Everyone has their own preference when it comes to how they travel and one of my favorites is with tour groups. I love that they coordinate transportation, hotels, and the agenda and I just get to enjoy the ride. I’ve done a couple of tours with EF Ultimate Break and this summer I brought Rick on his first group tour with EF Go Ahead Tours on their Barcelona, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera tour.
It was a whirlwind adventure and an unforgettable getaway that spanned four countries. After reviewing our countless photos, adding in our new souvenirs to our decor at home, and finally catching up on the right time zone, it’s time to write up how our experience went.
If you’re looking at doing a tour with them, here’s our review of Go Ahead and our first tour experience with them!
Go Ahead’s customer service
From our booking to our bon voyage email, Go Ahead’s customer service staff is excellent. We booked using one of their seasonal promotions and when it didn’t take right away, a customer support rep quickly made sure our discount was added to our invoice. We had a rep, Ashley, who was in frequent contact with us via email to make sure we had all of our questions answered, ensured we were ready for our trip, and wishing us a good time on our tour.
I can think of only one incident where I called to ask about something regarding our tour and the guy on the phone was curt and seemed eager to get off the phone. But for just one not great conversation compared to the other quality reps, I’ll take it.
Another fun surprise was the Go Kit they send prior to your tour which includes good info for your tour and a fun keepsake – that we’re definitely making use of at home!
I’ve loved all my tour directors that are part of the EF family and our TD for this trip, Valentina, was no exception. She was friendly, easy to talk to, knowledgeable, and always around if you needed her. Valentina was awesome at providing recommendations for things to do during our free time or tips for shopping and dining in each city.
She was great at making sure we all knew what was on the schedule for the day, the timing of the activities, and picking easy to find meeting spots to regroup after our free time in various cities. She made sure to check in with everyone in our group to make sure they were having a good time and enjoyed what was on the day’s agenda.
Since Go Ahead targets an adult and family demographic, it stands that their hotel choices should be a step above the ones we used on Ultimate Break that are designed for budget-friendly 18 – 28 year olds. My assumption was correct and all the hotels we stayed at were great.
The rooms were spacious, the furnishings comfortable, and they all had AC – which was pretty strong for Europe’s standards. The hotels ranged from charming boutiques to well-known brands. Some were older and had beautiful decor and older furnishings and some were more modern with upgraded in-room amenities. Most of the hotels had on-site gyms and a few even had pools – our hotel in Cannes used the pool area for breakfast each morning which had a nice ambiance to it and the hotel in Barcelona had a pool on the rooftop with a bar.
Each hotel stay included breakfast each morning and each hotel had a nice spread of cereals, pastries and breads, cold cuts and cheeses, hot items like fried eggs, potatoes, and pancakes, as well as coffee, tea, juice, and water. I think our hotel in Barcelona had the best food at breakfast but our hotel in Rome had the best view at breakfast.
Some of the hotels we stayed at on our trip include:
- Hotel Catalonia Eixample 1864
- Crowne Plaza Montpellier – Corum
- Clarion Suites Cannes Croisette
- Starhotels Michelangelo
- Hotel Romanico Palace
We used a coach bus for most of our transportation around the city and to the next stop on our itinerary. The bus was comfortable, the seats leaned back, there was overhead space for smaller day bags, and backseat pockets to hold books or water bottles. We had the same bus and bus driver from Barcelona to Florence and he was friendly, welcoming, and got us to our locations in good time and safely. We were all sad to say goodbye to Massimo in Florence but Peter, who drove us from Florence to Rome was also nice and a great driver.
We added on airport transfers for an affordable rate so we’d be picked up at the start of our tour and dropped off at the end. If you buy flights with them, this is included in the price.
I will note that we can’t comment on how they organize flights for their tours as we opted to book our own flights. We were able to use credit card points and the affordable Norwegian Airlines to get over there and added a few days in London to our Europe getaway. I had no issues with having Ultimate Break coordinate flights on my other trips so I can only assume it was the same way for Go Ahead.
