European Tours

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goblue100
Posts: 340
Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:31 am

European Tours

Post by goblue100 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am

I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
Some people are immune to good advice. - Saul Goodman

dbltrbl
Posts: 864
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:52 am

Re: European Tours

Post by dbltrbl » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:04 am

There are variety of options. I will try to tell positives and negatives. Plus side, you do not deal with hotel reservations in different cities, no worry about language or transportation. In our case even the meals at decent places were included except 2 meals. On the flip side, you do spend good time in the coaches. You see only most touristy places only and occasionally they will drive you to shops with connections to tour company. Also, you get up early 6-7 AM on most days and will not see bed after 9 or 10 PM. Depending on the tour provider hotels may not be in prime locations.

Depending on the length of your vacation, get a local tour company for each of three cities and travel between cities by EU-RAIL.
In any case Enjoy the Trip. :sharebeer

bubbadog
Posts: 368
Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:17 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by bubbadog » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:08 am

We debated the tour versus on our own options prior to taking a two week trip last summer. In the end, we went on our own and visited London, Paris, Switzerland, Milan, and Venice. We used trains to travel between all locations. We stayed at locations that were walkable to all of the train stations in the city centers. This made it easy to get off the train, check in, explore, rinse and repeat. We are 51/49 and enjoy walking and exploring on our time and picking our own agenda.

Have a great trip!

theplayer11
Posts: 208
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:55 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by theplayer11 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:35 am

IMO..too many try to cram too many countries on a single vacation. What's the point?..to check them off a list? These countries have so much to see beyond the touristy sites and cities. Take your time and explore, read the trip adviser forum on each country or region for great ideas.
I personally would never use a tour.

123
Posts: 2521
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:55 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by 123 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:45 am

The packaged tours will allow you to see 2 or 3 times as much stuff as you would see if you tried to do it on your own in the same time. For the most part they make very efficient use of time. They've done it all many times before so there's no waste of time. They are regimented. If you consider yourselves active you can probably keep up. If you try one with a 10 to 15 day itinerary you'll likely feel like you got your money's worth and you may very well build up your confidence about doing more on your own later. On the other hand you may decide that the packaged tours make it all so convenient that it isn't worth the bother to go independently. To each his own.

Happy traveling.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

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climber2020
Posts: 881
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:06 pm
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Re: European Tours

Post by climber2020 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:49 am

Trafalgar is a well respected tour company that does several European tours. They're more expensive than some other groups, but you get what you pay for. I've done lots of group travel as well as trips that I planned on my own, and there are benefits to each. Lately I've been leaning more toward group tours because there's so little effort involved, especially if it's my first time going to that destination. You show up at the specified time when the tour starts and everything is taken care of for you. If I go back later in life, I typically do my own thing the second time around.

goblue100
Posts: 340
Joined: Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:31 am

Re: European Tours

Post by goblue100 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:50 am

theplayer11 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:35 am
IMO..too many try to cram too many countries on a single vacation. What's the point?..to check them off a list?
I personally would never use a tour.
I suppose my own thinking on why so many cities / countries is it's taken me 57 years to get here, try to see as much as possible. But I know that sometimes less is more, thanks for the advice. Thanks to all so far, but still open to more thoughts and opinions.
Some people are immune to good advice. - Saul Goodman

Valuethinker
Posts: 33143
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: European Tours

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:55 am

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
You don't need a tour in London-- other than day tours. If you can manage New York, and remember to look both ways when you cross the road (ie the opposite to the US way and then the other way in case it is a one way street), you can handle London ;-).

To get a feel for London you really need about 3 full days (I have had over 25 years and I am still finding new things ;-)).

Day tours would be Stonehenge (a bit disappointing in that you can't go up to the stones any more, due to the damage so much tourism was doing), Bath, possibly Oxford and Cambridge (you could simply do those by train and tours when there).

In terms of must sees in London:

- Westminster Abbey where many of the most famous people in British history are buried (Westminster Cathedral is the catholic cathedral, and is different)
- St Paul's Cathedral
- Tower of London
- boat tour down the Thames (usually goes from Parliament or above that, down to Greenwich although down to Thames Barrier at Woolwich is interesting)
- walk along the South Bank (from opposite Tower of London/ Tower Bridge to Parliament - takes in the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern art museum* (old Bankside Power Station)
- Walk down Whitehall and past end of Downing Street (PM lives at No 10) and Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms (underground) if you have time
- British Museum - way too much to take in but there is an audioguide "highlights" tour or just focus on 1-2 periods
- National Gallery (Trafalgar Square) and National Portrait Gallery (next to it) - again a highlights tour audioguide

And I have left out the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert (both in S Kensington)

That would take you at least 3 very full days and you wouldn't be able to do it all (in Europe Museums are usually closed on Monday but thankfully not in London, and most museums are free).

* Tate Modern is modern art. Tate Britain (Pimlico Tube Station, on the river upriver of Houses of Parliament) is the period about 1790 to about 1930 and so has for example all the Turner paintings.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ResearchMed
Posts: 5326
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by ResearchMed » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
There is a huge range of possibilities, depending upon factors such as budget (a big factor, no surprise), and "how" you prefer to sightsee.

On the one end, there are the full package bus tours. That means a relatively large group, with a fair amount of waiting time as people get off the bus, and especially back on, sometimes with a few stragglers running back, etc. And you are with the same group the entire time, so personalities could matter. There's almost no chance to "customize" (other than occasional "dinner on your own" or "afternoon on your own", which some tours have and some don't). So if you love one museum, or one wing of a museum... the group keeps going. Ditto if you don't want to stop at the planned souvenir shop (often there are kickbacks to the tour guides, but not always).
And the hotels are likely to be inexpensive.
This often gives a great value, IF the experience is likely to fit.
There are all sorts of economies of scale in terms of costs.

Full tours are the easiest thing for a novice traveler.
In ALL tours, double check the activity level to be sure it's right for you.

