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2021 Tour changes

So far I've found the following tour changes for 2021. Please feel free to add to the list.

  1. New 10 day Poland tour
  2. New 14 day Scotland tour
  3. New 8 day Scotland tour
  4. Elimination of 10 day Scotland tour

Disappointed that the Switzerland tour didn't add another day in Murren.

Also, I didn't look too closely at itinerary changes.

Posted by
5184 posts

I'm assuming these are placeholders for people to think about, since there are no dates listed, as you might expect. The notes say that dates may be posted by the end of summer. Perhaps they will let people indicate interest without committing a deposit, as a way to gauge numbers.

Posted by
20 posts

Most of Rick's tours seem rather short to me. I would guess that a lot of folks on his tours are retired and would like longer tours. My spouse and I have traveled independently many times, and I prefer to be gone at least four weeks! Opinions?

Posted by
5184 posts

marsh, yes this has been talked about before, with, I think, the consensus being that Americans prefer tours two-weeks or less as that is the standard vacation time we get. Those people who do want longer tours have figured out the option of doing two or more tours back to back, or just extending days on their own before and/or after the RS tour. You're right, there are a lot of retired folks on the tours.

Posted by
1001 posts

We took the Eastern France tour and then traveled on our own for two weeks through southern France. This year we were booked on the Sicily tour and Southern Italy tour back to back. So even if the tours are only two weeks, you can extend the time in Europe by doing back to back tours or on your own.

Posted by
164 posts

I wish RS would offer longer tours as well (i.e. ~ 3 weeks). I know American vacation times are limited, but seeing as how a lot of his clientele are older or retired, I don't think having a few extra 3-week tours would be out of the ordinary.

Posted by
164 posts

By the way, new on the Switzerland tour is the top at Appenzell. I forgot which village it replaces though.

Posted by
3436 posts

marsh and Justin,

When RS first started doing tours they were all longer, up to a month long, being aimed at school teachers having the 3 month summer break. They also covered larger swaths of Europe per tour. As the years went by, most people, yes even the retired ones, wanted the shorter tours. So here we are.

Some of the tours will sync up where one ends on a Friday and the next starts on Monday (or similarly other days) in the same location and you can string those together. Several France tours usually do that. Or they are ending in one location and another starts in another location a short train ride away. That was my plan for this year, but will have to see what next year allows for once the dates are posted.

Posted by
613 posts

Appenzell replaces Engelberg on the Switzerland tour. I enjoyed Engelberg, even though the cable car trip up Mt. Titlis was foggy and rainy.

Posted by
1619 posts

Re the change in the Switzerland tour, replacing Engleberg with Appenzell. The Swiss Army Bunker sounds really Interesting and cool. And a drive through cowbell countryside. I experienced cows and their bells on the RS Best of Italy tour when we spent 2 nights in the Dolomites, charming! I made a couple videos of the cows and some of my tour mates; we really enjoyed this.

Posted by
2992 posts

Surprised on Engelberg being dropped. I enjoyed my time there. A very special bonus was being allowed into the library at the Monastery and seeing their collection of amazing books. Way better than the Book of Kells in my opinion.

That said, this entire tour was wonderful and if they are changing it, there is probably an equally wonderful opportunity in the new location.

Posted by
553 posts

One other thing I've noticed - they shortened the Family Europe tour that begins in Amsterdam by 4 days. It used to be 14, now it's 10. We'll see what other changes will come.

Posted by
1 posts

Well, I for one am glad that they added Appenzell to the Best of Switzerland tour. I was supposed to be on that tour right now! Since it did not include Appenzell, I planned to see that area along with the Engadine valley and Bernina Express afterwards. I’ll reschedule the tour for next year.

Next on my bucket list is to see Scandinavia. I’ll probably try the Best of Scandinavia tour. I’m somewhat disappointed that there is no specific tour of Norway. I guess I would have to do some private extended sightseeing there after the Scandinavia tour. I’ve been reading about the Hurtigruten boat trips up the coast and that sounds amazing.

Posted by
6454 posts

One other thing I've noticed - they shortened the Family Europe tour that begins in Amsterdam by 4 days. It used to be 14, now it's 10. We'll see what other changes will come.

Its changed from 'Amsterdam to Rome' to "Amsterdam to Venice"

Posted by
613 posts

The Scandinavia tour was great. Very pleasant big cities, and quaint small towns. I've also looked at the Hurtigruten cruises in Norway, but I need to get comfortable with cruising again. I love Alaska and am hoping to get some of that in Norway.

