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First Time Trip to Italy, RS Tour vs Our Own

My husband and I are planning a trip in May 2017, considering Rick Steves 9 day or 14 day tour. Even thinking of one of the guided tours, then a week on our own? Since this is our first time in Europe we thought a tour would be best, any suggestions would be helpful. RS Guided Tour vs on our own? Would like to start in Rome, go to Tuscany, Pisa, Florence, Cinque Terre and Venience. We are open??
We are in our 60's, very active and love to experience the food and arts of the city. Any suggestions would be helpful
Thanks
Deb

Posted by
5371 posts

We took the 10- day RS Venice Florence Rome tour in 2012, as our first time in Italy, and we were very glad we did. We saw, ate, and learned so much more by having guides and not having to deal with logistics. The group was very compatible. We added a few days on our own in Varenna before the tour, and wish we had stayed at least a couple more somewhere after. Don't just compare the costs - the value added by the tour is hard to quantify, but definitely was a richer experience for us than we would have just being in the same places on our own.,

Posted by
2366 posts

You'll get a biased view here, but, having done Europe both ways, I would advise a RS tour to start. You will see and experience much more, and much more efficiently, than you could on your own. Seeing the "bigs"-Rome, Florence, Venice-all good. But the tour we count among our tops (of 5 so far) was Village Italy. There you can spend a few days on your own in Venice, train to Padua for starting the tour. Then, if you have time and energy, visit Rome or Florence. Or, save them for another visit. Village Italy takes you to places you likely would not go on your own, and the fun quotient is very high!

Posted by
6477 posts

This from the perspective of someone in his 40's and who studies art architecture history of all kinds in general before taking trips:
Read a Rick Steve's travel guide to see of you can figure it out on your own.
If not then hire a tour guide, especially to explore out of the way places as day trips in a region.
Cities like Florence and Pisa (both in the region of Tuscany) i do not think you need a tour guide if you read the travel guide.
Cinque Terre would seem too crowded for a tour group and you can either hike or take the train from town to town
In Rome if you want to see the Vatican Musems and St Peters Cathedral then I recommend a tour that will allow you to skip the long lines. If you want someone telling a story about what you are seeing then hire a tour guide.
I find tours cost more than if you do it yourself.
I certainly would not have been able to travel to Europe 16 times since 2002 if I had to pay for a tour.

Posted by
1307 posts

If you do take a tour, and also spend time on your own, it would be a good idea to have at least some of the time on your own be before the tour, to help you adjust to the different time zone.

Posted by
236 posts

I love, love, love planning my own travel BUT I was nervous and a little overwhelmed about planning our first trip to Europe. I read the Rick Steves philosophy of travel and decided that was a perfect fit. We took a RS tour to Venice, Florence, Rome in 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed it. The guide and companions were great AND I learned SO much about Italy and trip-planning. I have always marveled that Rick & gang emphasize teaching you how to travel - very counterintuitive. It's like they're working their way out of a job! We went to the Amalfi Coast after VFR and were more confident - our tour guide had looked over our plans and suggested improvements!

I'm sure you'd be fine either way but based on my experience I'd recommend you strongly consider the tour. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts! I would think Venice Florence Rome with Rick and then maybe some more Tuscany on your own. Siena, San Gimignana - sounds wonderful to me! Good luck.

Posted by
2382 posts

I prefer on my own, but I LOVE the planning aspect. The way my mind works is that if I take charge of the planning and researching I learn a lot while if I let someone else do it...I don't. I find it too easy to passively follow along and not be so engaged in what I am seeing. This is not how it works for everyone, obviously.

If you want to do it on your own but are nervous, don't be. If you want to do it, you can. Start with the Rick Steves book Europe Through the Back Door. This is kind of a how-to on the basics of travel and it will help IMMENSELY. In fact, even if you do the tour - read this book. Then you can ask questions on here and figure it out.

