EF Ultimate Break New Year’s European Road Trip
Update 7/27/18: EF College Break has been changed to EF Ultimate Break so the title has been updated but is still referred to EF College Break throughout the post.
Yay, another travel story! I thought it was about high time I shared my experience traveling with EF College Break which was also my first time traveling to Europe. Ever since I had gone to Australia I knew I wanted to travel more but wasn't sure how I would go about doing so. The idea of planning a trip, trying to figure out where to stay and what to do in each city stresses me out to the point of no return. One day when I was scrolling on Instagram I came across an ad for EFCB and clicked over to their profile and immediately got sucked in. They have so many different trips all over the world for crazy affordable prices. What's not to love? I got on my computer and started looking at trips and thinking about what kind of budget I'd like to have and how long I'd like to be overseas. With those parameters figured out I started poking around the website and found the European Road Trip and thought this would be a good fit for me for what I was looking for. I opted for the New Year's version of the trip because I thought it would be really fun to celebrate New Year's in a different city as well as go somewhere during my birthday. Also, I think it was a little bit cheaper to go in the winter and I'm definitely not a summer/hot weather person so it was a no-brainer for me. My trip put me in Amsterdam on New Year's but there's also a version that can put you in Munich on NYE as well. I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how much it cost at the time but as of the time of this post the trip is about $4100 though it adds up when you start adding on the optional excursions. Overnight stays in seven cities in 14 days and a few other stops in cities along the way seemed like an excellent way to see a lot in a little time. The trip I did started off in Amsterdam for three nights, one night in Frankfurt, one night in Munich, two nights in the Venice region, two nights in Lucerne, three nights in Paris and ended with two nights in London with planned stops in Insbruck and Verona along the way. I told my dad about the trip to see what he thought of the price and what all it included, he's basically my financial adviser when it comes to big purchases, and he approved so I think I might have booked my trip the day I found out about the company - if not the same day it was within a few days. I booked in the fall and counted down the days until I left in December. I originally was going to write about each city separately but that was getting quite long and a bit boring so I've decided to just show you photos of what were some of the highlights for me and will give you my generalized thoughts on the trip and company at the end. Here we go!
Frankfurt & Munich, Germany
VeronA & Milan, Italy
Paris & Versailles, France
Okay, here we go. While in Amsterdam we got to go to the Anne Frank House which was very emotional but I would say is a must if you're ever in Amsterdam. The NYE party that EFCB planned for us was so not my type of thing and ended up mostly being people from our trip and the other EFCB group on the same trip but had a different start date. I was so jet lagged in Amsterdam that I spent most of my time tired and cranky and unimpressed with the activities during this portion of the trip. Amsterdam did not get the best version of me and I definitely did not get the best version of it. The reason my photos for Germany are just Snapchat photos of food is because I barely got to see any of Germany. Most of the time was spent sitting on a coach driving from city to city so all I really did was have dinner and see a microscopic bit of what those cities have to offer. On our way from Frankfurt to Munich we did make an unplanned stop and go to Dachau Concentration Camp which was a great added bonus but overall the Germany leg of the trip was pretty lame because most of it was spent on a bus. Insbruck has some beautiful scenery but we were only there for about an hour and a half or so before we had to get back on the bus so we'd make it to Mestre (Venice Region) at a decent hour. Once we got to Italy we did a wine tasting and had dinner at the winery which was one of the more fun nights/group dinners of the trip for me. Our "day" in Venice was not nearly enough time, I think we were only there from about 10am-5pm. Venice is one of my most favorite cities I've ever been to, I've now been twice, so only being there for part of the day and having part of that day taken up by planned events on the itinerary really sucked. I did have some really good food and went on a gondola ride but overall was very disappointed with how little time was spent in Venice proper. Verona is another city I've now been to twice and all we did with EFCB was go to Casa di Giulietta and have a tiny bit of free time to get a bite to eat. After that we did get a bonus stop in Milan that was not in the books, our tour director and coach driver suggested this one, but we had so little time there I opted to eat lunch instead of going into the Duomo di Milano to keep from getting even more hangry. Then, it was back on the bus to Lucerne. We arrived in the late evening so there wasn't much to do for the remainder of the day besides get some dinner and go to sleep so we could start fresh in the morning. The next day we got to take a cable car up Mount Pilatus which was absolutely breathtaking. I'm not a summer person but I don't exactly like snow either, Kansas has desensitize me to its beauty, but this is the one time where I was 100% okay with some snow. The ride up was beautiful, the view from the top was incredible - Mt. Pilatus is just stunning in the winter and is an absolute must-see. We had a bit of time to actually go around and take photos at Mt. Pilatus so this was a more fun day for me in that respect. The rest of my time in Switzerland was spent gawking at how absurdly expensive everything is and I ended up just buying a mini bottle of wine and having that and some snacks that I had acquired for dinner in evening before we were off to Paris the next day. I hate to say this but I honestly don't remember anything about the journey between Lucerne and Paris. All I know is I