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student tour ef tours

Old Jul 19th, 2006, 10:07 AM
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Went on a school EF trip when in High school to England, Scotland and Ireland. We had a fabulous time abroad - at the time we were so thrilled to be there (especially with friends!) we didnt care about anything else! But looking back on it, the hotels were pretty disgusting. The first hotel in london had what looked like a bag worth of smashed up potato chips beside the bed on the floor, and an unidentifiable booger-like object on the wall. The cot one of us had To sleep on was broken. For breakfast we got canned fruit cocktail.

The rest of the trip was alright - except our bus got in a head-on collision with a car. (We were all fine). The hotels weren't great, but at 16 I wasn't very picky. While at the airport back to the states, we were saying goodbye to our tour leader (a vaguely Hugh Grant looking man of about 25) and he made out with one of the students! It was scandalous.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 12:28 PM
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I haven't checked in for a while.
My son's tour obviously wasn't "sour grapes" nor did it involve cultural food (unless you call hamburger or sandhiches and chips cultural in Italy). We were compensated after an attorney representing the group contacted the tour company.

My son took another tour in August with another group and it was fabulous. Not 5-star by any means but we (and he) never expected such out of the first tour. I highly reccomend ACIS. There were the expected problems when traveling with a big group. The hotels/motels were all clean and the food was acceptable. The amazing thing - they didn't have a director abandon them when the group split twice. Again, look at the company before you book your kids on there.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 12:56 PM
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" 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."

I am a budget traveller. I don't travel with groups, but disagree entirely that the :customers choose with their wallets and forget the quality of the tour" Budget hotels are just as clean as the 5* variety. It is a matter of choosing correctly.

Yes, I "choose with my wallet" - but I most certainly do not forget the quality of the hotel/hostel I am staying at.

There is no reason to presume that because one pays less, one is unable to judge.

Perhaps because I am not an American, I am fully prepared to share a bathroom for instance, but I do expect it to be clean. I accept small rooms - but then that is all I need. Food? That is a matter of taste and each individual must decide for him/her own self.

Please remember that spending less does not equate with being less.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 02:32 PM
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We've taken 12 EF Tours in the past 8 years and have NEVER had a bad experience. Of course, I'm used to staying in mid-range hotels and can pretty much enjoy eating anything they put in front of me. Some of the kids on our trip have compalined about the hotels and meals but in my experience some kids complain about anything. We've had plenty of kids go on return trips with us.

Some of the stuff OP's kid complained about is rather petty - "Too many walking tours. To many walking or riding tours to see things that no one cared about." God, I'm almost a senior citizen and I had no trouble keeping up. Hard to believe a teenager can't keep with the old farts.

Sure there are better tour companies than EF, but Cosmos, Globus and Perillo are out of most kids' price range. EF's hotels sure beat the snot out of the hovels and train stations I stayed in 30 years ago when I was backpacking through Europe.

Methinks someone be a tad spoiled by luxury.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2006, 05:11 AM
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Well put Zeus!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2006, 10:39 AM
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I was checking this forum to find more suggestions for our Greece Easter vacation and happened to see these message about EF Tours. I AM WORRIED NOW!
My sons, 16, and 17 are both going through their high school for two weeks (group of 30 kids on A European Advanture) We didn't have a choice about the tour company and I am assuming the school used this tour co. before. I always check things in details and research, however, this time I just wrote the checks and assumed their school has made a right choice.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2006, 12:55 PM
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Thats horrible! Given the number of student travelers these days its really important that good travel companies are given notice and bad ones pointed out in order to ensure the most for your money. I had a much better experience on my vacation to Europe. I did so because I booked with Contiki Vacations. The company is set to directly serve 18-35 yr olds.
1. the hotels were comfort inn level. All clean and with various amenities.
2. Air travel is booked by the student seperate from the tour
3. Food is up to the student. All food is very edible ( includes breakfast and some dinners) . no complaints
4. There are some walking tours but most of them are optional. Personally i participated in all of them but one. They focused on the key sites and were mostly to give us information on the best way to approach the city we were in
5. Made it to the airport on time. No hassels.
6. Contiki rocks !! im going on another one in May to New Zealand
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 07:27 PM
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i'm sorry but your son is really spoiled. you get what you payed for.. i'm going to italy in march and i'm not expect 5 star hotels.... omg it's just a taxi ride it's part of the cult.. i thgink he was there for all the wrong reason. too many walking tours. that what you going there for. to see the county...
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 07:46 PM
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I've organized 4 EF student tours, one was a brochure trip, and 3 were customized. IMO the only time I would travel with EF would be on a customized tour. Even though I only took one brochure trip, it was a disaster in most every aspect. As a previous poster said, a custom tour gives you control. My #1 priority is a direct flight. If you change planes it kills most of the 2nd day. Also limit the group, I try to keep around 25 or under. And I limit ADULTS- they've been more of a pain than students. With EF, customized is the only way to go.
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Old Dec 31st, 2006, 08:24 AM
  #30  
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I'm concerned now, too, as my son's taking an EF trip through his high school this spring, to Costa Rica. I suppose it's customized, but I'm not sure. >-
 
