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Semihandicapped. Is Rick Steves Scandinavian or Swedish tour practical?

I walk with a cane. Going slowly, with rests, and carrying about 15 pounds, I can plod along for an absolute maximum of 45 minutes before I simply must sit or lie down for a good half hour or so. I pack fairly light (one overhead roller bag or backpack and one underseat bag are more than enough for me, and I mean bags that meet the rather small Norwegian Airlines standards) except I also need to carry one extra tote bag of medical and health-related stuff . Are the Rick Steves "Best of Scandinavia" and "Sweden" tours practical for me? Could I rent a portable scooter in Stockholm to help me keep up with the group? Is it ever necessary to walk more than 3 blocks all together in a group? (I'm happy to leave the hotel early to walk to a bus etc, or to straggle along and arrive late at a hotel or restaurant as long as it's no inconvenience to other people.)

I wish so much that I'd traveled more when I was young and fit. My message to all: DON'T WAIT!

Posted by
16082 posts

Hi and welcome to the forum!

Rick doesn't offer a tour just to Sweden but you can read about his 14-day Scandinavian tour here:
https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/scandinavia/best-scandinavia-tour-2024

As you'll see under "Physical demands", RS tours are described as "physically active" with the requirements that you can "Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions." and can "Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room." So given your restrictions, this tour is likely not a good choice for you. I also don't think a scooter would be helpful when faced with stairs.

But you might look at Sage Travel's tours? Those are designed for travelers with mobility challenges and are endorsed by Rick Steves.
https://www.sagetraveling.com

Posted by
523 posts

Having been on 10 Rick Steves tours, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think RS tours would be a good fit for you. There have been travelers in my groups who use canes or walking sticks on occasion, but they have been able to move fairly quickly and didn’t need a lot of extra rests. Walking tours are often 2-3 hours long and while it is rare to walk non-stop for as long as 45 minutes, the “rest” stops don’t always have seating, so you need to be able to stand. It’s unlikely that a rest stop would be a full 30 minutes. You definitely walk more than three blocks at a time - for walking tours of the sights, to restaurants and, sometimes, even to get to the hotel (with luggage). While a cab or bus might work when the group is going to a restaurant, there would be no way for this to work while sightseeing.

Stairs are everywhere in Europe. “Handicap-accessibility” does not seem to be a thing there. Don’t forget the steps up into the bus also have to be negotiated. Some tours use public transportation such as subways that also involve stairs.

You must be able to handle all your luggage all of the time. How would you handle all three of your pieces plus your cane? (I’m also guessing the total weight would be over 15 pounds.) While most of the hotels I have stayed in have had elevators, there is no guarantee that they will, so luggage must be carried up the stairs in those cases.

Posted by
6646 posts

If a tour isn't for you, it is not that hard to visit Scandinavia on your own.

Posted by
8627 posts

Noting that unlike many peoples' pre-conception of a tour, the RS tour bus doesnt take you from sight to sight and back when you are in a city or town. You walk everywhere, and sometimes use public transportation. And we've had some fast-walking tour leaders. When they have timed entry tickets for the group, or a meet-up with a local guide, they wont wait for a slow person. They will tell them where to look for the group when they get there.

Posted by
763 posts

Also, there are usually 28 people in the group. That's a lot of feet and legs moving together in some very tight areas sometimes. We had a lady with a cane that to be perfectly honest did impede and delay some people's walking at times. There was some groaning among the group when another fellow started using a walking stick halfway through the tour when he clearly had no real need for it. It just added more congestion and difficulty for others. There are long periods of very fast walking, maneuvering through difficult traffic, many stairs and hopping on and off public transportation.

Posted by
2904 posts

I've taken 3 RS tours, soon to be 4 and signed up for #5 next year. To give you an idea of "fast walking", most walking is between 2 1/2 and 3 mph and I was walking in the middle of the pack. At times if we dawdled, we had to almost run to catch up. 5 miles a day walking was average tour walk plus standing in museums and exhibits plus another mile or two during free time. While many hotels have elevators, there are those which don't. Also there may be stairs up to the elevators.

I'm sorry but I don't think Rick Steves tours will be a good match for you. As suggested above, look at Sage Tours, but I don't know anything about them.

Have you considered a cruise? Bostonphil7 who posts here has mobility issues and only takes Norwegian cruises (maybe eight so far?). You may want to send her a PM for more information. Here's her latest post. I’ve never taken a cruise so have no opinion.

I wish so much that I'd traveled more when I was young and fit. My message to all: DON'T WAIT!

I totally agree. But interests change, lives change. Then suddenly we're getting older, have aches and pains and a bigger bucket list. I hope you find a way to travel that meets your needs.

Posted by
5685 posts

I’d like to encourage you to consider planning an independent trip. It is really easy to travel in Sweden. Public transportation is great and it is very easy to get around. You can visit sights at your own pace and take as many rest breaks as you would like. Enjoy a fika (a great Swedish custom … https://www.swedishfood.com/fika ) when you need a break. You can travel independently for less than the cost of a RS tour. Use your savings to stay a bit longer or take a taxi from the rail station to your hotel when you have baggage.

