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travelmomtx Jun 16th, 2006 12:56 PM

student tour ef tours
My son returned from a trip in Europe on EF Tours. My son said this was the worst tour company he's ever gone with. He's been 4 times. Here are the reasons:
1. Hotels were (based on adult and student opinions) horrible. No one showered for 2 days because of the filthy conditions in the motel in Italy.
2. Air travel was changed during the last week before travel. They had to endure long layovers and 3 plane changes.
3. Food was barely edible except for 4 days in Germany.
4. Too many walking tours. To many walking or riding tours to see things that no one cared about.
5. The day of departure the group split - some did an extension. My son's group waited for the bus to take them to the airport. The tour company messed up and didn't send it. They had to PAY for taxis for all the kids and almost missed their flight. EF Tours won't respond to the situation.
6. There are much better tour companies than EF Tours.

Siwash92 Jun 16th, 2006 01:38 PM

So sorry to hear about your son's trip. I have never traveled with EF, but I have heard numerous stories of nightmare trips with them. I am a teacher, so many of my colleagues have used EF, but NONE has ever had a good thing to say. It's a shame because for many Americans, a school trip like your son's may be the only trip they ever take to Europe. I would continue to pursue EF for compensation and ask as many other participants as you can to do the same. If that doesn't accomplish anything, I would contact the Better Business Bureau and, depending on the details of your contract, possibly even an attorney. Good luck!

Ruth Jun 16th, 2006 02:10 PM

Thanks for posting. Sorry your son had such a bad tour experience. I agree - pursue them for compensation.

You can read some more about people's experience with EF tours here (and a search for ef tours brings up some more!). It's really a pity that schools keep booking with them.;tid=34780804

Ackislander Jun 16th, 2006 02:14 PM

Funny, my son had an excellent experience with the same company, though some years ago. Maybe things have changed at the company or maybe your son's expectations were different. What is one person's "tours to see things that no one cared about" might be the highlight of someone else's trip. Similarly, food that is barely edible for one person -- say, say eel -- is a gourmet delicacy to another. If the company already paid for everyone to take a taxi to the airport, how should EF Tours "respond to the situation?"

This is not to defend the company for poor performance (dirty hotels), just a reminder that people see things differently.

carolinabelle Jun 16th, 2006 02:14 PM

I helped lead a group on an EF tour last June and I'm leaving on Monday on my second EF trip. I was pleased with our EF experience; it ISN't a luxury tour by any means but I think the hotels are reasonable based on the price you pay and the number of KIDS the tour company must place. Few of the hotels most folks on this board would choose wouldn't accept a group of 40+ students (and we are glad they don't!). That said, my hotels were certainly clean (and I'll let you know if they aren't this time). EF also asks for and responds to feedback from trip participants on hotels and other aspects of the trip.

It's true there are parts of the tour that aren't what most of us would like to be doing but again, when traveling with a large group one must roll with the punches. I found there was actually more "free" time than I'd thought there would be.

I would also agree that the food wasn't the greatest; again, there is the difficulty of finding a place that will seat and serve 40+ students quickly and cheaply. I advise my group to seek out "good" meals for lunch.

I would encourage you to contact EF about the problems your son encountered. My experience has been that they try to make things right whenever possible.

AnthonyGA Jun 16th, 2006 03:48 PM

Good hotels with a large number of rooms are happy to accept groups as long as they have the money to pay for the rooms.

teacherCanada Jun 16th, 2006 05:16 PM

EF in Canada has a relatively good reputation. There is a wide range of expectations when students travel. As noted by Ackislander everyone has a different wishlist while travelling. This is true of summer camps too. There is no excuse for unsanitary hotel rooms or accommodations that are not secure or safe. I think everyone knows that EF provides a for-profit travel service at about the lowest cost available and there are many satisfied customers. I too have heard stories of groups being split and too many connections at various airports (all in the name of a cheaper ticket cost). By the way, I have never travelled with EF. We use their promotional materials for good travel ideas and combined with experiences gleaned from colleagues and fellow travellers, put together an itinerary that serves our needs and balances the educational and entertainment components for our students.

As far as the screw-ups that happen when travelling - unless there is a catastrophic consequence - all experienced travellers know that nothing ever goes according to "the plan". Busses get flat tires, museums are closed, strikes block your passage, students get sick, guides don't show up due to a mix-up in communication -- depending on your outlook, these events can either ruin your day or provide a new opportunity.

Travelmomtx - I hope your son will give travel another chance. Best wishes to him.

carolinabelle Jun 17th, 2006 01:59 AM

Yes, good hotels do take large groups. My point was that those hotels tend not to be as central (I would guess) because it is more difficult to find one that will take a large group of STUDENTS especially in the high season when there are plenty of paying adults. My experience has been that the hotels were nice (not luxury but clean); they were just some distance from the city center. Not where I would stay when traveling on my own but doable as part of a tour. I'll let you know if I find otherwise on my trip next week.

kybourbon Jun 17th, 2006 04:12 AM

I've posted often against EF often. One of the hotels we stayed in was so bad, EF's tour director wouldn't stay there. She called a relative in the city to come get her.

A friend's son went of an EF tour aabout 10 years ago and his mom gave him quite a bit of spending money. When he got home, he told her none of the tours were included and he had to pay extra for everything so he didn't have any money left. The reality was he spent his mom out partying and drinking everynight which is the reason many kids love the EF tours.

EF will never reimburse you even if you are told they will. I've been waiting on my groups money for 6 years.

