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Back to Back Tour Selections and Waitlists for 2022

Hi everyone
I am new here to the forum and to the site but not to RSteves. I like many are chomping at the bit to get on the road again and have two questions.

  1. It appears evident that many others are dying to get out on the road too as every trip I checked is WAITLISTED. So my question is are they truly sold out or did RS only offer a handful of tours in each destination for next year as a means to test the waters.

  2. I want to do 3 or 4 back to backs in Europe (in 2023 if 2020 is truly sold out) but fear that when they become available I will lose out again trying to figure out which dates will work. Any tips on how to secure these dates quickly and/or maybe have access to dates before they are posted.

  3. Also is there anywhere on the site or forum where they recommend certain tours/dates as a back to back.

Posted by
4812 posts

Hi Kathleen, and welcome to the forum!

Right now many of the tours are wait-listed but that doesn't mean that they won't work for you. When reservations first opened up, many people put down deposits on multiple trips because they were worried about getting a tour. Deposits are fully refundable through December 31 and it is probable that a certain number of travelers will cancel some tours by that date. The challenge for multiple tours is that you will need to place yourself on multiple waitlists and then wait to see what happens.

We have had reports that people are moving off of the waitlists into the tours. The only way to get that to happen is to get on the waitlist. If an opening comes up, the tour office contacts you and you have some period of time (I think I heard 24 hours) to decide if you truly want to go on that tour or not.

You may want to use the search feature on the forums to look up previous threads on back to back tours where the topic has been discussed. I've read enough of them that I know what some of the key points usually are.
1. Leave a few days between tours. This allows for any transportation hiccups and a down day for rest, laundry etc.
2. Plan for a little variety. For example if one tour is a city intense tour, then make the next tour one that goes out and about a bit more. Another poster stated she realized she needed a different culture for the second tour and claimed she could not look at one more castle:)

You can find out which tours currently have openings (there are some) by going to the Rick Steves Page "Our Tours" and pick the 3rd item down on the Browse tab which is "Seats Available." You can also click on the tab that says "search" and look down at the bottom where it says "see tours by departure date." This will help to check timings.

Finally, I think you should feel free to call the Rick Steves Tours office directly. You will get your best answers on what tours are available and how to schedule to meet your needs from them.

Posted by
2701 posts

If they are waitlisted it means that folks have plunked down a deposit on a tour. Deposits are fully refundable til December 31 so there might be some movement in availability at the beginning of 2022 but no guarantees that a seat on the tour(s) travelers are considering will open up. I think pent-up demand due to the pandemic caused the almost immediate sell out of so many 2022 tours. Though some of this will continue in 2023, I think availability will be better.

I’m scheduled for my 15th tour (Bulgaria) next year. I’ve done back to backs on 3 occasions. I think if you monitor the website and order a trip catalog that you’ll have enough time to plan and reserve your tours. What you’ll have to consider is how much time you’re willing to spend between tours if they don’t align (end day to next start day) perfectly, travel time between locations, doing laundry, getting some rest.

With the number of tours offered, I can’t see anyone trying to develop a program to align tours. When the tour schedules are published, I’d print out or copy from the catalog those that interest you. Line them up next so each other so you get a look at all the tours and dates and then you should be able to arrange an itinerary.

Posted by
4812 posts

Kathleen, I'm back!
I took it as a challenge to follow my own advice and see what I could come up with. It didn't take very long to come up with 3 back to back tours with space available.

Heart of Ireland 9/16-9/23
London in 7 days 9/25-10/1
Best of Europe in 14 days 10/3-10/16

You could probably find other combinations as well. I liked these because no duplicate locations and reasonable distances to travel from one to another. Also give that variety.

Posted by
5221 posts

As far as I can tell, they're offering about the same number and kinds of tours for 2022 that they did for previous years. And I'm sure the waitlists are real. And I agree that the only way to have a chance of getting on a waitlisted 2022 tour is to sign up for the waitlist.

