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Old 04-11-2017, 04:23 PM   #101
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Guided/organized tours are expensive, but it's a great option for folks who don't want to do the work - especially for the first time Europe traveler. There are lots of gotchas and it's easy to make rookie mistakes. At least Rick Steves tours aren't priced as high as many.

See my sig line - our Europe excursions sometimes take months for me to research, plan, and reserve/purchase.

This year we're taking a break - staying in one location. Next year it will be back to the whirlwind.
Yes, we do our own planning too. Just went on one RS tour to Southern Italy 2 years ago. We enjoyed some of it but maybe the socializing was not optimal for us. Getting out on our own after the tour was kind of refreshing. I guess I'm not all that versatile. I asked one couple how our tour compared with other RS tours they took and they said it was representative. One thing that bugged me is that were a few couples who had couple friends and they kind of stuck together. Felt a little like high school.

Still I am glad we did it as it might be a preview for years when we are more ancient and need the support tours provide.
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Old 04-11-2017, 04:38 PM   #102
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I used to check out his books from the library. The video tapes too, as I do not watch TV much anymore.

For the upcoming Europe road trip, I researched via the Internet, and for the 1st time, have not used his books.
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Old 04-11-2017, 08:22 PM   #103
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Yes, we do our own planning too. Just went on one RS tour to Southern Italy 2 years ago. We enjoyed some of it but maybe the socializing was not optimal for us. Getting out on our own after the tour was kind of refreshing. I guess I'm not all that versatile. I asked one couple how our tour compared with other RS tours they took and they said it was representative. One thing that bugged me is that were a few couples who had couple friends and they kind of stuck together. Felt a little like high school.

Still I am glad we did it as it might be a preview for years when we are more ancient and need the support tours provide.
I think that is part of what ultimately gets to us - the enforced socializing. We really need to get away from the group in the evenings, and many tours include an elaborate evening meal as a group. We've only traveled with small groups, usually < 16 people, but that still doesn't help. BTW - I've traveled with small photography groups, and birding and whale watching groups - and socializing there was a lot more fun because people generally had a lot more in common.

But I've used the Rick Steves' shows and books heavily and followed up on so many of the tips for neat spots and shops to visit and thoroughly enjoyed them. So Rick Steves is kind of our hero, because his advice is so high quality. The books are a steal when you consider the incredible content. I have several on my iPad.

This last year the only group touring we did was daytime mini-van tours, and that worked out very well. You can enjoy traveling with a small group for 5 to 9 hours, and then you are free!
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Old 04-11-2017, 10:01 PM   #104
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We might try a short mini van tour or two in Munich and/or Vienna. Any advice on how to select or sort for one?
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Old 04-11-2017, 10:21 PM   #105
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We might try a short mini van tour or two in Munich and/or Vienna. Any advice on how to select or sort for one?
I usually search on mini-van tours for a given city or attraction, and then review the tours they are offering, sites, etc.

TripAdvisor is good for reading reviews. You have to ignore TripAdvisor advertising, as they promote the big tour consolidator they own.

Honestly, if it's something easy to do ourselves via public transport, I don't usually sign up for a mini-van tour. I look for them when it's something not easy to do on your own, or would require a rental car, or there are several places to visit in one day and has to be well organized.

Munich downtown is very walkable, and then public transportation is so good it's easy to reach sites further out like Nymphenburg. Same for Vienna - bigger but the ringtram takes care of the larger distances. Easy metro out to Schoenbrunn. We actually didn't do any mini van tours in either city. We took advantage of the railyway-Danube cruise-Melk Abbey ticket from Vienna, and another day we took a bus up to Kahlenberg, wandered the public paths down through the Vienna woods heading towards the area where Beethoven lived, enjoying the outdoor wine taverns in the area. Lovely day.
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Old 04-11-2017, 10:30 PM   #106
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We might try a short mini van tour or two in Munich and/or Vienna. Any advice on how to select or sort for one?
I usually search on mini-van tours for a given city or attraction, and then review the tours they are offering, sites, etc.

