to post that way. A well educated person should be able to understand it either way.
fcat is offline  

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