If you'd rather do the tour, great - they do sound good and have the advantages of connections with local people and places that you might not get on your own. Just be sure to read and learn about what you are seeing beforehand so it has more meaning.

Posted by
496 posts

I've never taken an RS tour but I think it really comes down to what your priorities are. If you are taking the tour because you don't enjoy the planning process and want to cover as much ground as possible, the tours are a fabulous option. If you are choosing the tour because you are concerned about your ability to plan your own trip, I would re think that. There are tons of resources available that can help you plan a trip successfully. The upside with planning your own trip is that you do what you want at your own pace - the cost of that though is an investment of time and effort.
Both have their pros and cons so it really depends upon what you are looking to accomplish!!!

Posted by
5789 posts

Some people love guided tours; we loath them. Being herded around on someone else's time line and agenda and then waiting endlessly for people to use the bathroom or catch up (there is always one person who doesn't arrive anywhere on time) just sucks up time. And then when you finally get to the places you really want to see, they get shorter shrift than you would otherwise have.

Italy is so easy to do on your own that unless you are elderly and need someone handling all the logistics, I'd plan your own trip. If you like being guided, consider hiring the occasional private guide through Tours by locals or other similar agency. We have done this in Russia a couple of times especially where the travel logistics were tricky for us. We did 3 weeks in Italy on our own 35 years ago, renting an apartment for a week back before there was the internet for that and using guidebooks to put together the stops. It was magical. And with the internet it is so easy to plan your own trip that I would just never do a guided tour in such an easy place to manage.

Posted by
1549 posts

My thought is that May 2017 is coming up awfully quickly for a plan-it-yourself tour, especially if you're starting from scratch. Many of Rick's suggested hotels get booked up months ahead of time.

Posted by
1868 posts

I think taking a RS tour and having a week on your own afterwards is a wonderful idea. After the tour, you will feel confident managing metros/tubes/trains/buses, the language, restaurants and generally feel more comfortable exploring Italy on your own after the tour ends. For your first time to Europe, this might just suit your purposes. The Rick Steves guides are meant to be (and are!) actual "teachers" and provide a wonderful introduction to the ins and outs of European travel (specifically Italy in your case!) and help immeasurably with the ins and outs of getting your feet under you and feeling comfortable. You will be well prepared for travel on your own after the tour. I am not sure about other tour companies, but on the RS tours, I have never ever felt "herded" along and you are actually on your own half of every day. And of course, you can opt out of any planned activities but they ask you to be sure to let the guide or your "buddy" know in advance. Guidance is always available if you want some advice as to what to do with your free time. The groups are smaller than usual group tours, composed of wonderful travelers and the guides are truly superior. Of course, it all comes down to what you want. Some people really do well with more structured tours, some people don't care for tours at all and some people really like them! I have found Rick Steves tours to be a nice blend of structured and unstructured time and a whole lot of learning. If you chose to book one of those two tours, I would suggest you arrive a day (or two) before the first tour day to acclimate yourselves to the time change and your neighborhood. A lot of folks book the same hotel the tour will be using for that extra night so they aren't required to move to the tour hotel. I am sure whatever you decide, you will love Italy!

Posted by
1067 posts

We never had to wait on anyone while on RS tours. You can be left behind if not reasonably on time so everyone was on time without fail. His groups are small and very friendly! I've gone to Europe on my own and enjoyed the planning but I enjoy the small group tours better. You do see a lot more because timing is fine tuned. I never felt rushed except for when getting on trains/subways. We had to make sure we were all on the same train, etc. I have traveled so much that I now fell comfortable going back to many places in .Europe on my own and visiting places I missed in Rome that last few times I visited, as an example.
I enjoy other tour members and have made several lasting friendships!

Posted by
990 posts

I'm with Janet on this one, kinda late to be planning on your own for May 2017. We are also going to Italy in May and already have our route planned, air booked, lodging booked, trains booked and some tours booked (Some were sold out for our dates already). Lodging is the most important due to not being in one place too long we need lodging in the middle of the city and for a price we can afford. I liked your idea of doing a tour first then doing another week on your own, you will feel so much more confident after being on the tour...but start thinking where you want to go and start booking!