TripAdvisor is good for reading reviews. You have to ignore TripAdvisor advertising, as they promote the big tour consolidator they own, Viator. We prefer to book directly with a local mini-van tour operator.

Honestly, if it's something easy to do ourselves via public transport, I don't usually sign up for a mini-van tour. I look for them when it's something not easy to do on your own, or would require a rental car, or there are several places to visit in one day and has to be well organized.

Munich downtown is very walkable, and then public transportation is so good it's easy to reach sites further out like Nymphenburg. Same for Vienna - bigger but the ringtram takes care of the larger distances. Easy metro out to Schoenbrunn. We actually didn't do any mini van tours in either city. We took advantage of the railyway-Danube cruise-Melk Abbey ticket from Vienna, and another day we took a bus up to Kahlenberg, wandered the public paths down through the Vienna woods heading towards the area where Beethoven lived, enjoying the outdoor wine taverns in the area. Lovely day.

We've done a lot of minivan tours in various parts of France, and some in Barcelona. Several have been standouts.

I guess what I do is look for worthwhile daytrips in a given area, research how easy to do on our own using public transportation, and if not so easy, start looking at local mini-van tour operators that cover the sites. We usually end up with a mix of self-guided day trips and mini-van tours, and it's a nice thing to alternate. More self-guided day trips with a sprinkling of mini-van tours, actually.
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Old 04-11-2017, 10:31 PM   #107
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Thanks for the ideas Audrey. We need a travel agent like you.
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:47 AM   #108
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I was a student in Vienna at one time and still go back all the time. I second the idea of getting out of the city to walk in the Vienna woods. It is incredibly beautiful. Take the tram from Schottentor (#38) to the little heurigen town of Grinzing, then get on the bus (38A) to take you up to the Kahlenberg (about 20 minutes from Grinzing). There is a restaurant with a view of the city up there and lots of hiking paths. Very romantic and historic. It is the place where the Polish general Jan Sobieski gathered his forces and prayed in the little church before descending the hill to take back the starving city from the Ottomans in the 1600s.
The Ringstrasse tram (#1) circles the old wall fortifications of the city in a ring, and you can see many major sites that way. Vienna has an extensive underground and tram system; you should be able to get anywhere you want quickly without a van tour. The old part of the town is also a pedestrian zone (so nice!) and you can walk extensively.
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Old 04-12-2017, 07:03 AM   #109
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Definitely not a mini-van tour but I took a Mike's Bikes Tour of Munich years ago and loved it. I'm happy to see they're still in business.
https://www.mikesbiketours.com/munich/

The tour was 4 or 5 miles, mostly flat, with old coaster-brake bikes,very leisurely pace, ending in a beer garden. Guides were young Americans, funny and well-informed.
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Old 04-12-2017, 07:18 AM   #110
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...

See my sig line - our Europe excursions sometimes take months for me to research, plan, and reserve/purchase.

....
For sure. Luckily for me, DW enjoys the planning almost as much as the doing. (She isn't too hep on my overly-frugal/adventurous planning yet....)
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Old 04-12-2017, 07:34 AM   #111
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And then there's this:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeands...e_iOSApp_Other

"In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job."


It's hard to believe anyone would spend that kind of money on mediocre food.
Wow. Thanks for the link. That was a review the likes of which you very seldom see! The writer got caught by the reputation greatly exceeding the food quality:

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I have spent sums like this on restaurant experiences before, and have not begrudged it. We each of us build our best memories in different ways, and some of mine involve expensive restaurants. But they have to be good. This one will also leave me with memories. They are bleak and troubling. If I work hard, one day, with luck, I may be able to forget.
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Old 04-12-2017, 12:09 PM   #112
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A different example of frugal: Looking for bargains but only buying the bargain when you already want the item. This is not cheapskate or any of that. Today I was frugal. I do once a week shopping (sometimes less) and use the grocery loyalty card, plus look at the weekly specials to see if there is anything I regularly use, or want to get, and don't buy stuff I'm not going to use. By doing this, our gas guzzler van which needs a tank of gas about once a month usually gets a free fill up. That saves about $45 per month or almost $500/year.