I read about people doing back-to-back tours, I think someone did four in 2019. As good as the tours surely are, I'd find that number exhausting. Certainly you'd want to build in some days between them, as another poster suggested, for rest and laundry and getting to the next jump-off point. What I've done is arrive a few days early and stay several days afterward, to maximize my exposure to the country and the payback for the miserable transatlantic flights.

Posted by
7 posts

CAROL NOW RETIRED - Thank you so much for your detailed reply Carol. I will be navigating the site and hope to find all of the answers. I was happy to see that there is spot to look "by availability" and also for your tips. I had searched the topics for waitlists and was unsuccessful but found some articles by the staff. I had also read some topics and just there was just an NYT article and then someone posted the synopsis that stated the availability was real and that 29,000 of the 30,000 spots were full. So was about to go to see if I could find what was now available when I had a moment as I would have to check them all. I was also just looking for activity levels on tours as I do have some mobility issues and sure that I will find that. Thank you again Kathleen

Posted by
1633 posts

I believe the tour schedule for 2022 is about the same as a normal year (not abbreviated) so yes, they are really that booked up. As Carol mentioned, there will probably be some movement on the waitlists after the first of the year. In non-COVID times, they usually post the dates for the next tour year in July or August. There is no way to get advance access to dates for 2023, other than noting the current schedule and assuming it will be somewhat similar the following year. If travel gets more back to normal in 2022, the 2023 tours probably won't book up as fast as they did this year. As was mentioned, I'd get on the waitlist for those you're interested in, or best advice to call the RS office and talk to them about what you want to do. They may be able to tell you more about the length of the wait lists so you can set your expectations accordingly.

This thread has a lot of info on back to back tours https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/would-4-rs-tours-in-a-row-with-5-8-days-off-between-tours-be-too-many-to-appreciate

Posted by
6531 posts

Kathleen, in the before times, the tour dates would start to become available in June-July timeframe, with some of the early tours posted first. So the 2023 tour dates probably wont be seen until next spring. But in those days, people didn't really start signing up until later as the got their plans together and kept an eye on airfares. Usually a burst of activity in November. So what happened this year was anomaly as far as things jamming up fast. I expect that there will be a lot of movement on the waitlists as we get closer to the refund deadline of Dec 31. I was signed up for one tour, and waitlisted on three other preferred dates for that tour. Just a month or so ago, my preferred date opened up and I canceled the others, so there's a lot of that going on.

There's no early bird notice as far as I know. People will start monitoring the Tour sites during that time, and you might read about it here first. If you're signed up for the newsletter, it might help if you don't want to check here every day. They used to time the city tours for London and Pairs, so they could be done back to back.

Posted by
7 posts

WOW WOW WOW....I am so excited to be a part of this vibrant travel community....first thanks to all who took the time to reply. I will begin to look at which tours I truly want and then the 2022 dates getting a feel for 2023. But in the meantime I have also waitlested on two tours that are scheduled in later 2022. Thank you all again for your insight and time !! Again I was thrilled with your prompt and thoughtful responses.

PS Heartland I loved your reference to "the before times" :-)

Posted by
7 posts

CAROL NOW thanks for checking I had a minute and checked the availability and it was for countries/places that I and it appears many others have frequented. So those wont work this time but I am planning to keep checking for the 2023 updates. I will do some research on dates even of the waitlisted tours for my 2023 planning. Thank you again !!

Posted by
9537 posts

I'm glad you've found this travel community and that the others have been able to help you. I thought that NYT article was astonishing....29,000 spots out of 30,000 gone. I knew there were lots of signups but didn't realize there were that many. To me it's a testament to Rick and his company and how ethically he handled things in 2020.

Anyway...as to your inquiry on doing back to backs. I've done several. For myself, I've enjoyed them more if they are different cultures. One of my favorite combos was the Best of England and Paris and the Heart of France. Easy to transit between London and Paris but 2 very different cultures, cuisines, sights.

I did Villages of Southern England with Best of Scotland as a back to back and TBH by the time I got into Scotland I was pretty burned out on seeing castle ruins. I felt my experience would have been better if I'd not done those back to back.

