If you are looking to have the trip of a lifetime but either 1. Don’t have anyone to travel with, 2. Are afraid to go somewhere completely alone, or 3. Hate trip planning, I highly recommend group travel. EF Ultimate Break is one of the premier travel companies for people ages 18-35 who are looking to explore some of the world’s top destinations with a fun, young crowd. This blog post will recap my pros and cons of EF group travel and give you my honest EF Ultimate Break tour review.
Group travel can help when you want to go on your first solo travel journey without being completely solo. EF helped me gain the confidence to go overseas alone, and is one of the reasons I now feel so comfortable as a solo traveler.
I did the The Greek Islands tour with EF Ultimate Break back in 2021, and that trip will be what I’m basing this blog post around. Throughout this post, you will get to see some of my favorite Greece photos that might just inspire you to book this trip for yourself! Keep reading to discover my EF Ultimate Break tour review.
Pros of Traveling with EF Ultimate Break
Your ENTIRE Trip is Planned Out for You
This is the biggest draw to tour group travel and why a lot of people love it. Once your trip is booked, your only other responsibilities are to pack your bags and show up.
When you go to book your EF trip, you are able to call and speak to a trip expert to help guide you through the planning process and answer any questions you have.
When I booked my trip, the trip expert made it clear that I was able to reach out and call again any time if I had questions (and I took advantage of this offer!).
Aside from when you get free time, EF will have everything planned out for you. They will book your flights, your hotels, arrange public transportation, assign you a tour guide for your group, make reservations for restaurants and events, have an entire itinerary for the day, etc.
And when you do have free time, you’ll have already explored enough of the area that you have a general idea of where to go and what you want to do.
For people that hate planning, it’s SO nice!
- Pro Tip: EF gives you the option of booking your own flight if you wish. I let them book mine for me, but some people prefer to book their own due to layover and airport preferences.
You Get an Expert (and Fun!) Tour Guide
Having a local expert to guide you through the city or country you’re visiting takes away SO much stress. You don’t have to worry about not being able to speak the language, not knowing how to read the signs, not knowing the proper bar or restaurant etiquette, etc.
Your tour guide will have all this covered and then some. He or she is there to take care of you, guide you around, answer questions, help you out, and show you the best time. He or she can also give you advice on what foods to try, cultural norms and traditions, common words to know in the native language, etc. Your tour guide also knows the must-see-and-do things in the city so you can ensure you are checking off all the highlights.
After your trip is booked, you will get an email from your tour guide closer to the time you leave, giving you even more specific details than what you already knew about in your EF itinerary. Knowing exactly what I was going to be doing each day made packing and mentally preparing for my trip so much easier!
I already mentioned how your trip is planned out for you, but during your free time, your tour guide can give you recommendations on what to do and see, which bars serve the best cocktails, the best spot in the city to catch the sunset, and where to get the perfect Instagram photo.
I still keep in contact with my tour guide from Greece and ask him questions any time I am traveling to Europe! Keep in mind, even if your trip only encompasses one country, it is likely that your guide has been all over Europe and can provide you with some great recommendations.
Payment Plans are an Option
It’s no secret that today, it is hard in these financial streets. EF gives you the option to pay for your entire trip up front, or you can do a payment plan to make it more affordable.
They also have sales throughout the year! Black Friday is a notable time that comes to mind, but they will have deals on trips during other months too.
The best way to ensure you are the first to know about trip deals and sales is to follow EF Ultimate Break on social media, and/or sign up for their email list on their website to get notified.
You Have the Option to Extend Your Trip
I took advantage of extending my trip when I booked the Ultimate Greek Islands with EF Ultimate Break (fun fact: This is actually how I ended up going to Barcelona alone!). To this day, I still say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
How Extending Your Trip Works with EF Ultimate Break
When you choose to extend your trip, you can either come a few days before your trip starts or stay longer after your trip ends. You can stay in the country that you’re already going to be in, or you can choose to go somewhere else.
All you have to do is tell your EF trip planner the dates that you want to extend your trip for, and they’ll make it happen!
However, I should point out that when they say “we’ll extend your trip,” what they essentially mean is “we’ll book your flight home” (if you’re staying after)…or, “we’ll book your arriving flight” (if you’re going before your trip starts).
Are you confused? Let me explain using my real life scenario:
When I booked my EF trip to the Greek islands, I chose to extend my trip by going to Barcelona after my tour of the Greek islands was over. EF helped me out by switching my flight back home from Athens –> Pittsburgh to Barcelona –> Pittsburgh.
