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Rick Steves tours --yes or no?
Old 05-13-2010, 04:12 PM   #1
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Rick Steves tours --yes or no?

I am looking at a Rick Steves tour of Italy but have no idea whether or not I'd like it. Seems kind of expensive. My inclination is to travel independently but this particular tour goes to a lot of the places I want to go and seems like it would just be easier on me, at age 60. Has anyone gone on a RS tour and did you like or not and why?
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Old 05-13-2010, 04:30 PM   #2
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Voting for independent travel - we had a great deal of luck with a Fodors or Frommers guidebook and a eurail pass in Italy. Public transportation works well. Once you get to a town you can explore on foot and enjoy.

The problem with tours is unless you really enjoy your fellow tour participants it might not be fun. Also sometimes the schedules can be annoying.

I suggest studying their itinerary and rolling your own. It's probably going to be way cheaper. And you can always employ local guides when you want.

The main advantage of the tour is you don't have to think about any of the logistics. That's a considerable advantage, but you often pay dearly for it.

We've gone on packaged tours for bird watching and photography. Those have been great because we needed the help to get to the right areas at the right times and you had the technical experts around to optimize the experience. Also, the all the participants share a common interest and so that creates a nice cohesive group. I would also consider a tour for walking or cycling or other activity that really needs a support vehicle.

Any more "general" tour I hated. When it came to exploring cities, historical sites, etc., we seem to do much better on our own.

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Old 05-13-2010, 04:35 PM   #3
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Check out:
backroads.com
Oversees Adventure Travels
Elderhostels
Also tour groups originating out of England
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:08 PM   #4
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I am looking at a Rick Steves tour of Italy but have no idea whether or not I'd like it. Seems kind of expensive. My inclination is to travel independently but this particular tour goes to a lot of the places I want to go and seems like it would just be easier on me, at age 60. Has anyone gone on a RS tour and did you like or not and why?
No grumps ! Or as they say in Italy ... No scontroso

I haven't been on an RS tour myself but use to work with someone who did a Rick Steeves tour of England. They raved about it.

I suspect that someone who wants to be shown all the highlights and worries about traveling in a country with another language would do well on a Rick Steeves tour. There is some degree of safety in a group. There is also some loss of culture immersion by traveling in a group.

You will pay more than independent travel. You will probably stay in some decent 3-star like hotels. You will have a group of similar minded people whom you will probably get along with.

If it fits what you had in mind I say go for it.

to get you in the mood I post 2 pictures of Italian loafers:

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Old 05-13-2010, 05:21 PM   #5
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I used the Rick Steves books for my independent Europe tour last year and it worked well, for the most part. He gives good descriptions and has easy to follow maps, and has good tips on how to avoid crowds or the procedures for how a big castle tour works so you don't stand around for an hour trying to figure out what to do. I found them a LOT easier to follow then Fodors or Lonely Planet or any of the other standards. My only issue is that he's somewhat of an off the beaten path kind of guy, and sometimes recommends obscure things over the usual stuff that a first timer ought to see, like this little farming community in the Alps rather than the big views. But he usually covers the standard stuff as well.

Can't say about his tours. If he's doing it himself, you might try to find one of his travel videos. Some people find him annoying, and this would be a good way to find out.

