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I’m a yes girl. I’ve always prided myself on that. Travel has been a natural extension to that facet of my personality – I love how it continually pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces or invites me to try things I’m not sure how I feel about. In some cases, I’m lucky enough that something I assumed I’d loathe – camping or cruising, for example – turns out to be unexpectedly entertaining.

This is what I told myself as I stared at the ceiling in a dark hotel room in Athens, Greece, wracked with nervous insomnia, tossing and turning the night before checking in for my first ever group travel experience – a . I’d just wrapped up my first week in Greece in what is more or less my usual style – independently, slowly, and either solo or with a temporary travel buddy. It was sublime. And I was about to switch gears entirely.

Twelve days. Four stops. Eighty people. One group.

My yes girl ways had gotten me this far – when Contiki invited me to join one of their trips anywhere in the world, I certainly wasn’t going to start no girling then! — but in the weeks leading up to the tour I started to doubt my decision. I confided in close friends that I thought I’d made a mistake – how was I, an independent traveler with a control freak streak and a penchant for eye rolling, going to enjoy two weeks under the thumb of a tour group? I started to descend into panic – what was I even going to write about?

Thirteen days later, I was back in that same Athens hotel, staring at the ceiling once again. But this time, I was smiling.

Guys. I can’t even explain the warm fuzzies I have when I think about this trip.

You’re going to hear all about the mouth-gapingly gorgeous beaches, the world-famous beach parties, the whitewashed cities and the dreamy sunsets. Yet when my mind wanders to this trip, something else comes up first, and it was the aspect that had actually stressed me out the most, pre-departure: the group itself. I was terrified there would be no one there I’d connect to or click with, and I’d spent the bulk of the trip muttering sarcastic jokes to myself while everyone else jovially toasted their new found friends over ouzo.

Turns out, my fellow Contikiers were amazing. The vast majority were Australian, though there were Americans, Canadians, Brits and other passport holders strewn about as well. I was impressed with what a wide range of backgrounds and careers the group came from, from medical field graduate students to tech geniuses to high school teachers. But what I came away with most of all? What an overall smart, funny, and genuinely sweet and lovely group of humans they all were. Months later, I’m still in touch with a fair amount of them – the close group of girls I bonded with has a Facebook thread where we update each other on our lives, while a larger group of the full crew we partied with keeps me regularly giggling. Upon parting, many of us made plans to visit and/or travel with each other again – and I genuinely plan to do so.

When I was describing the trip to a somewhat skeptical long term expat friend of mine, I kept coming back to one description: refreshing enthusiasm. To my knowledge, I was the most well traveled person among the 80ish people on my tour. But rather than feeling frustrated by that, I felt refreshed by it. Many in the group were in the discovery phase of their great love affair with travel, and I loved the keen conversations that took place every day about big dream trips, travel bucket lists, and where we were all headed next. There was no one-upmanship, no jaded pretension, no cheaplympics — just a bunch of people cheering each other on in their plans to see the world in whatever way they got excited about.

Why Contiki?

Why do people chose group travel? I expected that for most, it was because they were uncomfortable with the idea of traveling independently, or at the very least more comfortable with the idea of traveling on a tour. And that was true. But there were answers that surprised me — some were backpacking Europe independently all summer and simply wanted a vacation from their travels. Some typically traveled solo and wanted a built-in party crew for the Greek isles. Some were couples looking for a stress-free getaway — and even one set of honeymooners. And there was at least one pesky travel blogger constantly asking all kinds of “what motivates you to travel?” style questions.

While I don’t have much to compare it to, there were a few things that I gave Contiki kudos for:

• A Niche Audience. Contiki is known for being fairly nightlife oriented and specifically targets the 18-35 crowd (the group I bonded with was mostly 23-30). For the most part everyone knew exactly what they were getting into, and there was an upbeat and youthful vibe. Even those that didn’t party like rockstars were laughing over the recounted antics at group breakfast the mornings after.

• Great hotels. Our Athens digs had a gorgeous rooftop overlooking the ocean, our Mykonos hotel was Mediterranean chic, the Santorini base was seconds from downtown Fira, and our Ios accommodation was so amazing I plan to return for a minimum of a week someday in the future.

