Interested in doing a back-to-back tour in 2019 now that hubby and I are both retired and have the time available. Anyone have a particular combination they would recommend? We are open/interested in all of them. The only tour thus far we have done is the Venice/Florence/Rome (awesome).
I would do the ones that are geographically close to each other. For example, Villages of South Italy and Sicily or Best of England and Villages of South England. Greece and Turkey would also be a good combo. There is a forum member on here named Brad, that took 5 back to back tours!
I’ve done several back to back combos. I’m currently finishing up Best of Scotland after having done Villages of Southern England first.
I’m not sure I’d recommend 2 in the same country or geographical area. I think the food and culture are too similar. Although the land is very different, lots of ruined castles in both areas as you would have in Best of England as well. I thought I loved ruined castles...turns out even I can see too many! 😁
I think I enjoyed the combo of Best of England plus Paris and the Heart of France more as there was a huge culture shift. Paris is only 2 hours from London by Eurostar.
The other combos I’ve done were 21 day Best of Europe plus Best of Paris plus Village Italy. That was a good combo as you are in one place on the city tours and there was a lot of moving on the other 2 tours. I’ve also combined Rick’s tours with some Road Scholar tours.
During my Best of England tour several years ago I had this discussion with tour mates and we came to a similar conclusion regarding back to backs. One couple had done Best of Portugal before Best of England and enjoyed the differences. Another had done Scotland, were on the Best of England and were following with Best of Ireland. They indicated they felt things/food were feeling too similar.
I understand the impulse to cut down transportation time by staying in the same area but Europe is well-connected by trains and Low Cost Airlines. Consider doing 2 different countries for your back to backs, flying open jaw to/from your destinations.
Virtually everyone who takes any RS tour has a great time, so chances are you won't be disappointed with any choice. There are plenty of budget flights between European cities and many are connected by high-speed trains, so you don't have to choose tours that are geographically close. You were on a relatively slow-paced tour of 3 3-night stops with short travel time between them. Most tours, other than city tours (Paris, Madrid/Barcelona for example) spend less time in each location, strings of 1- and 2-nighters, many with significant travel time between stops. Two 10-14 day tours like those in a row would be too tiring for me. Do you want to go straight from one to the other with maybe one full day on your own between them or do you want to spend a few days independently? Do you want to stick with mostly major cities or do you want a tour that would take you mostly to small towns and villages? Are there any places that particularly "call to you?" Think about these things as you browse the tours.
The best way I've found to get a really good idea of what each tour is like is to look at the scrapbooks that tour participants have created after their tours. And since the tours don't change much from year to year, it's worth looking at the scrapbooks even from 4-5 years ago.
Lastly, think about the time of year. Weather can be a big factor and some destinations don't combine well. You can use this tour search function to look for tours at the same time. For instance in December, you could choose Munich/Salzburg/Vienna and then Prague/Budapest for nearly total immersion in Christmas markets.
Have fun shopping!!
We are planning the same thing in a few years when we retire. We want to do the Best of Ireland and the Best of Scotland back to back. There are lots of dates that line up to do this, as one is 8 days and one is 10. We have been to both countries before but only for short visits and are looking forward to spending more time in each. Happy travels!
By 2011 we had taken 6 RS Tours and were always ready for more when the tour ended, so in 2012 decided to do back-to-back. We loved it so much that we did the same in 2013 and 2014. We always had a day or two in between tours and that was great. In 2012 we did the week long Paris tour, followed by the GAS Tour. We just hopped on the train from Paris to Trier, Germany. in 2013 we did Paris to the Loire, followed by My Way Italy (we had already done Best of Italy). We flew a budget airline from Nice to Venice. In 2014 we did Eastern France, followed by Best of Spain. We again took a budget airline and flew from Marseille to Barcelona. We loved all three of the combinations.
