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Before or After

We enjoy doing some independent travel in conjunction with Rick Steves tours, and we always arrive in Europe at least several days prior to the start of the tour. It seems like the travel before the tour is more enjoyable compared to afterward. Could it be that post-tour explorations feel anticlimactic?

Does anybody else notice a difference? Of course, there are many factors in play, such as the starting and ending points of the tour. For example, For tours that end in London, Paris, or Rome, I would usually recommend adding time at the end of the tour.

Posted by
5704 posts

You may be tired at the end and having travel burn out. Tours are much more tiring than independent travel where you don't have to be on the go each day. Once you travel so far and pay for the international airfare, I think adding at least an extra week or two makes sense.

Posted by
8 posts

My husband and I have been on 4 RS tours and have noticed some of the feelings that you mention at the end of the tours. Our first tour was the BOE21 days tour and we had a group that bonded very well and very quickly . Some of us are still in contact several years later. We stayed a little longer in Paris at the end of the tour which was great, but we found we missed discussing our adventures with our new friends because most everyone had gone home already. Fast forward to our last trip which included two tours, Best of Switzerland and Best of England. Our entire trip was about 5 weeks long and had 9 days in between Switzerland and England. We made our way from Bern to Bath during those 9 days and learned a lot about traveling by rail and being independent travelers. Both tours were excellent and we were ready to go home after 5 weeks (with some extra time in London.) I guess feelings at the end of a tour partly depend upon how well your tour group bonded and how comfortable you are exploring on your own. I think it is always a good idea to have at least an extra night or two in the city where your tour ends. By then, you have become familiar with how to get around and probably have a list of places to visit.

Posted by
2525 posts

“Tours are much more tiring than independent travel where you don't have to be on the go each day.” Apparently I neglected to learn that concept. Oh well, travel in a style suitable to you, not others.

Posted by
6211 posts

Before or After

Probably depends on what tour and what one is planning for the 'other' days.

There is no right or wrong answer

For tours that end in London, Paris, or Rome, I would usually recommend adding time at the end of the tour.

No disagreement with that statement

Posted by
2329 posts

We’ve done both and enjoyed both. Before the tour we tend to plan and see places and things as if we are on a tour. Afterward, if we stay on, we decompress. One of our favorite post tour trips was a week in Provence after the Loire and south of France tour. We rented a car in Nice, a flat in the town of Lourmarin and enjoyed a totally unstructured week-day trips, farmers markets, sleeping in, wine on the patio in the afternoon. After the tour it was like a vacation from our vacation.

Posted by
4213 posts

I haven't done a RS tour yet, but I've done some other tours and cruises along with independent travel. For me, getting into the structure of the tour or cruise can be a welcome relief from having to figure out everything on my own. Like Bruce, I haven't mastered the art of relaxing while touring independently (though my wife helps keep me from, uh, flaming out). So I'm "working" pretty hard until reaching the pier or the rendezvous hotel, then I can ease up a little on my own stress.

But I also agree that if a tour ends in a big place like Paris or Rome or London it makes sense to stay longer and see more if possible. Next month I'm spending three nights in Venice before starting the Venice/Florence/Rome tour and five nights in Rome afterwards. I think that's a good plan and hope I'm right.

Posted by
2378 posts

I've never been on a RS tour, but I find that at the end of two weeks in Europe, my energy for sightseeing is diminished and I don't pack my day as full as I did earlier in the trip.

Posted by
4444 posts

When I’ve taken a RS tour, I’ve found that I prefer to do most of my independent travel before the tour starts. I think that is mainly because I have the most energy and enthusiasm at the beginning of the trip.

Posted by
69 posts

We tend to “front load”our independent travel from a couple days to a week before a RS tour. The tours are so packed with experiences, we find we’re ready to go home by the end!

Posted by
2766 posts

We have taken 16 RS tours over the last 18 years and use to spend time both before and after the tour as we go to Europe for a month each year. We have found that we now prefer to spend our independent travel time before the tour and then head back home after the tour is over.

Posted by
1529 posts

Having just done my longest trip to date (one month in Europe), I was still not ready to come home, but I did notice that the days were not as packed and busy as they were the first few weeks of the trip.

Posted by
769 posts

This last tour we took, GAS, we did two extra nights on the Rhine before and after 1 extra night in Vienna and 3 in Prague. This was because of the time my husband had off relative to the dates of the tour and starting and ending points of the tour. I really do think it depends a lot on where the tour starts and ends if you want to add time or not, though I'm always for more time I Europe. I would hazard to agree with you though that before the tour feels better than after for whatever reason.

Posted by
11430 posts

I’ve only done one RS tour , 14 day Family tour , started in time and ended in Paris .

We added 5 days pre tour in Rome and 7 post tour in Paris , both those cities need far more than 2-3 nights !

Posted by
11430 posts

I should add if one doesn’t have a lot of time to add, then I think pre tour time is most important , gives one time to get over jet lag etc . One family on our tour missed their first day of the tour as their flight from States was delayed and they had planned on arriving on the first morning of the tour , bad choice !

Posted by
20 posts

When I did my first RS tour last year we had three nights on our own before the trip started and were so glad we did. Partly for the time adjustment and just to see a bit more before joining our group. We didn't book anything on the back side of our tour and I was so sad we didn't. After going and going for two weeks, I wish we had a couple of days to just process all that we'd seen and done. Sitting in a cafe and watching the people while enjoying a beverage would've been great...compared to hustling to the airport right after breakfast. We're doing another trip next year and have time booked on both the front and back!