• Flexibility. My Contiki itinerary included all breakfasts, no lunches, and one dinner per island. It was a perfect mix of guaranteed group time with no negotiations or planning necessary, and free time to grab a quick gyro or go out with a smaller set of friends. During the day, you could choose to do your own thing or join one of what Contiki calls Me Time optionals, add on extras such as a traditional Greek dancing dinner in Athens or a sailing trip around Ios. Because I was going all in on this whole Contiki thing, I only skipped two out of the trip’s eight optionals – a tour of the Acropolis and a sunset in Oia – because I’d done them both before.

• Convenience. No lies: My friend Heather and I, who have probably two decades of travel experience between us, were nearly frustrated to tears by the experience of booking one ferry from Santorini to Athens in the week before the tour departed. And the one we booked turned out to be a nightmare. Handing over the reigns to someone else to make all the travel arrangements – and score us the perfect seats on the best boats – felt deliciously good. Even, or perhaps especially, for this typically micromanaging control freak.

• Amazing Tour Guides. Because it was the middle of high season and our group was so large, we had two tour guides at the helm – Ed and Paola. Both blew me away from the first meeting with their knowledge of our destinations, their no-nonsense advice, and their seamless handling of a group the size of a small graduating class. (The cheeky lectures Paola gave on alcohol serving sizes in Australia versus Greece and the expectations of aggressively flirtatious Italians in Mykonos had me begging her to quit her job and travel the world with me. She was like the sassy older cousin everyone wishes they had.)

Why not Contiki?

I adored this tour and thought often of friends back home who I thought it would be the perfect fit for, mostly those who are curious about traveling internationally but aren’t quite ready to jump into a big independent backpacking trip. Yet I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone.

• Pace. While the Greek Island Hopper is slow paced in Contiki world, we still moved insanely fast for my taste – I was extremely grateful I had spent five days in Santorini beforehand, or I would never had had time to do everything I wanted to on that island.

• Partying. This was an incredibly party-heavy trip. I both expected and wildly enjoyed that – after all, Mykonos and Ios are world renown nightlife destinations. But I could see how it might be off-putting or ostracizing for those that didn’t realize what they were in for. And, sidenote, the Contiki Cough is real — I don’t know a single person that escaped immune system completely intact after putting their body through so little sleep and so much travel and play.

• Price. This trip is a splurge. What you get in return is good value — generally I was blown away by the hotels, we traveled on the best ferries and the included meals were for the most part great — but it’s still undeniably pricier than if you went solo and hosteled it the whole time. You get what you pay for, however, I do wish that some of the add-on excursions had been slightly more reasonably priced.

• Politics. Take seventyish girls and seven guys, add several servings of alcohol and a dash of travel exhaustion, and blend well for two weeks. A bit of drama is inevitable. I would have to say for me personally, as someone who works and travels alone the vast majority of the time, I took some guilty pleasure in this aspect of my Contiki. What can I say? It was kind of like watching a really juicy TV show! (I mean like are you guys watching or what? Discuss in the comments.)

Contiki Greek Island Hopper

Am I hanging up my independent traveler title to sign on to an endless string of Contikis? No. I love traveling solo, I love getting lost. I love the hunt and I love the challenge. But damnit, sometimes I love having a stress-free fun, too. I will absolutely consider group travel again in the future, should I need a break from planning (for example, basically anywhere ferry schedules are involved), should I be visiting a region where I like the idea of a built-in crew of travel buddies, or should I head somewhere that is either unpleasant or unwise to travel alone as a single woman.

Waiting for my flight out of Greece, I dedicated a quick Facebook status to my Greek party crew. I think it pretty much says it all.

I consider myself a bit of a one woman wolf pack when it comes to travel, so imagine how surprised I was to be all broken up saying goodbye to these fools. Thanks for reminding me how to play well with others (and how to contract bronchitis). Lots of love.

And now, let’s head to the islands, shall we? First stop, Mykonos…

Have you ever been on a group tour? What was your experience like?