Old Dec 31st, 2006, 09:26 AM
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Maureen- I think the majority of EF's trips are out of the brochure, where the object is to fill the bus. You may travel with 3 or 4 other schools, unless your son's school has around 40 people going. I would definitely do some checking on the tour organizers, specifically their rules and experience!
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Old Dec 31st, 2006, 10:46 AM
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I've taken a number of EF Tours with students and continue to use them because their low prices allow many to travel who otherwise could not. I should add that I travel with college students who live in dorms and eat cafeteria food, so modest hotels and basic meals are no problem for them.

The biggest challenge I have faced is occasional bad behavior from some high schoolers with which we have been combined. Their chaperones often have no control over them and refuse to send them home even when they become totally obnoxious and break so many EF rules that others are miserable. I'm not talking about minor misbehavior, but about smoking pot on a canal cruise, repeatedly throwing up (after a night of drinking) on the bus, picking up hookers etc. Tour Directors are reluctant to overrule the group leaders because bad evaluations will result.

I am working on a couple of ideas to manage this problem should it occur on an upcoming tour; however, I would really appreciate hearing from others who have encountered similar problems and solved them successfully.
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Old Dec 31st, 2006, 11:04 AM
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Perhaps this link will help as EF tours have been discussed here before. I hope I pasted it correctly. You may also want to search this forum EF tours.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34495633
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Old Dec 31st, 2006, 11:07 AM
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Another thread about EF tours:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34852888
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Old Feb 18th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Im always interested to see other people experiences with tours they have been with and how they have perceived their experiences. I have travelled two times with EF Tours to Mexico with groups of my students and this March I will be going to Rome, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, and Madrid. I have also travelled with students using Explorica (to Madrid and Andulucia) and have travelled independently with students on an 18 days trip through Mexico.

Briefly stated - all of my trips have been very good. I think it is very important that students and particularly adults who accompany tours with EF Tours and Explorica understand clearly that these are specifically geared to budget travellers. If you expect the Holiday Inn, The Hilton or something similar their trips will likely disappoint. If, however, your objective is to get an overview of an area with reasonably comfortable accomodations, fairly busy itineraries, acceptable food (and sometimes actually good food), generally good buses and good guides - I think these companies are more than adequate and their value frankly can't be matched. Face it, on the trip I am taking this Easter week for 12 days the kids are paying less than $2,000. Other student travel companies come nowhere near this price and trust me I have looked into MANY of them. My kids can't afford upscale companies (I work in a small rural school in an area where the average family income is not real high). None of my students has ever been to Europe. For almost all of my travellers this will be their first trip out of the US and for many of them it will be their first flight. They are used to camping and sometimes even sleeping in ice houses during fishing season, and frankly they have seldom complained about the quality of accomodations we have had (except if the location was in a scary part of a big city). If I were to choose one of the more expensive options, frankly some of my students wouldn't be going.

As to the experience - in travel I have found that the more money people spend the more the experiences they have tend to isolate them from meaningful encounters with the country they are visiting. For instance, if you choose to stay in a hotel like a Holiday Inn in Europe, very likely you will find it to be similar to(albeit not identical to) a Holiday Inn in the USA and perhaps even catering to travellers from the US. If you stay in a less expensive locally owned and managed hotel, then more likely you will have insight into the area you are visiting that you might otherwise have missed.

As for complaints about too many walking tours to things nobody cared about - I say tough. Teenagers can be bored even at incredible places - So a kid finds the art at the Lourve or the Prado boring - does that mean we should skip it - I dont think so! I had kids complain that we saw too many pyramids in Mexico (and granted we did go to Teotihuacan, Palenque, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tulum) but ultimately I think almost all are happy they saw them even if they did have to walk more than they wanted to and sometimes had to spend a lot of time in hot sun to get around. Im 46 and never have found the tours to have too much walking - in fact on free time I usually do a lot more walking on my own. That's how Europeans get from place to place and perhaps it explains why they are a lot skinnier than we are.