BUT…that’s all they did. I had to figure out my flight from Athens to Barcelona. I had to figure out where I was staying in Barcelona. I had to figure out what I was DOING in Barcelona!
To make a long story short, I accepted this challenge and had the best time in Spain (and if you want to read about this experience in more detail, head over to my About Me page for the story of how I became a travel blogger in the first place!)
Know that extending your trip is an option, but you will be responsible for yourself during that trip extension. You will NOT have a tour guide or anything planned out for you.
If this is your first solo trip, I would advise you to do what I did and extend your trip AFTER your EF trip ends. That way, you already have a general idea when it comes to navigating Europe and you’re more prepared.
There are Plenty of Opportunities to Make New Friends
This was one of my personal favorite parts about traveling with EF Ultimate Break. My very first night in Athens, I was put in a room with two other girls who I instantly bonded with. We spent the rest of the trip exploring Greece together and had the absolute best time!
I can honestly tell you that I could not imagine my life now without my friends that I made in Greece. The three of us have traveled to multiple destinations together and have even visited each other’s hometowns!
I can’t even describe what a blessing it is to make friends on a trip like this. Not only do you have people to enjoy your current trip with, but you have people that you know you can go places with in the future because you share the same love for travel.
There’s Safety in Numbers
One of the biggest drawbacks that people have about traveling solo is the fear of the unknown. Not just that, but knowing that if something goes wrong, you essentially have yourself to rely on and that’s it. It can definitely be scary!
With group travel, that worry is taken away. You have a tour guide that you can go to if you need anything, plus a group of people to walk around the city with so you aren’t wandering aimlessly by yourself.
When people tell me they are going to Europe, one of the biggest things I tell them to watch out for is pickpockets. Your chances of being pickpocketed in a group also go down because pickpockets tend to know that people in groups watch out for each other.
The Trips are Educational (also a Con)
I listed this in both the pros AND cons section of this blog post because it truly depends on what you want out of your trip. Throughout your tour, you will get “expert guides” in addition to your tour guide that will tell you the history of the city or country that you’re visiting.
If you’re a history buff, you will be in your glory…and even if you’re not (ahem...🙋🏼♀️), it’s still pretty cool to learn about. Getting to know the ancient culture, symbolic artifacts, and religious/monumental history is a pretty neat feeling. Not to mention, you get to walk in the same footsteps as some of the most famous people in the world!
You Gain the Confidence to Travel Solo
For me, this was the biggest pro of all. I learned and absorbed so much on this group trip with EF because I took advantage of the resources I had (mostly my tour guide), and I paid attention. Like…really paid attention. I knew I could watch-and-learn what to do, I got familiar with different types of transportation, I saw how locals and strangers interacted. Within the first couple days, I knew I could definitely travel to Europe solo.
I feel like I need to use this platform to say that the media and other sources of news will try to fear monger you into believing the world isn’t safe. And, sometimes it isn’t. But I have to say, every time I have gone anywhere solo, I have almost never felt afraid. I know I owe that feeling to educating myself as a traveler, and group travel is one of the best ways to do that.
Cons of Traveling with EF Ultimate Break
You Could Likely Plan a Cheaper Trip on Your Own
In case you didn’t know, group travel can be pricey. A lot of times, the flights are what tends to be expensive. Since I’ve started traveling often, I have learned a few secrets to booking cheap flights. While EF does give you the option to book your own flight, a lot of people take advantage of the “planning” perk and let the trip advisors book for them. However, if you feel confident, you could likely save money by booking your own flight.
When you travel on your own or with friends, you have control over where you stay. If you’re a budget traveler, it’s likely you will find yourself in a few hostels. You could eat at cheaper restaurants or find hotels where breakfast is included.
With EF, your hotel accommodations, along with certain meal reservations, are planned out for you. While you aren’t eating at Michelin Star places or staying at 5 star resorts, know that the restaurants and hotels may be a little pricier than what you could find if you were making it a point to budget travel on your own.
You Might Not Get Along with Some of the People on Your Tour Group
You know what they say: “You could be the juiciest peach in the world, and there will still be some people who hate peaches.” That is to say, there may be some people on your group tour that you may dislike or straight up can’t stand. But I promise you that there will also be people on your group tour that you vibe with, you bond with, and you become lifelong friends with.
Like I stated in the intro, the age range for EF Ultimate Break is from 18 to 35. I don’t know about you, but I was not the same person in my teens as I am in my 30s. I was fortunate enough to have some people that were closer to my age on my tour, but keep in mind that you may have some people who are substantially older or younger than you in your group. This is your reminder that it’s okay to not get along with everybody. Even if you only meet one friend on your tour, that’s really all you need!