At the major cities of our tour, we would meet with a certified local guide to take us on our sightseeing tours – like when we were in Barcelona, Nimes, Florence, and Rome. Some of them would be with us for two days or for our included city tour and an optional excursion.
All of our local tour guides were fantastic. They were all passionate about the cities they live in, they were knowledgeable, and spoke excellent English. I love that they use headsets for our local tours so you can listen to the tour guide but you’re able to wander off a bit and take some photos or admire a landmark or point of interest without a giant crowd.
The local tour guides knew how to share their stories and keep our group moving through the city at a decent pace. Our tour guide in Rome was exceptional at finding the shady spots in the Coliseum for us to stand in (and avoid the boiling heat) as she shared fun facts! I think Go Ahead has a good handle on finding the right local tour companies with great guides.
Itinerary & inclusions
The itinerary is what pulled me in and the inclusions are what pulled Rick in. I loved the idea of spending my golden birthday exploring the Mediterranean and discovering a variety of places we probably wouldn’t get to otherwise.
Our Barcelona, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera trip was 14 days, including our Rome extension – though more like 17 for us since we added in London on our own. The first and last day of the tour don’t really count as they’re travel days, but it was still a pretty decently long trip.
We started in Barcelona and had the most time there with three days total (really about two and a half after arriving and getting to the hotel). There were three optional excursions to add on to our time in Barcelona and we booked two of them – we decided to skip Montserrat. Then, it was off to France with a one-night stay in Montpellier before making our way to Cannes for a two-night stay.
After the French Riviera or Cote d’Azur, we had a few hours in Monaco before making our way into Italy to stay in Rapallo so we were near Cinque Terre. After two nights in Rapallo, we went off to Florence for two nights before finally making it to Rome.
I love the inclusions that come with Go Ahead’s tours! They include quite a bit in their rate like:
- Full-time Tour Director
- Hotels with breakfast
- Local tours of cities
- A few group dinners (multi-course and served with wine, one of my favorite meals on the whole trip was one of these group dinners)
- Entry to select attractions (on our tour: Sagrada Familia, Carcassonne, the Arena of Nimes, Villa & Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, Pont du Gard, and the Coliseum)
Pace of Go Ahead’s tours
This was a fast-paced tour, but we went into that expecting it. If you’re really looking to explore a city, this itinerary might not be the best for you and they do offer tours that spend more time in dedicated cities. I wanted to to see a ton of places, which is why we picked a fast-paced tour that covered a lot of ground.
Overall, I think the pace was good and there was a balance of days that were go, go, go and days that were more relaxed and you could spend how you pleased. There was also a bit of downtime as we drove to our next location or back to our hotel after a day’s excursion.
Go Ahead Tours’ excursions
We really enjoyed many of the excursions offered on our European group tour! I think we booked almost all of the optional excursions and I’m glad we did. While the excursions do cut into your free time, I like to look at as we’re getting to see even more of the region while we’re there and why not spend a morning going out to another city we may not have the opportunity to get to again?
The excursions on Go Ahead are a bit pricier than similar excursions through Ultimate Break, but not outrageous. The excursions we booked on our tour included:
Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Park Guell – Barcelona
This tour was in the afternoon after our guided tour of the city with a local guide. We started at La Pedrera, an apartment complex redone by Gaudi. It was cool getting up-close to his work and learning about the influences behind his designs and seeing into the past.
I thought I knew what to expect at Park Guell but I was still blown away by the tiny details and design of this park and intended residential complex. Unfortunately, part of the main part of the park (read where everyone takes that iconic Barcelona shot) was closed due to repairs so it was a bit more crowded than I think it normally would be.
It was still cool checking out the benches, seeing the unique buildings from above, and taking a few photos ourselves. I’d guess we had about an hour in the park to walk around, learn more about its design, and just enjoy some time wandering around on our own.