As for Switzerland, my only regret was the short time in Murren. Got there in the late afternoon after a long day traveling from Lugano via Zermatt. The next day was a full day in Murren, but the weather didn't cooperate. Fortunately, I'd been there before so it wasn't too disappointing. Any tour in the Bernese Oberland needs three nights, if for no other reason, to increase the likelihood of a nice day. Lucerne also deserves a couple of more days on your own at the beginning of the tour. I took trips up Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi. Just stunning scenery and amazing Swiss transportation.

Posted by
460 posts

Interesting catch re the Family Tour being shortened. I'm wondering if some kids have a shorter tolerance for travel, so by making one of the tours shorter they can remedy that? I notice that the itinerary (in terms of places, not activities) is now identical to the beginning of the Best of Europe in 21 Days. Has that always been the case? Just curious, as I have no reason to take a family tour (empty nester).

Posted by
1118 posts

Didn't the 14-day BOE tour used to end in Rome? Looks like it goes the opposite way next year.

Posted by
1619 posts

Andrea,
The BOE tour in 14 Days does still end in Rome for 2021. Do you mean another tour?

Posted by
27 posts

I noticed that the South England tour is staying 3 nights in Falmouth. Sounds intriguing! My tour two years ago made their Cornwall base in St. Ives and 20 years before that in Penzance. Have loved all my time in England (and Scotland).

Posted by
284 posts

I would be for longer tours if they had more 3 night stays in various locations. Two nights really means only one full day in a location. I remember the Basque tour I took, nine nights, three in each city. Very nice.

I usually spend an extra night in the first city, but that is jet lag time, so it is not that useful. I do often add one or two more nights to the last city or a nearby city. But, if I want to really spend time in a city, I do it myself. It all depends on one's goals for the trip.

Posted by
6454 posts

This, Family Europe: Amsterdam to Venice in 10 Days Tour is what is now listed in place of what had been "Family Europe: Amsterdam to Rome 14 day tour"

Posted by
1118 posts

Judy, it looks to me like it starts in Rome and ends in Paris, but maybe I'm looking at the map incorrectly.

Posted by
1619 posts

Andrea,
You are right! The BOE in 14 days is flipped around, it starts in Rome and ends in Paris. It used to start in Paris and end in Rome. Interesting change, I’m not sure I see the reasoning for it though. Both are huge draws and large cities. It seems 6 and half a dozen to me.

Posted by
1211 posts

Dr. Fauci said the current vaccine under trial is 60 percent effective. Is that good enough? Fortunately, he said other promising vaccines could be much more effective. I don't think I'll travel internationally at just 60 percent.

Posted by
56 posts

So glad to see Scotland now has Glasgow on it. The Poland tour also sounds really intriguing.

Posted by
7762 posts

Oh!! I hadn’t noticed the change to Falmouth on the Villages of Southern England tour. That is excellent. I did a Road Scholar tour that focused on Cornwall staying in Falmouth for 6 nights in 2017. I enjoyed that SO much more than my 3 nights in Penzance on the Villages tour in 2018. Lots of interesting restaurants and some good things to do in free time.

Funny they changed as this was actually a suggestion I made in my eval. The guides are all well-versed in this region so I’m sure they’d thought of this for overnights as well.

Posted by
27 posts

Hey, Pam, I thought of you when I saw the Southwest England tour change, as I’ve read your comments about your tours in this area.

Posted by
18 posts

I was just looking at next years 14 day Ireland tour since my cancelled tour was due to start next week :( I just noticed that hotel changes have been made at the end of the tour.... Only 1 day in Portrush eliminating the Bushmill Distillery and 2 days now in Belfast. Are those good changes to the itinerary? I still am dreaming of hopefully going next year!

Posted by
7762 posts

DLhutto, I did the Best of Ireland when it just did a partial day in Belfast and ended in Dublin. We did the Bushmills tour and honestly I think the distillery tours are pretty boring. I'm sure others enjoy the experience and the free tastes, just not something I want to "spend" my time on so to me that change would be a plus, lol!

Posted by
42 posts

@DLhutto. I was on the Best of Ireland in 14 days tour last year over late Aug/early Sept. I would say the Bushmills distillery tour is enjoyable, even for someone like myself that rarely drinks alcohol. As per usual on a RS tour, the local site guide was excellent and I learned a lot about the process, including what makes Irish whiskey different from Scotch whisky (so much so that they have different spellings to distinguish them which I had never noticed before!). For me, part of the enjoyment of travelling is learning about things, even if they don't have pertinence to my usual life, so it was still fascinating. However, is it a BIG miss? I would say no. They have kept the more important experiences, such as Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (thrilling!). I think they probably dropped the distillery tour based on feedback, because of how busy and packed the Portrush time was, and then trying to fit the same Belfast itinerary into a 3/4 day, since we were driving in from Portrush that morning after breakfast. At the tail end of a 14 day tour, you can imagine not everyone has the same stamina as at the start of the tour! But after having done the distillery tour, I would have felt it a shame to miss (just my two cents).