It’s Exhausting/You’re (Sometimes) Rushed
One of the best things about EF trips is that they make sure you get to see all the best parts of the destination that you’re going to. But sometimes, this doesn’t leave much time for rest, especially when you first get there.
If you, like me, have an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” approach to vacation, you will likely be running off of so much adrenaline when you land that it won’t hit you til a couple days later. But when it hits….giiiirl. 😳 I know my first taste of adult European jet lag is something I won’t soon forget.
- Pro Tip: If I could give you any piece of “rest advice,” I would say try upgrading your flight if it’s available and within your budget. Depending on where you’re going, a flight upgrade could be more or less expensive. To save money, I always upgrade at the last possible minute.
In addition to cramming a lot of things into your day, you sometimes tend to feel like you are rushed through certain things or places you’d like to take your time and enjoy more. For instance, my biggest complaint about my trip to Greece was that I didn’t feel like we got enough free time in Santorini. But now, I know that I could go back and plan a trip myself if I wanted to.
The Trips Are Educational (also a Pro)
As previously mentioned, I listed this as both a pro and a con. While it is definitely a pro, I also consider it a con for me personally because I felt there was a little too much education during some parts of this trip…in particular, when we were in Santorini. We spent a lot of our first day learning about different parts of the city and not as much time as I would have liked in Oia, which is the town with the whitewashed buildings and sunsets that you see on all the famous Greece photos.
I also wish I had some sort of superpower where I could remember everything that was said to me during these historical lectures, but I feel like I forget it almost as quickly as I’m impressed by it. Sighhhh.
Certain Excursions Cost Extra
Picture it: You book your trip, you pay for your trip, and now your life is complete! Not so fast. Your tour guide will be reaching out to you to give you some options for excursions that you are able to book for an extra charge. But the question is…are they worth it?
I listed this as a con because #MoreMoney, but IMO, some of the extras that I booked in Greece were in fact worth it.
If you are doing The Greek Islands tour, I would highly recommend the following excursions:
- The hot springs/volcano in Santorini
- The wine tasting in Santorini
- The boat cruise in Paros
They used to have a boat tour in Mykonos, but it would almost always get cancelled due to the wind. They now have a Mykonian farm & BBQ option, which I unfortunately can’t speak to because it wasn’t an option when I went.
- Pro Tip: EF has a Facebook group that you can join and connect with people on your tour + other people who have gone on previous trips. If you’re going on a trip and are on the fence about the excursions, I recommend networking with people in the Facebook group to see if anyone has any feedback on the excursions for your destination.
Not Pros, Not Cons, but Other Things to Know
About Booking with EF Ultimate Break
- EF Ultimate Break is catered to a younger crowd. Therefore, you WILL be partying! There were quite a few nights that we stayed out well past midnight with our tour guide.
- When booking certain trips, you have the option to pay more money for a similar trip with nicer hotel accommodations. I did not choose to do this, and still loved all the hotels that I stayed in. I felt that they were all clean, beautiful, and safe.
- The number of roommates per room will vary depending on your hotel. Sometimes, you will have up to 4 people in a room with one bathroom.
- If you travel with friends or make friends on your trip, you can request to be put in the same room with them (although your tour guide will likely pick up on who you hang out with and do this anyway!).
- EF will suggest that “a carry-on is all your need” when it comes to packing. I can’t even pack a carry-on for a weekend trip, let alone a 10 day trip to Europe. I took a huge suitcase and have no regrets – however, know you may have to lug your stuff up and down some steps because some places won’t have elevators.
My Overall Recap of EF Ultimate Break
Overall, I’m SO glad I went on a group trip with EF Ultimate Break. I feel like the ways that my trip benefitted me completely outweighs any cons that I have listed in this post.
I have had so many people tell me that “after going on their first solo trip to Europe, they are hooked for life.” (And obviously, I am also once of those people.) I truly owe so much to EF for helping me feel confident in learning how to plan my trips. I now feel like I know what to look for, what to do, and how to make sure I turn every trip into the trip of a lifetime.
Having said all that, as someone who is addicted to solo travel, I can’t see me doing another group trip with EF…but don’t let that deter you from booking multiple trips. I know people who have gone on 5 EF trips and plan to go on more. Solo travel is a personal preference for me, but for many people, experiencing a new place is so much better with a group, a guide, and a planned itinerary. I feel exceptionally blessed that I know what it’s like to do both.