Flamenco dinner show – Barcelona
This was an amazing experience that I think we’d definitely book again if we go back to Barcelona with Go Ahead. The evening started with a buffet dinner, where everything was excellent, and sangria and wine at the table. I wished we hadn’t had some late tapas and had come a bit more hungry as the food was so good. Then, we moved into an intimate theater for the show where we were greeted with some cava.
The flamenco performance was incredible and very moving. You see how passionate the performers are and how much of themselves they give to their dance. The guitar players were just as talented as the dancers and it made for an unforgettable live entertainment performance in Barcelona.
St-Paul-de-Vence – Provence (hotel in Cannes)
After exploring Nice, we took off to visit Saint-Paul-de-Vence and explore its little alleyways, shops (purchased a great bottle of French wine), and enjoy a three-course dinner.
We popped into a shop to sample some tapenade and then our dinner included pastis – an interesting aperitif. The dinner was good and the servers were good about making sure our wine glasses were always full. It was a fun excursion to a cute town, making for a fun evening getaway. The pace was very relaxed and if I had a bigger travel budget I probably would have gone into the many art galleries that were full of amazing pieces.
San Gimignano and winery tour – Florence
This was another favorite excursion where we got to explore the town of San Gimignano which was fun and we even had some great gelato while there. Afterward, we went to Torciano Winery for some wine tasting and a lasagna lunch (with their truffle oil drizzled on top)! On my last group tour, I did a visit to a winery which was awesome and this one was right up there in quality. We sampled a white, several reds, and a decadent dessert wine. We’re looking forward to when our shipment from the winery arrives 🙂
I enjoyed all the excursions we did but I’d say our top picks were the flamenco show and the day in San Gimignano.
Price of Go Ahead Tours
We booked our tour with a Columbus Day sale and got $250 off our tour and with our Rome extension, excursions, and airport transfers, it came out to almost $7,500 or $266 per person per day. I think the value for the tour is excellent when you take into account all that’s included and not having to organize some of the finer details of the trip.
Overall, we had an excellent time on our tour with Go Ahead and are already looking at trips for future travel, perhaps somewhere a bit cooler and known for their beer for Rick (ahem, Germany, ahem). We had quite the group of people, from teens to older adults, and it’s always fun to get to know people on tours like these where travel brings you together and I’m sure the next group we get paired with will be just as fun as this group.
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I read your review right after I’d read several negative reviews of Go ahead tours. So now I’m confused. The negative ones were such that I was deciding to ditch my plans for a tour to Oaxaca.
Can you help me out? Did the company know, for instance, that you are a travel blogger? Why is there such a dramatic difference?
I’ve been home bound for way too long and itch to get going again but how do I know what to believe. Any comments?
They did not know I was a travel blogger and I’ve done several tours with EF, both their Ultimate Break (formerly College Break), and Go Ahead. I don’t know what the negative reviews were pointing out, but our experience with them was good and we’ll be doing two tours with them in 2023, that we’ll be sure to recap and review on the blog. I do not get compensated for these reviews.
Our experience with Go Ahead was good and they were flexible in accommodating some changes to our itinerary, such as us doing London on our own and then meeting the group in Barcelona.
Again since I don’t know what the specific negative comments were talking about it’s hard to say why there’s a dramatic difference but I do know that group tours aren’t for every type of traveler. We like doing them when we’re doing multiple cities or countries as we like not having to worry about booking transportation between all of these cities. You are also on the group’s schedule, minus free days, which I know can also be frustrating for some travelers. We didn’t mind as the itinerary included things we wanted to see anyway and then we always had some free time in each place to explore on our own. So, if you prefer no structure or want a lot of flexibility with your travel plans, Go Ahead might not be right for you. But if you want a guided tour and the smaller details taken care of, then I’d recommend them.
I traveled with Go Ahead in Oct 2018 Venice, Florence, Rome, and had a great experience. Finally going again this month to Barcelona, Southern France, and the Italian Riviera.