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86 Comments...
  • becky hutner
    November 7 2014

    it is ALL about the group, isn’t it? although i was still pretty grumpy on my only ever group tour (to israel), despite the awesome company. probably ‘cuz i was 19, stuck on a bus half the time & consistently cock-blocked from really good raves. in caves. sigh…
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      The bus thing would be a problem for me. One of the reasons I chose this trip over others was that we traveled by FERRY! From what I heard of other Contiki trips in Europe, they would have involved way too much bus time for me.

      And yeah, on a Contiki trip, they organize shuttles to and from the raves 🙂

  • I’m going on my first group travel adventure in May with MedSailors. I’m sailing through the Greek Isles so I’m excited to read more about your adventures! Like you, I much prefer traveling solo as I tend to drive travel mates crazy with my need to be a control freak and do something from sun up to sun down. But, I’m excited to try something different and meet some new friends (and perhaps new travel buddies). And I absolutely LOVE Scandal! I want to be Olivia Pope when I grow up! 🙂
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      I’m so glad someone actually responses to my Scandal query. Right now, that and Nashville are the two loves of my life. I cannot get enough! And have an amazing time with MedSailors — that sounds like a great trip!

  • Katie
    November 7 2014

    I’ve never done a large group tour like this before. I think the fast pace of it and rigid schedule has always made me shy away from them. It would be nice to meet fellow travelers, and get to know them well though! P.S. I am watching scandal literally right now, I have 3 episodes to catch up on after being away for a few weeks! Eek!
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      I have a few episodes saved up right now and I literally cannot wait for my long bus ride tomorrow in order to watch them, ha! As for the rigidity of the schedule, I liked that Contiki was pretty flexible. I loved the free time on each island which I used to do the kind of laid back stuff I typically do when I travel — read a book by the sea, get a manicure, etc. And, in my case of course, work!

  • Whitney
    November 7 2014

    Yes! I am loving the Greece posts! And I completely agree. I normally prefer to travel independently but sometimes a kick-ass group tour can give you a new group of best friends and a much needed break from the stress of travel planning. It’s nice to switch it up sometimes.

    Now… I am planning an upcoming trip to Greece and the ferry schedule drama you speak of is definitely concerning… Did you find any sites that were accurate or helpful in your research?

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Unfortunately I did not. We were pretty overwhelmed, and being in person at the ferry terminals only exacerbated that. They were madhouses! I obviously could and would have survived doing it on my own but damn, was it nice to follow someone around for a little while!

  • Gemma
    November 7 2014

    Group holidays aren’t something I’ve ever really thought about doing before. I imagine it’d be good for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying things you’d usually overlook. Interesting to think about, thanks!

    Gemma

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      You are very welcome, Gemma 🙂 I’ve heard other travelers sing the praises of group travel before but I assumed it was for inexperienced travelers who still needed training wheels on. This trip showed me there are many more reasons someone might chose to travel this way occasionally.

  • Ashley
    November 7 2014

    I’ve traveled with a group a few times in the past and they turned out to be great experiences with some amazing people. However, the largest group I traveled with was 25 people (which seemed like too much at times), so I can’t begin to fathom a group of eighty?!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Because August is super high season, it was actually two groups merged into one. Hence the two tour guides. In a way, I didn’t mind it. There were plenty of people I still barely recognized by the end, but I had a huge pool from which to find amazingly close friends in!

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    November 7 2014

    I’ve never done a group tour… but a ratio of 70ish girls to SEVEN dudes?? Not sure I like those odds 🙂

    A lot of people seem to dig the Contiki tours, even those who didn’t think they would like group tours. I think that says a lot about the company!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Haha, there were some seriously devastated girls on the first day 🙂 The group the week before was much more balanced, so I guess it’s just the luck of the draw. And yeah, Contiki is great at what they do. If you’re looking for a carefree good time, you’ll find it!