I've never had bad flight arrangements either with EF or with Explorica. With Explorica we flew MSP - MAD via Newark on Continental, and home from AMS - MSP also via Newark. I have also flown from MSP - CDG via Atlanta and back from CDG - MSP via Cincinati via Delta. To Mexico EF sent us one year from MSP - GDL via Dallas and we returned from Cancun - MSP via Atlanta (On American) and one year from MSP - MEX (via Houston on Continental) returning from PVR - MSP via Houston. These are all normal routings for people from the Midwest although there may some direct flights from Minneapolis - Mexican destinations.
Next month we will be flying from MSP - Rome via Chicago Ohare and London Heathrow and we will be returning from Madrid to Minneapolis via Munich and Chicago. These flights are on United. While it is sometimes possible to do these flights with only one change - its not that much quicker and it really limits the airlines that can be used.

As for food on tours - sometimes the kids liked it, sometimes they didn't. Some guides are better at choosing good restaurants than others. I find they sometimes have some flexibility in choosing restaurants. In any case, none of my students ever starved and I always make sure they get chances to seek out markets and convenience stores to look for snacks and supplements.

Now as for things going wrong during travel - It can and does happen whether you travel with a group or alone. My wife and I were travelling through Italy this summer and had the bus break down in the middle of nowhere. It provided a good bonding opportunity. Another time when we were travelling our whole plane got stranded in Paris - Some of the Americans on the plane were outraged - most of the French people on the flight simply made the best of it and that night we had a wonderful evening in the hotel they put the whole plane full of people in. Its a matter of perspective. It's a part of travel and a group leaders reactions can go an awful long way to helping a group cope with delays and glitches.

On another note - two years ago my daughter travelled with EF Tours on their Central European Quartet. She loved it and said she would go on another of their tours any chance she gets. She didnt love all of the meals and some of the planned excursions didnt work out due to delays and the likes, but it didn't stop her from having a great time. Part of what makes travel so great is that it is not always predictable

I know I've rambled, but what I really want to say is that whatever it takes to get abroad to Europe or elsewhere, if you have to use group travel be open minded and make the best of it. It's a great opportunity and anyone who can partake is truly fortunate.

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Old Feb 19th, 2007, 06:10 PM
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Well said, hejsan. EF tours are for students. I've accompanied several groups of high school students to Europe through EF and had positive experiences every time.

Most complaints came from other adults on the tours, not the students. The accomodations and meals are geared towards kids.

As in your case, many of the students had never flown, nor will most of them ever travel to Europe again.

It's unfortunate that the many people who criticize these tours don't understand student tours.

My days of traveling with students may be over, but the experiences I had with them were wonderful.




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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 05:47 AM
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2 very excellent and well written comments about student travel. Thanks for being realistic. Sometimes the things that you are not expecting turn out to be the things you remember the most after you return. We went off on our own one night in Rome during the World Cup and due to some bad directions from the hotel manager and the underground being shut down we got lost. We ended up meeting Italians in a Roman suburb at a gelato shop who did everything in their power to help us out and eventually took us back to our hotel. It was one of the best experiences of my life and wouldn't have happened without some adversity. Thanks again lucy d and hejsan.

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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 06:13 AM
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It's ironic that this topic just popped up again today. Yesterday while we were out shopping we ran into an ex-student who is now a senior in college. She spent most of the conversation reminiscing about an EF trip she took with us to Mexico back in 2000. She brought up the names of a number of kids on that trip that she still keeps in touch with. She still keeps a group photo with her in her wallet. Memories really do last a lifetime.

And now she's contemplating going with us again after she graduates.
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 10:27 AM
  #39  
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My son leaves soon on an EF tour with his high school. The hotels where they will stay look more like motels, but that's fine for the price and for the teenage group. I think the entire trip to Costa Rica from Colorado cost about $2000, including hotels, airfare, a canopy tour, meals, and other extras. I think that's a pretty decent price for an eight-night stay. There are about 50 students and 10 teachers going. (I don't know if the price we families paid also accomodated the teachers' expenses.) I'll report back if there's anything special to say about his experience.
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Old Mar 12th, 2007, 07:30 PM
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Goodness- Some of you people seem to really take any criticism of EF personally.

When you go with EF, you choose a Chevette instead of a Cadillac. That is an OK choice when it is the kids money at stake, but sometimes a Honda Civic might cost the same and be a better deal.

Of course kids can have a great time on an EF tour. Our Rome hotel was 20 miles outside of the city and our wing had no air conditioning in 100 degree weather. Other EF tours might have better hotels, but you never know. Did out kids complain? Heck no, they had a great time. We were experienced and knew better, but didn't spoil their trip by complaining.

Some of the complaints here center on EF's marketing to small groups and inexperienced teachers who are combined on a bus with no central authority and poor discipline. Just a few out of control kids or adults on a trip can ruin it for everyone. This can be traced back to EF's method of marketing, but if a group is all from one school or head teacher, things can go much better. In that case, it is a matter of Chevette vs Civic.

I would never tell a parent to keep their child home from an EF tour, but would suggest to an organizing teacher that they might do better with another company. At least get several competing bids next time.
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