Next would be small group tours (where "small" can mean 18-24 travelers, or it could be more like 8-16 - *read* the description carefully for these).
As above, all is "arranged".
These can sometimes be with luxury tour companies, so the pricing can vary a lot, as can the accommodations, etc.

Then there are true private tours, where it's "just you" (a person/couple/family/few friends).
Here, you can really customize. Want to focus on music or theatre? Fine. Archeology? Fine. Want a different hotel location, to be close to X? Fine.
With some of the higher end tour companies, the cost of truly private vs. small group isn't as much as one might think. It's the same hotels, transportation, meals. It's then mostly (not entirely) the extra cost of having the "guide" to yourself, in terms of not splitting costs, plus any customizing of changing destinations (cities or sights within cities), or adding more days/locations.

All of these will provide at least some assistance with luggage.

And then there is the "DIY" with day/partial day private or group tours at each location, or just at some locations.
You'd arrange all travel and hotels. But at each destination, you'd arrange with a private guide or a local tour company (same choice about size of group as above) to "see the sights". These will often self-customize, such as "see X by water" or "art museums of X" or just a basic overview of the city/region. Some of these include overnights away, and then they'll take care of that part of the travel.
We've had good experiences with local guides found on TripAdvisor.com - but we always communicated in advance to be sure about a good match for what we wanted, etc. It also gave a hint of the helpfulness in general.
We also found that getting a half (or full) day tour the first day of a multi-day stay somewhere gave us a great overview, and then we had a better idea of where we wanted to spend more time on our own the next day or two.

Google/Internet are REALLY "your friend" here, for hotels and guides (also restaurants and some activities/sights). That's really changed the ability to plan a trip :happy
And don't forget to look at reviews.
(We tend to ignore the very worst, unless there is a negative theme repeating, or if those are all from years ago. We especially read the recent ones, and also some from "the same time last year" in case there are seasonal quirks.)

We've also started to cruise (and we *love* it), and we've had private tours at some ports, and other times just wandered around on our own.
The nice thing about those is that "the hotel follows you around at night" :wink: No packing/unpacking throughout the trip.
We also find the "sea days" incredibly relaxing, much more than we had expected.
But that' s not a "way to see a few major cities in Europe"... just something to think about in the future.

Also, on any sort of group tour, think about if you would want one that might include small children...

In terms of your second post, if you really want to "maximize" your chance to "see things", and especially if you aren't sure you'll get back to the area, then a more regimented "full tour" will give you the most exposure, although much of it may be somewhat superficial. (You'll see lots of museums, but won't be spending an afternoon browsing some favorite artists, for example.)

One special hint: In Paris, if you go to Versailles, after the tour, there is (or was until recently) a little kiosk out back, off to the side... for golf cart type rentals. The grounds are HUGE. If our breakfast waiter that morning in Paris hadn't mentioned it, we'd have assumed that the little golf carts we saw occasionally were for staff. There was a slight wait, for a cart to be returned.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

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FraggleRock
Posts: 185
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:50 pm

Portugal

Post by FraggleRock » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:24 pm

Having just returned from 3 weeks in Portugal, let me promote that.

Planning is easy: AirBnB, TripAdvisor
Train travel is inexpensive and pleasant.
We did Lisboa, Coimbra, Aveiro, Porto, Lisboa.
The people are friendly.
Lots of English spoken.
Food is good. (I am a foodie.)
More than enough to do.

Helpful websites:
https://planapple.com
https://juliedawnfox.com
https://portoalities.com/en/
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/portugal

For me, planning (the time investment) makes the trip more interesting and enjoyable.
Last edited by FraggleRock on Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tigermilk
Posts: 469
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:32 am

Re: European Tours

Post by tigermilk » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:00 pm

theplayer11 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:35 am
IMO..too many try to cram too many countries on a single vacation. What's the point?..to check them off a list? These countries have so much to see beyond the touristy sites and cities. Take your time and explore, read the trip adviser forum on each country or region for great ideas.
I personally would never use a tour.
Spent 3 days in Venice, a city that is smaller than my neighborhood. Yet 3 days wasn't enough time. Some place like London would take months; been twice for a total time of about 2 weeks and still have just scratched the surface.

Back on topic, personally self-planned travel is tons better than tours. I want to go where I want to go, not a tour xompancy. Plus, self-guided means you can change your itinerary based on weather and fatigue.

TravelforFun
Posts: 820
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:05 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by TravelforFun » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:22 pm

If you've never been to Europe, start with well known cities like London and Paris first. I never rely on anyone to tell me the things to do or the places to see because we're all different. The Internet is godsend when it comes to traveling, plus English is almost universal, so have no fear.

I consult sites like TripAdvisor to research places and write a blog to help other travelers. I always book my hotel near a metro or train station in advance, buy all museum and train tickets before I leave home, and walk a lot. But I don't cram a lot of places on one trip. The last ten years we've been to England, France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, and this year, Croatia and Albania. We'll do Spain in May.

I find the planning is as exciting as the trips themselves but like I said, everyone is different. Have fun traveling.

TravelforFun

DarthSage
Posts: 65
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:39 am

Re: European Tours

Post by DarthSage » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:32 pm

I went to Italy for 12 days with my daughters this past June. We did an Insights tour--this one: https://insightvacations.com/us/tri ... ummer-2017

We had a ton of fun, and this was a great tour for first-timers to Italy. None of us had been there, or speak the language, which is why we chose the tour route. Older DD (age 22) is very adventurous--me, not so much! There were several optional tours/experiences--lace-making in Venice, night time Rome tour, special meals. No pressure at all to go on the optionals--my younger DD didn't care for the leisurely Italian meals, so she and I skipped the optional ones, while older DD went. I even enjoyed the bus--it was very comfortable, and Italy's "truck stops" are nothing like in the USA--your pasta would be cooked to order, they serve homemade potato chips, I even had raw fish at one--when was the last time you went to a US rest stop and thought, "Gee, I'll have the raw fish"??? Our tour had 31 people, and we stayed in luxury hotels in the heart of the action--right off a canal in Venice, walking distance to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, etc. About half our meals were included--while the included dinners were nice, most were forgettable. We found we actually preferred eating street food. We did have a couple nice sit-down meals, though.

