It seems from what I have read, you all have some good advice. A friend and I are looking to travel to Europe next year. I am doing all the leg work since it is kind of a present for her and myself as well. We are both in our mid twenties and we want to try to keep our activities geared towards that demographic. My big debate is whether or not travelling with organized groups with set itineraries is as fun as they make it sound like. We are also wondering if sticking to one country is best or doing a few days here and there is more fun. We don't have to do it all on this one trip, so I am leaning towards one of these 3-4 country tours that go from 7-9 days. It looks like I can easily do this for under 5,000 USD. I just don't want to waste our time or my money so any input or past experiences would be most helpful. Oh, and if anyone has ever travelled with an ex girlfriend/boyfriend tell me that it can be done without too much awkwardness. Here's to meeting new people!
First, this site is excellent. Second, what sort of traveling do you have in mind? Personally, I hate set tours, as I cannot stand to be led around by the nose. Some people prefer them as they tend to take all of the rough spots out of international travel. It is not clear from your posting the duration of your travel, and that too will affect the distances you can cover and the sights you can absorb. $5k should be plenty for a reasonable trip, unless the dollar gets any weaker. Feel free to sitemail me if you wish and I an try and help you with specifics.
I'm also not a big fan of set tours. For $5,000 in a 9 day trip you could get by exceptionally comfortably travelling in Europe on your own itinerary, in fact I wouldn't advise spending anything like that amount of money unless you're splashing out on 5 star hotels and Michelin Star restaurants! It's actually relatively simple to organise a trip in Europe once you get started and if you want to get some of the benefits from having a tourguide you can always go on individual daytrips and tours when you arrive at your destination (just about every city has a tourist information office which offers a wide range of these). Doing it that way is a lot cheaper than going on a set tour and also gives you a lot more freedom to decide what it is you want to do.
I think most people posting on this site are going to be against the set tour option. It does usually work out more expensive than if you do it yourself, and you're restricted to the places the tour goes. It is dead easy to meet people if you're staying in hostels so no need to worry about that. $5000 dollars is more than enough, you could probably travel for 9 days first class on that.
Tours in general cost much more $$$. I prefer not to go on tours, however I have friends that have done Contiki tours and loved them as they are geared to the under 30.
It's really worth planning your trip the way you like it, and traveling on your own allows you to do this. It also allows for you to come across the unexpected which is fun. I suggest picking up some travel guides, doing some research and picking a few must see destinations, then plan your trip around that. Establish what your interests are ie. museums, nature, architecture, culture, culinary, history etc.., then pick places that appeal to you based on that.
Also, whatever extra time you can squeeze into your trip is a good idea. You can easily travel 1-2 months on 5000 USD, in my opinion, that is more of a budget type backpacking trip.
Good luck with your travel plans!
If you really can't decide where to go or what to do, check out tour itineraries and create one of your own based on the tour company.