Tour vs. independent, what Audrey said. I like the flexibility of cutting something short I'm bored with, or staying long if I find something neat. But I'm also willing to do all of the logistics and studythe guidebooks.
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:22 PM   #6
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We have used Rick Steves for three tours so far and felt we got great value from each. In Italy we took his Rome tour and found we not only saw a lot more than we have on our own but with a lot less frustration. His guides are all top notch and know their subject matter extremely well. We rarely stood in lines at the main exhibits and generally were ahead of the general admitance crowds.
We also used Rick Steves in London and found great value in their ability to get around the city with minimum effort and always a sense of confidence about "getting to where we were going".
Both in Rome and London we added a self-guide tour of country-side (2 wks in Italy and 10 days in England). Used a lot of trains in both cases and having gotten "adjusted" with our city tours felt very comfortable "navigating'. Rick's guidebooks are really great at learning about the best way to get around. They are very reasonably priced and many libraries have on hand. Spend some time on his website reading Traveler's comments on the tour you are interested. His site also has some great ideas on making travel in Europe a more pleasant and affordable thing to do.
Our last trip was this time last year and our only country-side trip--three weeks in Turkey. Recommend it heartily for being able to cover a large part of the country and being able to gain a much better appreciation of the only Islam country we seem to be on speaking terms with these day.
About a third of your groups seem to be singles who all seem to enjoy themselves. In the three trips we never saw anyone left out. Groups are always under 25 and got along well.
Feel free to pm me if you want any particulars.
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:25 PM   #7
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One other thing about Rick Steves is that he is a fan of interacting with the locals. I'm not sure how he does it in a tour but his books and videos talk about it. Also, his standard for lodging is that it be safe and clean, and convenient enough. He rarely recommends the fancy hotels, so I don't know that his tours would stay in real nice places too, but they won't be dumps. We only had one miss on his recommendations, and that was probably because we got a ground level (basically a basement) room.
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:53 PM   #8
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OldBabe, your attitude going into it will probably make the difference about whether you enjoy it or not. A good friend sent her 21 year old son off to Europe on a group tour with all ages, from high school through 80s, when he found himself with a free fall semester and he came back with the greatest stories about the places he saw and the people he met.

It's just a tour, not the rest of your life. You can always go back and do more yourself if you find an area you just fall in love with.
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Old 05-13-2010, 05:59 PM   #9
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Another vote for Rick Steves. My sister and I took the 14 day best of Europe tour a couple of years ago. The tour guides were great, we did not need to pay for any tickets to get into anything and the guides got us into everything ahead of people waiting in lines. We were just saying that we wanted to take another of his tours in Europe.

The different hotels were all unique, not the type that most tours use. We walked quite a bit so the average age was younger than some tours since the tours indicate roughly how many miles one needs to walk each day.

We had a great time and would recommend. Also, no extra tipping is requested. Other tours I Have taken request you tip the staff at the end, so factor that into the RS tour price.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:14 PM   #10
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I find Rick Steves to be a real pain on his TV shows. However, a friend has been on a couple of the tours and has had very good experiences.
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:14 PM   #11
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My sister and I took a tour of Europe with RS and loved it. We saw the popular sites but also off the beaten path. Family hotels with their own character...not the cookie cutter hotels. Plenty of time to ourselves to go off and explore on our own. I recommend them highly. Lots of walking
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Old 05-13-2010, 06:41 PM   #12
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I am looking at a Rick Steves tour of Italy but have no idea whether or not I'd like it. Seems kind of expensive. My inclination is to travel independently but this particular tour goes to a lot of the places I want to go and seems like it would just be easier on me, at age 60. Has anyone gone on a RS tour and did you like or not and why?
Are you going solo ?
If so, and you have not done a lot of solo traveling already,
it might be a good way to go.
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Old 05-13-2010, 07:18 PM   #13
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What mh said...

I have never gone on any tour in Europe and always managed on my own, even in countries where I do not know the language. But I can see the advantage of a tour.

I have watched Rick Steves shows and don't see how his tours would be any worse than any other tours. I can see how a single woman traveler may be better in a tour group, in order to not having to worry about transportation and lodging logistics. My wife has traveled alone, or rather with friends, to places like the Komodo island, Bali, Brazil, and Argentina. Without me, she would not travel outside of a tour group. And there are places I am not ready to wander off on my own either, but Europe is a fairly safe place.

By traveling on our own, we have had some interesting experiences, like being stranded at an Italian train station when the workers decided to strike, or when we got off the last train of the evening, and at a wrong and remote station . Or when we were wandering the streets of Sedlec (Czech Rep.) in a rainy and dark evening, looking for the train station - we arrived earlier in the day by bus, hence did not know where the train station was, and it got pitch dark at 4PM.

In a few years, we may no longer enjoy adventures like that!
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Old 05-13-2010, 07:20 PM   #14
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Yes, I will be going alone and that's the primary reason for considering the RS tour. Good to hear that there are lots of singles on RS tours!