  • Kristen Noelle
    November 7 2014

    You’ve really inspired me to think about travel, adventure, and discovery from so many different aspects. I love that you’re a yes girl. Virtually tagging along through all of your various travel styles is always fun!
    I don’t think anything would have ever really motivated me to look into such a huge group tour other than reading this. Now Contiki will definitely be on my radar for the future.
    But sheesh. That is a lot of girls. I don’t encourage drama BUT I’m sure I would have gotten a kick out of the reality TV-like shenanigans as well, ha.
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      That is a huge compliment Kristen, thanks! Part of the reason I was curious to try this trip was to see if it was something I could recommend to the many readers who write me looking for advice about how to start traveling for the first time. I’m glad you guys enjoy coming along with me while I research 🙂

  • Lorithenaz
    November 7 2014

    I’ve done 4 group trips. Greece, Italy and Cuba all through programs organized through my University and Costa Rica through a regular tour company. I really enjoyed the university trips while I was in college, because they mixed educational lectures with sightseeing during the day with some free time for relaxing, napping, shopping and evenings were free for long leisurely dinners and partying. The regular tour in Costa Rica was super boring. All they did was bus us around from hotel to hotel and it was up to us to figure out how to fill our days. I’ve come to not appreciate being carted around in a giant bus. I much prefer to travel in small groups and travel by train or vehicle.

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      You made me realize that I actually have done a group trip before — I did a two week exchange to Costa Rica in high school! I guess it was so long ago I kind of forgot to consider it 🙂 It’s always good to recognize that you do and don’t like in travel — I don’t think a big bus tour would be for me either. I enjoyed traveling as a group on public transit, it was a great balance!

  • Martina Donkers
    November 7 2014

    Morning Meihoukai 🙂

    Ok, so you’ve just done something I thought no one would – make me reconsider group travel. And with *Contiki* even.

    Contiki don’t have a great reputation amongst my friends, based 90% on acquaintances we know who go on Contiki. They tend to be the people who want their travel story to go something like “I got so drunk in Prague, totally wasted in Berlin, I don’t even remember Amsterdam…” – why travel if all you want to do is pass out? I’ve never understood that.

    I’ve done group travel myself, and it was a mixed bag. The convenience was awesome, the pace suited me, the guide was fantastic, and we had some amazing experiences I know I couldn’t have had on my own. But the group made me angry a lot of the time. Most of them had very little respect for the local culture and people, loudly saying how strange and even awful they found things, and they couldn’t understand why I’d rather explore temples than nurse a hangover gained in bars so like the ones I could go to at home. There was a lot of drama in the group – one married couple actually split up – and it just made everything uncomfortable. Maybe in that sense have a huge group of 80 would have been better – the company I went with keeps groups at 15 – there would have been more people to talk to when things got awkward. But my overwhelming feeling on my group trips was one of loneliness. I never feel lonely when I travel alone, because it’s a choice I’ve made and it’s so easy to meet people. But when the group decides you’re weird for wanting to try street food or going to odd little museums and decides they don’t want much to do with you, it makes for a very lonely couple of weeks.

    But on the other side of things, you’ve reminded me what was great about group travel. The convenience, the local knowledge, and the unique experiences that are really hard to organise for just one person, such as sailing. I think it would help to be in a place with a more western culture such as Greece, because people are less likely to do things mortifyingly rude out of ignorance. And with such a big group, surely there’d be *someone* you’d click with…

    Sailing the Greek or Turkish islands is high on my list. Maybe that’s the way to do it. 🙂

    We’ll see…
    Martina 🙂
    Martina Donkers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Well, I won’t deny there’s a lot of partying that takes place on a Contiki 🙂 I think in some locations, this might bother me as I’d feel guilty about being nocturnal and missing prime sightseeing hours during the day. But the Greek islands would have been a nightlife destination for me regardless, so it was fun to have a great group to share it with!

      The loneliness you describe was exactly what I was afraid of. I guess I was pretty pleased with the size of my group, because it meant there was a higher chance I’d click with some percentage. And it was true! I loved my little crew. They definitely thought I was a nutjob for staying in working some nights and for some of my stories and comments, but somehow I managed to charm them regardless 🙂

  • Kelly | Endlessly Exploring
    November 7 2014

    Glad you enjoyed your Contiki tour! Watching the drama can be a lot of fun ;P And yes, LOVE Scandal – although I am yet to watch the 4th season ahhh!

    I’ve done some group travel before with both Contiki and G Adventures. They were absolute whirlwind trips – a hell of a lot of fun and with some great people (never in a group of ~80, that’s crazy!) I do prefer travelling independently and being able to have control of my itinerary, so I think group travel might not be something I do again.
    Kelly | Endlessly Exploring recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Scandal is killing me right now. I can’t get enough of the soaps! I love the G Adventures philosophy and after this experience I’d definitely consider trying their trips as well.