We're going back to Europe this coming summer, doing this tour:
http://tauck.com/tours/europe-tours ... =Itinerary

This is more of a family-oriented tour. This time, we'll be taking my youngest (he'll be 12). The Italy tour would have been too intense/adult for him. This tour is perfect for families with kids. Probably not exactly what you're looking for. Tauck is more of a 5-star vacation, while Insights is more 4-star. I think you can have fun planning your own tour, as well. Another possibility is adding days on the front or back-end of a tour--we're doing an extra day in London next year.

delamer
Posts: 3091
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by delamer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:46 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm
goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
There is a huge range of possibilities, depending upon factors such as budget (a big factor, no surprise), and "how" you prefer to sightsee.

On the one end, there are the full package bus tours. That means a relatively large group, with a fair amount of waiting time as people get off the bus, and especially back on, sometimes with a few stragglers running back, etc. And you are with the same group the entire time, so personalities could matter. There's almost no chance to "customize" (other than occasional "dinner on your own" or "afternoon on your own", which some tours have and some don't). So if you love one museum, or one wing of a museum... the group keeps going. Ditto if you don't want to stop at the planned souvenir shop (often there are kickbacks to the tour guides, but not always).
And the hotels are likely to be inexpensive.
This often gives a great value, IF the experience is likely to fit.
There are all sorts of economies of scale in terms of costs.

Full tours are the easiest thing for a novice traveler.
In ALL tours, double check the activity level to be sure it's right for you.

Next would be small group tours (where "small" can mean 18-24 travelers, or it could be more like 8-16 - *read* the description carefully for these).
As above, all is "arranged".
These can sometimes be with luxury tour companies, so the pricing can vary a lot, as can the accommodations, etc.

Then there are true private tours, where it's "just you" (a person/couple/family/few friends).
Here, you can really customize. Want to focus on music or theatre? Fine. Archeology? Fine. Want a different hotel location, to be close to X? Fine.
With some of the higher end tour companies, the cost of truly private vs. small group isn't as much as one might think. It's the same hotels, transportation, meals. It's then mostly (not entirely) the extra cost of having the "guide" to yourself, in terms of not splitting costs, plus any customizing of changing destinations (cities or sights within cities), or adding more days/locations.

All of these will provide at least some assistance with luggage.

And then there is the "DIY" with day/partial day private or group tours at each location, or just at some locations.
You'd arrange all travel and hotels. But at each destination, you'd arrange with a private guide or a local tour company (same choice about size of group as above) to "see the sights". These will often self-customize, such as "see X by water" or "art museums of X" or just a basic overview of the city/region. Some of these include overnights away, and then they'll take care of that part of the travel.
We've had good experiences with local guides found on TripAdvisor.com - but we always communicated in advance to be sure about a good match for what we wanted, etc. It also gave a hint of the helpfulness in general.
We also found that getting a half (or full) day tour the first day of a multi-day stay somewhere gave us a great overview, and then we had a better idea of where we wanted to spend more time on our own the next day or two.

Google/Internet are REALLY "your friend" here, for hotels and guides (also restaurants and some activities/sights). That's really changed the ability to plan a trip :happy
And don't forget to look at reviews.
(We tend to ignore the very worst, unless there is a negative theme repeating, or if those are all from years ago. We especially read the recent ones, and also some from "the same time last year" in case there are seasonal quirks.)

We've also started to cruise (and we *love* it), and we've had private tours at some ports, and other times just wandered around on our own.
The nice thing about those is that "the hotel follows you around at night" :wink: No packing/unpacking throughout the trip.
We also find the "sea days" incredibly relaxing, much more than we had expected.
But that' s not a "way to see a few major cities in Europe"... just something to think about in the future.

Also, on any sort of group tour, think about if you would want one that might include small children...

In terms of your second post, if you really want to "maximize" your chance to "see things", and especially if you aren't sure you'll get back to the area, then a more regimented "full tour" will give you the most exposure, although much of it may be somewhat superficial. (You'll see lots of museums, but won't be spending an afternoon browsing some favorite artists, for example.)

One special hint: In Paris, if you go to Versailles, after the tour, there is (or was until recently) a little kiosk out back, off to the side... for golf cart type rentals. The grounds are HUGE. If our breakfast waiter that morning in Paris hadn't mentioned it, we'd have assumed that the little golf carts we saw occasionally were for staff. There was a slight wait, for a cart to be returned.

RM
We have taken a couple cruises in Europe and I generally agree with the above comments. However, it is possible to see a few major cities on one cruise; it depends on which one you pick. On our last cruise in the Baltic, we visited St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Berlin, and Copenhagen (among others). On another in the Mediterranean, we visited Barcelona, Rome, and Pompei (again, among others).

Also, the ships offer a variety of excursions in each port that are rated by activity level. Everything from bus tours to kayaking/hiking. Or you can arrange your own activities in each port.

One advantage of group tours is that they often get preferred and/or early admission to crowded historical/cultural sites. We saw enormous lines at several sites for individual tickets. We got early admission to The Hermitage and had a pretty uncrowded experience until the very end. The lines and crowds were huge by late morning.

More Please
Posts: 133
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:13 am

Re: European Tours

Post by More Please » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:52 pm

Try: http://tauck.com/ or https://odysseys-unlimited.com/. Both are very good.

Buon viaggio

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nedsaid
Posts: 8707
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2012 12:33 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by nedsaid » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:12 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:50 am
theplayer11 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:35 am
IMO..too many try to cram too many countries on a single vacation. What's the point?..to check them off a list?
I personally would never use a tour.
I suppose my own thinking on why so many cities / countries is it's taken me 57 years to get here, try to see as much as possible. But I know that sometimes less is more, thanks for the advice. Thanks to all so far, but still open to more thoughts and opinions.
I think a guided tour through a company like Trafalgar would be an excellent introduction to Europe. What I would do is take a tour, sign up for all of the extras, and have the time of your life.

