Back in 2015, I made one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made. After dreaming about New York City for most of my life, I started doing some research. I couldn’t find anyone who was able to travel overseas with me, so I looked into solo travel. There are quite a few choices available when it comes to safe and easy solo travel, and the one I went with was Contiki! I’d heard a bit about Contiki before, but not enough to be able to make an educated decision right there and then. So I researched as much as I could and spoke to a couple of people I knew had done a Contiki tour before. Eventually, I took a chance and booked my first solo adventure overseas.
Technically, I wasn’t solo traveling while on Contiki. I had over 20 other people along for the ride with me. Most of them were fellow Australians, but there were a few different cultures scattered amongst the group. It was a cool experience, getting to know people from all over the world, and share something that was so special to all of us.
There are a lot of different Contiki tours available, so it’s best to do some research beforehand to make sure you’re fully educated on each of the tours.
So, which Contiki Tour did I choose todo?
Well, since my main reason for this trip was to visit New York City, that was obviously where my Contiki tour search began! I narrowed down my options by city and what was in my price range (I was still living at home at that stage, so I had a decent amount of money saved up).
Eventually, I came across the Best of USA tour. The main draw for me, was the five days spent in New York City. The rest was just icing on the cake.
BEST OF USA CONTIKI TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 – Los Angeles
- The first day begins with a walking tour around Downtown Los Angeles.
- The rest of the day is filled with a bus tour around Los Angeles, seeing popular attractions and places like: Melrose, Sunset Strip, Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Sign, Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
- There’s an included group dinner the first night at the hotel.
- After dinner there’s the option to head out on a Hollywood Pub Crawl. You’ll be taking the metro though, so there’s a bit of walking involved. Wear appropriate clothing and shoes!
Side note: the first night was pretty brutal for most of us. Since I wasn’t used to American alcohol serving sizes (apparently spirits aren’t measured. I didn’t realise this until around 3 shots in. Cue extremely most-drunk-I’ve-ever-been Rhiannon. Oops.
Days 2 and 3 – Los Angeles
- The second (and third) days are free days. Most of our group decided to head to Disneyland and California Adventure Park for the day!
- You can also choose to spend the day doing absolutely anything else! Your free days are exactly that: free days for you to do whatever you like. You can choose to do activities such as a Beverley Hills tour or spend the day at Universal Studios. The choice is yours!
Side note: Remember when I said that the previous night, I was the most drunk I had ever been? Well, the next morning, I was the most hungover I’d ever been. Let me just tell you, Disneyland isn’t as fun when you’re hungover.
Day 3 – Los Angeles
- On our second free day in Los Angeles, a few friends and I decided to head to Universal Studios!
- You can choose between a regular day ticket or a VIP pass. Since I’d already done the VIP pass a few years beforehand, I decided to just purchase the regular day ticket.
- The VIP pass gets you a private guide for the day and access to some extra features that the regular day ticket doesn’t provide. The friends I went to Universal Studios with did the VIP tour and loved it!
- If you don’t want to spend the day at Universal Studios, it’s another free day to do whatever you want.
Day 4 – Los Angeles to San Fransisco
I had never visited San Francisco before, so this was another reason why I decided to do the Best of USA Contiki tour.
- Bright and early on day 4, you’ll head to the airport to fly to San Francisco! This flight is included in your tour price!
- I loved the tour of San Francisco we had after leaving the airport. It was cool seeing the sights of the city. Plus, we also got to stop at a pretty awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Side note: Since it was basketball finals when we arrived in San Francisco, we were given the awesome chance to go to a street fair to watch the Golden State Warriors finals game. Such a fun experience! Cool things like this tend to happen on Contiki. There’ll be a random event in town, and your tour manager will hook up the opportunity for you!
Days 5 – San Francisco
- The first full day in San Francisco is a free day.
- A couple of friends and I had previously booked an Alcatraz tour for fairly early that morning. There are a few different ticket options, but each of them include the ferry ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz Island!
- You can find out more information about Alcatraz, or book tickets by clicking here! It’s a pretty cool experience, and seeing the amazing view of San Francisco by from Alcatraz Island makes it even better!