Posted by
43 posts

I agree with Barnstormer regarding 3 night stays. We did the GAS tour one year with 3 nights in Murren, wonderful stay with many wow moments. Last year we wanted to do Italy, but there were no RS tours with 3 nights (besides city tour) so we opted to put together a DIY Italy with a mix of 1, 2, and 3 night stays using trains and RS guidebooks, tiring but good. But as they say it's all good!

Posted by
5 posts

Yes, I agree with all those saying 3 night stays are much better than 2. I'd actually like to see even longer stays. Maybe 4-5 nights (or more!) for a more immersive experience. Could do day trips out from the hub towns. I'm leaning into the benefits of "slow travel" these days. Even more so with the current virus situation. Also... perhaps more tours focusing their time away from the big cities? Will be interesting to see how Rick Steves tours will change as a result of our changed world.

Posted by
2777 posts

My wife and I took our first RS tour in 2001 which was a 21 day BofE tour. We have taken a RS tour every year since then. We are retired and prefer longer tours. Living part time in Seattle I am able to go to the RS headquarters in Edmonds, WA. with only a 30 minute drive. I go there often (when they are open) and have asked several times about them offering more longer tours. I have been told several times that the best selling tours of theirs are their 7 day tours so that certainly influencing their offerings. Since we pay for a flight from Seattle to Europe, we plan stays either before or after whatever tours we now take. You should all send RS an email requesting longer tours.

Posted by
5184 posts

I would like it if RS tours facilitated booking extra nights at the hotels at which the tour is starting/ending.

Posted by
93 posts

Vikette, I really like all your ideas and suggestions. Maybe if enough people suggest tours that spend more time in a smaller "hub" town with day trips and less hotel changes, RS will listen and start working on an itinerary during his imposed leisure period. I can't help but think that there has to be a sizable segment of RS travelers that would sign up for these tours. The worst part of the RS tours for me is the packing and unpacking and rushing down with the suitcase in order not be late for that early morning RS departure to the next destination. An offering or two of a slow travel tour would be very welcome, and it might open up a new travel niche for RS.

Posted by
3317 posts

Charlie said, "I have been told several times that the best selling tours of theirs are their 7 day tours so that certainly influenc[es] their offerings."

Our first RS tour was to Istanbul for 7 days. I'm thinking one of the attractions of the 7-day tours could be the fact that you sleep in the same place and concentrate on it and its immediate environs.

I'd be very interested in a longer, 3-4 week, tour that is designed around a similar concentration on specific locations.

That would probably not be of interest to some, but it would definitely be better than trying to string 3-4 week long tours together. Not that there are many options for that since currently there are only 4 7-day tours listed: London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul.

I've enjoyed all the RS tours I've taken, but it seems to me that all the 5 other tours I've taken after that first one in Istanbul have tried to cram too much stuff into their roughly 2-week itineraries.

In fact, as I look over the current list of tours and itineraries, adding 1 single day to make 8 instead of 7 increases the number of places to sleep and makes the time in each place shorter.

To sort of quote Silva (Javier Bardem) in Skyfall: Do you see what comes of all this running around? It's exhausting! Relax. You need to relax...

Posted by
5910 posts

It would not be worth the effort or money to only be in Europe for ten days. Of course travelers can extend their time but ten days is so short.

Posted by
3436 posts

I agree that 7 - 10 days in Europe is not enough. But then 90 days would not be enough for me either. The shorter vacations never kept me from Europe. ;-)

Rick has stated in multiple interviews that he liked when his tours were longer too, but when he wanted to expand the business, more people wanted the shorter tours to fit their allowed vacation time. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the entire summer off every year like teachers, his original prime customer group, used to have.

Unfortunately, for most working people in the US, sometimes all the time off you can get in one chunk is an average of 10 days. I know the one year I took the longer Italy tour (only 3 weeks) you would have thought I was demanding a million dollars a year raise from the way management reacted when I put in my time off request! I was able to make it happen, but I paid for it for several years at work through petty revenge like undesirable project assignments, bad reviews (apparently I was not a "team player" because I needed too much "me" time), and so on. This of course came from managers who thought taking time off for any reason was never acceptable. One who had a 5 way heart bypass took his laptop with him and was angry when they told him he couldn't have it with him in critical care recovery. Oh well.

Posted by
284 posts

It would be great if the average American could take 4-6 weeks off every year as many Europeans can and do. But, often we have two weeks max and that has to include travel time to and from Europe and maybe even a day or two to get over jet lag.

