We Had A Yarn With A European Tour Guide & Boy, Did They Have Some Stories

Okay there’s a lot of Europe to cover and it’s pretty damn hard to get a grip on all of it unless you’re travelling with someone in the know.

Or, at the very least, someone who won’t lead you astray down the paths of Venice until you hit a watery dead end and you realise there ain’t no amount of gondola-paddling to get you where you need to be.

So if you’re planning a big ol’ rager of a trip with your squad, your band or even just flying solo, you’re gonna wanna be prepared AF by asking all the important questions – ESPECIALLY if you’re planning on going with a tour group.

Remember you’re gonna be spending plenty of time with these folk, so you wanna choose the right one.

Hear it from the folks that do it every day – literally, it’s their day job. We had a chat to Veronica Criniti, a 10/10 Trip Leader from Topdeck who’s done her fair share of exploring around the red-hot continent that is Europe. You know you’re in good hands there, mates.

How long were you a Trip Leader and how did you get into it?

I’ve been with Topdeck for two years and I’ve done three seasons with them. I’ve worked in travel for the last nine years in a range of roles, so I wanted to try something new.

I always wanted to be a guide, it was always something I’d wanted to do and I was always like, “Oh there’s so much knowledge you need to know…” and it put me off for a while but one day I was like, “Stuff it, let’s do it!”

I’d never done any type of tour myself as a passenger, just working in the industry – I knew the different type of companies and the different roles I could progress into and go into in the travel industry.

View this post on Instagram

Standard day in the office ⛵️⚓️ #greece #sailing #europe #summer #crystalclearwater #bestjobever #topdeckcrew #travel

A post shared by Veronica Criniti (@veronicacriniti) on

How would you describe a Topdeck tour to a complete travelling newbie?

You get a bit of a taste of everywhere. If you’re going in blind, it’s a great way (particularly if you’re a solo traveller) to meet new people, have new experiences.

The thing that I love about Topdeck – because I have worked with other tour companies – is that we’re all about group travel and becoming a family however you still have that independent traveller aspect.

You have myself as a guide to tell you about each city and country, and have a couple of things organised, but then you generally have a full free day to go out, adventure and explore yourself.

So you really get the best of both in terms of getting somewhere safe and having ideas and knowing what to do – but at the same time still wanting to do your own thing because everyone’s got different interests.

What’s a common misconception about being a Trip Leader?

People think we’re constantly on holiday! But that’s definitely far from it. I think there’s a lot of behind the scenes things that, you know, passengers don’t realise that we do.

They just see us and they have this idea that we just go out with them, show them a couple of things, go out to dinners or bars and stuff. But there’s a lot of behind the scenes operations stuff like accounts, to running each day.

Sometimes I’m like, “How do you think the next couple of days operates without me making these calls to where we’re going?” So I think they just forget that we do a lot of work when we’re not with them.

And then when it is a free day they’re like, “Oh yeah, Veronica’s just off doing whatever she wants to do” but it’s doing paperwork and stuff like that.

View this post on Instagram

Views of old town Dubrovnik ????????

A post shared by Veronica Criniti (@veronicacriniti) on

What’s the most memorable experience you had as a Trip Leader?

It’s hard to say and narrow it down to one – I guess particularly because every trip is so different. I think for myself, one time that was really, really memorable was just after my first trip ever as Trip Leader.

I hadn’t told my group, they had no idea that it was my first trip. I didn’t want to tell them because sometimes people can lose trust in you, in a way. And at the end I surprised them on our canal cruise, which is something that we always do in Amsterdam (one of our standard inclusions) but I think just telling them that it was my first ever trip was most memorable because they were just so shocked.

I had 50 passengers on a 27-day trip, went to some places blind, and then letting them know, “By the way guys, actually this is my first ever trip.” So then I guess, having their reaction.

Then one of the girls did a speech which was really, really nice. Little things like that, but definitely that one particularly because it was my first.

How daunting is it on your first trip?

It’s quite daunting, particularly because you’re so used to training and how you were taught to do things, and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Okay, nobody is telling me ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’” and all of a sudden everything is in your hands.

It can be quite daunting and overwhelming especially because on your first trip you have a full trip. So I had 50 passengers. I was doing something that we hadn’t even done in training, so you’re kind of trying to pretend like you’ve been there and done that. Just making it look smooth.

After a week you get the flow of it, but you’ve got all these people looking at you and relying on you.