  • Silvia
    November 7 2014

    That’s awesome that you were able to enjoy it so much! I think my skepticism of the group tour thing would have totally gotten in the way of my enjoying it, haha.
    Silvia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      I think it’s good for me sometimes, to be forced to drop my naturally inherent wall of skepticism 🙂 This was a nice reminder to do so.

  • Chris
    November 7 2014

    Wow!

    How brave in a troupe of so many young women!

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, I’m not sure I could have done as well as you… (it may be my age talking now) 😉
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Our group filled all edges of the age range 🙂 I think the group I bonded with was mostly about 23-30. All young at heart, though!

  • Justine
    November 7 2014

    I’m so happy to hear that the group tour experiment was such a great success! I know you weren’t crazy about the idea but I guess it really is all about the people. I think the main reason I’ve never done group travel is because of the cost. I’ve looked into it but it always seems I can travel longer and see more by doing things independently. That being said, I think group travel would have been a great option when I was a newbie backpacker. Even now, it would be kind of nice to relinquish control and have someone else figure out all the logistics for me!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      The cost is definitely a major factor. I guess you have to consider that there’s an added cost for someone doing all the planning and logistics for you 🙂 At least on this trip I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the accommodation — it was much nicer than the dorms I would have stayed in had I traveled independently!

  • Sky
    November 8 2014

    I love how honest you are in this. I’m actually really intrigued by Contiki and though I’ve never been on a trip before, I would certainly consider it. I think it’d be nice to have a built-in group of people to party and explore unfamiliar areas with. Plus not having to worry about details sounds perfect. Of course, you pay for convenience, which is what has put me off so far. I think once my Central America trip is over, though, that if I head to Europe I will definitely join a tour just to get a different experience.

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!
    Sky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Nice, Sky! That will be a cool experience. And yes, the built in travel crew is perfect for somewhere like the Greek islands 🙂

  • Kiara Gallop
    November 8 2014

    Like you I love travelling solo (or with significant other because he’s quite happy for me to build the itinerary and make all the travel arrangements including which hostel to stay in and where to eat), however I have chosen to take group trips to. The reason is quite simply because it’s easier when you have limited time. I still hold down a full-time job most of the time (I’ve been lucky enough to take a couple of long-term trips) so when I only have 2-3 weeks, I can see a lot more on a group holiday where the itinerary is pre-planned and arranged. Things like bus and train travel can often only be orealised when in the country so if solo I’d spend my time organising onward travel instead of sight-seeing, so everything just takes longer. Like you as well, I’ve ended up sharing my trips with an interesting and diverse bunch of people 🙂
    Kiara Gallop recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      I know how you feel. When I was planning my six weeks in Europe, my head almost exploded from all the flights, hostels, and logistics. Being able to take two weeks of planning off my plate was a godsend! It really felt like a vacation.

  • Kiara Gallop
    November 8 2014

    I typed that on my phone and auto correct took over so apologies for errors! *too* and *organised* should have checked before pressing ‘submit’!
    Kiara Gallop recently posted..

  • Although I usually prefer solo travel, I have done a few fantastic group tours in Egypt, Turkey and sailing in Croatia. They can definitely be a fun way to travel and meet people and especially in countries that you may not feel comfortable in travelling by yourself (Egypt for me). Not sure if my liver could handle a notorious Contiki tour though!
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      Ha… it was heavy on the happy hours! I would definitely consider joining a tour group somewhere like The Middle East or Africa, to kind of get my training wheels for the region.

  • Sean Webb-Martin
    November 8 2014

    I did a group topdeck 2 years ago and it changed my life, what else could be better. I did it at the start of a big europe trip and it was incredible getting my feet as i had just turned 18, I highly recommend it to anyone, although after a month of it it was nice to go solo but none the less it was amazing. Similarly most of them were australians and i have just in fact got back from visiting those mates on the other side of the country for 21st parties and what not. Some of them are my best friends even though they live on the other side of the country. Do it

    • Meihoukai
      November 8 2014

      So glad you had such a great experience, Sean! And I love hearing that you still keep in touch with your friends from the trip, and even went to visit them. Lovely story.

