I Traveled Solo on a Contiki Group Experience—Here Are My Honest Thoughts

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I vividly recall the terror that crossed my mother’s face when I shared my plan to backpack solo across Europe for a month. She was playing into that typical mom-drama where they think you’re going to die at any moment. For context, I had just graduated college and felt it was the most appropriate time to venture alone and see a little slice of the world. What I didn’t know then was that I was going to be so extremely bored for 75 percent of the trip.

I had unknowingly signed myself up to wander aimlessly in a foreign land with nobody to share this amazing experience with. To give some credit to my mother, I even did feel a bit unsafe at times (You were right, Mom!). Okay, and maybe I met a few cool people at the hostels I was staying at or in the pub, but our travel plans never seemed to line up, and so I would eventually be on my own again. Enter the solution: Contiki.

If you aren’t familiar with what Contiki is, don’t worry. I’m about to explain it and how I had one of the best times of my life on a trip sponsored by Contiki.

The TL;DR on Contiki

Contiki is a service that books you on a group travel experience for ages 18-35 that includes accommodations, expert-guided itineraries, some meals, and transportation (not including flights). Essentially, you join up with a group of like-minded and aged travelers who want to get out and have an authentic experience abroad. Contiki offers over 200+ professionally curated itineraries to pick from all across the world that range, depending on your travel style and preferences.

Contiki Group Travel Experience

My Experience With Contiki

I was invited to travel on a sponsored Contiki trip to tour the Iberia peninsula for a dream adventure around Portugal and Spain for 10 days. I’m not going to lie to you; I was nervous beforehand because I have never traveled with strangers, especially internationally (somehow, that makes it more nerve-wracking). But, by the end of the trip, I can honestly say I made true and honest friendships with people I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise. The experience was unique and offered a curated experience of some countries I think I would’ve had a harder time navigating alone. With that being said, Contiki has made me never want to travel solo again.

What the Trips Are Like

To start, the trips are guided by a trained trip manager who will liaison the entire experience by showing you around, educating you on the culture, and offering first-class recommendations on what to do with your free time. It was such a bonus to have someone at our disposal who knew all the hidden gems of each town or city we were in. Each Contiki trip includes the accommodations in the price, which, to me, was such a relief not to have to worry about. In my past experiences of booking international stays on my own, I have been scammed a few times with false ads, language barriers, and oversold hostels. I felt each stay was a comfortable, mid-range hotel experience with clean sheets, bathrooms, and friendly staff.

Each day of the trip was uniquely different, with a mostly planned itinerary that included activities, sightseeing, and tours. The day would start with an included breakfast, then we would hop on the coach as a group to travel to a new destination with gaps in the day to explore on our own. Some of the included activities were walking tours of the cities, local food and wine tastings, and even a flamenco dance show in Madrid! The Contiki trips are structured to allow you to split off and do your own thing or participate in their Free-Time Add-Ons, which are additional activities or experiences you can pay for ahead of time.

This is why I think Contiki has the potential to be the ultimate travel experience for someone who wants to travel solo but might not want to actually be alone. Mainly, you’re getting a huge variety of activities without all the stressful planning. Whether your friends can’t get off the same PTO as you, or maybe you just want to go at it alone, Contiki will provide an outline for a great and unique travel experience.

Pros and Cons of Contiki


  • Includes transportation (not including flights)
  • Accommodations/hotels included
  • Included authentic experiences
  • Great way to meet new people
  • A trip manager is available the whole time
  • Ability to stick with the group or do your own thing
  • Cost-efficient in comparison to DIY
  • Has payment plans to alleviate upfront costs


  • Destinations are prepicked so if there are cities you want to visit in certain countries, you might not be able to
  • Only some meals are included (but that allows you to pick your own!)
  • You won’t know how many people are traveling on the trip with you or who they are

Contiki Group Travel Experience

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This post was originally published on Daily Beast

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