I have taken five trips to Europe, the first was a Trafalgar Bus Tour, and had a great time. The other four trips I booked myself through a discount travel company. Typically, I would try to visit 3-4 cities in each trip. I "wasted" time traveling in between cities and countries, but I did see most everything in Europe that I wanted to see. I don't go for the less is more advice for your first trip, as it isn't certain that you will be back. On an introductory trip, see as much as you can and it will wet your appetite for return visits.

Most of us have limited time and budgets, while I would like to really take time and visit in depth, each time I have visited I wasn't sure that I would be back. Pretty much did every trip like it would be my last.
A fool and his money are good for business.

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nedsaid
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Re: European Tours

Post by nedsaid » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:17 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
Your Italy trip would be an excellent one. One country and a few cities, the traveling distance in between won't be great. Italy is a literal feast of great food, great art, and great architecture. I haven't even started talking about the rich history. I actually experienced sensory overload, the art and the wonderful and beautiful old buildings just never ends. I got to where I didn't want to see another piece of art.

London, Paris, Rome is also an excellent trip, I took this as my second European trip. Either way would be great.

My advice is that a tour will teach you a lot about travel. You will learn enough from them that you will be able to do it on your own next time.
A fool and his money are good for business.

DrGoogle2017
Posts: 461
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:31 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:47 pm

Last year, we spent six weeks in just London alone and we didn’t cover everything, that on top of 30 years of travelling to London. Pick a city and explore. I never do tours ever, I like the freedom to explore things on my own. Lots of free museums in London, there is no need to spend money for entrance fee. However, I make a point to visit the cafe or restaurants there, it’s my way to pay back for the free museum.

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GerryL
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Re: European Tours

Post by GerryL » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:09 pm

In my youth I always travelled independently. And I usually did extended stays. After years of no international travel, I decided to hit the road again in retirement. I have been travelling with Road Scholar and have enjoyed my experiences. I especially like the educational aspect, and you can choose programs that are designated as small group. (If a program is not labelled "small group," you can ask what the upper limit is.) The programs are all-inclusive (most meals, tips, tours) and each one offers a certain amount of time for exploring on your own.

Note that I speak French and can easily travel around France on my own, but I have enjoyed my two RS programs in France because I learn things I probably would not learn as an independent traveller. (Then I extend my stay for time on my own.)

The RS website (roadscholar.org) offers hundreds of programs in Europe. From single-city to multi-country. By boat or bus or train. I should try another company just to see what the offerings are like, but there are still plenty of RS experiences I want to go on.

delamer
Posts: 3091
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: European Tours

Post by delamer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:18 pm

DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:47 pm
Last year, we spent six weeks in just London alone and we didn’t cover everything, that on top of 30 years of travelling to London. Pick a city and explore. I never do tours ever, I like the freedom to explore things on my own. Lots of free museums in London, there is no need to spend money for entrance fee. However, I make a point to visit the cafe or restaurants there, it’s my way to pay back for the free museum.

It is key to consider what kind of traveling you want to do. I would rather see the highlights of more places than explore one or two places in depth, which is why cruises work for me. Also one of my kids had an emergency health issue in a city where we did not speak the language and the ships' crew was invaluable. So traveling on our own (outside of maybe the UK and Ireland) does not appeal to us.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: European Tours

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:48 pm

delamer wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:18 pm
DrGoogle2017 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:47 pm
Last year, we spent six weeks in just London alone and we didn’t cover everything, that on top of 30 years of travelling to London. Pick a city and explore. I never do tours ever, I like the freedom to explore things on my own. Lots of free museums in London, there is no need to spend money for entrance fee. However, I make a point to visit the cafe or restaurants there, it’s my way to pay back for the free museum.

It is key to consider what kind of traveling you want to do. I would rather see the highlights of more places than explore one or two places in depth, which is why cruises work for me. Also one of my kids had an emergency health issue in a city where we did not speak the language and the ships' crew was invaluable. So traveling on our own (outside of maybe the UK and Ireland) does not appeal to us.
I agree it’s personal. I never do cruises for the opposite reason. Plus the amount of food they offer is just mind boggling.

RudyS
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Re: European Tours

Post by RudyS » Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:02 pm

More Please wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:52 pm
Try: http://tauck.com/ or https://odysseys-unlimited.com/. Both are very good.

Buon viaggio
We just did an 8 day cruise around Iceland with Tauck. More expensive than most, but worth it! The biggest advantage of cruise-type trips is that you don't have to unpack each night (although there are occasional 2 night stays on land tours). There are other cruises that visit more countries/cities. Just throwing this out as an alternative to the many good suggestions already made.

goblue100
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Re: European Tours

Post by goblue100 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:29 pm

Thanks to all who responded. I appreciate the time it takes to make a detailed post, and all input is being put into the memory bank!
I think I'm leaning to some sort of a tour, just to make it as trouble / stress free an experience as possible. I do understand the tradeoffs, but I think we might do better on a tour, especially in Italy and France. As the one poster said, I believe I could manage London and the UK on my own.
:sharebeer
Some people are immune to good advice. - Saul Goodman

denovo
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Re: European Tours

Post by denovo » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:31 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:50 am
theplayer11 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:35 am
IMO..too many try to cram too many countries on a single vacation. What's the point?..to check them off a list?
I personally would never use a tour.
I suppose my own thinking on why so many cities / countries is it's taken me 57 years to get here, try to see as much as possible. But I know that sometimes less is more, thanks for the advice. Thanks to all so far, but still open to more thoughts and opinions.
How good are you with smartphones and using the internet? Yes, it matters. Also do you have the patience to go and check websites like tripadvisor and plan stuff?

epictetus
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Re: European Tours

Post by epictetus » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:06 pm

what we have found works for us is to use a group tour and then reading/using Rick Steve's guidebook(s) for preparation and trip supplement.

we have used Globus before on several trips and have had a good experience.
Focus on what you can control

ResearchMed
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Re: European Tours

Post by ResearchMed » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:10 pm

epictetus wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:06 pm
what we have found works for us is to use a group tour and then reading/using Rick Steve's guidebook(s) for preparation and trip supplement.

we have used Globus before on several trips and have had a good experience.
Rick Steves has some TV videos available, and we found those terrific for giving a "feel" for where we'd be going (Rome, for example) and also some nice places were were *not* yet going :wink:
But the books were useful in addition, for the details, and to take along.

