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Covid Vax requirements

Does anyone know why most tour groups are still requiring the Covid vaccine and test? I've never received a real response. It's always, "we care about the safety of our employees and clients blablabla..." There has to be an economic reason. Are they afraid of lawsuits or is this being mandated by insurance companies?

Posted by
2529 posts

A fair percentage of travelers do not want to share a bus day after day with people who are not vaccinated.

Posted by
3905 posts

"Fully vaccinated" generally means 2 doses of the vaccine at any time in the past. I'm going to a meeting in October that had in big letters that all participants agreed that they would be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. When I read the small print, 2 doses of vaccine counted as fully vaccinated -- no requirement for boosters. I don't know the Rick Steves rules.

I think the biggest economic issue is that tour groups skew toward older adults, and, as mentioned above, a large number of older adults are more likely to join a tour if they feel that they will be traveling in close quarters (i,e, a bus) with people who have been vaccinated.

Posted by
256 posts

Every tour company that I have checked, including RS, is dropping the vaccination requirement for 2024 tours. Some have already dropped it this year, including Viking as of October 31. It never made sense to me to require a Covid vaccine but not vaccines for many other contagious diseases.

Posted by
531 posts

I literally just emailed the Rick Steves office about this because my last shot was last fall (bivalent booster). I'm not eligible to get another dose of that vaccine, so was wondering if I was good for my tour with the five jabs I've had. A new vaccine will be out sometime soon.

Here's what they told me yesterday:
"Rick only requires that you have your initial shots of the vaccine. That's two shots of Moderna or Phyzer or one of J&J. No boosters are required." (Phyzer = Pfizer) 😊

Posted by
8660 posts

Sigh……… Yet another post complaining about Covid policies and trying to prove a point. The answer is simple. If you do not agree with the policies of a travel organization, do not travel with that organization. You have every right to choose which travel groups you go with.

Posted by
256 posts

I don’t read this post as a complaint about covid policies but as a legitimate question about the reasons for the policy. The last 3 years experience has clearly shown that policies are far more effective when a logical and objective reason for the policy is given.

Posted by
33339 posts

It is interesting that while some are dropping the requirement, it was announced yesterday that in England due to the concern of the new variants the autumn campaign for covid and flu boosters has been accelerated to start in just over a week on 11th September with the goal to have all eligible folks done by the end of October. That is much earlier than we expected. All over 65s are in that category plus many others. Curious.

Posted by
8665 posts

Having just had five family members, including myself, all get sick from COVID after traveling, I can assure you it's not gone. Nor is it a trivial illness.

Posted by
933 posts

Having just had five family members, including myself, all get sick from COVID after traveling, I can assure you it's not gone. Nor is it a trivial illness.

Agree with your assessment completely. Covid is still a big deal, and it is not a trivial illness.

Furthermore, to the people whinging about these policies, tour companies like RS who still have in place a very weak covid vaccination requirement had to make that decision a year ago, in mid 2022, when they started offering tours for 2023. And here we are a year later, there is a new variant spreading, and clearly Covid is not finished with us.

Posted by
684 posts

We got our sixth covid vaccine last week in hopes of maximum coverage for our driving trip in Norway next week. Our pharmacist told us she believes we will be eligible for the new one when it comes out this fall. I believe our vaccines helped us have very mild cases when we did have covid last Christmas.

We haven't been on a RS tour since 2022, so I don't know what their current policy is. I would hope that if they are requiring covid testing for symptoms, they would also require updated boosters and not just proof of two vaccines that might be from early 2021.

I'll take a couple boxes of tests and wear masks on the planes on our upcoming trip, but with just the two of us traveling together with our own transportation, I am much less concerned about the consequences of getting covid.

Posted by
173 posts

Logical & Objective reasons? Liability concerns? Economic? All of the above. In the last 4 months I have not heard that any of my family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances have had the flu or any other contagious disease except COVID! For most it meant staying home with aches & fever. But among them, 2 were severe enough to be hospitalized and one died. I prefer travel companies that require the Covid vaccine and would prefer that the most recent be within 6 months prior to departure. Most medicare plans (for those over 65) cover the vaccine cost every 6 months. I was pleased in 2021 that fellow participants on a Portugal tour were required to be vaccinated and to provide proof of a negative test. Not one participant got covid or had to leave the tour. I believe the science and continue to follow my doctor's recommendations. On a Spain tour in 2022 some of the participants got Covid. (No vaccine or test was required) Instead of taking care of all participants' questions, requests, and needs, the tour directors were overwhelmed assisting those with Covid to find alternate accommodations and care.