  • Sean Webb-Martin
    November 8 2014

    and since then in every break for the last 2 and half years i have saved money and gone on a trip, including south africa, vietnam , Japan , Thailand ,and the east coast of AUS, im now about to go to canada and the USA for a year, It changed the way i thought about everything so in that logic , i would recommend it

  • Moquel Henderson
    November 8 2014

    I really liked this review Meihoukai. Your blog is one of the only ones that makes me feel like I’m always getting an honest opinion. I’ve always heard that contiki tours were very party heavy, but sounds like it could be great under the right circumstances.

    Also, I haven’t gotten into scandal but I must admit Nashville is a guilty pleasure of mine.
    Moquel Henderson recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 11 2014

      I AM SO OBSESSED WITH NASHVILLE! Thank you for bringing this up, ha! Nashville and Scandal are my two insanely guilty pleasures, and I just can’t stop listening to the Nashville soundtrack. So good! So, er, as for the topic of this post, ha — yes, Contikis are infamous for their partying. The comments section has enlightened me as usual and I realize that part of the reason I enjoyed this tour so much was because (1) it was one in which we were traveling via public transit and (2) these are party hardy destinations in their own right, so it was a pretty perfect fit.

  • Miranda
    November 8 2014

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun! I’m a bit of a lone wolf like you when it comes to travel (I once hid on a tiny Cambodian island for several days to escape a girl I’d just met who insisted we be ‘travel buddies’) but I did once do a group tour to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was a spur of the moment decision – but I ended up making some great friends and having a blast. I even met a guy I ended up dating for over a year!
    Miranda recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 11 2014

      I’d say that sounds like a serious win, Miranda 🙂 Ugh, the Ha Long Bay tour is one that haunts me — I am desperate to get back to Vietnam to do it! Can’t believe I still haven’t!

  • Polly
    November 8 2014

    The only package group trip I’ve been on was to Europe, right after high school. It was a perfect last hurrah with some of my school friends, as well as a great chance to learn what places I absolutely had to go back to and explore further!
    Polly recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      That’s the way I felt when I went on a Mediterranean cruise too… like it was a sampler platter and I was finding out what islands I liked enough to go back to 🙂

  • Lies
    November 8 2014

    I’ve been on many group tours since I was 5 years old and it was a lot of fun when I was younger.

    I took a break from group travels when I was 20 (I mainly travelled as a couple or solo afterwards) and decided last year to try a group tour again with G Adventures (7 years later).

    I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Maybe because I’m older now :p The usual fears cropped up again: What if no one likes me.

    It all depends on the group dynamic. I’ve had some great trips with great people who I still call friends now, but there have been trips where I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
    Lies recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      That would be so sad, to be on a tour where you couldn’t wait for it to be over! I’ve been in that situation on a day tour… can’t imagine a long one like this! Glad you’ve had some good experiences in there too!

  • Janice Stringer
    November 8 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    I think some trips are definitely not for me! 🙂
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      And that’s the beauty of life and travel 🙂 Everyone’s looking for something different…

  • Fiona
    November 9 2014

    I did my first ever stint travelling in South America with G Adventures and I loved it.We travelled on local transport, had lots of free time and a good mix of partying and chilling. My group were amazing, I was even invited to a couple’s recent wedding, and some of the guides were fantastic. My first guide helped me so much when my luggage was lost by my airline, even taking me shopping and helping me find lenses!

    I now travel solo and love it. I think group travel very much depends on the destination. When living in Africa I would see the overlanders, spending 2-3 days in Malawi and most of their days on buses and could not imagine it. But the ferry sounds much better.
    Fiona recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      I like hearing that you were able to travel on public transit even on an overland tour. I think I would really appreciate that! I liked being on the ferries… and liked having someone else book it for me 🙂

  • Emily
    November 9 2014

    Sounds like awesome fun! Can’t wait to read about all the adventures in your upcoming posts!

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      Glad to hear that Emily! If you don’t already you can subscribe by email so you never miss a post!