Some handy hints, worth reading.

I think his company also does tours, but don't know what type/what level (ultra-economy? luxe? or what).
His books tend to stress frugality, which is great for BH, of course.

RM
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Nyc10036
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Re: European Tours

Post by Nyc10036 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:27 pm

Escorted tours with Trafalgar, Cosmos, and Globus when I was in my 30s.
Would do it again but choose the more leisurely paced ones of at least 2 or 3 nights in a city.

SR II
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Re: European Tours

Post by SR II » Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:15 pm

In August, my husband and I took an Insight Vacations tour of Switzerland (https://insightvacations.com/us/tri ... ummer-2017). After the tour was over, we rented a car and drove about an hour and a half to a ski village where my husband was in boarding school as a second grader, just for an overnight to check the place out.

My only prior experience in Europe was Barcelona (on our own before a trans-Atlantic cruise) and my husband had spent a summer during college bumming around Europe with his brother in a VW Westfalia camper. Neither of us had ever taken an escorted tour.

We decided on a tour so we wouldn't have to struggle with any language barrier, figure out transportation, hotels or sights. The tour company had additional tours at almost every stop. Some we did, a few we didn't. We would have been EXTREMELY busy (ie.: too busy!) if we had done all of the extras. The hotels were in very central locations for wandering around, the coach was very comfortable (with lots of legroom), the tours were excellent and the guide was superb.

I would do a tour again in a heartbeat!

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Re: European Tours

Post by gehrig » Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:41 pm

I have taken 2 GoAhead tours and 2 CIE tours. I have been very pleased with both companies. CIE is wonderful for Ireland and British Iles- great hotels,fabulous meals and knowlegeable guides. GoAhead was also one I will travel with again. I went to Paris with them and stayed in a wonderful small hotel in an area where there were nice restaurants and stores close by. In the morning you could see fathers walking their children to school. You could walk to the Arc d'Triumph, the subway was across the road from hotel. But the best part was they allowed plenty of free time to explore on your own. The guide was great at helping you get to where you wanted to go and/or get tickets to places. You can be confident with both CIE and GoAhead.

Calli114
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Re: European Tours

Post by Calli114 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:20 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:29 pm
Thanks to all who responded. I appreciate the time it takes to make a detailed post, and all input is being put into the memory bank!
I think I'm leaning to some sort of a tour, just to make it as trouble / stress free an experience as possible. I do understand the tradeoffs, but I think we might do better on a tour, especially in Italy and France. As the one poster said, I believe I could manage London and the UK on my own.
:sharebeer

I second the posters who have mentioned Tauck tours; I just booked a tour with them next year for Central Europe. I have been in large groups and small group tours - for an important occasion like yours, my advice would be to book the smallest size group tour your budget will allow. Beyond a couple dozen people, it starts to get more of a rat race feel about it.

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nedsaid
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Re: European Tours

Post by nedsaid » Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:48 pm

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:29 pm
Thanks to all who responded. I appreciate the time it takes to make a detailed post, and all input is being put into the memory bank!
I think I'm leaning to some sort of a tour, just to make it as trouble / stress free an experience as possible. I do understand the tradeoffs, but I think we might do better on a tour, especially in Italy and France. As the one poster said, I believe I could manage London and the UK on my own.
:sharebeer
I recommend taking an escorted vacation as an introduction to Europe. The tour guide and the tour company will teach you a lot about how to travel and certain things will be very instructive. One thing is being prepared for things like losing your passport by packing a passport picture and a copy of your passport. Take a copy of both sides of your credit cards so that you can more easily report a lost or stolen card. How to avoid pickpockets.

I remember the guide going around to each tour member on the bus. I took out a 1/2 sized notebook that had all the tour information inside. The guide was quite impressed. He asked where I learned to do that. I told him that I took a Canadian trip in 2009 and the travel company sent me a notebook with most of the information I needed for the trip. I realized that I could do the same thing. I had things in my notebook like the itinerary, vouchers, copy of passport & credit cards, emergency contact info, etc.

From what you learn, you will be armed with the knowledge to plan your own trip next time. I would like to take another escorted tour at some point. Another thing to remember is that tours are rated for difficulty, you can get a good idea of how physically strenuous the tour will be before you go. As you get older, your enthusiasm for being a human packhorse diminishes!
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boomergeneration
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Re: European Tours

Post by boomergeneration » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:28 pm

My spouse and I have been on 5 Rick Steve's Tours. I highly recommend them. The tour guides are great. The tours cap at 28 people so the tour bus has plenty of empty seats to spread out in. The 2018 tours are out now; you can save $100. if you book by the end of November. We travel on our own, too, but sometimes it is nice to have someone else do all the arrangements.

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Watty
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Re: European Tours

Post by Watty » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:43 pm

Taking a tour or independent travel doesn't have to be an "either/or" choice since you split your time and do both and just take a guided tour for part of your trip.
goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy,
I did the Rome/Florence/Venice trip three years ago on my own without a tour company and it was really pretty easy to do by just following the suggestions in the Rick Steves books. We flew British Airways and also did a free stopover in London too which worked out well for us.

We may not have crammed as much into each day but we took our time so we didn't have to. We tend to travel in the shoulder seach and stay in nice mid range hotels that are often less than $100 a night except in the largest cities like London and Paris so it does not necessarily cost more to stay a few more days than an expensive tour that rushes you through the highlights.

We normally try to go for about three weeks since once you are over there it does not cost much to get hotels and food for each extra day especially outside the large cities. We went to Spain last year for three weeks and never paid more than $100 a night for a hotel even in Barcelona and Madrid. A few nights were in a Hilton and condos that were on sale. We did our research and every place we stayed was nice and clean even if it was not always fancy. Since we were traveling in the shoulder season we only made reservations a day or two ahead of time except for key dates and in the large cities.