Posted by
2114 posts

Good point about it being a little late to plan a May 2017 trip to Italy. If that's when you're going, you should definitely try to hook up with a tour. With that said, here are my thoughts:

  1. Every comment on the subject that I have ever read has said that you should not book your return flight from Venice. Fly into Venice and out of Rome.

  2. My husband and I are in your age group, speak limited Italian, and have managed to do very well in Italy. I went to England on business twice and our first trip to "the continent" was to Rome, the Cinque Terre and Switzerland in 2005. We have been to various destinations in Italy on three other trips since then.

  3. We opted for independent travel instead of a group tour because we are art and food lovers and wanted to spend more time at sights and museums than a group tour would allow. We also believe that a party of 20 or so in a restaurant is not going to get the best food or service at a restaurant. Most of "our" restaurants in Italy would not have had room to accommodate a group of that size.

  4. On our first trip, we just went to a travel agency the day before and bought 2nd class train tickets to the next destination. On subsequent trips we have made advance reservations and travel in first class. Reasonable minds differ, but we like the extra space and fewer people.

  5. All of your destinations are accustomed to large numbers of non-Italian speaking Americans. You can do very well on your own without being part of a group tour.

  6. With that said, we have taken several small-group day tours that we have enjoyed tremendously. I think they are definitely worth the money.

  7. Whatever you decide, you will probably LOVE Italy.

Posted by
4290 posts

I'm pretty much with Susan and Andi on this one. The RS tour groups are smaller than many, and we have never felt we were being "herded" anywhere. (One exception: our local guide at the Vatican Museum on our RS Best of Rome tour was less than satisfactory. She rushed us through the museum, pointing at the highlights as we scampered past. But on a later tour, at the same museum, we had a wonderfully relaxed tour, with lots of new information and time to look around and ask questions. On that trip, our RS guide acted in lieu of the local guide. Shout out to Jennifer.)

The RS guides are very knowledgeable, and want to teach you things, not just shuffle you along from one place to another. You'll learn how to use public transportation, how to buy museum tickets, etc. They will also be delighted to recommend restaurants and other attractions, including those too small for a tour group. (You'll have lots of free time.)

Although we also enjoy planning our trips, it is nice to have someone else choosing the hotels and arranging the transportation. Doing these things can be very time consuming and nerve-wracking, even if you do speak the local language.

We always add a least a week on the end of our RS tours, giving us a chance to go spend more time at places we only had a chance to sample with the group. This works best on the city tours, by the way.

So I vote for a blended experience. As someone else said, you'll have a wonderful time either way.

Posted by
147 posts

We have gone on 2 Rick Steves' tours and haven't regretted them at all! This year is the first time we are planning our own European Trip!! We are in our 20's and loved our experiences.

I can say that we are booking our own guides and food etc and it is all pricey :)

Posted by
1485 posts

In my ideal world, I would book the 14 day RS and add some time at the beginning and end. I'd add the time at the beginning to get over jet lag and time at the end because now you'll be comfortable. I enjoy the planning, but, if it's my first time, the execution can give me pause, I.e. What do you mean there are no taxis to the train station on a Sunday?, we've booked with a guide but it turns out what we get is a guide that is Chinese. By allowing someone else to worry about the execution, I can concentrate on what I am hearing/seeing.

Posted by
139 posts

I disagree with those that suggest it is to late to plan a trip now, if you go in May. It may be more challenging, but doable. If you do not like planning and research, then book a tour and accept that you may not see everything you wish, but you will travel.

There are lots of hotels, some book up, some do not, so do what you wish.

We are not guided tour people, did one and while the places we saw and things we did were good, a group can be wearing. After two weeks, we were glad to go off on our own.

