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first trip-british isles

For our 25th aniv., my husband and I would like to travel to the British Isles.This might be our only trip, and we have never traveled out of the county.I know Rick Steve's are mainly do-it-yourself tours and I'm all for that.But being this is our one-and-only trip, would a tour group be better for us?

Posted by
82 posts

There is a free dvd that you can get from Rick Steves that shows you how their tours run. ( ) I have done Europe on my own and with a tour group. To tour or not to tour... I think it depends. First of all - are you and your husband really good at navigating around an unfamiliar city - without getting on each other's nerves because you are lost? Or would you rather have someone else take care of 98% of everything and you can just relax and enjoy the trip? I loved taking a tour as well as going on my own - though I do like the idea of going on a tour and having someone else take of everything.

Posted by
710 posts

My husband and I most always plan our travels on our own, but my sister and her husband always take tours and love them. They saw and learned more they ever would of on their own. The guides were great and they lots of fellow travelers they had fun with. They liked not having to drive and make all the hotel arrangements, etc. If you rent a car in the British Isle you would be driving around "Round-a-bouts" (Trafic circles) and on the other side of the road. My husband was up for driving, but it was a scary experience our first trip together to England. I would check out alot of different tours and find one that goes to most of the places you want to see and that has a good reputation. You could ask a travel agent for some brochures or research online and email or call for them. You could use their itinery as a jumping off place for planning your own trip if you decide you want to do it on you own. Happy 25th! Go to www. - and type in under "search" - tours of the British Isles - you will see numerous tour companies you can send to and ask for their brochures that fit you wants and your price range. Happy traveling.

Posted by
800 posts

Sherrell-all of us have had a first time trip to Europe. I had never been east of the rockies before I flew to Europe for 2 months. My husband had only been to the Bahamas before we took our first trip to England. One couple we know took the rushed 2 week bus tour of Europe and thought it was a great way to travel. They could see the top sights with a minimum of planning. They didn't understand why we wanted to go through the trouble of doing our own tour and not seeing nearly as much as they did! It all comes down to what you feel comfortable with.

I think Brittain is a great country to explore for first timers. There is no language barrier and so much of the history and culture is familiar it feels like visiting relatives! I'd certainly recommend a Rick tour to others for a variety of reasons, but probably will never do one myself. And do yourself a favor, PLEASE stop thinking this is your one-and-only trip. That puts alot of negative pressure on what will be a great experience.

Posted by
864 posts

I'd really go the Rick Steve's tour route for you. I've driven all over England, Scotland etc. I'm comfortable NOW with driving on the other side of the road but the first time was so nerve racking each of us (my husband and I) were frazzled after a couple hours behind the wheel. Think of it this way. It's maybe your one and only trip there - do you want to be using your brain cells figuring out how to get to point B from point A or soaking in the local sights, tastes etc. And for value added, the RS tour guides can't be beat. Sure there'll be some sites you'll miss but really, after awhile, as a first timer especially, you'll go into sensory overload sooner rather than later. Fly into London, spend 2 or 3 nights and then join the tour. This way you can recover from Jet lag, get in some extra museum/sights time. You can even arrange to stay those extra nights in the same hotel as the tour will abe staying in (we're doing this in Greece). Just ask for hotel info when booking.

Posted by
993 posts

Sherrell, It all depends on what you want to see. The best advice I can give you is to do your research. What do you want to see there? What speaks to you? Gardens, cities, castles, museums...or twee little villages with friendly pubs. Rick's tours aren't really do-it-yourself...All you really have to do is plan your free time and carry your own luggage... He does however make it easier for the independent traveler. There is so much to see. So decide what's important to you and find out if there is a tour that even goes there before you start worrying whether you should take it or not.

After you decide what you want to see it will be easier to decide how you want to see it.

Posted by
31513 posts


Before recommending a travel method, it would help to know how much of the "British Isles" you want to see, and in what time frame?

Self guided tours are most definitely a LOT more work to organize, but one can go and see what interests them the most. Tours take care of all the logistics, and are much less work to plan. One basically shows up in a certain place at a certain time, and all the transport and lodging details are taken care of. I often use a combination of self-guided and organized tours, that way I get the best of both worlds!