One thing to watch out for with tours is that sometimes have to stay at large hotels that are not in great locations in order to get enough rooms and to have a place that the tour bus can get to. Rick Steve gives a lot of good suggestions for smaller hotels that are often in the heart of the tourist areas. Restaurants may also be selected because they can get a good price and seats for 60 people.

I have been to Europe about a half dozen times and I have not taken an organized tour yet. We only halfway joke about waiting to do tours until we are in our 70's and need more assistance.

If we were to take one we would look first at the Road Scholar tours or a Rick Steves tours but both of these are not inexpensive.
goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London
One thing to watch for is that would be a lot of time in large cities . It would be a good idea to plan some time out in the countryside in between the big cities. After a week or so you may get pretty saturated with museums, castles, and cathedrals and not enjoy the later ones as much as they deserve so you might want to save some of the major cities for future trips.

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Re: Portugal

Post by Pacific » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:46 am

FraggleRock wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:24 pm
Having just returned from 3 weeks in Portugal, let me promote that.

Planning is easy: AirBnB, TripAdvisor
Train travel is inexpensive and pleasant.
We did Lisboa, Coimbra, Aveiro, Porto, Lisboa.
The people are friendly.
Lots of English spoken.
Food is good. (I am a foodie.)
More than enough to do.

Helpful websites:
https://planapple.com
https://juliedawnfox.com
https://portoalities.com/en/
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/portugal

For me, planning (the time investment) makes the trip more interesting and enjoyable.
I love Portugal. Several years ago my wife and I took our first river cruise with Uniworld up the Douro River. Fantastic voyage due to the guides. I've taken Uniworld river cruises each year ever since.

FireProof
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Re: European Tours

Post by FireProof » Sun Oct 29, 2017 3:11 am

I'd say the reason to get a tour (if it's not just to avoid all planning) would be to be guided in a way that would be more difficult on your own. So having a guide to lead you around a city and explain it, sure - that's pretty hard to substitute exactly (although you might think the experience is better or worse). But paying a huge markup for someone to arrange flights between cities and book hotels? I don't really see the need. Flying between Paris and Rome is no more difficult than flying between Cleveland and Dallas (and it's a hell of a lot cheaper).

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Re: European Tours

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:03 am

DW and I just took a Viking River Cruise this past May, hitting Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, and France. It was our first trip to Europe (but hopefully not our last :D ). We loved every minute of it.

+1 on the Rick Steves information. Even if you don't read any of their books, check out the website, it has a lot of good info for the traveler to Europe.
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SueG5123
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Re: European Tours

Post by SueG5123 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:57 am

Since OP specifically mentioned Go Ahead Tours, I'll say that we have taken four land tours with them and highly recommend. We saw a lot of value for inexperienced travelers, and opportunity for independent sightseeing if you wanted to "break away" occasionally.

I took a Perillo fully escorted tour of Italy once and it was nice, except that it got very tedious being tied to the other 49 people on the tour, 24/7. Never again.

DH and I also endorse Viking River Cruises as a good introduction to Europe. You won't get five capitals in seven days, but it will be relaxed and with high comfort level for novice travelers.

Europe is incredibly accessible for independent travelers, too. Pick up a Rick Steves guidebook and have fun.

carolinaman
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Re: European Tours

Post by carolinaman » Sun Oct 29, 2017 7:07 am

I would suggest you try to include more than just the large cities like Rome and London. For example, I spent 2 weeks in Italy 2 years ago. I was in Tuscany for a week, Rome for 5 days and spent a day at Amalfi Coast. I enjoyed Rome but much preferred the other 2 sites. Old ancient ruins and art museums tend to get monotonous after a while. All of the countries you mentioned have very interesting places in addition to the cities. IMO, they tend to give one more of a flavor of the culture and country than just the touristy large cities. Bon voyage!

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JMacDonald
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Re: European Tours

Post by JMacDonald » Sun Oct 29, 2017 7:12 am

I would recommend looking at a Rick Steves tour: https://ricksteves.com

I have done two tours with him and enjoyed both.
Best Wishes, | Joe

Olduvai
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Re: European Tours

Post by Olduvai » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:19 am

I would highly recommend Tauck's "Classic Italy" tour. Tauck is a little more expensive than most tour companies, but you definitely do get your money's worth.

fourwheelcycle
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Re: European Tours

Post by fourwheelcycle » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:21 am

If you like history and international affairs I would suggest Gohagan's Changing Tides of History Cruising the Baltic Sea, including the Norway pre-trip. This is an excellent tour, fully guided in small groups at each city along the trip, with excellent accommodations and meals on a first class small cruise ship.

If you are active and would enjoy comfortably-paced bicycling for a few hours each day I would recommend VBT's The Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany bicycle trip, with the Prague pre-trip. This trip is also fully guided, with excellent accomodations.

Both trips can be arranged to include all of your airfare and airport/hotel transfers. You just wake up each morning and see what the day has in store!

DarthSage
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Re: European Tours

Post by DarthSage » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:32 am

Another vote for reading Rick Steves--his website has a TON of information. You could buy his books once you know specific countries you'll visit. He strikes a nice balance--hotels that are in the heart of the action, yet not too pricey, sights that are interesting, but not necessarily the #1 tourist destination, that sort of thing. Also, his Rick Steves' Europe series runs on PBS, at least here (North Carolina). Each segment covers a city or two and gives you the flavor of the area.

Visiting the Baltic region is on my bucket list, I love reading about people who have gone (cruise or land).

I should mention, my husband and son did a CIE tour of Scotland and Ireland last summer--they had a wonderful time. CIE operates in the UK/Scotland/Ireland only, but they're the best for that region.

One thing that Insights (and probably most tour groups) has is, they hire local guides to take you around--you wear a little receiver like a dork, with an earpiece. For example, in Florence, we visited the Accademia with an art historian. This can be both good and bad--the guides truly have a wealth of information. OTOH, after a while, it can be like a mosquito buzzing in your ear, if your preference is to sit and quietly contemplate the art. Several times, I just yanked the earpiece--our guide in the Vatican never shut up, even in the Sistine Chapel, where you're not supposed to talk! But, she was very knowledgeable.