Posted by
567 posts

Today I received a RS email for my October Spain travel.

Vaccination is required for everyone at least 14 days prior to your tour start date.
Booster shots recommended but not required. You need to present your CDC card to your tour guide at the welcome meeting. NO pre tour testing is required.

Masks are optional, but come prepared with medical grade masks, N95, KN95, KF94.

Posted by
2113 posts

I wish the CDC would update the definition of fully vaccinated to include being current with boosters. Following this current definition means many on tours vaccinated without boosters are traveling with little to no protection.

Posted by
2925 posts

Yet another post complaining about Covid policies and trying to prove a point. The answer is simple. If you do not agree with the policies of a travel organization, do not travel with that organization. You have every right to choose which travel groups you go with.

Amen, Carol now retired. I wish Rick Steves required current boosters to participate on tours. Old strain vaccines don't always work for the new strains. I know this from experience last fall when I got quite sick from Omicron. The updated vaccine wasn't available when I got my booster and before I left on my September tour. Keeping boosters current is an ongoing process.

I will continue to mask on transportation and in crowded places. On June's tour I was one of three who masked. Fortunately no one had to leave the tour because of Covid, unlike the nine who got Covid on September's tour (five companions also left the tour with them).

Posted by
867 posts

And since Rick Steves tours are not requiring the vaccine for 2024 tours maybe the emphasis here should be on how to help people navigate being on their own when they get sick while on tour rather than debating about the existence of Covid.

Posted by
150 posts

Most likely they are required for the benefit of all tour members. Covid is still very much here to stay. My daughter tested positive last week as well as my sil and granddaughter. It is fiercely going through our local schools. In addition if you read the above post about the Best of Ireland trip report August 2023 here is more proof of how getting sick/Covid can ruin a nice travel adventure. I hope and pray that my vaccines keep me healthy but you never know.

Posted by
967 posts

Beyond the "blablabla" safety reasons for everyone, there is an economic reason for us, for you, and for others on tour if you (and others) get Covid and are asked to leave the tour. It costs us money to reimburse you per our rules, and it costs tour members to figure out logistics for the remaining days they are in Europe, not to mention losing out on the tour experience. Minimizing Covid exposure makes sense for everyone. Make no mistake that a pandemic, even in its waning days, is an existential threat for tour companies.

While the rates are half of what they were last year on tour, and we are largely encouraged by this change, Covid is still here and causing significant illness.

We are transparent about the rates in monthly reports here: https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/on-the-road-reports

Posted by
173 posts

Margie - In this thread the poster asks why Covid vaccines and tests are still required. Your suggestion to provide people advice on how to navigate a situation when a participant needs medical care would be a different, but valuable thread to start. I fortunately have no personal experiences to relate. So many variables on accessing care... depending on the country, rural or metropolitan setting, existing insurance coverage, supplemental travel insurance, and so on. I travel lighter when I'm solo but a sprained ankle would really make things difficult.

Posted by
967 posts

"Your suggestion to provide people advice on how to navigate a situation"

Such scenarios really depend on specifics. Please note that we make staff available to those who get Covid while on tour to help guide them through any next steps. We don't leave you high and dry.

Posted by
11535 posts

And since Rick Steves tours are not requiring the vaccine for 2024 tours

Margie--- where did you find this?

What I find is for 2023 tours, but nothing ( yet ) on procedure for 2024

Covid Policies for Tours
Will I need a Covid vaccination to join a tour? And what about boosters?

For our 2023 tours, all eligible travelers need to be "fully vaccinated" according to the CDC — meaning that you have received a single dose (Johnson & Johnson) or two-dose series (Moderna/Pfizer-BioNTech) Covid vaccine at least 14 days prior to your tour start date. Booster shots are not required but recommended for those that are eligible. Get more details about staying up to date on Covid vaccines from the CDC.
Do I need to bring my original vaccination card with me on tour?
If you're on a tour departing between Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2023, you will need to show proof of vaccination to your guide on the first day of your tour, in one of these forms: original CDC (or equivalent) vaccination card, photo of front and back of original card, or photocopy of front and back of original card.

Posted by
256 posts

From RS website:

Rick Steves' Europe Requirements
For 2024 Tours: Covid vaccines NOT required.
For 2023 Tours: Covid Vaccines: Yes!
You and each member of your traveling party will need to be "fully vaccinated" according to the CDC, meaning you have received a single dose (Johnson & Johnson/Bivalent Pfizer-BioNtech) or two-dose series (Moderna/Monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech) of an accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior to your tour start date.