My first back to back was Best of Europe 21 days + Best of Paris + Village Italy and that worked really well. The 21 day tour was a whirlwind. Best of Paris was settled in one hotel the whole time. Village Italy was out of the big cities and into the countryside so another view altogether. Very fun combo.

I'll also say that the begin dates for many of the tours remain the same year to year. Some begin on Wednesdays and Sundays, some on Fridays, etc. For instance, in looking at the GAS (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) tour, it starts on either a Saturday or a Tuesday. Then ends on Friday or Monday. It's pretty easy to then look for a tour that might start on say a Sunday or Monday to give yourself time to transit and have a day or two off between tours.

Which ones sound like they would interest you?

Posted by
1735 posts

Welcome to the forum! There are lots of great people with experience and advice.

We missed the initial tour date release and we’re dismayed to see how quickly tour spaces filled. Our hearts were set on Sicily and those spots went to “waitlist” status almost immediately. We decided to “waitlist” one tour date and then put a deposit on a “My Way Italy” tour because we really wanted to travel. Within the next few weeks, the tour office announced that if you changed tours, the deposit would follow you. By the middle of July, they let us know our waitlist date was available and we had 24-hours to claim it and it was on a first-come basis. Then we decided since we were already in Europe and had missed 2020 & 2021, we should try for a back-to-back. We perused tours that had dates that allowed for 2 days between. We put our name on 5 waitlists, including the “My Way Italy.” By the middle of August we were offered spots on the My Way tour and grabbed it. It’s an itinerary that allows us to set our own pace, covers places we’ve been but wanted to see more of and stays within one country.
This way we’ll end Sicily in the morning, depart for Venice and get to have some extra days before that tour starts. I was surprised at how quickly we went from waitlist to confirmed - I didn’t think we’d hear until the end of December.

Best of luck!

Posted by
9537 posts

Patty, that is so good to hear!! I’m glad things are moving.

Posted by
1061 posts

Keep in mind that you can be on up to five waitlists for a 2022 tour. I would consider doing two back to back tours, but not more than that.

Posted by
2543 posts

I was also just looking for activity levels on tours as I do have some mobility issues and sure that I will find that.

You really need to factor that into your planning. We’ve done multiple RS tours and two back-to-backs (more about that later). They are very active tours and Rick speaks to that on this website. On several of our tours there were folks with mobility issues. By and large they did OK although some skipped activities they (with input from the guide) felt they might not endure. Among the groups we had a couple of trip and falls and a few instances where lifts were not working and many stairs were an issue. The group would wait up; sometimes the guide was checking her watch. Although the activity levels listed on this site help, remember in Europe simple walking can be a challenge. We did not find a level sidewalks in all of Portugal and many backroad places in Italy are cobblestone or worse.

We did Rome and Sicily back to back as well as London and Portugal. Having one tour (the city tours) where we did not have to change hotels was a real plus. We allowed one day between tours. We are in good shape and active, but midway through the second of our back-to-backs we tired. It’s a lot of travel and almost every day is packed. You need to be careful about not taking on too much.

Posted by
20838 posts

You may be much younger than I am (I just turned 70), but I have five years' experience taking summer-long, independent trips to Europe, and I think most folks would need to plan very-slow-paced intervals and/or considerable down-time if stringing together multiple tours that aren't of the single-city variety. I walk a lot both at home and in Europe but am not up and about early every day as is necessary on tour days. I look at the RS itineraries (and those of most other bus tours) and think they are way too fast for me. I'd have sightseeing lists far too long for the amount of time spent at each destination, so I'd be scurrying around like a crazy person during free time. I cannot imagine maintaining a good energy level through more than one of those tours at a time. RS tours are high-value and high-cost (compared to my solo travels). I would be mad at myself if I paid for a tour and was too exhausted to take full advantage of it.

I'd recommend roughly a full week, if not longer, between tours. Ideally, I'd spend part of that week finishing my sightseeing at the final stop of the previous tour and the rest of the time getting an early look at the first stop of the following tour. I'd allow myself a day-trip or two if I felt unexpectedly energetic.