I always suggest ACIS or CHA for student tours. Which companies has your son traveled with before?

CarolA Jun 17th, 2006 04:27 AM

I have a friend who does youth tours with EF.

I have decided the BIG difference is that she does NOT book the stadard EF tours. In other words, her groups are customized and she gets LOTS of details guaranteed by EF prior to signing the contract.

That gives her a couple of things. There are NOT other groups mixed in with hers. (She takes Girl Scouts, she wants only girls on the bus) There are generally only about 20 to 30 on the bus so there is LOTS of room. And I think overall the tour quality is better.

If you plan to use EF I highly recommend the "custom" tour only option based on everything I have read.

I did one of these custom Girl Scout tours and while I didn't love it I had no real complaints...

baldworth Jun 17th, 2006 05:30 AM

I am leaving Monday for my second EF tour and was thoroughly pleased with my first. This is a standard tour but one of their longer ones. Some things happen while traveling and as far as the food goes what we had was probably too teenager oriented but good overall. I will let you guys know how it all went when I get back.


kybourbon Jun 17th, 2006 05:41 AM

I think CarolA is right about the custom tours getting better treatment and hotels, but they also pay more.

If you have the largest group on a tour, they will cater to your needs more than the smaller groups.

CarolA Jun 17th, 2006 07:06 AM

Yes, the tours do cost more if you do custom, but... having read the brochures it wasn't dramatically more...

carolinabelle Jun 17th, 2006 07:43 AM

Baldworth - what tour are you leaving for Monday? I am also leaving Monday for the Grand Tour of Italy.

AnthonyGA Jun 17th, 2006 02:13 PM

This is a bit of speculation on my part, but for a company that targets budget-minded customers, it makes sense that the lower the price, the more customers who sign up. So keeping prices rock-bottom keeps these customers coming in, even if the tours aren't terribly good. Ultimately the customers choose with their wallets and forget the quality of the tour (or lack thereof). They get what they pay for.

Logically also, the custom tours would be much better, because then the customer would specify what she wants and she'd know exactly what she's getting for the money. But that requires more sophistication on the part of the customer, and a low-end market might not provide too many customers like that.

laclaire Jun 17th, 2006 02:35 PM

I have never taken an EF tour, but when I was doing my year abroad in high school the tour from my US high school went to Spain and I went and met up with them for a day. Not only were they eating horrible food, but they were just being herded around and at night had little or no supervision, meaning that most of the kids got trashed and the chaperones had a really hard time with them in the mornings.

This Spring I will be joining a customized EF tour with one of my former teachers. She says they are really good as long as you customize them. Also, yes, there are meals included, but she oftentimes opts to eat in other restaurants, and sometimes the students go with her. It ends up costing them a few more euros per day, but many are willing to pay more at least a few times during the trip.

baldworth Jun 18th, 2006 02:43 PM

I am doing the European Capitals tour Carolinabelle. We will be in Italy on the 27th through the 2nd of July, Venice, Rome, then Florence. Maybe we'll cross paths.


2Brownchubs Jul 11th, 2006 06:22 AM

While I don't doubt that the people on the tour had some genuine complaints, I would say to remember that European hotels are not like American hotels, unless you are staying at a high end place. And with a student tour - especially one that is known for trying to keep the costs down - you will likely find modest accommodations. I haven't been to Italy so I can speak to the hotels. I have been to London on tour and on personal travel and will say it is challenging to find a hotel in London that meets what Americans are used to in a Days Inn or budget accommodation.

I think Americans are very spoiled - all of us, not just the kids - and so often they complain about the food and accommodations overseas. It sounds like perhaps whoever was leading the tour didn't set proper expectations for the students.

As for the walking tours - that is what student tours do! If your son didn't have an interest in learning about anything, he probably should have just gone on a leisurely vacation as opposed to an educational tour.

I would encourage you to register your complainst with the company, but also keep in mind that travel is an adventure!

baldworth Jul 19th, 2006 07:55 AM

I'm back and will post a lengthier tour report in a few days or so. For now just suffice it to say that I have completed my second long EF tour and have been happy with both of them. With all of the things that the EF tour director put up with from some of the kids it was amazing that he didn't go crazy. travelmomtx, your son's complaints sound like sour grapes along with other complaints from posters. I witnessed our TD taking kids to the hospital at midnight, spending hours on the telephone trying to reconcile a lost passport, (that happened before the kid left the country!)and paying people back in cash while still on the tour for optional excursions that didn't make ($). Every attempt was made to insure a safe educational tour through Europe even though most of the kids slept through the regional history information. If the kids went out at night it was the responsibility of the group leaders to control their activities, not the tour director, and this is as it should be. The tour director even stayed behind to make sure every group and student got on the bus to the airport and we were delivered correctly to a different terminal even though we had made the flight arrangements ourselves for the extension. I just have not seen any of the lack of responsiveness that you or others have stated and I will use them to travel again the next time I organize a student tour.


gforaker Jul 19th, 2006 09:49 AM

Baldworth, I'm glad you and the students had a good trip. You are absolutely right that most of the discipline problems are the fault of the teachers and chaparones.

My wife and I have organized around a dozen student trips over the past 30 years.

I've posted about EF on some other threads, and if they were the only company available, I WOULD use them. They do (just barely) meet my minimum standards, but there is so much better out there. Do yourself and the kids a favor and at least talk to another company or two next time in addition to EF and have them price it out for you the way you want it. The price difference may be slight.

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