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Day 53: Tours for Under 35’s

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Day 53: Anonymity

Day 53: Anonymity

Are tours for under 35’s a good thing, or are they all about getting trashed and hooking up? That, my blog reading friends, is the question.

Usually, my internal joy for being independent on all accounts, especially when I travel, makes it hard for me to sign up for tours. I have huge issues with tossing out a large sum of money when there is the chance that I could be saving quite a bit more by doing it myself. Therefore, I don’t have much experience when it comes to these under 35’s type excursions.

But, the issue of an age-grouped tour came up when I was ranting and raving about the idea of Vodkatrain, and I can totally understand both the issue of restricting, as well as the need by the company to do so.

My original thought is that by restricting the target market to this age bracket, you are therefore targeting a certain mindset — one of more laid-back, independent and carefree attitudes. However, is it really necessary to use the age range? By doing so, you may be turning away those really fun and wacky 38 or 42 year olds that could be the best travel mates ever.

Yes, I’m serious about that last point. How many times have you stayed in a hostel to meet some really cool individuals that may not be young physically, but their spirit is inspiring and invigorating on all levels?

Instead, would it be better to use a tag line such as, “for the adventurous spirit”?

My Fraser Island Tour

In August of last year, I went on a tour of Fraser Island with Cool Dingo, which is a company that targets the under 35 crowd. It was great. I absolutely loved the group of people that signed up when I went, and those individuals ranged from young singles to older married couples. One thing was certain: everyone was really laid-back and enjoying the company of others.

In all honesty, I probably could have signed up for any tour of Fraser Island and been happy; the unique scenery made it almost magical. However, there were a few minutes when Heather and I were waiting to be picked up at our hostel by the group bus that I was thanking the Heavens for choosing an under 35’s tour, namely when a huge line of middle-aged couples and seniors lined up to stow their luggage away and board the bus before ours. All that was left on the side of the road were youthful backpackers — the ones that I grew to know over the next couple days.

dingo bar

Going back to my mindset idea, I’d also like to point out that a major reason for loving my Fraser Island tour had to do with my eccentric tour guide, Dave. Dave would not be classified as an under 35 individual, yet he was quite successfully leading an under 35’s tour and doing a stellar job!

Tours For Hooking Up & Getting Trashed

I’m sure there are under 35’s tours that are targeted to helping people get smashed and loose; I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories. Obviously, I haven’t experienced them firsthand, but there was a story of a certain youth bus company’s guide in Australia assuring travelers they would definitely hook up with someone on their trip. I mean… WTF much? Now that is a tour I do not want to be on, but how do you know, really?

A lot of a tour’s awesomeness comes from the people that sign up. You can have a mild-mannered and laid-back group one day and a party-crazy group the next; it’s really luck of the draw.

Or, it could have something to do with geographic location? You might consider a tour in Australia to be more likely a target for party-goers as opposed to… oh… a tour riding the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Just a thought.

How do you feel about tours that target an age range? Do you prefer age anonymous tours, and why?

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20 Responses to Day 53: Tours for Under 35’s

  1. Matt February 23, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I’m not typically a ‘tour’ type of traveler, yet I guess they hold plenty of merit for a backpacker new to traveling. Great way to get introduced to a country, meet other travelers, and get your feet wet.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      I agree completely on the benefits for new travelers.

  2. Melissa February 23, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I went on a Stray tour (hop on/hop off bus) around the North Island of New Zealand a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it. We had people ranging in age from 18-38… and it was just a really fantastic group. We weren’t huge on partying, and rather preferred to expend our energy doing the various activities such as 19km hikes, abseiling/caving expeditions/ surfing, etc. That being said, I did manage to have a couple really sloppy nights during the tour… and managed to be too hung over to do said 19km hike. I really think it is the luck of the draw. I think that on tours like OZ or Kiwi Experience, or Contiki, you’re more likely to have people who are going there just to party and hook up and drink their face off… simply for the sole fact that they’ve dished out all this money to basically not even think. Meals and accommodations and activities are all paid and arranged for them. On the Stray tour, we bought the bus ticket and that was all that was covered. We had to still think about budgeting our money for activities and accommodations as well as food.

    Again, that being said, I’m now signed up for 2 tours where everything is taken care of. I really hope that I get a good group who can find a happy medium between getting shitfaced and enjoying all that western and southern Australia have to offer.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

      Hoping for the best group for you! Western & South Australia should be amazing regardless. Thanks for sharing your stories… I can see what you mean about needing to still budget as opposed to tours where it is all inclusive.