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Re: European Tours

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:00 am

DarthSage wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:32 pm
I went to Italy for 12 days with my daughters this past June. We did an Insights tour--this one: https://insightvacations.com/us/tri ... ummer-2017

We had a ton of fun, and this was a great tour for first-timers to Italy. None of us had been there, or speak the language, which is why we chose the tour route. Older DD (age 22) is very adventurous--me, not so much! There were several optional tours/experiences--lace-making in Venice, night time Rome tour, special meals. No pressure at all to go on the optionals--my younger DD didn't care for the leisurely Italian meals, so she and I skipped the optional ones, while older DD went. I even enjoyed the bus--it was very comfortable, and Italy's "truck stops" are nothing like in the USA--your pasta would be cooked to order, they serve homemade potato chips, I even had raw fish at one--when was the last time you went to a US rest stop and thought, "Gee, I'll have the raw fish"??? Our tour had 31 people, and we stayed in luxury hotels in the heart of the action--right off a canal in Venice, walking distance to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, etc. About half our meals were included--while the included dinners were nice, most were forgettable. We found we actually preferred eating street food. We did have a couple nice sit-down meals, though.

We're going back to Europe this coming summer, doing this tour:
http://tauck.com/tours/europe-tours ... =Itinerary

This is more of a family-oriented tour. This time, we'll be taking my youngest (he'll be 12). The Italy tour would have been too intense/adult for him. This tour is perfect for families with kids. Probably not exactly what you're looking for. Tauck is more of a 5-star vacation, while Insights is more 4-star. I think you can have fun planning your own tour, as well. Another possibility is adding days on the front or back-end of a tour--we're doing an extra day in London next year.
I did an Insight Tour way back in the 1980s - 3 week grand tour of Western Europe (not Spain and Portugal).

I would say the extra money was well rewarded-- city centre hotels not way out of town. Knowledgeable multi-lingual guide (important in some countries where English is not as well spoken).

If the company has not lost quality, then I would recommend them.

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Re: European Tours

Post by midareff » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:11 am

We did a Viking Longboat River Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest and it was wonderful. Guided tours at every stop included, beer and wine lunch and dinner included, wi-fi included, great food ... can'r say enough good things about them. Unpack once and done. Liked it enough to go back with them the next summer and do a Russian Riverboat Tour with the same results.. everything first class and A+++++++++++++. We have two more trips booked with them for next summer as well. We have used Princess, Holland, Oceania, Fathom, and American Cruise Lines and Viking is the cream of the crop, clearly.

Traveler
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Re: European Tours

Post by Traveler » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:26 am

I travel to Europe solo (leisure) a couple times each year and have never done a formal tour. I occasionally do a day tour or walking tour of a place, but have never done a multi-night tour. I just returned from an 8-9 day trip around the Umbria region of Italy - rented a car for five of the days and explored numerous hilltop towns.

I think a tour would be good for someone who doesn't travel much and/or doesn't want to spend the time planning a trip - there is a fair amount of work involved. A positive for Europe is that everything is very well connected with the rail system. As someone else said, you will probably see more of the tourist highlights on a tour than if you went on your own. That said, I love just wandering around a town/city with little else planned but which part of the town I'm exploring in the morning and which in the afternoon. If I were looking at formal tours, I would look at how many people they take and the details of each day. For instance, Vatican City is easily worth at least a day of time but if they have you go in, rush through the Sistine Chapel and then leave, you will see very little.

Whatever you decide, enjoy the adventure!

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Re: European Tours

Post by cherijoh » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:48 am

goblue100 wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:31 am
I haven't started many threads, hopefully I'll be forgiven one that is more consumer oriented than investing oriented. 2018 will be our 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to take my wife to Europe to celebrate it. I wouldn't say we are rubes, but we aren't exactly world travelers, either. Rather than try to do a lot of my own planning, I'm considering trying to find a tour. Anyone have one they used that they liked, or didn't like?
We are a fairly active 57 years old, so I'm a little afraid tours might be too low key for us?
Just for an idea of what I'm thinking of, here is one I was looking at:
https://goaheadtours.com/vfs/venice ... rome-9days

I'm not necessarily tied only to Italy, in fact I might prefer one that was maybe Paris, Rome and London. I'm really open to suggestions from people that have been there, done that.
I looked at the itinerary you are considering. Here are a couple of things to look out for when evaluating packaged tours:
  • Trip is listed as "9 day" but you have actually 6 days of touring plus a welcome dinner on day 2
  • Remarkably few meals are included in the price - all breakfasts (which is standard for any European hotel stay) and only 3 dinners
  • based on "frequently used" hotels only Florence hotel is centrally located. Lido is a separate island from Venice; Rome hotel would require navigating the Rome metro to get to historic sites (I strongly recommend checking any "frequently used" hotels at TripAdvisor - some tours book at hotels in sketchy neighborhoods or far out in the suburbs to save money)
  • unless hotels are centrally located, you probably won't want to do anything on your own which makes the "optional" tours not so optional and just gives the illusion that this tour is a good value by pricing things a la carte
On the positive side for this tour - you are not spending valuable time on the bus to get back to your starting destination although this might increase the airfare (which I assume by the price is not included). You are also staying at least 2 nights everywhere - the "luggage outside your room by 6:30" gets old fast!
ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm

There is a huge range of possibilities, depending upon factors such as budget (a big factor, no surprise), and "how" you prefer to sightsee.