You can do the trip by train and bus, but we found it best to rent a car upon leaving Rome for our tour of Tuscany. It allowed us to explore the back roads and small towns. However, I enjoy driving and driving in Italy is safe and fun. For Florence, we our hotel was out of town and we took a 20 minute train ride to town. Florence is a wonderful city to walk, but a car would have been a pain in the a....

When we visited Venice we stayed outside of town and took the train in on two days. Easy to do and again the car gave us flexibility.

For those who do not drive, you can do the same trip by train and bus.

Have a great trip, not matter how you do it, just go.

Posted by
11845 posts

My husband and I are also in our early 60's and are very much independent travelers; no escorted tours, very few guides and no private drivers. Italy, IMHO, is one of the easier countries for getting feet wet abroad, and especially so if the maiden voyage is concentrated on locations used to hosting oodles of foreign tourists and are easy to get to via public transit. With the use of guidebooks, internet booking sites and forums such as this one, planning is ever so much easier than back 'in the day' when resources were much fewer.

That said, there's nothing wrong with a tour either, as evidenced from the number of responders above who've thoroughly enjoyed the RS experience. It's all up to personal travel style, comfort level, and enjoyment (or not) of the planning process. It's our style that dictates our preference for independent travel as we enjoy longer stays in one place than tours allow, the freedom to spend as much or as little time as we wish at our chosen attractions, and the same freedom to change a day's plan on a whim.

Maybe some of both is right for you? Start with a tour to get comfortable with how things work and then spend an extra week exploring solo? The only trouble I see with that is that some of the locations on the tours are not given the time I feel they deserve, and you probably won't really want to backtrack to them. Still, if this is not intended to be your only trip to Italy, you'd get a sampling for return solo visits in the future? I've seen lots of RS posters mention that they booked their tours for that very reason.

I think that scrabbling an independent trip together for May is still possible but you'd have to hustle; Cinque Terre in particular could be almost completely booked up by now. I don't know how much of Tuscany you're intending to see but 9 days is a very bare minimum just for Rome, Florence and Venice - you lose at least 1/2 day every time you move locations, and arrival day can be. blur of jet lag - so I'd add more days to the first-timers Holy Trinity. Florence is a very good base for some day-tripping around to some of the smaller Tuscan towns, and Rome is simply packed with fascinating things to see.

Posted by
11613 posts

I think an RS tour (I have never taken one) would be a good way to see some things, especially if you can add a week afterward. You will pick up lots of travel tips on the tour, get used to public transportation and filling your free time, and have the comfort of your route being taken care of from city-to-city.

Nothing wrong with backtracking. If you love Venezia (just an example) but the tour is only there for two nights, go back on your own! You will already have some familiarity with your surroundings.

Posted by
2252 posts

Deb, these recent years I have adopted a travel lifestyle which combines an RS Tour, along with some independent travel days before and/ or after. Sometimes the independent days allow more time in a major city at the beginning or end of the tour, and sometimes they focus on particular smaller towns or sites in the area, which were not on the tour itinerary. Since I myself generally travel solo, I find that just traveling independently for an extended time would get too lonely. Some couples might find the same thing, and others might be just fine in each other's somewhat exclusive company for weeks. I have found that RS Tours feature: (1) consistently superb guides, and generally local guides too; (2) wonderful, friendly fellow travelers, and you will always make friends to share your trip and free time, if you like; (3) the tour can often visit places as a group, perhaps between major stops, that would be too expensive or time-consuming to do on your own; (4) the hotels and group meals range from above average to superb; (5) you have plenty of free time and free meals to explore special interests on your own, and to be physically active or relaxing, as you choose; (6) the logistics of travel, lodging, tickets, group meals, etc are taken care of for you. The RS Tour is probably somewhat more expensive than doing, and paying for, all this on your own, but not necessarily. Often when traveling on my own I find myself paying for various things literally all day long; with a tour, I often find myself not spending anything during a day, beyond a gelato, light meal or a postcard, or my weakness, a carefully-selected refrigerator magnet!