As Chani mentioned, looking at scrapbooks really helps to get an idea of the differences, so that is what we did to help us decide. Our six scrapbooks are linked to Rick's website if you are interested in looking at them (William and Theresa Barr). No matter which ones you choose, I know you will enjoy them.
The first one we did back to back was Southern Italy and then had a cheap flight from Naples to Paris and the Paris week tour. The timing worked well for us and it was easy for us to schedule our flight home direct from Paris.
The second was France the Loire Valley (which we loved) and then had a cheap flight on Alitalia to Rome
for the one week tour of Rome. We had been to Rome twice before, but the tour covered some things we hadn't done. One of the repeat activities was the Borghese, but hubby and I were looking forward to it as we had enjoyed it so much a few years before.
Whatever you decide, Have a Great Trip!
Budget airlines work well in Europe so distance is not a major factor. We did Portugal and London back to back. Major advantage to a city tour is you only unpack once. After Portugal (which we loved) we were ready to “stay put”. London involved a lot of walking but it was great to get back to the hotel, tired as we were, and know that we did not have to pack until the end of the week.
@Chani, OMGOSH! I wasn't aware of the scrapbooks! I'm not going on an actual RS tour anytime soon, but these are an amazing trip planning tool. Chani, you are a wealth of information.
We just came home from doing a RS Rome tour followed immediately by a RS Sicily Tour. It helped our overall experience to have had one of the tours, the Rome one, be a city tour where we did not have to move around. Convent connection flight on Alitalia. If we were to do this again we would try to have a couple of days between tours. We left the Rome tour right after breakfast and flew to Sicily where our tour began the next day. We are both retired now so maximizing our time in Europe is easier. We have taken 16 RS tours.
Wow, this is GREAT feedback. Lots of stuff I hadn't considered. Thanks to everyone; I really appreciate it!
We did back to back tours twice—retirement is great! From California, the flights over are so long, it’s hard to resist.
We did BOE 21 days with a week off (needed a little relaxation after that one). We stayed in Paris for a couple days the went to Bruges and Brussels. We flew from Brussels to Edinburgh for the Scotland tour.
Last year we did Sicily followed by South Italy, with 3 days in between in Rome. There were 2 other couples who were on both tours with us!
The two Italian tours were similar, which made you comfortable with Italy. The other combo had lots of variety with bigger and smaller cities. Interestingly, I had packed for warm weather in Italy on BOE but we had unseasonably warm weather in Scotland, so I was prepared.
This year we’re going to Scandinavia followed by Village Italy with 5 days between. Excited for both.
My husband and I have done back-to-back RS tours. We loved Switzerland when we visited on the BOE21 and GAS tours, so we knew the Best of Switzerland was a must. We also yearned to visit England (Best of England). Since we couldn't make up our minds which trip to take first, we decided to do both. These tours were very different from each other. Different history, food, languages, geography, etc. Many Wow moments on both tours. It turned out that we had 9 days between our tours to make our way from Bern, Switzerland to Bath, England. During that time, we used trains and other public transportation to travel to some favorite places and some new places as we worked our way toward England. We toured the CERN facility in Geneva, returned to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, visited Wurzburg, Germany, and spent 3 nights in Haarlem before boarding the Eurostar in Belgium to finally end up in London and then on to Bath. Whatever back-to-back tours we may choose next, we will make sure we have fewer days in between the tours. The new experiences were great and we used a lot of what we have learned about independent traveling on RS tours, but 3 or 4 days between tours would still allow you to stay a day or two after the first tour ends and then fly or take the train to your second tour and start the tour refreshed.
We did this year 8 day heart of Ireland then flew to Edinburgh and did the best of Scotland. Next year we are doing 7 day London then going on the Paris and heart of France for 2019.
We really enjoyed Scotland 🏴 this year
A couple of years ago we did two off-season tours: Best of London followed by Best of Sicily. We loved them both, and the contrast kept things interesting! London in February would not normally have been my first choice, but we warmed up as soon as we hit Palermo. We finished off the experience with about a week in Rome, on our own. A great trip.
