Since it’s been over a year since I left for my first EF College Break trip, I think it’s time to finally post about my experience with EF. If you’re reading this, I hope I can help!
If you’re unfamiliar with EF College Break, they are a travel company that offers an extensive amount of worldwide tours for those between the ages of 18-28. Trips can range from 8 to 35 days and are reasonably priced, thus making EF a great option for travelers on a budget. Despite the fact that they are called EF College Break, you don’t need to be enrolled in a college/university to book a trip through them.
BEFORE THE TRIP:
I was a bit skeptical before booking the trip since I didn’t personally know anyone who had used EF before, and the prices seemed too good to be true. After doing some research on the company and reading other people’s stories/reviews, I decided to go for it.
After booking, you’re given the choice to pay the entire price up front, or pay in installments. If you choose to pay in installments on a structured month-to-month basis, you’ll have until right before your trip to pay it off. I chose to pay on my own terms, since I was going on another trip soon after booking, and wasn’t sure if I could realistically afford the monthly payments at the time. Since I didn’t enroll in EF’s monthly payment plan, I had until 99 days before the trip to completely pay it off. In a way, this was easier for me because I was able to pay what I wanted when I wanted – some months I didn’t pay anything, while other months I paid more than what the minimum monthly payment would have been. Depending on what you’re looking for, EF makes paying off your trip easy.
Once your trip has been booked, you’re also given the option to stay ahead/stay behind, and EF will handle your flights (possibly for an extra fee, depending where you fly from/to). My friend and I chose to stay behind for this trip to stay in London an extra few days, as well as visit Italy and Spain. You can also purchase travel insurance ($125, I believe), and any optional excursions that are offered during your trip. For the trip that I booked (Amsterdam, Paris + London), the optional excursions that were available were a trip to Versailles and an Amsterdam bike tour. Since I hadn’t been on a bike in years, I was a bit nervous about the bike tour, and chose to opt out of it, and only purchased the Versailles trip, which was ~$75.
After booking your trip, you’re set up with a trip consultant, who will send you information regarding your trip, and is available to answer any questions prior to take-off. Personally, I didn’t have much contact with my trip consultant.
A couple of months prior to your trip, you’ll be invited to a Facebook group with everyone you’ll be traveling with. The Facebook group is definitely a great way to meet people, especially if you’re traveling solo. After chatting via Facebook, I ended up meeting up with 4 other travelers in the NYC area a couple of weeks before the trip!
A few weeks before departure, all of your flight + accommodation info can be found by logging into your EF account. We ended up staying at a hostel in Amsterdam, an Ibis hotel in Paris, and apartment-style college housing in London. If you’re from the NYC/NJ area, your flight can depart/arrive from either JFK, EWR, or LGA. Our tour guide, Antonis (who was absolutely incredible), introduced himself to us in the Facebook group + via email, and let us know where to meet him once we arrived in Amsterdam. He also set up a ton of optional excursions for each city – apart from the EF excursions – all we had to do was let him know which ones we were interested in. We were also able to request roommates, so that he didn’t have to randomly arrange us, and he did his best to honor all requests. I requested my friend, who I booked the trip with, as well as the other 4 NY travelers that we met up with prior to the trip, and we all roomed together in Amsterdam. Some of the excursions included a Red Light District and Amsterdam nightlife tour, a Parisian cabaret show, a French gourmet dinner, a London pub crawl, a Harry Potter walking tour, and a Jack the Ripper walking tour in London – each at an extra cost. I ended up doing the London pub crawl (additional 18 euros) and Jack the Ripper tour (additional 15 euros), which I paid Antonis for once we were in Amsterdam.
DURING THE TRIP:
We arrived at Newark Airport for our afternoon flight, and thankfully, we had no issues. (I believe that some people on our trip did, which was terrible because they ended up missing nearly a day of the trip, but EF wasn’t at fault.) Our flight was pretty standard – United, economy, nonstop – which was perfect.
Once we arrived in Amsterdam, we were met by Antonis, who directed us to our private bus that took us to our hostel (StayOkay Zeeburg). The hostel, along with the rest of our accommodations were all great, offered free breakfast, and exceeded our expectations, considering how inexpensive the entire trip was. You won’t be staying in 5-star hotels, but you’ll at least have a clean bed to sleep in. My only gripe with each of our hotels/hostels is that they were all located so far from the city centers, but we always had accessible public transportation. After our stay in Amsterdam, we boarded a coach bus that brought us to our hotel in Paris! On the way to Paris, we also made a 1.5 hour stop in Brussels. (Yay waffles + chocolate!) In Paris, Antonis let us all settle in, brought us to the Eiffel Tower, and took us on a Seine River cruise. He even purchased a few bottles of wine for everyone! (Honestly, he was the best and I need to take another trip with him ASAP. I could go on forever about what a great tour guide he was.)
From Paris, we took the Eurostar train into London, where we were met with another coach bus, which brought us to our final hotel (which were actually gorgeous apartment-style dorms). My friend and I were extremely lucky – in both Paris and London, we had our rooms to ourselves; most rooms had 3-4+ people in them. On our last night in London, we all had dinner at a local pub with Antonis, and went out later that night before saying our goodbyes the next morning. Since we chose to “stay behind”, we checked out of our room, and checked into our next hostel in London before making our way to Rome a few days later!
If you’re considering booking a trip through EF, then I say go for it (if their prices are lower compared to you booking your own flights + hotels). Also, make sure you book early. The earlier you purchase your trip, the cheaper it will be and the longer you’ll have to pay it off. We booked this trip about a year in advance and paid a couple of hundred dollars less than some of our fellow travelers. When booking through EF, almost everything is done for you and covered in the amount you pay upfront – flights, accommodations, transportation to/from each city + within each city, and daily breakfast – thus making your life easier and less stressful. You’ll have to pay tips, lunch, dinner, and any other expenses out-of-pocket.
I also liked that our trip was structured and had a basic itinerary which included the must-sees (Eiffel Tower, Anne Frank House, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, etc.), but we also had plenty of free time to explore each city on our own. Not everyone has the same interests and wants to do the same thing. Plus, traveling in smaller groups is just easier, anyways.
My trip with EF introduced me to some great people who I still keep in contact with to this day. (I’m actually seeing one of them this week!)
Can’t wait to book my next trip with them.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!