Posted by
1568 posts

After a long tour, I’m so tired and look forward to going home, plus usually I’ve used all my vacation days. The 17 days Italy tour was one where I went home immediately - I had arrived 2 days early to Milan which worked well. Berlin Prague Vienna I spent 2 or 3 nights in Vienna afterwards and basically decompressed. It was in the mid 90’s in Vienna and my hotel room had no ac. Terribly hot.
The 8 days heart of Ireland tour I followed up with 5 days in London afterwards which was wonderful, I could have stayed even longer.
The tours generally travel to more than one place and I think that’s tiring. I love the tours but so much is packed into each day that it can be a welcome change to have a few days unstructured. Rick offers a vacation from your vacation in the middle of the longer tours. That helps.
In the future I will know whether to add days before a tour that is longer and after a tour that is shorter.

Posted by
995 posts

I've only done one RS tour, but I've done many tours with many different companies. In my experience, I enjoy traveling solo BEFORE the tour itself begins. Tours are exhausting after awhile.

Having said that, I've spent extra days in places at the end of a tour. The best time I ever had was on a flight that required a weird layover. I decided to spend a few extra days in the layover city, not the location where the tour ended. I found this to be far more relaxing and delightful than staying near where the tour had ended. YMMV, of course.

Posted by
115 posts

We always arrange to arrive several days before a tour to adjust to the time change and, more importantly, to take advantage of the excitement of arriving! I am always a little sad when a trip is over, but found that the 3 extra days we stayed at the end of our last RS tour was a bit too much. After 17 days, I was ready to go home. That being said, I like staying an extra day to wind down, soak in our destination a bit more, and take a deep breath before heading home. On our next RS tour, we will be staying one extra day, which now sounds just about right. Enjoy your journeys, before and after!

Posted by
3279 posts

I have found that adding days to the start of the tour works best for me. First, it does help getting past the jet lag I suffer from (which seems to just get worse every trip East now). I can still fit in some sight seeing, but I am not pushing as I get used to the new time zone. Second, I am still full of excitement for the tour I will be on and have enough energy that things just seem more fun.

The extra days don't always have to be at the starting point of the tour, but at least in Europe somewhere I feel fits well with the rest of the trip. I can never get enough of London. Paris is fun. Other cities always seem to have something going on that can occupy my time. And I am only a short plane or train ride to the tour starting point.

I used to arrive the day the tours start and be the first one gone the final morning mainly due to work requirements. But I have managed to put that behind me. I still work, but have finally realized one more day, or 7, away from work is not the end of the world. There are plenty others at my company who can handle things until I return (but usually that means I have weeks worth of stuff to catch up on anyway, but the time off more than makes up for what waits my return).

Posted by
7680 posts

I've done 10 Rick Steves tour and 10 Road Scholar tours, 5 of them in Europe. I definitely like to arrive several days ahead of time to Europe. I'm retired so try for at least 5 nights ahead of time altho if Paris or London are in the mix then I'll go for a week to 10 days. If I don't want to spend it in the tour start city I'll at least go to that city the day before to give extra time there. On the US based Road Scholar tours I also like to arrive ahead of time. Last year on the way from Idaho to FL I got stuck in the Atlanta airport overnight in January (I knew this was going to happen) but I'd arranged for 5 nights ahead of the tour so had some time to play with.

I did make mistakes on several Rick tours when I should have planned for 2 or 3 nights ahead because there was so much to see in those towns. The tours were 21 Best of Europe, GAS and Village Italy. I found Haarlem, Trier and Padua to be filled with interesting sights that I did not allow enough time for!

As to time at the end, well, it depends on the ending point. I spent an extra night in Orta San Giulio on the VI tour and that was overkill - would have done better to use that time in Milan. On some of the other tours I had another back to back planned either with a Rick tour or a Road Scholar tour. On the Road Scholar tours, particularly ones in England, the last night of the tour is at a hotel at Heathrow so it seems silly not to just head home when you are that convenient to the airport.

I'm never ready to come back home, lol! Even after 8 weeks in Europe I'm still ready to Keep On Travelin'!!

Posted by
970 posts

We arrived a day early for the Best of Eastern France tour and then did two weeks on our own in the south of France. We had a wonderful time on our own on the day of arrival and the two weeks on our own but I really missed the camaraderie of our group and our guide Daniela. We also extended our tour of Turkey for some extra time in Istanbul and ran into some of our group who were leaving that day. I hated to see them go. The other times we have done extensions of tours was with Odysseys and most of our tour group did the same. It was wonderful to continue traveling with them. I find that we make lots of lifelong friends on these tours. Some of these friends we have traveled with again.

Posted by
952 posts

We have determined for ourselves that the simple approach works best for post-tour activities. For example, an extra day or so in the final tour city sometimes works well, as the final tour stop is not that long. In Paris we visited a friend who lived there. In Madrid we we visited the Thyssen museum which was not on the tour. After the Sicily tour we spent a night in Rome before continuing the journey home. The Villages of South England tour included very little time in Bath, so we stayed on. In addition, we visited my wife’s pen pal in Wales. For our last tour - Loire Valley and the South of France- we probably over-extended ourselves by adding two more days in Nice and another two days in Paris (we had already spent five days in Paris prior to the start of the tour.)

Because Aer Lingus serves our home airport with direct flights to Ireland, we stay near Dublin for a night or two on the way home. We would not be inclined to see someplace totally new after the RS tour ends.