  • Jen Seligmann
    November 10 2014

    I’ve honestly never been on a tour that I haven’t loved in some way or another. I see them as a great way to balance out a long independent trip with the chance to meet some like minded travellers who are there to have a good time too. And as you said they are perfect for those places that are nightmares when it comes to logistics. For the most part the guides I have had have all been some of the most awesome people I have met travelling.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      My hat is off to all these tour guides — I can’t imagine how hard it would be! I know I wouldn’t last a week.

  • Wendy
    November 10 2014

    You met Paola!!! She’s amazing!

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      She is indeed! She made my tour fantastic 🙂

  • Amy
    November 11 2014

    I’ve heard a bit about these tours from Australians I knew back in London; they always sounded too boozy and fast-paced for me but after reading this I can see the appeal a bit more. I’m glad you had a great time, this is a good reminder that we should all push ourselves out of our comfort zone 🙂
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      While I thought this was a fairly fast paced tour, it’s actually one of their more relaxed itineraries 🙂 It’s nice they are expanding their offerings though!

  • Amanda
    November 13 2014

    Yup, I have been on group tours before – in fact, I’m on one right now! I would never want to travel exclusively on group tours, but they ARE a nice break sometimes. It’s so nice to have someone worry about all the details – and the people on all the tours I’ve been on have been amazing. I’ve even met up with quite a few of them in other corners of the world. And, in my mind, more travel friends is NEVER a bad thing!

    (Though 80 seems like such a huge group! Eek!)
    Amanda recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2014

      I mean, yeah, it was huge. On the last day there were still people who I swore I had never seen before, ha! But I almost felt like I was on a tour of fifteen, since that’s about how big the little friend group we naturally formed was.

  • Kristin Addis
    November 14 2014

    I’ve done two Contiki tours, back when I was 20 and 21. The first one was amazing and I met people I’m still friends with on it. We had the most dynamic group. The second was still really good as well. I don’t know if it would be a perfect fit for me now but I definitely think it’s great for first timers, or even experienced travelers who like to do tours, to ease into traveling.
    Kristin Addis recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 15 2014

      I definitely think they can be a great training wheels situations for first time travelers. I have some friends at home that I know would love to travel internationally but are hesitant to go out and hop in — I thought so many times during the tour how this would be perfect for them.

  • Hannah
    November 14 2014

    Ahhh Greece is my dream trip! Trying to figure out how to make it happen next year, I think it’s time! Your photos are magical!

    Question though, as for the group trip: Were most other people in the group traveling alone too? I’d be scared it would be me and a bunch of people who already had a friend or friends with them.
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    • Meihoukai
      November 15 2014

      It was a mix. There were plenty of sets of friends and couples, but I was surprised how many of us were there solo. In fact, almost every single person in my close friend group was. I guess we gravitated towards each other!

  • Laura
    November 14 2014

    Interesting take on the group tour experience. We’ve never toured with a group larger than our family and rarely even use guides, but we were talking recently about how almost all the guides we’ve had have really been great. Perhaps it’s time to think about trying something different like a group setting. I think the key, as you said, is having as good an idea as you can of what you’re getting into. Perhaps by reading blogs 😉
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 15 2014

      Bingo! 🙂 I looked long and hard for detailed accounts or reviews of this and other itineraries and couldn’t find much. I’m hoping this will help other travelers in the future figure out if this trip is right for them!

  • Diana Edelman
    November 18 2014

    I would be having those exact same anxieties the night before a trip like that! 80 people?!? Holy. Crap. It has got to be a strange adjustment to go from solo travel to that many people. I’m glad you tried it!
    Diana Edelman recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 19 2014

      It was a crash course, that’s for sure 🙂 Also, I definitely didn’t know there would be that many people until I showed up at orientation, ha!