View this post on Instagram

Wandering around Spinalonga Island ???? #eloundabay #spinalonga #lepreisland #crete #greece #exploring #travel

A post shared by Veronica Criniti (@veronicacriniti) on

How extensive is the training?

The training is completely covered by the company. It’s quite a lengthy process – you do a five-month correspondence course with Topdeck and that’s just something you really need to dedicate the hours to.

I had to learn about 18 countries’ histories and cultures in such a short amount of time as well as working full time. And then you do a 50-day training trip on the road, which is covered by Topdeck.

You do always need to have your own money on the side because you don’t have a job straight away, but all expenses are covered.

How many different tours have you actually done?

I actually specialise in two tours particularly, but I’ve done at least ten different types of tours. The two I’ve done – well, one in particular that I do all the time is the Bravo Italia, because I have an Italian background. It’s my favourite trip to run so when I do the two week trip in Italy, I love it.

That I do a lot of, and also the Iberian Voyager (Spain-Portugal-Morocco) tour. This year I did three of those. Very rarely do we repeat the same trips, you just generally get put on random trips, because we do have so many.

Do the locals remember you now?

Particularly in Italy, yes. Being able to speak the language always makes a massive difference. They know me, particularly the hotel in Rome.

You become friends with them, so when you do go back it does feel like a sense of home – which is a hard part for our job because we’re always on the go.

I’m quite close with a lot of our suppliers, and the passengers see that, they love it. They’re like, “Wow, she knows everyone!” That’s always quite nice, having that comfort.

What’s one place people wouldn’t expect that you’d recommend?

I think one place most people would generally be surprised about, just from experience (because we always go on tour) is Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. People don’t really know it – they know Switzerland but they don’t really know much beyond chocolate, mountains and cheese.

I always find when we go there that people are always like, “Oh my god, this is actually incredible.” You’ve just left the hustle and bustle of Paris and you’re guaranteed to see snow all year round up at Jungfrau.

And it’s just got a different feeling. It’s a small town but it’s really different and I think that’s somewhere that’s a little hidden gem.

When you think of Switzerland you think of Geneva and Lucerne, bigger cities. But Lauterbrunnen is absolutely stunning and everyone has an awesome time. That’s definitely one I’d recommend.

View this post on Instagram

This view never gets old! ???????? #lauterbrunnen #switzerland #europe #travel #topdecker #thatview

A post shared by Veronica Criniti (@veronicacriniti) on

How much do you learn about each stop as a passenger?

Every time we go into a new country I would always do a country introduction. I’d tell them a little bit about the history. I’m not a huge history buff but I do find it interesting and I tend to give key info, interesting things and a rough timeline.

I don’t go into it too much because there’s been so many wars and so many things that happened. And I’m always really open that if you want to know more, please talk to me.

At the end of the day, you’ve really got to gauge your group. Some people might be really interested in it, others won’t. I kind of mix it with the culture side of things and every city that we’re going to, I break it down and do a specific city introduction. It’s just so they know where they’re going and aren’t completely blind.

On these tours they are going to learn things – fun things, cultural things, historical things. Whether it’s on walking tours or even driving tours.

Is there a tour for every age group?

Yeah I definitely would say so. I think people come on and have this daunting idea that, “Oh my god, it’s group travel” and some companies are like, “At 8am we do this, 10am we do that”. I think there is something for everyone as long as they find the right tour.

I find on the hostel trips a lot of people are generally 18 or early 20s, so they’re a little bit more party-focused, wanting to know where to go out. But I will still always give some sort of history just because there is always a few. But I will say that from our hostel to our hotel trips there can be quite a difference.

I’ve had 40th birthdays on some of my trips, but if you’re 40 I wouldn’t suggest going on a 27-day hostel trip, which is 27 days of mainly partying. Each group is different but that is more of the stereotype, the generalisation. I definitely think there is something for everyone though.

View this post on Instagram

Theme for the day ????????

A post shared by Veronica Criniti (@veronicacriniti) on

What advice do you have for someone on their first ever Topdeck tour?

Definitely do it – particularly if you’re travelling on your own. Whether you’re with friends or on your own, but be a little bit adventurous.

Do things you wouldn’t normally do, and try to go outside your comfort zone because that’s when you generally have the most fun, you start to learn things about yourself.

I say go, experience everything you possibly can, make the most of it and do something you wouldn’t normally do.

So if you’re as convinced as Veronica, the best part of the whole thing is that there’s a stack of early bird sales on at the moment that you can take advantage of. And ya know, give your Trip Leader a big ol’ smile and thanks – they work bloody hard.