I know that deciding on a guided Rick Steves tour or a My Way Tour is personal preference but I would love anyone's thoughts as I try to choose between the Heart of Italy 9 day tour and the Italy 13 day my way tour. Thank you!
Kathy, I have not done a My Way tour but I did do Heart of Italy in May. I had some concern about the whole group tour concept, but there were 5 of us going and my brother and I decided this would work the best for us. We has an absolutely wonderful time! I was so impressed with the guides...both our leader Trina, and the specialty guides that were provided. I had read somewhere, probably in the RS tour advertising. (Lol) that you can often see 30% more on a guided tour and we found this was probably close to the truth. Really, really well-managed time with the guides and the group plus enough free time that we could do things on our own. I'm sure you will have fun no matter what you pick.
There is very little, if any, money savings by doing the My Way Tour. If you add up the cost of what you would do on your own (meals, entrance fees, etc) you are up to the cost of the full tour package. If you want just the convenience of transportation, lodging and socializing of the non-guided tour, then that's the way to go. You will need to be more self-sufficient and self-guided, but your time will be your own to use as you please. There is still the luxury of "just rolling out the door and getting on the bus." The pre-planning is a lot less than if you did the trip all on your own. I think the My Way approach is especially suitable for travelers who have been to that area before.
I've done Village Italy and Sicily/Southern Italy ast full RS tours and loved then, this past Sept. I went with 2 friends on the My Way trip. I am a pretty independent traveler and have gone many places on my own. So I preferred the My Trip......keeping in mind that I had been to Italy at least 5 times prior. Are you an independent traveler? - You would love My Way. If you like a guide helping you thru the trip - the regular RS trip is excellent. You can read the tour reviews on this site and see what others had to say
about the trips.
Kathy, There are of course advantages and disadvantages with each type of tour, so you'll have to determine which one best fits your preferences. The fully guided tours provide the best look at the culture, history, foods, etc. of each of the locations visited. The groups spend more time together not only with the lead Guide but also with local Guides, and the group dinners are usually an incredible experience. Virtually everything except for personal purchases and non-included meals and drinks are included, so it's fairly easy to get an idea on what the total cost is going to be. The My Way tours still provide all hotels, a Tour Escort, Driver and Bus, so the "logistics" are taken care of. Hotels all provide breakfast, so tour members only have to pay for lunch, dinner and beverages and have complete flexibility to spend as much or as little as they wish. No local tours are provided so again, tour members have complete control over which tours they want to take and how much they want to spend. The lines "blur" a bit at times when My Way tour members get together and hire a local RS Guide or have a group dinner, so it seems like a regular tour. I've found that the My Way groups don't quite "bond" the same way as the regular tours, as everyone is off doing their own thing, so they don't spend as much time together sharing dinners or experiences. However, tour members often get together for meals or take local tours, so there's still some shared experiences. With both types of tours, by the end of the tour it sometimes feels like saying goodbye to good friends. When meeting again at tour reunions, it's often like meeting old friends again. You'll have to decide which Itinerary best fits your budget and what you want to see. Happy travels!
I've been on a guided RS tour, never been on a My Way tour as way of background. For me I would lean towards the guided tour. The guided RS tours are not cheap, but my experience as someone who has also traveled independently is that in the end it comes out to be about the same price (just fewer days). The tour is much more efficient than you can be. They can make group reservations at sights that don't offer them to individual travelers, your guide takes you right there without getting lost. And I found the tours both by local guides and the RS guide to be much more enjoyable than walking around with a guide book. To give an example, on my RS tour we went to a Italian hilltown and I think I got a much better understanding of the history of both the town and the overall history of the region with our guide than I did on later visits to Italy to other hilltowns with just a guidebook. As a My Way traveler you will be largely doing the latter unless you and the others hire a guide. Different trips for different folks, or the same folk looking for different things at different times. We'll travel on our own, its nice to be able to choose the destinations and time at each, but the tour has its pluses as well and I can see doing one again.