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Group Tour Durations

This is something to be aware of when you book a tour of a certain duration, say 7 or 10 days. Check how many of those days you will actually be on tour. I've found that "Day 1" might start in the evening with a dinner reception, and the "last Day" of the tour won't have any touring at all, just breakfast at the hotel that you stayed at the night before. So you could have one or two fewer days of touring than you thought.

Posted by
10844 posts

Even the well respected one will start at best mid afternoon on day one and end after breakfast on the last day. it's just the industry standard for describing the length. But you are right, often people are surprised when they read the iteninary. But I dont know how else you would say it.

Posted by
273 posts

I am sure anybody who has taken one RS tour or even looked at the posted itineraries knows this.

FWIW, I heard RS give a talk on how he started and built his business over the years. IIRC, at the very start he did not include the first evening and last day's breakfast as part of the tour days. But, he found that put him at a competitive disadvantage when inexperience people compared tour durations and prices. So, he had to bow to the order of things and include them. It is similar to the restaurants that have gone to a 'no tipping' policy. People looks at the higher menu prices and don't take the time to figure in that they save the 15-20% tip. So the restaurant is at a competitive disadvantage. Thus, tipping remains part of the restaurant scene.

If you have never heard his talk on how he built his business, I recommend it. It is very interesting and IMHO, one of the best talks he gives.

FWIW, one way I evaluate tour value is to look at travel times and the stay duration. The more one night stays, the less I like a tour. A two night stay is not twice as good as a one night stay. IMHO, it's four times as good. A three night stay is eight time as good. I also look at 'windshield' time and figure the average hours per day riding the bus. Again, the less the better though I have made exceptions. These are guidelines I use, not hard and fast rules.

Posted by
2429 posts

Perhaps this is something to consider for someone who has never travelled before, but shouldn't come as a surprise to most travellers who have done anything besides fully independent vacations. Any tour, package vacation, or even cruises that I have taken have begun with a late afternoon start and ended with a post breakfast departure. I don't think it's in any way a scam or cheat, but the most logical and time efficient way of managing logistics for the respective companies ( ending one group and beginning the next).

Posted by
5276 posts

Yes, cruise timetables include "travel from home airport" as day 1 even when the cruise price does not include airfare -- maybe to make sure people don't mistakenly forget the need to include travel days when planning their vacation.

Posted by
1063 posts

I think that’s similar how we encourage individual travellers to think of the time on the ground. The first day after an overnight flight is often not too productive and departure day as well. I try to book as late of departures from Europe as I can, but that isn’t always realistic. I assume anything that gets accomplished on arrival day and departure day is just a bonus.

Posted by
564 posts

Realistically, from a North American perspective, one arrives in Europe in the morning and the "tour" could start that evening. Similarly, one can leave for NA at mid-day or later so ending the "tour" at breakfast makes sense to me. I personally would pad both the before and after days for some adjustment time, but not everyone has that time available.

Posted by
11677 posts

We have done guided hiking tours with REI Adventures and MT Sobek. Most have started with the group dinner meeting on Day 1, but our trip last May for hiking in the Pyrenees met at 10 am at BCN, so we got a full day on Day 1.

The most misleading I have seen are the UW Alumni tours: their "9-day" tours in Italy count the day you depart the US as Day 1, even though the flight is not included in the coast. So the Chianti tour dates are listed as September 24-Oct. 2, even though you do not meet the tour until the evening of Day 2.

I guess they are afraid people won't know to depart the US the day before meeting the tour in Italy.

Posted by
3350 posts

I remember thinking that counting method was shorting us a day of tour facilitation when we were first interested in a RS tour. And I don’t think I’ve ever been at the breakfast the last morning because of catching a plane. But, it’s the method used by tour companies to compare their number of tour days.

When comparing prices for tour vs. independent traveling, just subtract one day from the tour, so you are counting the correct number of hotel nights.

Posted by
7628 posts

"I guess they are afraid people won't know to depart the US the day before meeting the tour in Italy."

Yes, this ^ ^!!

I do both Rick Steves tours and Road Scholar tours. On the Road Scholar tours Day 1 is the day you leave the US even though you pay for airfare separately. I have always suspected that they counted Day 1 the way they do for the people who are very new to International travel and who haven't read Rick's Europe Thru the Back Door beginner manual of travel, lol!!

Rick counts Day 1 as the day you actually meet up.

They almost all count the last day which is just breakfast.

Posted by
8559 posts

I guess they are afraid people won't know to depart the US the day before meeting the tour in Italy.

You have no idea how many people don't realize that if they leave the U.S. on Day 1 they most likely arrive in Europe the next day. (Not RS travelers, of course.)

Many people taking tours do so because they want everything done for them. They want to be lead. I had many show up who didn't even know our itinerary. They knew the general area we were going to but that was it. For many it's just checking off items on their bucket list.

Posted by
3973 posts

Selling a 15 day tour sounds better value for money than a 13 day tour, which is effectively what it would be. Everybody does this!