I have truly enjoyed reading this thread! I am a confirmed "independent" traveler! I plan my flights, airport transfers, accommodations, meals, activities and tours on my own. Reason: control, independence, substantial savings. Yes, it means doing a lot of research, but isn't that what makes travel interesting and exciting? I took one group travel and it will be the last time I do. It was only 12 people, who for the most part were pleasant, but people I probably wouldn't normally choose to travel with. There was too much drama (including but not limited to one woman's failed attempt at romance with one of the tour guides!), personal problems (including a fellow "traveler" who was incapable of physically keeping up with the group while walking and took off several times independently without telling anyone - resulting a frantic search for a 66 year old) differing opinions on every excursion (i.e. complaints), I realize that it was just one time - and if it did happen all the time (which I still think it does from time to time on most tours) there wouldn't be any tour companies in business. I spend approximately three to four weeks on every tour I've planned, six in the last seven years, each time to Italy. One might say that being alone I miss out on companionship (but I say I have a knack for making friends wherever), or informative guided tours (not so, as I utilize RS books on walks, places to visit, eat, etc. and also use his "Audio Europe App guide - as well as the multitude of similar audio tours available if one only searches for them). I actually listen to Rick Steves when he tell us of substantive issues and how to best travel in Europe as a Travel Ambassador, and being smart in making decisions. My biggest "beef" w/grps, however, is that I remember so much more when I do all the planning and execute my plans. On that one "fateful" group tour, I went ahead and spent two full weeks in Rome, then met my fellow travelers at Fiumicino airport to join them in the 10 day tour of the "Best of Tuscany". I remember every detail of my stay in Rome, yet the group travel was a blur. We had a driver so no concentrating on logistics to the tour sites, our accommodations, the airport, nothing. We stayed at an Agriturismo near Siena and did daily trips in all directions. Where we were I couldn't tell you, I know the names, locating them on a map, but couldn't tell you anything about the city outside of what we did as group (we went to museums, a winery, walked cities). Because it was essentially "follow the leader", it "dumbed you down" as to knowing where you were - you just followed people, unaware of the significance of your surroundings & not being able to put that into perspective spatially, historically, or politically. I am a history buff. I've actually read histories of the Medici's, Garibaldi, Cavour, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Mussolini, Caesar, so I understand Italian history, reasonably well. I like to linger at cafes, museums, and walk every part of every town/city/village I'm in, to understand the geography before exploring the city culturally and socially, . I like shopping too, even if I buy nothing. Before leaving for Italy, I had taken two years of Italian language can "get by" and make myself understood in most cases, yet it always seems that everyone I meet know English better than I know Italian! In my travels I have stayed only in one city, three cities, and twice a six city tour (Sicily - arriving in Palermo and leaving from Catania). I am convinced that packing and unpacking is not, definitely not, the way to go. I spent too much time traveling and getting settled into my new surroundings that could have been better spent relaxing having an aperitivo in a café! This year I've decide on four weeks in Tuscany and Umbria, but in places I've never been in (Todi, Grosseto) or only day-tripped (Orvieto, Siena). I travel mainly by train (what a wonderful system!) and occasionally by bus.