Posted by
8615 posts

I would also suggest considering a cruise which is more set up for accommodating those with mobility issues. I don’t recommend Norwegian Cruise Line if traveling solo as they tend to be more expensive than many of their competitors. Their solo cabins are generally NOT a bargain.

Princess and Holland America do cruises in Scandinavia. I’ve done two with Princess as a solo traveler. The first was a coastal cruise that sailed north along the coast to North Cape. The second was a fjord intensive cruise in Southern Norway. The scenery on both was amazing and the Lofoten Islands probably remain my favorite port stop of all times.

Posted by
14241 posts

I agree with the other folks who have done Rick's tours and will say this tour is going to be too much for your description of your activity level. A scooter would not have been practical for any of the Rick Steves tours I've done (12 of them) although I have not done one that includes Sweden.

I would normally suggest Road Scholar tours which, in my experience, have a lower activity level (except for the hiking programs). However, I looked at their website and the 3 tours that include Sweden are all rated Keep the Pace which probably will be more than you want to tackle.

Keep the Pace I like to spend much of the day exploring. Whether walking through historic neighborhoods at a moderate pace or out and about on a coach, I prefer to keep my days full. Stairs don’t bother me, and I love to keep up with the group.

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure?query=sweden

I DO realize you specifically asked about Sweden but Road Scholar offers some tours to other places that are at a Slower Pace which might work for you.

https://www.roadscholar.org/collections/at-a-slower-pace/

Posted by
1030 posts

I have mobility issues and we have visited Scandinavia three times now on our own.

The least physical option we have done was the Hurtigruten coastal express cruise. There were a few people in wheelchairs who just stayed on the ship in ports. Shore excursions also ranged from bus tours to snowshoeing. Cruise staff gave good information about activity levels for each option. The ships are well set up with elevators and grab rails. The most challenging aspect might be using the bathroom as they are very small and have a step up to get into them. However, there are lots of grab rails.

We found Copenhagen to be the most accessible city. All of the metro stations we used had lifts and level access to get into the trains. Copenhagen is flat and not many cobblestones so walking was not challenging.

Stockholm was the most challenging city as the old town is undulating and the cobblestones were brutal. My ankles did not like Stockholm.

Pam mentioned that Road Scholar might be a slower paced option. This was not our experience on our Riad Scholar Bulgarian trip a few months ago. There was a Canadian woman travelling alone who used a cane and was quite unsteady on rough ground. She was not able to keep up and had three falls. She generally missed dinner as she needed to rest. I am not sure if she enjoyed the trip or not.

Posted by
337 posts

What an impactful message.

I think you would find the RS tours challenging. However, if you want to see the world first class and make up for lost time, I recommend Tauck tours. Their small boat river cruises could be perfect for you.

Posted by
14241 posts

"Pam mentioned that Road Scholar might be a slower paced option. This was not our experience on our Road Scholar Bulgarian trip a few months ago."

@AussieNomad - There are some specific Road Scholar programs that are categorized as being at a Slower Pace. Not all of them are. In looking at the Road Sch website, the program I see on Bulgaria is rated at Keep the Pace which is what the trips to Sweden are rated at and they are a lot more energetic than the actual Slower Pace trips.

Long ago I was on a program where one of the participants was clearly not able to keep up. Having a tour member who has not been truthful with themselves on their activity level is so difficult for the rest of the group. It's different if someone is injured on a program, then I am willing to pitch in and help.

Posted by
795 posts

I think it's amazing you're still thinking about traveling, good for you! There's a man on the Forum with a disabled wife who rides her wheelchair scooter right up to the airplane, I assume she gets help to her seat, and then rides off... in Europe. I believe his name is Dave... but in any case why not consider bringing that scooter with you so you're more comfortable? I agree you can do a trip to Sweden without a tour (check out RS's itinerary just for fun?) and save quite a bit of money. Although Gamlastan (old Stockholm) has lots of cobblestones, I just don't recall that being the case in the center of town along the water, where there are so many attractions, along with easy access trams out to the island where the Vasa museum & Skansen are located. Yes, it's more work planning yourself, but you might still have a great time! And agreed, Copenhagen and the Hurtegruten cruise out of Bergen would also be lovely.. I've heard really good things about Tauck travel, but more expensive. Let us know I'm curious what you decide to do!

Posted by
6646 posts

The metro in Copenhagen is a much newer system, it opened in 2002, so it's great from a accessibility point of view. The metro in Stockholm is much older, the oldest parts are from the early 1930s. So the accessibility is not perfect

There are some cobblestones in some parts of Stockholm, although they are pretty rare and easy to avoid. One drawback is that Stockholm is partly very hilly, especially Södermalm is far from flat. But there is a great network of public transportation that can help you go up the hills.