EF College Break (or now known as EF Ultimate Break)… what is it?
For those of you who have never heard of EF, it is an international educational company offering different types of travel related services. EF, which stands for Education First, offers study abroad, language learning, student exchange, student tours, college trips, and more. You can visit their main EF website here if you’re interested in learning more about everything EF has to offer to you.
Before I get started into telling you about my whole experience from booking the trip, prices/costs, my experience during the trip, and my tips/advice if you wish to look into booking a trip with EF, I must say that overall I had such a great time! I would gladly book again with EF Ultimate Break in the future now that I am more aware of what I’m getting myself into. And of course, this is all from my personal experience and all opinions are mine.
I first heard about EF while I was back in high school during my junior year. I had signed up to take a 10 day trip (an EF Student Tour, which is completely different than an Ultimate Break tour) with my fellow classmates and teachers to France and Spain in 2013. A year later, 2014, I had came across EF Ultimate Break in search of taking part of a travel group with my friend, Marjorie. We had decided to sign up for the longest tour, Ultimate Europe, which covered 9 countries in just 35 days.
FYI! I know this post is a bit lengthy, so feel free to jump to any specific section you’re most interested in or just keep on reading!
- Roundtrip flights (only if you wish to book with them, which I did)
- Entrances to major attractions (Eiffel Tower, museums, etc)
- Tour director and local tour guides in each city
- And a few others you could check on their website here
Pricing will be different depending on what city you’re flying out from, any excursions you wish to add, and if you choose to add travel protection. Without including the spending money I had saved up prior to the trip, I had spent roughly about $5,600 to book the trip. $5,600 including travel protection, most of all the excursions being offered, flying out from San Francisco, and just the cost of the trip itself.
It is suggested by the website that you’ll probably spent about $100 per day (personally, I did not), so for spending money it was suggested to save up about $3,500 for this particular trip. I believed I saved around $3,000 plus I had also taken my credit cards for back up (but don’t rely on them please).
Depending on your spending habits, only you will truly know if you’ll need more or less spending money than the suggested amount. If you’re planning on shopping, buying a lot of souvenirs, splurging here and there, then do take more money. However, if you mainly know that you really only need money for food, extra activities, and whatever else that may come up last minute, then I don’t believe you need a lot.
But, it’s always better to have more than you expect to spend. You don’t want to run out of money before the trip comes to an end!
Do not expect any fancy hotels. No, no. You will mostly be staying in hostels throughout your trip, and sometimes you’ll be lucky to stay in a few decent hotels. Yet again, nothing elegant, but that’s okay.
During this trip, it was my first time ever experiencing staying in hostels. It’s definitely nothing to be afraid or grossed out of. I stayed in rooms ranging from 2-5 other girls, but it could be more at times. Also, I always stayed with girls the whole time. I do know that you can essentially switch rooms with someone else if you two agree on it, and could possibly sleep in an all guy’s room if they’re okay with it, too.
I never had anything taken away from me, and most of the hostels had good locations, and had very friendly staff. Also, most hostels (as far as I can remember) had free breakfast in the morning. That’s something I highly encourage you to take advantage of!
Personally, I wouldn’t stress out too much about accommodations. Remember, you’ll be paying lots of money (or somebody will essentially be paying) and so you don’t really want to spend the majority of your time at the hostels. Go out and explore!
Transportation was something I truly loved how EF/our tour director arranged it. Transportation was always included as mentioned above.
We took a quick flight from Athens to Rome and our tour director made everything go smoothly. For the long bus rides going from city to city, we always had private motorcoaches and practically all of them (except for one, I believe) were comfortable. In every city (I think) we were given metro passes, which were extremely useful because you could take the metro at your convenience without having to worry about buying separate metro/buses tickets.
For those long bus journeys, I recommend sleeping. Sleeping because you’re looking at quite a handful of hours going from one destination to the next. Make sure you have headphones, a fully charged phone, and a neck pillow/eye mask if you believe you’ll need one. But remember, you’ll have to carry everything you take with you on and off all types of transportations you take.
TOUR DIRECTORS/TOUR GUIDES:
A tour director is different than a tour guide, okay.
Your tour director will be with you from day 1 until the very last day of the trip. Your tour director will be the one you go to if you have questions, need recommendations, or help. You will have different local tour guides in each city you visit whom will show you around the city and give you facts/history behind it.