Posted by
17630 posts

Either approach is still viable for May. At least I surely hope so, considering that I am planning my own trip, have a flight booked to Nice, France, for April 30 and have not otherwise done anything except read about potential destinations.

Lodging in the Cinque Terre is probably the biggest sticking point since it is quite limited and there's rather heavy tourist traffic in May. You might end up needing to stay in one of the nearby towns instead, but that may well be avoidable if you have some date flexibility.

If you're not comfortable with a 100% do-it-yourself approach on your first trip, the idea presented by several others of taking a tour then adding on some independent travel afterward is a very good one.

Posted by
3561 posts

If you're able to splurge, I highly recommend the 17-day Best of Italy tour. Every single location on that tour is a "wow" moment. This itinerary will take you to all of your requested locations, plus take you to the beautiful Italian Lake area and into the gorgeous Dolomites.

We took this tour years ago as our first trip to Italy and have returned numerous times, returning to or near some of those same places. I would recommend arriving in Italy a few days before the trip to acclimate to the time zone and have a first taste of Italy. For us, we spent those days in Verona and found it very nice & tourist-friendly. We purchased the Verona Card (I see it's still available) and enjoyed exploring all of the highlights. We stayed at Hotel Aurora, if interested, and found the location & staff to be very nice. You could fly into either Milan or Venice to reach Verona by train.

Posted by
1669 posts

It boils down to your temperament and how adventurous and flexible you are.

We've never taken a RS tour, but if we were ever to do a trip where we felt a tour would be helpful (think Eastern Europe), it would definitely be a RS tour.

You could still plan a trip on your own if you were so inclined. My wife was supposed to present a paper at a conference in Dundee Scotland November 2015. We were in the middle of planning that trip when she was promoted to the Director of the School of Nursing. Duties precluded her being able to make that trip, so we started planning early October for a trip to Tuscany in December. We had no problems planning our flight, rental car and accommodations. We've planned trips before and love to research. With the internet, it has become very easy to plan.

If you can swing it, I think the combination of the RS tour with some extra time on the end would be a great solution.

BTW, my wife Deb and I are also in our '60s but think we're still in our 20's.

Posted by
1071 posts

I haven't read through all the responses so my apologies if I'm being repetitive.

For the larger cities it is absolutely possible and actually quite easy to do on your own. For the smaller cities a tour may be easier.

If you are still undecided on tour vs independent travel here's my suggestion.
Get the RS travel guide books. Review the cities that you want to see and make a list of top things you want to see in each location. Once you have your list, compare it to the RS tour. If you find that most of your must sees are on the tour then it may be a good fit.

Also watch the videos available on this site that covers the relevant cities. It gives you a feel for them and provides a wealth of information.

I have been on a number of RS tours and will say that:

  1. The hotels are well located in the heart of things but generally nothing special. If you're looking for luxury hotels, his tours are not for you.

  2. They are time efficient and fun. I have never waited more than a few minutes for a fellow tour member to arrive. If someone consistently shows up late then the guide will have a private chat with them to impress upon them the importance of being timely. At the initial meeting you're told that you have a list of tour hotels and if you miss the bus you know where to catch up to the group. Never seen it happen but I guess it could.

  3. Dinner service has always been very good, never an issue. These are small family run places that cater to the group and enjoy having us there. Food in general has been pretty good but that's for my taste. Only half the dinners are group dinners so there are plenty of opportunities to explore restaurants.

  4. Everything is optional. If you don't want to participate in group activities just let the guide know.

  5. Guides and local guides are excellent. I've been to Paris and Florence on my own and as part of a tour. The tour experience was a much better one. The guides do such a good job of telling you the history and story behind what you are seeing that it's a much richer experience.

No matter which way you go you'll have a fun trip.

Enjoy.

Posted by
812 posts

Hi.