- There’s an optional bike tour around San Francisco, that most of us decided to do that afternoon. The tour goes for about 2 hours, and departs from and returns to Blazing Saddles in Downtown San Francisco.
Side note: I’m pretty surprised I actually survived the bike tour! There are a LOT of steep hills in San Francisco, so make sure you’re prepared for some intense exercise!
Day 6 – San Fransisco
- Today is another free day, so it’s a good chance to tick off some of your San Fransisco must-sees!
- A couple friends and I decided to do some shopping! We needed some outfits for our next stop – Las Vegas! – so we made a day of it. There are some pretty great shopping malls in Downtown San Fransisco too, with something for everyone!
- That night, our group had the amazing opportunity to go on a catamaran cruise around San Fransisco Bay. This was probably one of the highlights from my entire Best of USA Contiki tour experience. Cruising under the Golden Gate Bridge and admiring the views of the city was incredible!
Side note: If you choose to do the catamaran cruise, make sure you bring warm clothes! Even during summer (I did this tour in June 2015, which is the beginning of summer in the US), it can be cold at night. Even more so when on the water, so wear layers just incase! And bring a camera. Definitely bring a camera!
Day 7 – San Fransisco to Las Vegas
- Included flight from San Fransisco to Las Vegas. Generally pretty early in the morning!
- We had an included dinner on our first night in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood Restaurant.
- After dinner we headed out for a bus tour down the Strip, and then onto a night of clubbing! You can choose to either head out for the night to party, or do your own thing. The bus will drop you back at the hotel if you decide not to head out after dinner.
Side note: I’d visited Las Vegas a few times before this, but I hadn’t been legal yet, meaning I couldn’t drink! It was fun being able to go back and enjoy Las Vegas in a totally different way. Whether you’re 21 or not, Vegas is definitely a place I think everyone should visit at least once!
Day 8 – Las Vegas
- One of the optional extras on the Best of USA Contiki tour is a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Of course I decided to pay the $300+ for this once in a lifetime experience. Let me tell you, it is one hundred percent worth the cost. Not only do you fly over the Grand Canyon, but you also land at the bottom for lunch and champagne. With endless photo opportunities, and incredible scenery, it’s definitely something that you should budget for on your trip!
- That night, we all headed out for an included limo ride down the Strip! The limo ride also includes some champagne, so you’ll be living it up like a celebrity for an hour!
Side note: The limo ride is an awesome opportunity to act a little silly, and make the most of being in the crazy little city of Las Vegas!
Day 9 – Las Vegas
- Yet another free day in Las Vegas! Since it was summer, one of the options we could choose was a pool party in Caesar’s Palace.
- You can also choose to go shopping, explore the casinos or spend the whole day marathon buffet eating. The choice is yours! (Las Vegas buffets are amazing though, just fyi)
- Early that night, we headed out to see a Cirque du Soleil show! Being Las Vegas, no matter what time of year you book your Best of USA Contiki tour for, you’re bound to have the chance to see an amazing live show!
- Our final clubbing stop for our Las Vegas visit was a rooftop bar, overlooking the Strip and all of the bright lights and incredible atmosphere. An amazing end to Vegas!
Side note: Again, make sure you always bring your passport! This applies to every state in the USA, obviously being a non-American. Your passport will buy you alcohol and let you into bars and clubs. The legal drinking age in the USA is 21, so unfortunately although Contiki tours are made for people between the ages of 18 and 35, you’ll only be able to purchase alcohol if you’re over 21.
Tip: These me time extras that are offered for each city, don’t have to be decided on when you first book your Contiki tour. Before arriving in each new city whilst on Contiki, you’ll be told the extras, then have the choice to say yes or no! Payment is generally taken either before boarding the next flight, or at the end of the trip.
Day 10 – Las Vegas to New York City
- Included flight from Las Vegas to New York City.
- It’s quite a long journey from Las Vegas to the east coast, so we landed in New York pretty late at night. By the time the shuttle dropped us at our hotel, it was around 11pm.
- That didn’t stop us from catching the Subway (for the first time) to Times Square though. I had dreamt about this day for most of my life, so I wasn’t about to let the fact that New York trains were a foreign concept to me, stop me from seeing Times Square!
