European Tours

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Sandtrap
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Re: European Tours

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:03 pm

I had sent away for all of the National Geographic tours. Hardcopy in the mail. Great source to shop tours worldwide.

Lynette
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Re: European Tours

Post by Lynette » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:29 pm

I've been going overseas 4 or 5 times a year for nearly twenty years. Besides all of the good advice and tours given above there are two companies that do not advertise and are quite inexpensive.

gct.com (Grand Circle) for older people and overseas and https://oattravel.com/ - Overseas adventure travel - smaller groups for more active people - https://cruisedalmatian.blogspot.com/

A tour group that has fixed tours and is quite cheap is https://smartours.com/ (One t). There customer service is virtually non-existent but they outsource their tours so they are good once your reach your destination. Nowadays I tend to favor Roadscholar.org as I like the educational aspect. They are really inexpensive in the US. Overseas they are competitive but outsource their tours. This is a tour I took with them to Scotland: https://tourtoscotland.blogspot.com/, https://journeycuba.blogspot.com/

If this was my first tour to Europe as others have mentioned, I would go on my own and visit London and possibly Paris. Rick Steve's books will give you all of the basic information you need.

stan1
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Re: European Tours

Post by stan1 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:47 pm

If you go to London or Paris we've enjoyed two hour neighborhood walks.

London: 10 pounds plus tip
http://walks.com/

Paris: 15 euros plus tip
http://paris-walks.com/

In both cities it's great to get away from the central tourist areas and learn about the history and architecture of the neighborhoods.

Usually a tremendous value for the price paid with a very experienced guide.

One other piece of advice: go during the off season (between Labor Day and May 1st). I much prefer bringing some warmer winter clothes over the hordes of people in the sweltering heat of summer. Whether you are visiting city museums or rural castles nothing of historical significance was designed to accommodate millions of visitors per year and everything is better experienced when fewer people are around.

ResearchMed
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Re: European Tours

Post by ResearchMed » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:04 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:03 pm
I had sent away for all of the National Geographic tours. Hardcopy in the mail. Great source to shop tours worldwide.
Ah, yes.

For planning our own tours, we use online (but brochures are nice, too) tour info from a variety of sources: Nat Geo, RoadScholar, etc., as well as the higher end Kensington/Tauck/Abercrombie & Kent - for their itineraries AND specific sights in each city/locale.
We add to that with Rick Steves books for specific locations.

These tours will mention many specific museums, etc., and most of them can be done on your own, too.
But note that the tours do sometimes add special access to back areas or such that are not usually open to the public, or that one needs to arrange specially, in advance.

For those doing all/most of their own planning within each city/area, these can be a great starting point, or even just do it pretty much the same.

These can also help one select tours/guides listed on TripAdvisor, or know what to request.

RM
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oxothuk
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Re: European Tours

Post by oxothuk » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:27 pm

I'm a strong proponent of DIY touring, especially for someone who is under 65 and active.

My main recommendations are as follows:
1) Don't try to cram too much in. Pick just a few places and give yourself enough time to see them properly.
2) Stay at least 3 nights at each place. Packing/unpacking takes a lot of time, and traveling between cities will consume most of a day no matter how you do it.
3) Consider guided day tours from your base locations. This is an excellent way to see outlying areas if you don't want to drive.
4) Avoid the summer if you can. April, May, September, October are my favorite months for visiting Europe.
5) Do your research in advance. Have a list of several possible activities for each day, so you can adjust to circumstances.
6) Be flexible and relax. It should be a vacation, not a job.
7) Don't expect to do anything on your day of arrival except try to stay awake. Taking a sightseeing bus around your arrival city is a good choice.

HongKonger
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Re: European Tours

Post by HongKonger » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:33 pm

I used to work for Globus/Cosmos taking tours around Italy - including Americans. I can highly recommend their itineraries, quality of accommodations and tour directors. Customer satisfaction was always very high.

SrGrumpy
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Re: European Tours

Post by SrGrumpy » Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:48 pm

The major problem with bus tours is that your group will hit a site - museum, cathedral, historic place, etc. - at the same time as every other bus tour. So it gets a bit messy. The DIY route gives you some flexibility, and there's nothing like having a site almost to yourself off-peak. Google "free walking tour" for whatever cities pique your interest. It's a good way to get a feel for the city at the outset, pick up hot recommendations from the guide, and then do your own thing.