I would HIGHLY recommend RS tours! I took his Ireland tour last Fall and it was wonderful. We traveled to so many different locations and got so much history in those two weeks, I felt it would have been VERY difficult to get the same experience in that time with a self-guided trip.

Since this is your first time in Europe, IMO a tour might be a good idea in this case (or a tour and some self-guided).

Good luck!

Posted by
11973 posts

I've been on an organized bus tour (not an RS tour). It's not what I would choose.

The pros were I didn't have to do any driving, didn't have to plan for hotels, the hotels were nice and had en-suite (American style) bathrooms, meals were planned as part of the schedule and a tour guide gave a lot of interesting history and trivia of the areas you were visiting.

The cons were your schedule was set based on someone else's priorities. Many times a "visit" to a significant historical site would last just long enough to get out and take a picture while a visit to a touristy shopping area (kickbacks?) would be planned for the entire afternoon. Meal schedules were slavish. While I would happily delay a meal to visit an important site, the bus tours would skip a site if the meal schedule was in jeopardy.

When researching a tour, pay attention to the language. The brochure is true only in the strictest definition of the words. To "see" a site only means you drive past it.

Posted by
11434 posts

Let me throw my "2 cents" in as a former tour director who prefers to travel on his own.

Many good points were brought up already. You have to ask yourself some basic questions:

1) How much planning do you want to do? If none, take a guided tour. If plenty, go on your own. Britain is not difficult at all to get around and understand.

2) How are you with luggage? If the thought of bringing anything less than a full size suitcase scares the daylights out of you, then take a tour. They take care of your luggage. If you can manage with carry-on size and don't mind carry it, your options are open.

3) What is your budget like?

4) How much freedom do you want or are you willing to sacrifice much of it to let someone else do the work.

On boards like this, you'll have many different opinions on everything. It's best to figure out exactly what you want and what would make you happy--and go from there.

Posted by
5669 posts

I have always been a travel on your own kind of person since I first went to Europe as a student. But, last summer I wnet on a Rick Steve's tour and really enjoyed it. But my caution is that Rick Steves tours are exactly what they say the are. Read the itinerary, look at the time off, look at the focus of the trip. If it is not what you want then go for it on your own. Sure the first day of driving on the left is nerve-wracking, but you get over it. If you are traveling in the height of the travel season, you'd better book your rooms, but if you're traveling off season and are flexilbe, you can get away with less up front planning. Just always have that first and last night accomodation booked for peace of mind. Either way I agree with the comment that the UK is a good place for a first trip. Make sure you include sometime in Scotland as you'll find some very friendly people there.


Posted by
3551 posts

I love winging it with Ricks book. But given your info I would opt for a tour if it fits your budget. Sometimes it is nice just to get there and not be bothered by the details of getting around. you can always add some solo time front or back of your trip in a major city like Edinburg or London which is easy to do w/o a tour.

Posted by
3428 posts

If you decide to "go your own way" consider NOT driving. We have been to the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) more than 40 times and WE NEVER DRIVE!!! We love taking the trains and some buses. We use the Tube and love it. You might want to read an article I wrote for AAA Carolina's "Go" magazine- it is about basing yourself in London and doing day trips- depending on your time you could stay in London a week and then go to Scotland or Wales for a week. the article is at
just use 28208 as the requested zipcode.

Posted by
515 posts

Sherrell, I agree with Marie and Ken. I have always been a do-it-yourselfer here in the states. But after careful research, we chose an RS tour for our first time in Europe. The experience is wonderful. It is far from the typical tour with 40-50 people; it quickly becomes a group of pals with whom you can share remarkable times. When you take into consideration all the things that are included, the value is superb. They have this travel thing down pat; time is money, and you get more than your money's worth. If you take a tour with the RS organization, it likely won't be your one and only trip. You will become hooked. You must decide if the walking and pace are your cup of tea, and if you can learn to pack light, but if you can manage that, you are good to go.