I have done both the Village Italy and the Venice/Florence/Rome tours – twice for VFR. I travel independently before and/or after tours. When I take a tour, it is often selected based on my work schedule. Last year, I took the new Switzerland tour. Even though I thought I had plenty of time to plan – months and months – surprise, when I got to booking, there was only one tour date that was open that meshed with my work schedule. It all worked out, I am happy to say.

Village Italy is among my favorite tours. I would not have gotten to most of these locations without a lot more research and planning on my part. I actually started in Innsbruck and went on to Venice before the tour began in Padua. If you have some time, you can do add-ons at either end. My favorites of Village: Orvieto, the agriturismo where I took the day off, Lucca, and CT, where I took another time-out and spent the day on the beach.

Like many others here, I love to travel plan. The reason I started in Innsbruck prior to Village was to visit an Almabtrieb (cows down from the Alps). I got plenty of independent travel adventure for a few days, including a train strike. But then, the tour – in some ways, that is the beginning of the vacation. The bag is on the bus and who cares about train strikes? The pressure is off (or on as much as I want it to be).

There is plenty of time to go off on your own on RS tours, even more opportunity on the MyWay versions which eliminate the lodging and travel agita and leave the rest up to you. I think a tour is a reasonable first visit option, or even for second, third, or more visits, depending on your situation. I am even considering the nine-day Heart as one of my next options, because, of course, my vacation days are dwindling, time is running out. Yikes!

Have a good time and enjoy Italy however you choose to travel.

Posted by
5371 posts

Even on an RS tour, you still have to plan for your free-time, and it helps to have read and researched the information in the guidebooks. I traveled independently for years and will again, but am happy to let the experts do that for me. I can concentrate on having a good time, not worrying about train schedules, or wasting time on unimportant things.

Posted by
741 posts

We made our first trip to Europe in June 2015. We did several days on our own in London, then took the Eurostar to meet the RS Best of Paris tour. We made a day trip to Normandy on the "last breakfast" day of the tour.

We very much enjoyed the time on our own in London, but, as rookies, we made our share of missteps and definitely weren't as efficient in our logistics and traveling around the city as we could have been.

The RS tour was absolutely wonderful. We had a terrific guide, and all the local guides were incredibly knowledgeable, as well. As someone else said, the guides are what really set the tours apart. They offer so much context and background to what you're seeing that it truly makes for a richer experience. Our guide, Rebecca, made sure from the first day that we learned how to use the Metro. In our afternoon free time, we were criss-crossing the city with full confidence.

And there's definitely something to be said for being part of the group. I think the RS tours attract enthusiastic, energetic, flexible and tolerant folks. We had a very good bunch of people in our group, some of whom I still stay in contact with. For those of us who are introverts by nature, the group environment forced us to be more sociable than we would have by ourselves, and that was one of the very best aspects of the tour.

Could we have done all this a lot cheaper on our own? Sure. But for all the reasons above and more, we felt the tour was an excellent value. We enjoyed it so much that we are taking the Venice, Florence and Rome tour in May. There are several tours still open for May, including the May 19-28 slot that we are on. We're adding on some extra time before the tour and spending that last "breakfast" day on our own in Rome.

You'll enjoy yourselves no matter what you do, but I whole-heartedly endorse the Rick Steves tours.

Posted by
696 posts

Mira pretty much said it all. For those who enjoy the planning, your visit actually begins when you start to plan. So if you do the DIY you could be immersed in Italy from now until you depart for Europe. (Yes, it’s a bit late, but I don’t think too late) purchase several travel books (RS, Lonely Planet, Knopf City Map Guides, etc. --get several points of view) and study the maps. We photocopy maps so we can mark on them and consider different routes. We're in our mid to late 60s and have planned all of our visits to Europe (from north of the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean). Over the past decade we took only one tour (to the D-day Beaches). The tour was alright, but of all the places we've visited over the years, the only one we feel we must return to so as to get a better understanding of the place is Normandy. On the tour (only 8 people) we spent much time hearing about minutiae but most of all the entire commentary was only about the victory of the US forces (there was not much said about the British and the Canadians, or the role of the French Resistance). There was virtually no time to sit and ponder the events of D-Day when visiting the German fortifications, or stop and think about the country side where the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division drops went so very awry. We couldn’t sit in the US Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer and there was no mention made, let alone a visit, to the German Cemetery at La Cambe. We think we missed more than we experienced.