WestUniversity
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Re: European Tours

Post by WestUniversity » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:01 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.
DIY obviously offers total freedom to go and do whatever you desire, but by definition you have to do it all yourself. Using a tour you simply have to show up, but they can be very confining if you would like the opportunity to go and explore on your own. We have done it both ways and each have numerous pros and cons. Typically when we go to Europe we go for at least 2 weeks. That said touring that long can really wear you out. I would look for a tour that offers plenty of down time. In the past we have even scheduled down days in the middle of the trip, say 2 or 3 days to take a break from the tour schedule. Sort of a vacation from the vacation. I guess similar to a sea day on a cruise. Whatever you decide, have a great trip!

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prudent
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Re: European Tours

Post by prudent » Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:27 am

Topic moved to Personal Consumer Issues.

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celia
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Re: European Tours

Post by celia » Mon Oct 30, 2017 5:54 am

I would start by asking my spouse if she is even interested and what she would want to see.

We've only been on one tour (with people we already knew from our city) and it mainly just hit the tourist high spots. Go, go, go. Not much chance to talk to the locals, although we sat out a day or two. I much prefer going to places WE pick. Each of you could put a couple of hours into reading about what is in the area and you will get more out of the trip than if someone did the "research" for you.

In most of the large cities, the college-age youth know English. They also often work in the restaurants and hotels too.

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FraggleRock
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Re: European Tours

Post by FraggleRock » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:09 am

oxothuk wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:27 pm
2) Stay at least 3 nights at each place. Packing/unpacking takes a lot of time, and traveling between cities will consume most of a day no matter how you do it.
This

blacklab
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Re: European Tours

Post by blacklab » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:32 am

Coincidentally DW and I recently returned from a Trafalgar tour they call European Whirl. Two weeks and many countries via coach, including all mentioned by OP. This was not inexpensive as many of the highlights were "optional excursions" which increased the cost, and we did them all. However, bottom line is that we were so glad we did this. Tour guide(s) were excellent, as were accommodations and meals. Have read many of the posts and appreciate that tours are not for many folks but wanted to mention this as the OP sounds like might appreciate the organized nature of the trip.

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climber2020
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Re: European Tours

Post by climber2020 » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:33 am

oxothuk wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:27 pm
Packing/unpacking takes a lot of time
How much stuff are you packing? A trip like this can easily be done with one carry-on roller bag. I've pared it down even further and take only a small backpack regardless of the length of the vacation. I'm curious to see exactly what people are taking with them that requires so much time and effort.

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nedsaid
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Re: European Tours

Post by nedsaid » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:35 am

oxothuk wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:27 pm
I'm a strong proponent of DIY touring, especially for someone who is under 65 and active.

My main recommendations are as follows:
1) Don't try to cram too much in. Pick just a few places and give yourself enough time to see them properly.
2) Stay at least 3 nights at each place. Packing/unpacking takes a lot of time, and traveling between cities will consume most of a day no matter how you do it.
3) Consider guided day tours from your base locations. This is an excellent way to see outlying areas if you don't want to drive.
4) Avoid the summer if you can. April, May, September, October are my favorite months for visiting Europe.
5) Do your research in advance. Have a list of several possible activities for each day, so you can adjust to circumstances.
6) Be flexible and relax. It should be a vacation, not a job.
7) Don't expect to do anything on your day of arrival except try to stay awake. Taking a sightseeing bus around your arrival city is a good choice.
This is all great advice, I have done most of these tips myself. My first two trips to Europe were packed with activities, the first was a bus tour and the second planned myself. My second trip was full of day long and half day tours that I had travel agents purchase for me though I booked the air, hotels, and transfers myself. I had a great time but I was cramming in as much as I could.

It took me back to thinking about my 2009 Canada trip, which was a rail vacation from Toronto to Ottawa to Montreal to Quebec City. The travel company told me to utilize taxies to get to my hotel as they were close to the train stations. I had maybe 3-4 things I wanted to see in each city but I really had no agenda. I didn't even book any day or 1/2 day tours in advance. I just did what I felt like each day.

For example, my first day in Toronto I decided it would be a great day to see Niagara Falls so I went to the concierge desk and purchased a tour. Within 1/2 an hour, the van picked me up. After a long day, I had the tour van drop me off at the Rogers Centre, and I saw a major league baseball game there. On another day, I was in Ottawa walking back to my hotel for a brief rest and noticed that a tour of Ottawa was getting ready to leave. I bought my ticket, and it turned out it was the last tour of the day and that they tour was lead by a husband and wife team that owned the little tour company.

