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Youth Beat

Back to Basics on Budget Europe Camping Tours

February 21, 1988|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Canadian travel journalist covering youth budget routes.

Contiki, the world's largest tour operator for 18- to 35-year-olds, is going back to basics this year, reintroducing budget camping tours in Europe.

Contiki began with low-cost camping tours in Europe 26 years ago. Now the firm operates a variety of camping, cruising and hotel programs in 56 countries. Because the tours are marketed internationally, the English-speaking passengers are from a variety of countries.

All of Contiki's European programs begin and end in London. Passengers travel on special coaches. Travelers don't have to worry about signing up on their own. Contiki will arrange a tent- mate or roommate rather than charge a singles supplement.

The Back to Basics tours are 18 to 32 days long. Accommodations are in two-person tents. Air mattresses are supplied, but each traveler has to provide a sleeping bag. Fares include breakfasts and most dinners.

The price covers a guide, driver and cook. Passengers are expected to help with chores. The price of a 21-day camping tour to eight countries varies between $986 and $1,161, depending on departure date.

Less Primitive Tours

Contiki's Concept tours cost a little more. Accommodations are provided in camping villages and "special stopovers" that include a French chateau, an Italian villa and Contiki's Mediterranean club.

Concept tours range from 10 days to eight weeks. A 30-day tour visiting 10 countries costs between $1,346 and $1,583.

This year Contiki will also operate seven hotel tours of from one to five weeks. Accommodations are provided in twin or double-bed rooms with private bath or shower.

A 21-day tour of nine countries costs $1,310 to $1,528.

Contiki also operates European ski holidays, tours to Australia and New Zealand, new programs in Hawaii and cruise holidays in the Mediterranean.

Contiki is trying a new approach with the Hawaii holidays. They are marketed to 18- to 35-year-olds, but not as group tours.

Hawaiian Tour Features

The package fee covers airport transfers, accommodations, some inter-island transportation and the services of a Contiki representative who can help arrange sports and entertainment.

You don't have to worry about singles supplements in Honolulu, but Contiki doesn't find you a roommate on Maui or Kauai.

A seven-day Honolulu holiday costs $272 before April 1, then it drops to $218. A seven-day Honolulu and Maui trip is $397; after April 1 it's $342. A seven-day Honolulu and Kauai package is $392, and $338 after April 1. Fourteen-day holidays also are available.

For more information about Contiki Holidays, contact a travel agent.

What to Ask Agents

A variety of companies offer tours specifically for 18- to 35-year-olds. Cruise the Mediterranean, travel by rail through India, investigate Alaska by minibus or camp in cabins in New Zealand. Here are some points to consider when talking to travel agents:

--Can the travel agent put you in touch with any young travelers who have taken the tour you are interested in? Are accommodations close to the action or will you be stranded at the edge of town? What is the ratio of male and female passengers? How large is the group you'll be traveling with? What is the average age of passengers, how many staffers travel with you to help with meal preparation, etc., how many people share a tent or room?

--Be sure you know what a tour costs before comparing prices. When a brochure says you have an "opportunity" to take part in certain activities, it does not always mean that the activity is included in the tour price. Even lunches at $5 a day can dent your travel budget.

--Be careful about booking on the first or second departure of a new tour program unless you are traveling with a company that has operated in that area before. Some companies try harder to make things go well, but if you choose a company that is inexperienced with organizing tours in locations you'll be visiting, they may still have a lot of bugs to work out. Some are known to experiment.

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