My first RS tour was the Best of Eastern France in 2014, and it was amazing! Some of the RS veterans on that trip promoted the idea as long as you don't have to go back home, why? One fellow traveler was on his third tour! I am emulating them and joining the Loire Valley to the south of France tour and the Best of Italy tour in mid September. They end and begin on the same day respectively. A morning five-hour train ride from Nice to Milan-->Varenna connects them. With a couple days on the front end in Paris to shake jet lag and an additional day in Rome to savor at the end, it'll be a 33 day escape from my normal life. My next trip would be grouping Ireland/Scotland/England together.
I have done several tours back to back, all of them the week long tours. My time off from work only allowed me to take two weeks together. I also found it was a bit exhausting to go on two week long tours but loved it and would do it again. I went on the Rome/Florence tours, the Istanbul/Rome tours, the Paris/Prague tours. It all depends on how much energy and how much time you want to be away for that would matter when picking a tour. Also as others said, how to get from the ending city or town to the next city or town where the tour starts is a consideration.
If you did say, the Beligum/Holland tour which ends in Amsterdam you could take the train to Paris and do the Paris tour and then take the Euro star train from Paris to London and do the London tour. Or you can go on tours and fly to another city with a one way ticket and the first and last cities make that your round trip ticket.
Many tours to take and easy to get from one place to another using the train or fly. I went to London last year on my own ( having done the London week long tour years ago) and then took the train from London to Bath to take the Best of England tour.
Lots of combinations of tours to take, up to you on what you want to see and do. Just look at the dates and plug in the trains times and cost or flying from one city to another.
This year I am flying to London and flying home from Vienna. On my own in London, then flying one way to Munich, taking the 8 day Munich,Salzburg, Vienna tour and flying home from Vienna.
Hope this helps. Have a great time whatever you choose.
I would recommend 2 tours that are geographically not that far apart but culturally different. Like GAS and a France tour, or an Italy tour and Best of Eastern Europe. Or England and a France tour. That way your travel isn't overly onerous but you are experiencing 2 very different cultures.
Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences with back-to-back tours. Not only is it helping me put together some great pairings, it is making me super motivated to get started!
We have done several back to back tours with RS. Staying within the same geographical area cuts down on the travel time. Keeping with one climate helps with the packing. Having a few days off between tours is a great idea. You actually get to rest a bit and take care of laundry, etc. We tend to stay in the same hotel in the first stop of the second tour. You really get to settle in (usually same room), relax and do a few things not included on the tour. We just did Southern Italy and then Sicily. We loved our extra time in Palermo, found the best gelato of the trip, and were able to slow down and try cafe life. We are from Vancouver Island, so our goal is to make the long flight worthwhile.
You will have fun, no matter what you decide.
I have rather contrary advice. We find that after one tour, we're ready for time on our own, on our own agenda. We do a Rick Steves tour and then and plan and execute another week or more somewhere we can reach within a day's travel on train, bus, ferry, etc.
We did the 7 day City Tour of Rome then took the train to Venice and joined the 14 day Italy-My-Way which ended back in Rome. We actually appreciated the fact that it was a similar culture because it allowed us to really immerse ourselves in that area and truly feel like we became "temporary locals." Doing the city tour first with a whirlwind of activity and a fantastic guide, made the more laid back pace of the country areas all the more pleasant and having just spent a week in one place, the driving to a new place every couple of days was exciting rather than disruptive. We did not make the decision primarily based on airfare, but more on the desire to spend close to a month in one country.
Truthfully though, I think it is a very individual decision - is it too long? too short? too much the same? or too overwhelming with all the differences?
We've done back to back tours twice; usually we spend time on a RS tour, then spend a week or so on our own.
Next year we're doing two back to backs, and we doing them both in France. That's because we want to know more about it, and I want to improve my French. The other times we did London/Sicily and Paris/Belgium-Holland.