My 1st and 2nd RS tours were city tours in Rome and Paris. I was spoiled by not having to change hotels and not spend hours on the road just going someplace. By the end of the 3rd day we had all mastered the city's transportation system, knew of good places to eat, and could work through the various passes, make change in Euros, etc. One of my most favorite tours was of the Basque areas of Spain and France because it was three nights in each of three cities. It's changed since then. I have to assume that the RS tour department knows best.

When I travel on my own I book a minimum of three nights at a location unless it really is just a rest stop on the way to some other place. When I take an RS tour, I usually book an extra day or two before the tour starts (for jet lag issues if nothing else) and a few days after the tour ends. They are often my most enjoyable days as I poke about on my own, go back to a favorite place or just wander the streets seeing what I can see.

Posted by
35 posts

Hi Pam. I was thinking about that Road Scholar trip that we took in October and how we had some big winds from a hurricane. I've also taken the RS South England tour that I loved but have to agree that the change you noted will be good.

Posted by
4282 posts

I've taken two RS tours, 9 and 14 days, and enjoyed them a lot. I too want to spend more time in Europe after enduring the discomfort and cost of flights, and as a retiree I can. But I'm not sure how many of us geezers could keep up the RS pace for much longer than two weeks. Last fall, I remember how nice it was to be in Spain with extra time after the tour ended (even though I was sorry to say goodbye to guides and fellow travelers), enjoying more of Sevilla, Cordoba, and Madrid at my own pace for five more days.

Let's keep in mind, too, that RS is trying to fill these tours and it's probably easier to fill 7-14-day tours than longer ones. Many people don't have the vacation time or the bucks to do more. Those of us who can and want to spend more time can always add days before and after, or even put two tours together. I seem to remember, last year or the year before, some poster did four or five tours back to back -- probably on speed. ;-)

Posted by
3317 posts

I'd swear that the last couple of Best of Ireland in 14 Days 2020 tours were scheduled in such a way that it was possible to be in Belfast for Halloween. I think that because my first choice for that tour was at that time.

Instead, I scheduled for May to work around my husband's racing season. Of course it was canceled along with everything else this year.

I'm running out of time for these things, so I'm signed up to be notified if and when that tour will go on the last dates in 2021, October 3-16. The tour dates cut off is the major change I noticed with this tour.

I hate to think so and I hope I'm wrong about this, but it looks like there's a significant possibility that even if a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine is developed over the next few months, the logistics of getting people vaccinated in all the places they need to be for safe 2021 travel isn't going to happen, no matter how late in the year.

Posted by
4104 posts

I would like it if RS tours facilitated booking extra nights at the hotels at which the tour is starting/ending.

Stan, the short answer is "No." You do get the names of the first and last hotels as soon as your trip reservation is verified - usually within a couple of days of signing up. You will also get full contact information: address, phone numbers, email addresses, so that you can contact the hotels yourself.

We always contact the hotels to ask for information about arriving early or staying longer; often we decide to stay in a different hotel for those days. When you do contact the hotels, be sure to tell them you will be (or will have been) on a RS tour, and ask for the RS discount. You can also ask if you can stay in the same room for those extra days, we have never had to change our room.

If you're planning a trip well in advance, it usually is better to call or email the hotel, rather than use their websites. The websites often do not book rooms far in advance, and will just say something like "No room available for your dates." Email with your information and request, and you'll get a response.

Happy travels.

Posted by
5184 posts

@Jane, yeah, I know this. We've done it every time on the four tours we've taken. What I was suggesting (not that strongly) was that the RS tour office could at least ask (when you sign up) how many people were planning on early arrival / extra nights at these hotels, let the hotels know how many were planning to request add'l nights, and provide a specific point-of-contact. I wasn't suggesting that they act as travel agent.

I say that because, at least on the last two tours, from talking to folks in the group, there were some who had tried to do this through the hotel website or booking.com or other third-party, and saw no rooms available, as you suggested. Rooms showing as not available because the hotel was holding some extra rooms for RS tour members thus blocking the availability. Others got different rates or rooms because they booked without mentioning they were on the tours. The manager of one of the hotels told me this. Not everyone is skilled at this direct communicating. I also note that on a couple of our tours, the communication from the hotel was not quite clear - something lost in translation, perhaps.

On the other hand, maybe its one of those skill screening tests🙂. Not a big deal. Just a thought.

Posted by
7762 posts

@LizLynnwood!! Sorry, I just saw your post! Yes...the tail end of that hurricane brought some wind to Falmouth, didn’t it? That was a fun trip. I enjoyed those day trips on the minibus...made getting down the small back lanes more doable.