It was truly a fun trip, I saw the 3-4 things I wanted to see in each city but it was a rather relaxed trip. Whatever tours I wanted to take, I mostly bought at the hotel. It was relaxing and it was fun.

So when I did my 2013, 2014, and 2016 Europe Trips; I scheduled about 1/2 my time and left the other 1/2 free to do what I felt like that day. It seemed the happy medium between being an obsessive power traveler and having little if anything planned at all.

So my advice is to give yourself some space.
A fool and his money are good for business.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: European Tours

Post by WhiteMaxima » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:54 am

1st time in Europe. Book a 7 days bus tour starting from any major European city (UK excluded, it is an island, not even claim itself as European country)> Starting from Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Munich (cheap ticket from US), you would need 4 or 5 such kind of tour just browsing europe. Then you will pick one of your favorite region so stay long. Generally, there regions: 1: France, Spain, Belgium, ect, 2) Aus-Hunger region: Germany, Austria, Czeh, Hungary 3): Italy and Greece. I isolate Italy, Greece as one region because of historical significance reason. UK you can do as a stop over from US.

obgraham
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Re: European Tours

Post by obgraham » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:56 am

Part of the decision between organized vs self touring depends on what it is you want to see.

I've been both ways. Planned out my own trips a number of times, and never really had any problems with that method, except we would spend more time each day than I like just trying to make up our minds: where to eat lunch or dinner, where to park, what time to meet up, etc, etc.

But I'm also interested in a specific topic -- historic pipe organs -- and so to see those an organized tour based on that topic is the only way to get in to see/hear/play the instruments and meet the local experts. We will often have after hours access, when tourists are not there. I've made perhaps 15 of these tours. It's very handy to have your meal times and places determined by others, along with your hotels, etc. On the other hand, the meal menus sometimes aren't what you'd choose, and it's true that every single bus tour has at least one person who repeatedly can't seem to make it back on time. You compromise your freedom, but gain in the quality of the experience.

We've also done historical tours, archaeological tours, and religious tours. Very difficult to work out by yourself.

ralph124cf
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Re: European Tours

Post by ralph124cf » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:38 pm

If you like Archaeological tours, you might like Smithsonian or Andante (a Brit company). The tour guides are professors, either retired or current, of archaeology or art. These people can frequently open doors that are not normally open to the public.

We are leaving for a one week tour of Venice tomorrow with Smithsonian, and we did a week with them in October last year in Florence.

The previous year we did a week in Rome with Andante, and the year before that a week in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

My wife loves these, I am somewhat ho-hum.

I agree with most posters that it is best not to travel to Europe during the summer.

Ralph

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nedsaid
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Re: European Tours

Post by nedsaid » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:12 pm

blacklab wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:32 am
Coincidentally DW and I recently returned from a Trafalgar tour they call European Whirl. Two weeks and many countries via coach, including all mentioned by OP. This was not inexpensive as many of the highlights were "optional excursions" which increased the cost, and we did them all. However, bottom line is that we were so glad we did this. Tour guide(s) were excellent, as were accommodations and meals. Have read many of the posts and appreciate that tours are not for many folks but wanted to mention this as the OP sounds like might appreciate the organized nature of the trip.
This is a good way to go for your first trip to Europe. It makes a big difference whether or not you feel you will be back or not. If you aren't sure you will be back, sign up for the extras and do everything you can. If you are young enough to take a more strenuous pace, this is what I would do. It also serves as a scouting trip, you can decide which places you would like to return. I know this contradicts my last post, but if the goal is to see as much as you can within limited time, an organized tour is the most efficient use of your time. That is what I call power traveling.

I made a switch after my first couple trips to a more relaxed pace because the first two trips took me to most of the things I really wanted to see. Plus it occurred to me that the purpose of a vacation is to relax and recharge the old batteries. It seemed like I was working harder on my vacations than I was at work!

So you have to do some thinking about what you want out of your trip. Do you want to see absolutely everything you can within a limited period of time? Is this a once in a lifetime trip? If these two answers are yes, I would lean towards being a power traveler. Is your objective to have fun and to have a relaxing time? Is it likely you will be back someday? If these are both yes, then you could lean towards a more relaxed approach. The thing is, no matter how many trips you take or however much your resources, you won't see everything and you won't experience everything. Our lifespans are limited, our vacation days are limited, and our resources are limited. It seems like most people I know who have gone to Europe might have gone once or twice and called it good. Lots of people never leave the United States.
A fool and his money are good for business.

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