I will also be doing back-to-back tours in 2019. I have already booked the Best of Ireland and Best of Scotland tours. In between the tours, I'll be spending a few days in my namesake ancestor's homeland (County Antrim, Ireland) before going over to Scotland. I'm doing Ireland and Scotland together because my ancestors are from these countries but also because they are close together (I'm hoping to save on airfare).
My additional question is---when you do a tour that is traveling every few days (I've only done the RS city tours where you stay in one place), how do you pack? I'm already stressing about having just a carry-on; I'm not sure if I can swing that for staying abroad for a month. Did anyone take a checked bag (not huge, just larger than a carry-on)?
Best of luck and thanks!
We have combined city tours with another tour twice. .We did Ireland in 14 days followed by London. We did Rome followed by Spain. We have also combined cruises with Ricks Tours. We did Village Italy, a week in Nice and then a river cruise up the Rhône to Paris. Two years ago we did Scotland in 10 days followed by several days in Amsterdam before we cruised up the coast of Norway and back. We always combine these with time on our own to revisit a favorite city...Paris, Rome or London. We love all the different combinations. Retirement and long flights from California are the motivators to extend our time as long as we can when we go. But we like to alternate tours with city stays or cruises because we can unpack and relax a bit. Back to back country Tours might seem like a long time to live out of a suitcase.
Just saw your post about packing Sara. We always try to do the carry on but in the end usually check our bags...even tho they are RS bags. And I always wish we had packed even less. Lugging bags around is not fun....even smaller ones. Try really hard to pack as light as you can...you won’t regret it. I have literally never met a person on a RS tour who wished they had packed more.
Thanks Pam, I appreciate it!! My BF always packs a carry-on; I'll have to take some lessons from her :)
I've only taken 2 RS tours but have done several independent trips as well. I take a 21 inch roller bag (technically a carry on) which I check and a matching 16 inch roller (they stack) which I carry on. No problem getting from bus to hotel or up stairs. I'm a "medium packer". I detest doing sink laundry for anything but socks and underwear. Not everyone on the tours has tiny luggage.
We did a back to back Sicily and Paris tour last fall. We had one extra day in Paris that allowed us to settle in at the hotel and tour a bit on our own which was nice. We took a cheap flight out of Catania to Milan then to Paris. The only glitch was we flew Ryan Air to Milan, but switched to Easy Jet for the Paris leg and did not know we would have to pay extra for a carry on Easy Jet. Check the baggage restrictions on your connecting flights
In 2015 we did the Basque Country of France & Spain (9 days) followed by the Best of Spain (14 days). It was a marvelous back-to-back combination. Both were unique in themselves and Spain proved to be far more beautiful and entertaining than we anticipated.
We did the Best of Eastern Europe and Best of the Adriatic this past May and June. Each tour was 14 days. We arrived in Prague a couple days before the first tour, and stayed on a couple days after the last tour. This resulted in a rather long trip for us, and left us rather worn out by the time we returned home. BUT it all worked out. We had not been to Eastern Europe, and wanted to see what we could while there. The two tours overlapped some, but that was not a problem as we enjoyed going back to the sites covered by both tours. In fact, the second time to these places was somewhat better as we knew our way around and could get right into seeing what we wanted to see. Of course, doing back-to-back tours saves on air fare to and from Europe, which can be a big savings. And since our second tour started very near where our first tour ended, we saved time and money there. So I suggest that doing back-to-back tours can be a good idea if one has the stamina and likes traveling.
@Carolyn- thanks so much! That seems like a really great way to do it!
We did Spain and Portugal back-to-back last year and greatly enjoyed both tours, but I would caution you that--at least for 67 and 70 year olds--it was pretty exhausting. If I were you, I would try to arrange it so you have a couple of days in-between tours to slow the pace down a bit. During the second week of the second tour we were running on fumes.