Tipping your tour director is different than tipping your tour guide, alright.
It is recommended from EF that you should tip your tour director about $2-3 per day, so for my trip that came about $105 total. Although I recommend tipping a bit more for all the hard work they put in ensuring you have the trip of your life. Tipping your tour guide is fairly cheaper, about a dollar or two per local tour guide is fine. Usually, I just gave them whatever spare change (coins) I had on me. Tipping is not mandatory, but c’mon… do it!
I was impressed with every tour guide I had because they were so knowledgable about the city and always gave their personal recommendations as well, which were useful.
As for my tour director, I felt extremely blessed to have had him, Michael, because he showed that he genuinely cared about each of us (about 40 people, I recall), made the effort to ensure we were all always having a good time, and his knowledge about every place we visited was amazing. Plus, I’m still really great friends with Michael, so that’s even better!
You can make friends or not. But you should. You really should.
I did not become close with a lot of people. Pretty much only about 8-9 girls, and I am still connected with them through social media. We’ll chat here and there.
Clicks do form throughout the trip. From my observations, the people you hang out with during the first few days is pretty much the group you’ll be hanging out with for the remainder of the trip. Although, some people moved on and whatnot for their own personal reasons, but essentially, there was always someone for somebody.
The majority were solo travallers, which was great because everyone just click with somebody and there were a few people who already had their friend they were travelling with (like Marjorie and I).
If you travel with a buddy already, don’t distance yourself from the group (unless you really really like being alone) because Marjorie and I did this for most of the trip, and I do now wish I had taken the chance to have gotten to know my fellow travellers a bit better.
However, don’t be afraid of adventuring off by your own! I highly recommend it, too.
ITINERARY & EXCURSIONS:
EF already has the basic itinerary of your trip planned out, which is pretty awesome. Your tour director will give you a heads up of a more detailed itinerary for cities, but you practically have the whole day to yourself… well about half the day-ish.
Most, if not all, tour guides were scheduled in the mornings of the first day you arrive in a new city. After that, you’re as free as a bird to go off adventuring! Although, I really suggest that you do your own research ahead of time of activities you would be interested in doing or places you’d want to see of each city. That way you won’t waste any precious time figuring what to do the day of your stay.
When booking your trip, you will be asked if you’d like to add any or all of the excursions being offered. Definitely do add the ones that sound appealing to you (every offer has a brief description). Though, I did not book about 2 or 3 of them. Prior to your trip or during your trip, your tour director will have additional excursions being offered to you, but you will have to pay him/her in cash when they ask for it. To be completely honest, my tour director’s excursions were way better than the ones EF had offered.
If you choose not to partake in an excursion, have no fear. You will simply have more time to explore the city and do other things that you prefer to do.
EXTENDING YOUR TRIP:
You usually have the option to extend your trip through EF if your particular trip is offering to visit an extra city at the end of your trip. It is optional, but if you have the time and money then why not!
You could also extend your trip, before or after, on your own. Marjorie and I had decided to fly into London first and then meeting up with our group down in Athens on the day that everyone was arriving. Since we had booked our flights through EF, it was pretty cool that EF was able to redirect our flight to London instead of Athens (at no extra charge), but we had to personally book our own flights from London to Athens and figure out public transportation in Greece to meet our tour director and group.
So, if you are planning on extending your trip and you want to book your flights through EF, do not worry about a thing. EF’s got yo’ back.
- Do not overpack! Whatever you have with you is what you will personally be carrying all the time. That means, on and off trains, buses, and short walks within cities.
- Make friends! Do not be shy. Step out of your comfort zone. Talk! Laugh! Take lots of pictures with your fellow travellers or anyone else you meet. It will be worth it when you look back on them and reminisce on your trip.
- Bring plenty of money. The last thing you want is to have to call back home in the middle of your trip because you’re short on cash. Make the right choices.
- Try not to skip out on the planned dates with the local tour guides. I skipped it while I was in Berlin to sleep in, and poor choice.
- Make the most out of your trip! For many, this is a trip of a lifetime, so make sure you do everything you have always wanted to do while abroad.
I also have another post where I have shared all the things I have learned from taking my first Euro trip A.K.A this one. You can read that here, so you can have even more advice for your future trips and learn from my mistakes.
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