Posted by
2925 posts

Simpgolf, I don't remember seeing the no-vax requirement when I signed up for my next year's tour. I think this is a recent change. Everything I would say, the webmaster will delete. I would hope that anyone taking a tour would have the courtesy and forethought to protect themselves and others. Covid isn't going away anytime soon, if ever. From my experience, being vaccinated and boosted will not prevent you from getting Covid because as new strains emerge, you can be susceptible. So the best I can do to protect myself is stay up-to-date on my vaccinations/boosters, wear masks in transit and in crowded places, choose my dining seats carefully at the end of the table.
I hope that for the sake of the tour group, RSE goes back to requiring vaccinations and expanding that to a booster within three months of a tour. Caveat to this could be a vaccination exception for medical reasons with a doctor's note. Don't get me wrong, I feel bad for people who had to leave their tour. I just think that in this case, the good of the group outweighs the rights of the individual.
I'm curious and can't the find the info 2024 tours. Will RS require testing of those suspected to have Covid? If they do, will the same policies apply, leave the tour and be reimbursed $200/day like in 2023 if that person leaves the tour.

Posted by
256 posts

Horsewoofie, it’s there but not very prominent. Frankly, I expect 99% of RS travelers are vaccinated, perhaps fewer boosted. I have taken 4 RS tours in 2022 and 2023 when vaccines were required. Three had no reported cases and no one booted off the tour. But on one tour we lost our guide and over half our members to the Covid protocols even though everyone was vaccinated. Draw your own conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine requirement. I’m vaccinated and will be on a RS tour next year, but unlike you I hope that these protocols are eliminated, not enhanced.

Posted by
867 posts

It is there online but it doesn’t say whether people will be booted off the tour if testing positive next year. I realize it is a matter of economics, but I hope if tour members continue to be booted, a little more assistance or awareness is provided for those travelers that are. Even as seasoned travelers it was a bit overwhelming when we were left with only a “bye, nice to have met you.”

Posted by
5690 posts

It is there online but it doesn’t say whether people will be booted off the tour if testing positive next year.

Margie, the policy is stated in this link. https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/covid-information

Look under ”Policy If You Test Positive While on Tour” which is below ”For 2023 and 2024 Tours”.

Posted by
867 posts

Thank you, Laura, I obviously didn’t scroll down far enough. And all the more reason for people to be aware that Covid is still with us and you need to feel confident about being able to make last minute changes to your itinerary if need be.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you, webmaster for a bit of honesty on this subject (at last). I'm sure policies will change when it starts to affect the bottom line, as there are a limited number of people willing to be vaccinated. Thankfully it looks like that may be starting to happen - but there's still a testing requirement while on tour.

Posted by
256 posts

Newbie, there is currently no Covid testing requirement at beginning of RS tour like there was in 2022. I have always been uncertain about what triggers a test during the tour and if it is voluntary or mandatory. A positive Covid test will get you booted from the tour in 2023 and apparently in 2024. I think the economics of tour companies is changing as more and more people tire of the Covid restrictions. Be aware that the opinions expressed on this Forum are NOT representative of the vast majority of RS travelers that I have encountered in 4 post Covid tours. Almost all now treat Covid like any other illness that has always been a risk of group travel. Hope you will take a RS tour soon.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you Simpgolf. I would like to once all the testing requirements are gone. Although I assume these policies can change without notice. I would like to point out that those who are still worried are still free to be tested, vaxed, boosted and masked til their heart's content. Also, you do not spend the entire tour on the bus. You will be in crowded venues where you will be in close proximity to 'the unvaxed', not to mention waitstaff and bartenders who are serving you.

Posted by
867 posts

Simpgolf……..”We do not require pre-tour testing. But if you exhibit Covid symptoms while on tour, you'll be required to take a test and present the results to your guide. Please bring a few Covid-19 self-test kits with you (they are readily available at US drug stores but may be hard to find in Europe).”

Most people on the RS tours I’ve taken since Covid have been very much aware of the consequences of contracting Covid and most would not want to have been the reason for others to also be booted. Again, I say most.

Posted by
256 posts

Margie, ALL of my fellow travelers and I on 9 RS tours were thoughtful and considerate of others and made efforts to avoid spreading any respiratory illness. Some would dine at separate tables, some would sit at back of the bus, some masked and a few skipped some group activities. My point is that RS travelers have always been and are currently capable of protecting each other without special protocols for one specific illness.

Posted by
967 posts

This thread has run its course. I kept this up so that it would be clear as to what the requirements are for an RS tour, and not as a debate over requirements. Such discourse is not in keeping with the addendum to our Community Guidelines regarding the pandemic.