For those considering seeing the U.S. with Contiki, below is a summary and review of their Western Highlights tour starting from L.A. and ending in Las Vegas. Note that this tour is part of a longer tour called Wild Western which ends back in L.A.
Your tour starts at Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles at 7am. There is some paperwork needed from everyone so be sure have your passport and emergency contacts ready. If you’re looking to tour L.A. before the tour starts, be sure to book a couple extra days in before the start of the tour. Contiki will offer you a good rate at Miyako Hotel, but be sure to check other sites like Expedia and Hotels.com. Also, before you board the coach be sure to have everything you need in your day bag as you won’t have access to your suitcase until hotel check-in in the evening.
From L.A. you head to San Diego for a couple nights. The first planned activity (which is optional) is a speed boating experience where you get to drive a 2-seat speed boat ($60USD). The whole experience is guided where the group follows the lead instructor and is meant more for beginners. On occasion you might get splashed, but the chances of getting soaked is pretty slim (see below video). All other time (including those who opt-out of the speed boating) is free time to explore the hip city.
After speed boating, you are off to your hotel to check-in and freshen up for dinner. This first dinner is included in the price of the tour and is an authentic Mexican experience where you will have a choice of steak+shrimp burrito, taco salad, or other Mexican staples. Be sure not to overeat as it’s off to a bar crawl after, including a country bar with a mechanical bull! Be sure to check out Vin de Syrah for another very unique sensory experience (hidden door to get in?).
This day offers various options, including Sea World, San Diego Zoo, and Surfing. Around 2pm, there is a shuttle to Mission Beach for some relaxing beach time and carnival type rides. Dinner, although not included, is spent at a local hangout (walking distance from the hotel) called Kristy’s MVP Sports Bar where if you ask Kristy nicely she might give you a light paddling. For the remainder of the night there’s karaoke, beer pong, flip cup, and whatever other drinking game you can come up with. Don’t go too crazy as the next morning is an early start.
Say goodbye to the beach and head to Arizona where it’s HOT HOT HOT! On the way to Scottsdale, you will stop at a Wal-Mart to experience the shopping giant first hand (gun in a box anyone?). Be sure to stock-up on some non-perishable foods, snacks and ‘beverages’. You will arrive in Scottsdale in the mid-afternoon in time to take in some sun by the hotel pool with your new friends. If all goes well, dinner will also be pool-side as well. Once the sun goes down, it’s off to hit-up the great nigh-life of Scottsdale!
WARNING! For those that opt-in for the hot-air balloon ride ($170USD) the next morning, you are required to be ready at 4:45am, which will likely limit your time out at the bars. Obviously, this comes down to priorities (see below for review and video of the balloon ride experience to see if it’s worthwhile for you).
For those that opted-in for the hot air balloon ride, it’s a 4:45am start. This experience is recommended for first-time ballooners, but probably isn’t worthwhile for those that have done it before. See below video and be a judge for yourself.
For those that opt-out of the ballon ride, you will need to be ready for 8am. Once you link-up with the ballooning crew, it’s off to Sedona. In Sedona, there’s a mix of free time and also an optional Jeep Tour ($50USD). For those that don’t do the deep tour, be sure to have your swim gear ready as there’s a local river that’s only known to the locals 5 minutes from the dropoff point (see below video). Jump-in to be refreshed! Once you meet back up with everyone, it’s off to the Grand Canyon.
Arrival to the Grand Canyon is in the late afternoon and will give you a chance to settle into the cabins, shop at the local grocery story (which has reasonable pricing and options given that it’s inside the park) and grab some dinner (you will receive one breakfast voucher and one dinner voucher to be used anytime during your stay). After dinner, consider a low-key night outdoors with your fellow travellers enjoying some beverages. Be sure to pack a head-lamp and flashlight. NOTE: It gets cool at night in the Grand Canyon.
Full day at the Grand Canyon with optional helicopter ride ($275USD) in the morning and bike ride ($57USD) in the afternoon (see video of the hidden ledges you get to see on the bike ride). Otherwise, it’s free time to hike and enjoy the park. WARNING: Be sure to pack lots of water and follow all warnings. Dozens of people die each year in the park from underestimating the trails and ledges.
At sundown, head to Mohave Point with the crew to see the sunset. After the sunset, expect another low-key night of hanging out with your fellow travellers.
Day 6 &7:
Vegas!!!! There will another stop at a Wal-Mart on the way. Things are expensive in Vegas so get what you can here, including a lot of sunscreen, and be sure to plan ahead. The Hotel that you will be staying at is Harrah’s, which is right on the strip, but if you decide to stay longer it may be worthwhile to check out other hotels just to change it up. As always check other sites like Expedia and Hotels.com for best pricing.
Vegas is full of surprises. As the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” so you’ll just have to take the trip to find out what happens there. Couple of tips: Be sure to bring dress shirts and dress shoes to get into the clubs. They have strict dress code policies. Also, there’s an optional (but not optional) ‘surprise’ that’s organized by Contiki for $10USD. Don’t complain and just pay it. It’s well worthwhile! Need extra tips to survive vegas? Go to my Vegas specific post here.
Safe Travels Everyone!
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