  • Abi
    November 26 2014

    Wow, 80 is a lot! Especially if you’re used to travelling alone. I think 30 is probably the most I’ve travelled with and, well, prob not my thing…:-)
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    • Meihoukai
      November 28 2014

      Different strokes for different (travel) folks 🙂

  • Natalie
    January 5 2015

    I recently returned from a group tour trip in Thailand; some of the things you’ve written in this post relate to that trip so well!
    I was in a group of 18 and it was very much like a scandalous TV show at times, I loved it.
    I also signed up for activities I assumed I’d loathe, such as sleeping in the jungle, hiking, white water rafting, snorkelling…but I loved them all, being in a group situation sort of pushed me to do things I might not have done on my own.
    It was my first travelling experience, I made some incredible friends; I personally would do a group tour again as I don’t think I’m quite ready to go completely alone yet. I’m going to do an Indochina discovery tour, and I was actually looking into a Contiki tour of the West Thailand islands.
    This comment is getting a bit lengthy now, but I really enjoyed reading this post, and I love your blog!
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    • Meihoukai
      January 5 2015

      So glad to hear you had a good time, Natalie, and funny that we had such a similar experience. Congrats on a big leap into a life of travel 🙂

  • Sheena
    February 3 2015

    I’ve done 2 Contiki tours and enjoyed them both. Meet some amazing people that I still talk with to this day. Yes they are fast paced but I was a travel novice so Contiki was the best route for me. Ohhhh the Scandal moments are very entertaining.

    After 2 group tours I want to try traveling solo. What advice do you have for the beginner solo traveler? Where should I start?

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Go to Southeast Asia! There’s amazing tourism infrastructure, it’s super safe, there are tons and tons of other solo travelers milling about, and it’s of course just a to-die-for destination 🙂 I can’t think of a better place to travel solo!

  • Lauren Penman
    April 29 2015

    Ahh I’m SO glad I read this post, I’m going on this trip in June, and I had no idea what to expect, but I’m even more excited after reading your blog!

    PS – I LOVE SCANDAL! I want to be Olivia Pope, or at least have her wardrobe if all else fails!
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    • Meihoukai
      April 30 2015

      Oh my gosh Lauren, I wish I could do it all over again! As summer approaches I’m definitely having flashbacks to this trip 🙂 I miss my group!

  • Auriel
    June 4 2015

    I’m so glad I came across your blog post, so inspiring thank you! I have been wanting to start a travel blog for a while now. I’m 22 I feel as though I haven’t found myself yet as a person and I definitely think travelling will open up my eyes to this amazing world we live in. I will be doing the Greek Island Hopping 13 day tour next year and another contiki before that. Thanks heaps for this post! Will be stumbling upon more of your articles. Also do you mind me asking what camera and lens you use? I’m into photography and your photos are incredible! xx

    • Meihoukai
      June 5 2015

      Hey Auriel! That sounds like an amazing trip you have coming up 🙂 Check out my obsessions page for all the details on my camera gear. Happy travels!

  • Madison
    June 15 2015

    I stumbled across your blog from Pinterest…I did a Greece contiki and had Paola as well. She was AMAZING! Loved reading your blog and so glad you enjoyed her as much as we did. She was incredible!!

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2015

      Oh my gosh, I miss Paola! She IS amazing. Glad you found me 🙂

  • Marnie Johnston
    June 22 2015

    Oh wow! You had Poala too! She was my tour guide for my Spotlight on Greece + 3 Day Greek Islands Cruise at the end of 2013. She was amazing!
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    • Meihoukai
      June 24 2015

      Isn’t she the best?! I miss Paola! I’d go back to Greece just to see her 🙂

  • Lyndsey Reece
    December 28 2015

    Love your post! I’m going on a trip in May and could not be more excited. Although a little nervous because I’m 32, and I know the group is usually much younger. Was there anyone that age on your tour?

    • Meihoukai
      January 2 2016

      Yup! There were plenty in the group around that age — two of the friends I really bonded with were there celebrating their 30th birthdays. I found my group on the whole to be really open and warm. I’m sure you’ll find the same, good luck!

  • Eliza
    June 3 2016

    Hi I am doing this tour in August and was wondering if anyone can help me must takes when packing or any advice in general that they wish they knew about beforehand! Xo

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2016

      Hey Eliza! I would pack lots of cute clothes because you’ll never be photographed so much in your life, ha. Everyone on the trip had a camera and was snapping constantly — I’m used to being the only one on a trip annoying everyone with photos so I loved it. I packed mostly bikinis, sundresses, and going out clothes for night. Enjoy!