For the last couple of years I've been wanting to make rack of lamb in the spring, but could not stomach the price. Last year I looked around, couldn't find it, except at BJ's, and it was about $25/lb if I recall. This week my regular grocery store is selling Australian rack of lamb for $8/lb. With my loyalty card it was $6/lb. The lamb is fresh-not frozen, packed 4/7, bought today. So yeah, I got extra. It will freeze well the way it is packed, and cooked sous vide, as I have done with steaks, it will still be amazing.

Frugal-yes.
Cheapskate...rack of lamb for my family...no, not cheapskate.
If I may suggest??

In the past we dealt directly with a gentleman who purchased weened lambs and raised them for some months on his pasture. He had an arrangement with another man who did the butchering. Price per pound was very good after buying the whole lamb. We took the racks and legs and did the rest as stew meat and ground. Ask around. It is not an uncommon option if there is a muslim population of any size nearby.
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Old 04-12-2017, 12:20 PM   #113
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Frugal European trip...2 peeps off-season, 40 days...$9,100
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Old 04-12-2017, 01:44 PM   #114
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Guided/organized tours are expensive, but it's a great option for folks who don't want to do the work ...
One benefit to having been a lifelong cheapskate (oops! frugal individual) is we now have enough money to mostly take private tours. Just the two of us with a guide and, often, a driver. Itineraries are completely flexible and planning a trip with support from the organizer is great. In-country you can eat where you want to eat (no bland tourist buffets for us!), leave when you want to leave, stop for a photo when you want to stop, etc. One time in Namibia we held for an hour waiting for two sleeping lions to do something interesting. The never did. But that is something that is impossible on an organized tour, where the waiting you do is waiting for the people who are chronically late for everything. Private travel is something to consider.
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Old 04-12-2017, 01:50 PM   #115
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...One time in Namibia we held for an hour waiting for two sleeping lions to do something interesting. The never did...
So, you did not drive up next to them, opened the windows, and threw some rocks at them?
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Old 04-12-2017, 01:59 PM   #116
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I like thinking that I am financially conscious of my values and spend accordingly. A hails great value in travel but less on privacy so I rent a room in my house so I can travel instead.
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Old 04-12-2017, 03:06 PM   #117
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One benefit to having been a lifelong cheapskate (oops! frugal individual) is we now have enough money to mostly take private tours. Just the two of us with a guide and, often, a driver. Itineraries are completely flexible and planning a trip with support from the organizer is great. In-country you can eat where you want to eat (no bland tourist buffets for us!), leave when you want to leave, stop for a photo when you want to stop, etc. One time in Namibia we held for an hour waiting for two sleeping lions to do something interesting. The never did. But that is something that is impossible on an organized tour, where the waiting you do is waiting for the people who are chronically late for everything. Private travel is something to consider.
We've splurged for private mini-van (0.5 day to 1 day) tours a couple of times when we couldn't find something that matched what we wanted to do. Most mini-van tour operators offer private options of all their tours, and it's a great way to go if you have a group of 4 to 6 people already. We may consider more in the future even for just the two of us. But we kind of like traveling with other folks occasionally, as long as it's just a few hours at a time.
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Old 04-12-2017, 04:08 PM   #118
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So, you did not drive up next to them, opened the windows, and threw some rocks at them?
Yes, yes, no.


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Old 04-12-2017, 06:03 PM   #119
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One benefit to having been a lifelong cheapskate (oops! frugal individual) is we now have enough money to mostly take private tours. Just the two of us with a guide and, often, a driver. Itineraries are completely flexible and planning a trip with support from the organizer is great. In-country you can eat where you want to eat (no bland tourist buffets for us!), leave when you want to leave, stop for a photo when you want to stop, etc. One time in Namibia we held for an hour waiting for two sleeping lions to do something interesting. The never did. But that is something that is impossible on an organized tour, where the waiting you do is waiting for the people who are chronically late for everything. Private travel is something to consider.
LOL on the lions....

From my sister who went last year (not sure where).... but they were watching a pride and she said it was interesting that ALL of the lion turned to look in the same direction at the same time.... there was some kind of animal in the distance... but, no one went to hunt...
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