For a DIY visit, the most tedious part and the matter requiring attention sooner rather than later is lodging, but with the internet, RS books, Trip Advisor, etc. this is manageable. You will likely not get RS “top picks” for lodging this near May, but ask on this web site for recommendations, you’ll get a lot of great help.

If this all sounds “worrisome” then book a tour for sure, but definitely plan some time on your own just to sit and people watch. One of our fondest memories of Florence was sitting at an outdoor café (the Gelateria Caffe delle Carrozze) having out-of-this world gelato-liquor concoctions and feeling how wonderful it was to be there and taking it all in

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks to everyone for all your helpful information!!!

Posted by
244 posts

One more vote for a combination tour and on your own! We do not like tours but didn't want to travel Italy on our own for our first visit. So we took RS My Way Italy then spent 5 days on the Amalfi Coast and then back to Rome 3 days. What an amazing trip! On the tour we planned our day's itinerary and in the evening we gathered with our tour group to enjoy wine, dinner, and stories. By the end of our tour many of us gathered and spent the day exploring together. We had a wonderful tour guide to help us become proficient travelers. She gave us suggestions each day on what to do, see, and where to eat! Most nights we gathered together for dinners. By the end of the trip we felt very comfortable continuing on our own! Since that trip we have traveled independently to Europe using RS tour books. We will take a tour again, but now that we feel comfortable we enjoy planning our own trips. But having our first trip with RS tour helped us become independent travelers!

Posted by
1 posts

I agree with most of the previous comments but found little or no mention of one of the main reasons we travel independently: cost. I usually figure I can do the trip for at least half the cost. As my wife and I are retired teachers and we like to go for fairly lengthy trips - eight weeks this fall - cost is always an important consideration. I must also admit to being somewhat of a trip-planning junky and I made my first trip to Europe 64 years ago at the age of 3 so I am usually fairly confident of what I am doing.

Posted by
508 posts

Good question. You are right. You and your husband should visit Italy on an organized tour.

My mother said she would be petrified to be on her own in another country. She said the amount of planning I am doing is mind-boggling, that what I am planning to do is half-cocked, and so on. I joined this forum just to see whether or not other people would have reactions to my traveling alone which are similar to my mother reactions. I am a 33-year old single man. I have never been to Italy or continental Europe. This will be my 3rd solo trip. I am taking 10 working days off of work, to visit Italy in July, to see art museums, mounents, ruins, and scenery, alone instead of with an organized tour because

  1. I am on a radically restrictive diet high in fruit and I try to eat 5 or 6 small meals a day; I didn't want to worry about having to spend an hour watching my fellow tour participants eat typical foods in restaurants.
  2. Suppose all the tour participants are about 60-80 years old or older.
  3. I don't drink, I wouldn't know what to do on a bar crawl. Suppose all the participants on an organized tour were young adults who mainly are into alcohol, alcohol again, a little sex (and I rarely talk to women due to social phobia and they don't talk to me), and more alcohol?
  4. I was raised Jewish (I am reformed or secular now); I could visit a church but it wouldn't be spiritually meaningful to me and there is not time to see everything.
  5. Cost and other irrational reasons: I think my trip will cost under $3,000 or $3,500.

If you want the company of other tour participnts and you like restaurants and you want to pay for somebody else to make many or most of your reservations and plan most of your logistics and ground transportation, and if you are as open minded as you seem or you and your husband are not too picky about exactly what you see and you want somebody else to plan your itinerary, then travel with an organized tour. You seem like you want an organized tour. But just book your organized tour already and then don't doubt yourself and then don't argue the opposite way (that you actually can handle planning a trip on your own - yes you are smart enough to plan your own trip but this is not the point).