On the one end, there are the full package bus tours. That means a relatively large group, with a fair amount of waiting time as people get off the bus, and especially back on, sometimes with a few stragglers running back, etc. And you are with the same group the entire time, so personalities could matter. There's almost no chance to "customize" (other than occasional "dinner on your own" or "afternoon on your own", which some tours have and some don't). So if you love one museum, or one wing of a museum... the group keeps going. Ditto if you don't want to stop at the planned souvenir shop (often there are kickbacks to the tour guides, but not always).
These are several of the reasons I personally hate large bus tours. An otherwise great bus tour in Ireland was very frustrating because of a pair of women who were perennially late at every stop. They were big shoppers and waited to get in line until right before we were due back on the bus. On the day we hit Blarney Castle the rest of the bus waited over 45 minutes for them because they went shopping first and then went to the castle. (Our guide told us at least a half dozen times that if you wanted to see the castle to do it first). We had to skip a planned stop to try and get back on schedule.

ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm
Next would be small group tours (where "small" can mean 18-24 travelers, or it could be more like 8-16 - *read* the description carefully for these).
As above, all is "arranged".
These can sometimes be with luxury tour companies, so the pricing can vary a lot, as can the accommodations, etc.
I have had better luck with these tours. You also generally can have a much better dining experience on small group tours in restaurants that couldn't accommodate a group of 50.

ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm
Then there are true private tours, where it's "just you" (a person/couple/family/few friends).
Here, you can really customize. Want to focus on music or theatre? Fine. Archeology? Fine. Want a different hotel location, to be close to X? Fine.
With some of the higher end tour companies, the cost of truly private vs. small group isn't as much as one might think. It's the same hotels, transportation, meals. It's then mostly (not entirely) the extra cost of having the "guide" to yourself, in terms of not splitting costs, plus any customizing of changing destinations (cities or sights within cities), or adding more days/locations.
I did a great custom tour to Costa Rica with some friends. We had a nice van and a personable guide/driver. We had a lot more flexibility in how long we stayed and where we stopped.

ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm
And then there is the "DIY" with day/partial day private or group tours at each location, or just at some locations.
You'd arrange all travel and hotels. But at each destination, you'd arrange with a private guide or a local tour company (same choice about size of group as above) to "see the sights". These will often self-customize, such as "see X by water" or "art museums of X" or just a basic overview of the city/region. Some of these include overnights away, and then they'll take care of that part of the travel.
We've had good experiences with local guides found on TripAdvisor.com - but we always communicated in advance to be sure about a good match for what we wanted, etc. It also gave a hint of the helpfulness in general.
We also found that getting a half (or full) day tour the first day of a multi-day stay somewhere gave us a great overview, and then we had a better idea of where we wanted to spend more time on our own the next day or two.
A friend found a company that would book the hotels and transportation and also provide a local English speaking contact in each city you visited. They would also arrange for city tours either private or joining a larger group so it was a hybrid of a custom tour and DIY.
ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:02 pm
We've also started to cruise (and we *love* it), and we've had private tours at some ports, and other times just wandered around on our own.
The nice thing about those is that "the hotel follows you around at night" :wink: No packing/unpacking throughout the trip.
We also find the "sea days" incredibly relaxing, much more than we had expected.
But that' s not a "way to see a few major cities in Europe"... just something to think about in the future.
+1 I have done a couple of river cruises in Europe and have really enjoyed them. You usually start out near a major city and can add pre- and post-excursion packages. You could certainly do one that started or ended in Paris. These are small ships and quite often they will dock within walking distance of town you are visiting. Longer distances are covered at night, but you might do short or very scenic stretches during the day.

I know Italy is part of several Mediterranean cruise options.

cherijoh
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Location: Charlotte NC

Re: European Tours

Post by cherijoh » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:59 am

ResearchMed wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:10 pm
epictetus wrote:
Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:06 pm
what we have found works for us is to use a group tour and then reading/using Rick Steve's guidebook(s) for preparation and trip supplement.

we have used Globus before on several trips and have had a good experience.
Rick Steves has some TV videos available, and we found those terrific for giving a "feel" for where we'd be going (Rome, for example) and also some nice places were were *not* yet going :wink:
But the books were useful in addition, for the details, and to take along.

Some handy hints, worth reading.

I think his company also does tours, but don't know what type/what level (ultra-economy? luxe? or what).
His books tend to stress frugality, which is great for BH, of course.

RM
A friend looked into Rick Steve's tours - they tend to do urban walking tours rather than bus tours - so on your feet the whole day. They also stay in economy hotels that aren't usually used by American tour companies - e.g. multi-story hotels without an elevator. IIRC you are on your own with luggage - no porterage is included. I think the age range may be younger and a lot more active than the typical American group tour.

mrb09
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Re: European Tours

Post by mrb09 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:26 am

Another recommendation for the Rick Steves books. Even if you just use it for background, the museum sections of his guides are outstanding. Used his guides for Musee d'Orsay and Louvre in Paris, and Uffizi and Accademia in Florence. He gives a nice flow rather than just individual descriptions of exhibits. I think that would be a good supplement to a guided tour. And his guides might help with research on where you want to visit.

Tour or not, I also like the Travellers History series for the history of an area -- haven't read them all, but the ones I have read have been good short reads.

No idea on the actual tours. We tend to pick a central place for a while and do day trips. Although we did a self-guided walking tour in England that was quite nice -- no in-person guide, but they book the rooms and transport luggage for you.

ResearchMed
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Re: European Tours

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:04 pm

cherijoh wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:48 am

<snip>

A friend found a company that would book the hotels and transportation and also provide a local English speaking contact in each city you visited. They would also arrange for city tours either private or joining a larger group so it was a hybrid of a custom tour and DIY.

<snip>
Can you share details/contact information, and perhaps which areas?

Thanks!

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

cherijoh
Posts: 4046
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:49 pm
Location: Charlotte NC

Re: European Tours

Post by cherijoh » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:53 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:04 pm
cherijoh wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:48 am

<snip>

A friend found a company that would book the hotels and transportation and also provide a local English speaking contact in each city you visited. They would also arrange for city tours either private or joining a larger group so it was a hybrid of a custom tour and DIY.

<snip>
Can you share details/contact information, and perhaps which areas?

Thanks!

RM
I have emailed her to get the name of the company. I believe they first used this service to visit Greece and Egypt. I remember they were bundled into a larger group for the Nile cruise but did some stuff like the Cairo Archaeological Museum on their own.

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