BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- I couldn't disagree more with the negative reviews of Go Ahead. I've taken 13 trips with them. Uniformly, the tours have been excellent and the guides, superb. The sales office and reservations people are good but follow-up is needed. But once on tour, the experience is as near perfect as a budget tour can be. Guides are not only extremely knowledgeable, they are masterful at problem-solving and advocating for the group with local vendors, hotels, etc. Travelers who don't want to travel or tour exclusively with the group have lots of options to explore on their own and guides will even help them plan their day.
My guides (13 trips, remember) have always been very respectful of the group's wishes... They're working for tips, folks! But they also must ensure group safety, coverage of the promised itinerary, etc. You don't want a maverick guide on an international travel experience. Go Ahead literature is very clear that tips for guides and drivers are not included, and they let you know in advance the "expected" amount... But it's up to the traveler. Same with gas surcharges... Some people book up to a year in advance. Go Ahead has no way to know if there will be a gas shortage and airlines are assessing a special fee.
On my 13 trips the gas surcharges have always been 100% consistent with the world situation. Their option would be to always charge extra in case there's a world gas crisis; I'm glad they don't do that. Go Ahead now includes a number of dinners, particularly in a new city the group has arrived in. They know you haven't had time to explore and find places yet.
They negotiate great deals on these, better than you could do on your own. But they are in larger places that can accommodate a whole group. Personally, I wish fewer fingers were included as I like to find my own place, but most travelers prefer the group meals in a new city. Go Ahead is not perfect and you won't get the luxury travel experience, but for the traveler who wants to see the world but also minimize their research and safety concerns, Go Ahead is an excellent choice.
My husband and I went to Italy...Venice, Florence and Rome with Go Ahead. For the most part it was a pleasant experience. The only place we had a problem was in Florence where the city center is quite inaccessible and we had to walk quite a distance from our hotel. Of course they try to save money and so we got a good price and our money's worth for sure.
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS -- Please understand that Go Ahead tours is a small portion of EF Student Tours and the business/tour model they use is that for HS student educational travel. The hotels are upgraded from 2-3 star for students to 4 star for adults--but they are still located way outside of towns and transportation into the major cities is your cost. The optional excursions offered are those that Traffalger or Overseas Adventure builds into their initial packages and airfare, transfers, etc. are just as comparable to booking it yourself.
They do everything on tour to minimize their cost, such as going to a ton of free churches v. other sites that cost a euro or two to get into and museums like the Prado are always scheduled for entry during the reduced senior hours at noon. Meals are always breakfast and there is no difference between the student tours and the adult tours. In fact, if you want anything extra or different--it is your cost.
These are BUDGET tours and expect to herded and prodded around like students--that is what their tour guide expertise know how to do--they are used to barking out directives and have fixed timetables for everyday and event that are resistant to any change--even if the entire group wishes to change one of the local guided visit spots to an attraction that may cost a euro apiece to enter.
If you don't want to think and research your destination before you go--this is the group for you--they prefer it that way. But remember it is a bargain basement operation that works on volume so the tour group size can go to 45. Also, there are minimums that are not stated for the optional day trips or they will cancel them. These are basically pure profit on a tour for the company and there are high pressure sales techniques for days by the tour directors to sell these to the group.
The tour directors are issued quotas for these optionals that are reported back to the regional sales offices and then to Mass corporate. Be prepared for sales pitches. If you can deal with the above items and don't want to think like an adult but follow around like an adolescent--then this is the tour for you. I have chaperoned groups for EF and have traveled with GO Ahead to run this analysis.
Personally, I would use them for a quick cursory look at a city or country--then later visit the country on my own once I had a feel for metro service, bus & hotels available, and researched the sights that I would want to see from lonely planet or fodors as well as recommendations from locals you talk with in the watering holes you visit at night while on the cursory visit. Figure to spent at least 1500-2000 above the cost of the tour for the hidden expenses and the cost of eating out, ancillary costs, etc. Even the truck stops the bus stops at for bathroom stops cost a half a euro to get into and that is not paid by the company. They are a quick, bargain basement tour agency.
WOBURN, MASSACHUSETTS -- Go Ahead Tours is full of hidden fees. Their customer service people are very nice when you are booking the tour, but once they have your money--Look out! My husband and I booked a tour to London/Paris/Rome to celebrate our 25th anniversary. The trip was booked and paid one year in advance of the travel date for a total of $6100.00. One month before we were scheduled to depart, we received a bill from Go Ahead for airline fuel surcharges. This cost us another $400. You can expect to pay extra for just about everything on their tours--for example, to visit the Vatican in Rome, it costs extra. Go Ahead calls these "Excursions".
At the time of booking, they will attempt to sell travel insurance, a regular level plan and a gold level plan. Which we were foolish to purchase. One of our bags was lost by the airlines. Although they say the insurance covers baggage loss, we were told to resolve this issue with the insurance company upon returning to the US. The insurance company told us to first work through the airlines and that the insurance company would subsequently "consider" any claim that was not compensated by the airline. Go Ahead was of no help at all; they simply told us this was a matter for us to handle through the airlines and the insurance company.
Go Ahead schedules very bad flight itineraries. We flew from Houston to Atlanta to London. Due to airline mechanical problems, the Houston flight was delayed and we had to reschedule the connections in Atlanta. This cost us $480. Go Ahead assumes no liability and we paid this money out of our own pockets.
They will tell you that tips are included in your tour price, but don't believe it. You will be expected to tip bus drivers, hotel staff, restaurant staff for group meals (including the meals provided in the tour), auxiliary tour guides, and your Go Ahead tour guide expects a substantial tip at the conclusion of the tour. Read the fine print very well before you book with Go Ahead, and God forbid if you have to cancel--don't expect any refund even if you have paid for the trip cancellation insurance--it's full of loopholes.
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS -- Go Ahead staff have been unresponsive to our needs for a family group tour of Landscapes of Britain and Ireland. We requested that arrangements be made for an 83 year old woman to be accompanied by a family member from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England. Go Ahead has adamantly refused to do this and has separated her from the rest of the family for this leg.
Additionally, Go Ahead has refused to arrange for a direct flight from London, England to Orlando, Florida for her. Instead they have arranged this leg so she passes through Washington, D.C., Dulles by herself, with a lay over, arriving in Orlando at midnight when transportation to her home will be very difficult. A direct flight on British Airways is available and would get her to Orlando by 3:20 PM. Go Ahead has a contract with British Airways, but refuses to even try to make suitable arrangements. Go Ahead staff in Cambridge, Mass. have not be helpful.