Older Folks First Time to Europe

My dear aunt and uncle have decided to mark their 50th anniversary with a trip to Europe. This will be their very first, and I know they'd like an organized tour. I have been traveling the Europe Through the Back Door way since I was 18, but I worry that approach will be too hard-core for them . . . they've never left America, and the only place they've traveled to is Disney World! That said, they're both intelligent, lovely folks, and I'd like for them to receive something better than the standard bus tour. But he's had heart surgery, and neither of them are in tip-top condition. I worry that the Rick Steves organized tours would be too much for them. Any advice?

Posted by Bob
Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada
625 posts

My parents swore by Trafalgar Tours. Slower pace, shorter distances and no early rises. They also have great drivers & guides. My father had heart surgery and that was NOT a problem. Do your Aunt & Uncle really need to pack their luggage over cobbles or up & down stairs? Much better off at hotels/Inns with elevators and easy access. They'll return much happier after an easy pace and less strain. Happy Travels! Bob

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8729 posts

JM I loved the one RS tour I took, but they are not for everyone, carrying luggage and steps is fine for most folks, but assuming your relatives are in their 70s at least, and as if you say they are not in great condition, then you are right to suggest another type of tour.
My MIL( she was fit and 70) took a Globus tour but found it exhausting.. I have heard good things about Tauck though. Good luck with research.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21491 posts

JM, Given the health issues, it would be a good first step for them to speak with their Physician about travelling. There's a certain amount of walking and stair climbing even with slower paced travel in Europe, so they'll need to fit enough for that. If they do get the "green light" for travel, it would be prudent to start conditioning several months prior to the trip. As this is their first trip to Europe, they may find it helpful to read Europe Through The Back Door, as that provides lots of great information on "how" to travel in Europe. Which type of tour to take will likely depend on the specifics of their health situation. One possibility to consider would be a Rick Steves My Way tour, as that would take care of all transportation and hotels but they could structure daily touring at their own pace. They'd also have the tour escort to help them out along the way. If their budget would allow, another possibility that would be appropriate for a 50th Anniversary is a river cruise. They're a bit expensive (depending on length, cruise line, etc.) but it would be a relaxing way to travel and they could set their own pace with touring in each city. The cruise staff would be able to help them along the way. Check the websites for Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Uniworld, Avalon Waterways or Jerry van Dyke Cruises. If they decide to try a Rick Steves, Trafalgar, Globus, Tauck or other tour, or a river cruise, they could also add some time before and/or after that for some self guided travel. As you're an experienced traveller, you'll be able to help them with the details. Good luck and happy anniversary to them!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5384 posts

Ken beat me to it. A lovely river cruise, say from Basel to Amsterdam, on the Rhine or a cruise on the Danube, will give them a great taste of Europe, but without the hassle of carrying bags from hotel to hotel, etc. A visit to the Cruise Critic website, will give them lots of ideas and helpful advice.

Posted by Diane
1192 posts

Insight Vacations are run by the same people who do Trafalgar Tours. They are slightly more up-market, include more in their base price (meals, experiences, entrance fees), and have smaller groups with more comfortable buses. Their hotels tend to be more centrally-located as well. If they choose their group tour well, they can opt for one that includes more free time in the cities - not every minute a go-go-go. That would give them some time and flexibility to rest up, if everything gets to be a bit too much... Your gut feeling about a RS tour maybe being not the right choice for them is probably correct; you know this couple well and you know the RS approach and potential challenges posed to them. A river cruise, ie Viking, would also be a great choice for them!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8729 posts

JM I second and third the idea of a River Cruise, I never thought of that but have several older clients who swear by them.. Yes, pricey, but seems to be a great option for those who may need a more relaxing and easy trip,, and it does take you out of the big cities a bit , so a nice mix of big city and countryside I would think. Plus there is the unpack once and watch europe pass by ,,

Posted by JM
Brooklyn, NY, United States
8 posts

What a wealth of information! You have given me some wonderful places to start looking--and the idea of a river cruise is certainly appealing. Thank you all so much!

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1954 posts

Check out the river cruises offered by Smithsonian Journeys. My aunt and uncle really enjoyed that. One of the offers is a Rhine River cruise plus rail journey in the Swiss Alps: http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/journey-through-europe There is a discount of $1000 per person if booked by Feb. 28. There are also cruises in Provence and on the Danube (Austria to Prague).

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
258 posts

Even a Mediterranean cruise on a cruise ship would fit the bill. There is lots to do on the ship as well as tours going into cities for full and half days. A river cruise is a good idea too. They go right into the cities. I have done both and prefer the bigger ship myself.
Colette is also a good tour option, middle of the road price wise, excellent company. Great, experienced tour guides. Happy Travels!

Posted by Bets
2798 posts

Elderhostel, now called Road Scholar, has some terrific tours to Europe. They specify the activity level and amount of walking involved. We're in good health and usually travel independently in Europe but have done some trips with them in the US. http://www.roadscholar.org/

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
800 posts

Might be a good idea to tell them about trip insurance, especially medical , and, at their age, evacuation insurance.

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
470 posts

I will fifth or sixth a river cruise. We took our first one last year, at age 70, with Viking and it was great except that we are long time independent travelers and we found that we just don't care for any form of tour traveling. However, when we get to the stage of life where we can't travel on our own we will be back for a river cruise. The stateroom was very nice, the food was excellent, the crew was very friendly and helpful, everything was extremely well organized and once on the ship you unpack, slide the suitcase under your bed and it stays there until you get off the ship. The land excursions were not strenuous and you don't have to go on them if you don't want to. As said above, at this stage of life trip insurance is a good thing to get. The only warning is the standard one that you must prepare for any kind of weather that is one thing nobody can control. I hope they have a good trip, whatever they decide.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
423 posts

Another vote for a river cruise. My mother-in-law went on one and just loved it!! Viking is terrific. Congratulations on your aunt and uncle's 50th!! They're going to have a wonderful time.