  3. Katie February 23, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    I’ve traveled with Contiki several times – probably one of the best known 18-35s companies with a reputation for partying and hooking up. I did my first one when I was 25 – a 3 1/2 week whirlwind around Europe where I think we drank literally every night. I had a blast and still keep in touch with friends made on that tour (almost 10 years later!), but didn’t see a ton in the way of sites. But, for my first trip ever abroad, it was a great introduction and gave me the desire and the confidence to go back on my own.

    The other 2 Contiki trips I’ve taken have been a lot different – they’ve been regionally focused and spent 3 nights in each city, so a lot of free time during the day. I was 28 when I did one to Spain and 32 when I did one through Eastern Europe. On both, I was definitely toward the older end of the group, but because of the size of the group, it was easy to find people with similar interests. I tended to go out big one night in each city, go out more low-key another night and then stay in a 3rd night. Interestingly enough, age had little to do with who I ended up hanging out with – not all the 18-21 yr olds were into partying and some of the people my age went out went too crazy for my taste!

    Not sure how much the crowd on a tour varies by destination, but I do think the length of the tour may be a factor. My Spain and Eastern Europe tours were just 10 days/2 weeks and seemed to lean slightly older – people using their vacation time to do the tour. My first trip, nearly a month long, was definitely younger because it was more people who just finished school and were traveling before starting work.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      Interesting insight. I had a friend who used to be a guide for contiki and he said they drank so much that he had issues with his liver at one point. Nuts.

  4. Alouise February 23, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I went on a Contiki tour a couple of years ago. It was my first (and so far only) trip outside of North America. I did Contiki because I saw a brochure and thought a shorter trip would be affordable. At the time I didn’t have my own computer (I had to go to the library to use one), and I’d never read a travel blog. I’d heard of people backpacking around the world, or around Europe but I’d never read or seen any first hand accounts about it. I enjoyed my trip for what it was, but definitely learned that it was way to short. One day (or half day in some cases) in a European city is not enough time for me.

    My tour only had 3 single guys on it, so there wasn’t a bunch of hookup/breakup drama. I was glad because I wanted to see Europe, I didn’t want to listen to some girl ogle the guys on our trip. However; our tour guide did joke that we were on the tour of love because we had quite a few couples on the trip. Two couples were married, and one of was on the trip for their honeymoon. Two couples got engaged during the trip, one in Venice and one in Paris. And finally one couple met on the tour (although they didn’t start dating until after the tour) and now they’re engaged to be married in November.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Wow that is the tour of love! I agree that it does sound way to short, but it’s good to hear that you had a not-so-crazy Contiki tour 🙂

  5. Lauren February 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I’m too old for them, even though I’m not even in my 30s 🙂 It seems I wind up making friends with people my age or way older on the road. Just where I am in life, I guess.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      An old soul in a young body? 😉 I bet it depends on the people and situation… as with most tours.

  6. Erik February 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    I’ve done Contiki tours in both Europe and Australia. I’ll admit I do best on my own, so the upside of having people around to hang out with was that they were mostly people who wanted to do a lot of partying and a little sightseeing. In the Australia group, I was openly shunned for being the only one who went to be before midnight. I liked getting up for early morning walks, and that idea was crazy to most of the people on the trip. I completely understand people people travel differently, and everyone has a right to spend their money the way they want. It just seems silly to me to spend all that money to go and get trashed in a foreign country.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

      Very true. You can easily go on a booze tour in your own country and save yourself the airfare of going to somewhere like Oz!

  7. John aka Worldtraveller February 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Good evening good post about tours. I have to say i have done group tours, did a few Contikis, 3 in europe, like western europe, Russia and Scandi, Spain, and a cruise of greek isles and turkey with them and Australia
    as well i traveled with GAp Adventures and Intrepid in South America

    pros and cons to travel both ways. I went back to Contiki last year for Australia, just because i found it was best bang for buck, vs going on own and it covered everything i needed. I would say for something like Contiki of 18 to 35 they do take u to see the main things and about partying. it goes about the group on board, always had a mix of all type of personalities, on board, u had the ones only to party, and would sleep all day on bus and miss out on the sites, u had the in between who sight see and go out once in a while and thne u had sightseerers type only, u never go out and in bed early.
    i have to say first contiki i did the in between, in oz i was more of the sightseerer only. So all depends, ya i agree that its not for everyone, some things i was not happy with and some were good. i had a great time, but at times in some places i go off on my own just to have some freedom.
    doing GAP And Intrepid in south america, different groups, small groups, those companies focus on local ideas more less to support local area. so no big company coach u are on with 40 people, u travel with a group leader and group of from 2 to 12 people, they use local companies for transport, so go be a public bus, private van, taxi etc
    and stay in local hotels , more like non franchise and u get more freedom type of thing, nothing focused on party, as with contiki there was places u get trapped in for drinking almost,
    and gap and intrepid wont take u to a marketing tourist trap, as contiki being a traditional tour company, u sometimes get taking to traps, like in Istanbul we got stuck in a building for a marketing promotions to buy turkish rugs for an hour and half.
    i remember in Amsterdam being stuck outside , welll nto stuck but taken to some cheese farm for 2 hours in which it was just a marketing scheme to buy the cheese, so all over the place. Overall i think its what u make of it, i always had fun on all trips.
    hookups i found can happen anywhere, and i think all trips except for my time in peru, with Intrepid was some type of hookup but like i think it was like 1% of everyone on board. most were just there for the trip so to speak.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

      Thanks for such a detailed response, John. I’ve never done a Contiki tour, but I’ve heard stories from both sides of the fence.

