By this time next week, I'll be sailing the scenic canals of Amsterdam, strolling down the Seine in Paris, enjoying Swiss fondue for lunch, living the high life in Monaco, and seeing the Sagrada Familia, among other impressive Gaudi creations, in Barcelona. I'm going on vacation, this time with some friends on Contiki's 10-day Amsterdam to Barcelona tour, which also includes stops in Paris, Lucerne, and the French Riviera (do I really have to mention how excited I am about this trip?!) The good news is, you can come, too! Follow along with my adventures as I post photos from the road to our brand new Instagram page, @budgettravel.
Contiki specializes in vacations for 18-35-year-olds and recently launched Contiki Storytellers, a collaboration with The Matador Network and Céline Cousteau (Jacques Cousteau's granddaughter), to help protect and conserve the world's oceans. The #ContikiStorytellers crew created a seven-minute videohighlighting the conservancy project in Costa Rica and if the video gets 250,000 views, Contiki will sponsor another turtle. Not only that, if you share your story with the ocean via Instagram and tag #contikistorytellers by May 31st, you could win a trip to Costa Rica, so get snapping!
This is going to be my third time taking a group tour—last October I went on Contiki's London & Paris, Plus Paris Extension tour, and more recently, I went to Peru on the Machu Picchu Adventure tour with G Adventures—as I've gotten used to taking solo trips around the U.S. or family vacations abroad that required tons of planning ahead of time, so I'm excited to sit back and not have to worry about all the big details like hotels and sightseeing for a change. The package price includes a ton of perks, like 10 nights' accommodations in five different European cities; transportation between cities in a swanky, air conditioned bus; most meals (ten breakfasts and five three-course dinners); an extensive sightseeing tour including a day-trip from Amsterdam to Edam to visit a cheese farm and clog maker's house; a guided tour of the Eiffel Tower at night (this was also part of their London & Paris tour, and it was amazing to see the city lit up at night from the top!); a trip to a French perfumery; an Italian fashion experience at the Serravalle Designer Designer outlet mall (75% off Dolce & Gabbana, yes please!); a visit to the Monte Carlo casino; and a guided tour of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas.
While the tour includes a lot of sightseeing, there is also a decent amount of free time built in, especially during the first and last days of the trip. That's where you come in. Before I travel to a new place, I always ask my friends and family for recommendations for great places to eat, things I shouldn't miss, and other off-the-beaten-path spots that I'd never know about otherwise. Our intrepid Budget Travel audience has traveled all over the world and always has great advice, so now I'm asking you. What are your favorite places to visit in Amsterdam and Barcelona? Sound off below!