Posted by
2595 posts

I have no opinion on whether or not you should go on a tour or travel independently. You need to work that out yourself. I would like to say that it is no where near too late to plan a May trip. I seldom plan more than a few months ahead of time, and it can be done in a few weeks. Italy always has been an easy country to handle on one's own excluding possible crowds...photos just seem a lot more crowded than the last time I was in Italy...2000 (Wow, can't believe it has been that long already). I wouldn't worry about having to stay only in RS hotels. All you need to do is look at hotels.com and booking.com and set up your hotels accordingly. By reading all reviews (I even read Trip Adviser reviews) you can get pretty clear information on the hotel. Get some good guide books and go to it! Or make a call to RS...

Posted by
4290 posts

Mike L:

Suppose all the tour participants are about 60-80 years old or older.

And the problem with that would be?????? :-) You might be surprised at how active, varied, interesting - and interested - the chronologically gifted can be.

I was raised Jewish (I am reformed or secular now); I could visit a church but it wouldn't be spiritually meaningful to me and there is not time to see everything.

I was raised, and still am Catholic. Most of the churches are not necessarily spiritually meaningful (although for me St Peter's was,) but the art is spectacular, and the architecture and related history truly amazing. I think what's important about the churches - or synagogues, or mosques - is not so much what they mean to the tourist, but the tourist understanding the role religion plays or played in the life of the locals.

And there is never time to see everything.

But I think there's nothing at all wrong with traveling on your own. It will be an amazing experience. Have fun, and tell your mother to trust that she raised you well enough to do this reasonably sensibly.

And have fun!

Posted by
1868 posts

Well said, Jane. And I love this term-"chronologically gifted"!

Posted by
11845 posts

A thumb up, Jane!
I guess my husband and I fall into the "chronologically gifted" category (go figure!) but we can out-walk and out-hike couch potatoes much younger than we are.

Bars are great places for meeting locals and other travelers, and collecting/sharing information (but I am a social animal.) Some years back, we got a history lesson from a lovely Welsh gentleman in a London pub that was the highlight of the day. LOL, his name was Anthony Hopkins, and he'd gone to grammar school with that Anthony Hopkins.

Churches? I'm a terrible tomboy with a loathing of stupid, itchy church clothes so I save my visits at home for weddings and funerals. I love to visit them abroad, though; great art and architecture! In some parts of the world, religion is inextricably linked to a country or city's history or culture so shouldn't be avoided just because one isn't of the faith. Here in the States, I find the old chapels of the American Southwest just fascinating, and many are wonderfully colorful!

Posted by
510 posts

After three two week trips to Europe traveling independently with my wife and her 88 year old mother I am now struggling with the same problem you have. My wife still works and I'm retired, so at 71 my wife has encouraged me to travel solo until she retires. She is six years younger and wants me to experience things/places I want to see/do while I have good health and not wait for her to retire in another two years. Starting in 2007 when I happened to see a RS television program on Italy I got the bug. Using all of his tools; guide books, DVDs, travel store and this forum I planned our first trip to Italy, then later to Scotland, England, France and two to Hawaii (see Beyond Europe here). I'm told that traveling solo is great, that when you do "all decisions are unanimous" and my planning skills from the past should suffice. Others say I should travel solo, but take a RS tour so that I don't have to worry about booking everything, trains, cars, hotels, etc. and have peace of mind. It seems to me for a first trip the tour might me nice for you, especially if you stay over, but I struggle with the structure of a tour when I've been there independently and wonder if I will enjoy it. As for planning for May, if you start now with Rick's travel tips series on this site, the television shows also on this site and get his Italy guide book I'd bet you can plan 7-10 days in Italy in 2-3 weeks. Be sure to make advance purchases for museums and other attractions in Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan so you can bypass the lines. Virtually all of these can be done online with a credit card. Good luck.