- The hotel that was chosen for us by Contiki was super close to Subway stations, and it is actually pretty easy to get the hang of New York City travel. You’ve just gotta remember the difference between Downtown and Uptown!
Day 11 – New York
- Our first full New York day started with an included bus ride around the city, seeing famous sights and landmarks and exploring as much as we could!
- One of our short stops was Rockefeller Plaza, where we actually saw the American Today Show being filmed! There’s also an NBC store which sells a ton of awesome TV show merchandise. I bought a giant Friends mug, which is honestly more like a small bowl.
- One of the optional extras while in New York, is a helicopter ride over the city. I had spoken to a couple of people I know who did this helicopter tour, and they highly recommended it. So I decided to go for it! It was an amazing experience, seeing New York City from the sky. The manhattan skyline and Central Park was incredible to see in a totally different way. The tour costs around $150 and goes for 20 minutes. If you’ve got the spare cash, definitely consider asking your tour manager to organise it for you!
- That night there was an included group dinner in Times Square.
- Afterwards, the night was free! Some of us decided to head out shopping, while others went out to explore New York’s night life. I was dying to check out the Forever 21 in Times Square, so a couple friends and I headed out for a shopping spree, New York style!
Day 12 – New York
- Today we finally headed out on our included ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty! Since the Statue of Liberty is on its own island, whatever ticket package you decide to purchase, all come with the ferry ride included in the price! This was definitely one of my highlights from the Best of USA Contiki tour!
- The rest of the day was free, so a friend and I decided to visit the World Trade Centre Museum and Memorial. I recommend everyone who visits New York City, take some time to walk through the museum. It was one of the most upsetting and unexplainable moments in my life, and definitely an eye opening experience.
- Sometimes on Contiki, you’ll get unexpected, unplanned activities come up. One of those unplanned activities was a Yankees baseball game! Our tour manager offered us the chance to watch a MLB game, and I straight away said yes! For only $50, it was one of my favourite parts about the whole trip! Such an awesome atmosphere!
- If you choose to do the Best of USA Contki tour during baseball season, you may be lucky enough to go to a game too!
Side note: The unexpected extras are super exciting. Always make sure you budget a little bit of extra money for these types of occasions. Sometimes they’ll be once in a lifetime experiences, so it’s best to come prepared!
Day 13 – New York
- Today was another free day in the city, and most of the group decided to spend the morning doing a bike tour through Central Park! This awesome optional extra is seasonal, so it only runs during the warmer months of the year (basically, not during snow season!)
- The rest of the day was spent with a good friend of mine, shopping up a storm in Soho! Considering it was our second to last day in the US, spending almost $300 on clothes probably wasn’t a good idea. But the sales were crazy good, and come on, it’s Soho in New York City!
- We also tracked down the exterior building used as Monica and Rachel’s apartment in Friends! If you’re a huge Friends fan like me, type 90 Bedford Street, New York into Google Maps. You’re welcome.
Day 14 – New York
- The Top of the Rock building in Rockefeller Plaza is the best place to go for views of the city. A friend and I spent the morning enjoying the incredible, panoramic, unobscured views of New York City.
- You can spend your last day in New York doing whatever you like! Walk along the High Line, check out Madison Square Garden, continue your shopping spree or almost anything else your heart desires!
- Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Empire State Building. Though the views aren’t as good as the Top of the Rock, it’s still definitely something you should do while in New York City! The views are still amazing, especially at night which is how my friends and I spent our last night in New York!
For my full guide to New York City, click here!
Conclusion – Best of USA Contiki Tour
There are a lot of awesome things about a Contiki tour, and especially the Best of USA Contiki tour. Your tour manager organises absolutely everything, all you have to do is show up at the time you’re told to and not be late! I loved having everything planned for me, being able to see a lot of places in a short amount of time. This can be disappointing for some, but sometimes fast paced travel is fun!
The Best of USA Contiki tour is perfect for someone who wants to visit the highlights and, essentially the ‘best’ of USA! If you’ve dreamt of seeing the bright lights of New York City, or you’ve always wanted to take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, the Best of USA Contiki tour is perfect for you.
Have you done a Contiki tour before? Which one did you do? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Click here, to see which Contiki tour trips are currently on an amazing deal of 30% off! Such a great way to experience a new city or country for the first time, at a great price!
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