  8. Bethany February 24, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    uh oh looks like i started something…. Well the answers are interesting. I have to say on one hand I understand the idea of putting an age range on something but on the other hand I find it pretty insulting – partly because I am the same person at 35 that I was at 25 but the age restriction makes me feel like I am should be a different, non fun person that can’t hang out with younger people – which I know is not true.

    I have a wide age range of friends and I think people who travel because they want to experience new things will get along regardless of age. For instance on the farm in Italy (although it was not a tour) everyone got along great. This included the ages of 18 – 57. I mean there was no real difference in the day to day. We all hung out at night, cooked together, went to the pub, shared stories, etc. Age didn’t even matter and it was never an issue. Good thing no one is insulting enough to put an age restriction on wwoofing.

    I think it should be looked at as a fun challenge for a tour company to come up with a different way to go about it. I mean if so many young tours cater to the drinking – why not just call it the “Drinking of Madrid, Paris, etc tour”. There will be a lot of people that love that and sign up be they 23, 38 or 59.

    Equally, they could offer a tour that focus more on the journey and destinations, etc – and put the focus more on waking up early and going to bed early. – that would also attract a certain traveler of all ages.

    If it’s just a great tour of a bunch of different places – why not make it available to everyone and not make other people feel weird? Personally, you would have to twist my arm for me to take a tour w/ an age range of me being at the high end. It’s the fact that the tour company has made me feel almost out of place from the start. However if it was just an awesome tour, without an age range then i wouldn’t think twice. I agree that a 20 yr old would not necessarily want to tour w/ a group of 70 yr olds but I think there is a happy medium somewhere in there w/out being exclusive. I think it lies in the idea of the tour and what it is really about.

    When I think of the age range on vodka train i immediately think – a lot of vodka, drinking and barely stumbling around at certain stops and basically only have experiences with the group – unappealing. However if it was pitched w/out an age range and said something like: “Experience the ultimate Trans Siberian train with multiple stops at x, y & z. Partake in the this extraordinary train ride the local way with plenty of potatoes, stuffed breads and of course, of vodka! That sounds awesome and sounds fun. I would expect cool people with a sense of adventure from all ages on that tour.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

      Hehe, just brought up a topic that I’ve thought about before. I see completely where you’re coming from — you are the same person… you don’t have kids, you’re into independent travel and being spontaneous. If you had a family per se, then you might be different… I think that’s where the difference lies — not with age, but with mindset. It does suck that it’s how they market them, by age, and not by a different tagline.

  9. Molly February 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    I wonder if these companies can actually discriminate based on age, though. If a 38 year old attempts to sign up will they bar them from the trip? How about a 45 year old? My guess is that the marketing is there to attract a younger crowd, but I wonder if they actually restrict. Clearly the 38 year old understands they’re going on a tour geared toward a younger crowd. I would think that they would still allow older people on the tour, just that the focus of the tour itself is something the company believes would be of particular interest to the 18-35 (a standard marketing segment) crowd.

    • Brooke February 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      Yeah I’m not sure how they go about allowing people on the trip. The 45 yo might not think twice about going on a tour with 18 yo’s, but do you think that maybe there might be some youngens that are actually upset that there are people on the trip over the age range?

      • Molly February 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

        I doubt the young ones on the trip would be upset as long as A) The older ones can keep up with the pace and B) They are not trying to parent or judge the choices of the younger tourists. In this particular situation it would seem that young people aren’t opposed to having older people on a tour with them, but wouldn’t want a buzzkill. In essence, it’s the adults being invited to the kids table. You can come, but you gotta follow the rules.

  10. Antonio March 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Great post. The tour businesses are just going after numbers really. There are lot of young travellers with limited budgets so its easier to slap an age range 18 -35 and suggest ‘hey kids, you’ll have fun with us. No party poopers here’. I doubt that they actually enforce those age ranges, at least not in my experience. they are happy to fill the seat.

    It really is the luck of the draw when it comes to the type of people on the tour and subsequently the type of experience that follows. I have done the Trailblazer Fraser Island Tours twice and both times were very different experiences. It really came down to the personalities of the individuals on the tour.

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