was really excited to be in Paris because it was during this part of the trip that it was my birthday! Paris was also was my favorite part of the trip because it's freaking Paris and who does't want to visit Paris? The first day was spent doing a bus tour and sightseeing but on my birthday, January 9th, we had a boat cruise on the Seine and got to go up to the second level of La Tour Eiffel at night when it was all lit up. No birthday will ever top my 26th thanks to this experience. One of the nights in Paris we had a group dinner where some of the braver souls tried escargot - I was not one of them, I opted for French onion soup instead which I am now completely obsessed with. That's the other thing with a trip like this, there's a lot of group dinners and with my very picky palette the food isn't always the greatest but they can still be a lot fun. Our lats full day in France we went to Château de Versailles and got to see the garden and do a guided tour. This place is opulence to the extreme and definitely worth seeing if you're ever in the region. Then it was on to the Eurostar and off to London, one of the other cities I was most looking forward to. On the day we arrived we did a bus tour with the best guide ever, he was cracking jokes left and right, and got off the bus at a few places for photo ops. In the evening a fair few of us decided to do a pub crawl (organized, not on our own accord). I am not the biggest drinker so I knew this would be a challenge for me but I stuck it out for as long as I could and took the tube back to the hostel when the tour director left with all the other sleepy heads. Day two, the only full day in London, I went and did the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter and spent over half my day there. I grew up with Harry Potter and this was one of the coolest things ever but I hate that it took up so much of my only free day in London. I didn't get to do or see nearly enough in London and will definitely be going back at some point. Being able to look back and reflect on this trip now I wish I'd done a few more things, maybe gone out more in the evenings, but overall it was pretty fun. Initially I liked that I didn't have to plan anything and that there was so much included but now that I've traveled with a different company I will definitely say I wish I'd had more free time. Because I was in each city for such a short period of time I ended up not having enough free time and mostly only got to see the attractions and sights that were on the itinerary.
So, that's the quick and dirty of the trip but the other question I get asked about a lot is how are the accommodations and honestly...not the greatest but what do you expect for a budget trip. This tour is a combo of hotels and hostels; hostels in Amsterdam, Paris, and London and hotels in Frankfurt, Munich, Mestre, and Lucerne (if it's the same as when I went). The hotels were okay, nothing fancy but not absolutely horrible either. The Amsterdam hostel we stayed at was called Stayokay and the stay was just that, okay. The Paris hostel was the nicest place we stayed at (at least in my opinion) and it's called Generator. The things I liked most about it was that it had laundry so I was able to do a load after almost running out of clean clothes by this point plus it has a restaurant inside it that actually served some pretty good food. Generator is a chain with a bunch of different locations in Europe and one coming to Miami soon so I would definitely check it out if you're traveling solo or in a small group and are planning it yourself/on a budget. As for London I don't even remember the name of that hostel but I'm glad I don't because none of you need to know anything about it other than it was rather unpleasant. No lift (and we all had added significant weight to our luggage at this point), three bunkbeds in a tiny room, and this was the only place that did not have free breakfast. There's a Generator in London and I really wish we could of stayed there instead but I digress.
So, I will leave you with what you're possibly dying to know; would I recommend EF College break? I guess depends on what you want. I feel like I spent way too much time on a bus and not enough time in the cities I was going to see. If there was a way for this trip (or a different trip altogether) to get you from city to city via train I think that would be infinitely better so you would have more time in each city rather than only spending part of the day, not even a full 24 hours in some instances, in the cities. I enjoyed my trip to Italy last September with Contiki 10x more mostly because I had a lot more free time but if you like having the majority of your day planned out then you would probably like EFCB better (my next travel post will be on my trip with Contiki). Plus, only one or two days in a city is not nearly enough time to get to see it fully so I would not book a trip like this where I was only in a city for less than three days again. Both trips had a group count of around 40 people so you also have to be comfortable with potentially being in such a big group (group sizes can vary drastically depending on the trip though). If you are interested in EF College Break you have to be young enough, EFCB only does trips for people between the ages of 18-28 because their target audience is college students on a budget. EF stands for Education First so the trip is meant to be somewhat educational and there's a lot of bus tours and walking tours around the cities which can be nice in helping you get around but ultimately eats up way too much free time in my opinion. Again, it's all going to depend on what you want out of a trip with a travel company like this so I would highly suggest doing some research into other similar companies to see which would be the best fit for you - something I wish I'd taken the time to do. I don't regret the trip at all and am glad I got to see so much but for me, even if I wasn't almost out of the age range, I would not travel with the company again. If you have any questions that I did not address do not hesitate to ask - I've had at least 10 strangers message me on social media asking about this trip/company. This was a lot of information so thank you so much if you made it through all that. As always thank you for visiting and have a lovely day!