I have gone on 3 OAT tours, Africa, Ecurador, Peru, and Costa Rica, and enjoyed all of them, especially Africa, despite being one of the few singles in the group. The RS tour covers a lot of territory and I will have a chance to see parts of Italy that I might want to return to for a longer trip in the future. Or not. I want to see all the sights of Italy without the anxiety of traveling by myself.

NW-Bound, your adventures are exactly the kind of experiences I'd prefer to avoid! *shudder* I had plenty of those in my youth.

The travel tour group has worked out fine recently, although I do feel like a wimp. I was much braver when young and traveled throughout Europe by myself. I was a wild and crazy girl! At age 60, I feel much more vulnerable, am more concerned with safety, and although I'm fine being alone, I'd prefer to travel with other people. More fun!

I have taken a look at the RS web site but assume the reviews are selective. I'll take a look around the web to see what I can dig up.

Another organization I'm considering is Exploritas formerly Elderhostel. They have a few Italy trips that look good.
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:37 PM   #15
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Given your personal situation, going on a tour might be a good fit. I travelled quite a bit as a young person, and even then it means making an effort to chat to random strangers to take away the feeling of being isolated. At least on a tour, you have ready made strangers to converse with as you choose.
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:50 PM   #16
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Travel in a group is far better than not traveling at all. And yes, camaraderie during a trip is a plus, or at least it would be for me if I were by myself. And about the higher cost, heck how do we "take it with us"? If it costs more, one just travels less often.
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Old 05-14-2010, 12:26 AM   #17
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RS sounds fine. We had a great trip to Bali with Intrepid Tours and another good adventure guide is Gap Tours. Nice people in our group of 12. We never would have been able to pack so much into our schedule ourselves. We are still emailing each other. Met a lot of locals who we would not have met on our own.
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Old 05-14-2010, 07:19 AM   #18
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Like others that have posted, we used his books as a guide at times when touring Greece and Italy (1997, 1999) but never went on a tour. DW and I like to set our own schedule and do our own thing and we feel like a tour would kill that.

On semi-tangent, has anyone toured Europe with kids? As the Euro falls DW and I are wondering if we can afford a trip back to Italy with the kids, or maybe another kid-friendly Eurozone destination. Any suggestions?
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Old 05-14-2010, 07:49 AM   #19
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DW and I do some group travel and some independent and enjoy both. Our group trips are usually with Vermont Bike Tours (in fact I am leaving on one a week from Sunday). What I like most about them is the hassle free nature of the travel. The air, lodging, much of the food, logistics, route planning are all handled by the tour operator. The locations are fine tuned to appeal to the target group. So far I have always liked the people we meet and the accommodations, food and wine are great. The only down side I see is that you have to pay for what you get. It sounds from the comments here like the Rick Steves tours would be a good option.

Edit: just a post thought. I think group tours can be a good option if you are traveling alone. Travel is more fun (for most of us) if you can share the experience.
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Old 05-14-2010, 08:13 AM   #20
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On semi-tangent, has anyone toured Europe with kids? As the Euro falls DW and I are wondering if we can afford a trip back to Italy with the kids, or maybe another kid-friendly Eurozone destination. Any suggestions?
I've been the kid touring Europe with parents. It was fantastic!

We spent one summer in Nice - Dad got some plum temp assignment while he was a university student in Germany. That in itself was pretty sweet in spite of the cold rocky beach (for someone from Florida). But then my parents took lil sis and me on a short tour of northern Italy.

I particularly remember Florence. I remember the Leonardo Da Vinci unfinished statues and the Statue of David in the Galleria dell'Accademia. I remember being very impressed by the art students sketching the unfinished statues and it made me start sketching on my own.

I remember well the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I refused to walk to the top as I was convinced it was going to fall. Mom and younger sister went up and waved to us from the top. I remember wonderful country scenes that we drove past.

My memories are amazingly detailed. I was five years old!

So, basically, I would say not to worry how "kid friendly" Italy is. The architecture, the art, the country scenes, the restaurants/food are all going to be very interesting even to a fairly young child. We didn't go to Venice, but I expect that would have really amazed me as a kid (as if I hadn't already been amazed).

And, cardude, we know you can afford it!

Audrey
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