The positives and negatives of traveling with A.C.I.S.
I went to France and Spain with my High School Spanish class, through A.C.I.S. This was nice, because it meant that I had people of my own age to hang out with while exploring the different cities, and most of the friends I made abroad would come back with me. It was nice because all the excursions were planned for me, all travel arrangements were premade, and everything was paid for upfront with one solid payment.
The biggest downside for all of this was that meals were preplanned as well. Upon arriving in Madrid, our first dinner was at an Italian restaurant. Italian. In Spain. I’m still very upset about this.
In my opinion, food is the BEST part about traveling. The fact that we had just arrived in a country known for its cuisine, and then ate at a generic restaurant of a different country’s cuisine made my blood boil. Furthermore, we weren’t allowed to order off of a menu. Since the meals were prepaid from the moment the trip started, A.C.I.S. had designated exactly what dishes we would get at each restaurant.
This wasn’t too bad; a lot of the meals were really fantastic, the breakfasts provided by the hotels were all-you-can eat, and we still had freedom to do whatever we wanted for lunch. But it definitely had a lot of downsides. I didn’t try nearly as many authentic French/Spanish foods as I would have liked, and vegetarians were really screwed over. My best friend on the trip had this issue. Even though she had explicitly stated on her application that she was a vegetarian, she had to remind our travel guide at every single restaurant. Even then, the vegetarian–options were awful or measly.
That being said, having our days planned out for as many activities as possible was awesome. I visited castles, road on horseback through swamps full of flamingos, learned how to flamenco dance, got to climb the steps to the top of the Eiffel tower, saw the world’s most breathtaking fountain, and made a bunch of lifelong friends.