DAY 24- Amsterdam to Kelowna
Kelowna Travel Blog› entry 35 of 35 › view all entries
I had to wake up early today, as I was traveling home. I had the taxi service arrive at 7:15 to take me to Schiphol airport. The traffic was quite sparse until we actually go to the airport, so it didn’t take long to get there- maybe 20 minutes. The airport was incredibly busy, so I was thankful for being there early. I flew from Schiphol to Heathrow, then had a seven hour layover. From Heathrow I flew to Vancouver, however, when we landed in Vancouver, the weather was so poor that we weren’t allowed to pull up to the gat after we had landed. So, we sat on the plane, about 20 feet from our gate, for three hours. By the time we finally got off the plane, I had missed my connection to Kelowna. However, due to the weather, all flights had been delayed. I got to the Air Canada desk, only to find out no more flights were leaving Vancouver that night, so I’d have to re-book for the next morning. By the time I got through to Air Canada on the phone (because, by now, the desk was closed) and re-booked my flight, it was 1AM. My new flight was at 7AM, so there was no point in leaving the airport, so I ended up staying at YVR- with no sleep. My 7Am flight was delayed, as there were some maintenance issues to clear up, so we ended up leaving a ½ hour late, arriving in Kelowna at 8:30. By the time I landed, I had been traveling for 36 hours! and had only gotten one hour sleep in that time. I was tired, but I didn’t go to sleep until 10 hours later, so as to fight off any jet lag I may get. So, one hour of sleep in the 46 hours- but I wouldn’t have changed any of it because I had the most fabulous trip ever!
I absolutely understand that a Contiki tour is not for everyone. It worked for me, though, as I was looking for a way to see as much as possible in as little time as possible. Everything was organized for me, all I had to do was show up. I had no worries about transportation and accommodation, which saved A LOT of time. Here are some more thoughts:
1) The ‘Contiki Cough’ is real. Even though I was taking vitamins and Cold FX every day, I still got the cough. The first day I felt it coming on, I got a bit of a fever, so I started taking more Cold FX. The next day the sickness was gone, but I still had the cough. I was able to find a pharmacy no problem, and bought some cough syrup, which worked quite well. It didn’t prevent me from losing my voice for a day, though. Once my voice was back, I continued taking the syrup for another day, and ended knocking it out. The whole thing only lasted about 3 ½ day, and that was one of the shortest sicknesses on tour. Others were sick anywhere from 1 week to 2 ½ weeks, so I ended up being one of the lucky ones. Being on the bus so much, with all that recycled air, you are bound to get sick. So, take care of yourself as best as you can.
2) Do the excursions. You’ll have so much fun doing them, and, because most of the people on the tour do most of the excursions, you won’t be alone or left out. I did almost all of them, and I don’t regret it one bit. I didn’t go all the way to Europe to just sit around. I didn’t want to come home and say “I wish I had….”. You’ve been saving for the trip, you may as well spend the money and see what Europe has to offer, as these excursions will let you experience more of the culture of the place you’re in.
3) One of the stipulations of me doing this trip was that I go alone, that way I’d be forced out of my comfort zone and get out and meet more people. I have no regrets about going on my own because I got out there and did things. I didn’t have to worry about my travel partner and what they wanted to do. If there was something I wanted to do or see, I just found whoever else was doing and joined them. I’ve heard of others going on the tour by themselves, and not sharing a room with another single traveler. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Everybody on tour is like minded, so the chances of you not getting along with your roommate is slim. And besides, you spend so little time in your hotel room, that even if you didn’t get along, you’d hardly be with them anyways.
4) Make it a priority to talk to everyone you’re traveling with. You may not get along with everyone, so it’s easy to just stay away from those you don’t. But, you won’t know that until you meet and get to know everyone. I, like everyone else, got along with some better than others, but after spending 23 days with the same people, all day, every day, I’ve made lifelong friendships with people from around the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone I toured with, and we’re all now planning trips to visit each other in our different countries at the first chance we get!
5) Superior vs. budget tours. I did a superior tour, and after seeing some of the places we stayed at, I can’t even imagine what a budget tour would be like. So, I would recommend the superior tour. However, for those people that are more adventurous than I am, I’ve heard that the budget tours are really fun, and that you will associate with more Contiki tours than just your own, as there will be more staying in the same places at one time.
6) Bring an iPod and a travel pillow. You will be spending A LOT of hours on the bus, traveling from city to city, and after a while, you don’t want to hear the rowdies at the back of the bus, hooting and hollering. Sometimes you want a little quiet. Most people use the bus as a place to catch up on their sleep, and it’s much easier, and more comfortable to get to sleep if you have the pillow around your neck and the ear buds, with your own music, in your ears.
7) If you’re a drinker, count on spending a lot of money on alcohol. At night, when you’re out with your tour mates, all the socializing involves drinking. All the expenses that I listed in my blog were ballpark figures. I absolutely lost track of how much I spent on alcohol, but I know, that aside from the optional excursions, that alcohol was my biggest cost. And, I didn’t even have to buy a lot because dinner almost always included a ½ bottle of wine per person!
8) If you’re lucky, you’ll get a tour manager who likes to party just as much as the group does. We were very lucky because our manager, Josh, was pretty much the biggest partier of the group (it didn’t cause him to do a bad job, though). He always came out with us, and knew his way around the cities and where the good clubs were, so it was great having him with us. We had a good time making fun of him, too!
9) If the thought of all that bus time without stopping is deterring you from doing a tour, don’t let it. There are driving rules in Europe that stipulate how long the drivers can go without stopping. There are plenty of rest stops along the way that the tour takes full advantage of, giving you lots of opportunities for smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, and food breaks.
10) At the start of the tour, your manager will give you ‘get lost’ sheet with all your hotel information on it. DON’T LOSE IT. I can’t tell you how many times we had to use it after drinking all night, then having to make our way back to the hotel in a cab. When you can’t even walk straight, let alone can’t speak the language, it’s easy to pull out the sheet and either try to read the address of the hotel, or just show it to the driver. Don’t leave the hotel without it!
11) Your biggest responsibility is to make the bus on time when it‘s leaving. You don’t have to do all the excursions that are planned. If you find the tour too structured, do your own thing. Go explore on your own. Just be on the bus at the given time, whether you’re leaving a pitstop or leaving a city.
12) HAVE FUN!!!