This past spring break, I went on an educational tour with my school's National English Honor Society to London and Paris. We used the very popular student travel company, EF Tours. The EF stands for Education First, but it's more like them making money first. Once you're on the trip, and paid, why should they have to really follow though?
Don't get me wrong; I do not regret going. It really was the trip of a life time and I am very fortunate for being able to go. But I do belive that my money could have better been spent with another company. EF does it the most and they do it the cheapest, but if you're going to drop $2500 on a european vacation, why not drop $3000 or even $3500 and really do it right? I feel that if I am prepared to spend that much on a trip, then I should be able to spend a little more and have a much better time.
The tour began when UNITED cancelled our flight from San Fransico to London. We sat on the tarmac for four hours until they had us get off. Then they made us all move to a new gate and get on a new plane and then get back off two hours later. Then they put us up in a hotel that had barbed wired on the fences. We missed the first two days of our seven day trip!
Then when we arrived in London, EF had the time mixed up, so there was no bus waiting to pick us up. We watched other EF groups walk off the plane and onto waiting busses, but ours was stuck in traffic somwhere. Our first three hours in London were spent ont he floor of Heathrow Airport.
We ended up only having twenty four hours in London, which trust me, you could easily spend a month there. Except the extremly high cost of the pound versus the dollar will have you broke in no time. (I ate a seven dollar muffin on accident. It wasn't even that good. )
We stayed at a hotel in London that actually had a nice view... of Croydon, a suburb of London that is an hour by subway from any tourist destinations. We also had to ask for clean sheets. EF promised us full european breakfasts every morning... we were led past the hotel's continental breakfast with eggs and potatoes and bacon and yogurt to a counter in the back of the lobby with cornflakes and orange juice. The same thing happened in Paris, and the orange juice got more watery everyday... (we think that they took the leftovers and added water every night. ) The next day, our tour guide took us on a bus ride through london and the "Expert Local Guide" they had hired had a kick ass cockney accent, but was also extremly hung over. We cruised right by big ben and actually had to beg to be allowed to stop. They gave us five minutes to see all of westminster abbey, parliment, and big ben.
Then we went to go get on the train to Paris. We ended up stranded at St. Pancras for four hours (after rushing down the streets near Big Ben) doing nothing but shopping and eating twenty dollar big macs. Which are better in america, by the way, while our guide went back to the hotel to get our luggage.
Then we got on the train, and they did not have enough space for our luggage. Also, we were spread across six cars. Two people actually ast with stangers for three hours.
Paris got better though, and as soon as we stopped expecting anything, we had a good time. The only thing I can say is yes, go with EF, if you can't afford more. Just don't have any expectations.