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Best of Europe 21 days starting May 13 2018

I looked back through the topics to September of 2017 and have not seen a general topic for the entire tour, so thought I would start this one.

We are Dean and Janice from North Carolina, and this is our first Rick Steve's Tour. We've watched his shows for years, and of course even more over the past six months. In trying to decide what to do to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary this year, we decided to try this tour. From what we've read and seen on his shows and website, we think we've made a great decision.

So, we're learning about packing, traveling light, planning ahead, and all the other tricks and tips for successful travelling which have been mentioned in these blogs, on the website, and in the shows. And we'd like to start to get to know our fellow travelers as well. Tell us who you are and maybe share some touring wisdom with us.

Thanks!

Posted by
85 posts

Hello:

I went on your tour almost 20 years ago, and was last in Europe this past June. I'll try to help the best I can.

Have a great trip !

Posted by
7736 posts

Sorry, not going with you but I did this tour a few years ago. It is spectacular. Really. I had so much fun and am still friends with many of my tour mates after several years. Another RS guide told me he went along as an assistant guide once and was so impressed that there were blockbuster sights every single day!

-DO look up the cities where you will have free time and have some idea of what you might like to do. The guide might mention something you hadn't thought of but you'll have more fun if you research.

-When you go in to Venice, plan to take just a change of clothes, pjs and some toiletries in a day bag and leave your suitcase in the bus luggage compartment. The bridges in Venice are actually steps and it's a PIA to pull a roller thru the city plus it's a pain to get them on and off the vaporettos. I rearranged when we left Reutte and put my stuff in one of my packing cubes and put it in my bus bag.

-Consider doing the same thing for Monterosso al Mare. The bus will park in Levanto and you'll take the local train to Monterosso, then walk to the hotel. This is not as difficult as Venice.

-If the guide offers any extra activities, DO it! My guide had a couple of extra dinners (he paid and we paid him back), the gondola ride in Venice, an excursion up the Schilthorn in Switzerland as well as some hiking in the afternoon (transportation in Switzerland is expensive but just bite the bullet and do it!).

-I hope you are spending a day or two ahead of the tour in Haarlem. My regret is that I didn't allow enough time to see this city.

-Have a bus bag which you can leave on the bus during the day. Guide book, kindle/iPad, snacks, water, rain jacket, corkscrew, hahahaha!!

-The bus driver will usually have water at 1€ each. Ours also had beer and wine and maybe some soda. You generally put a hash mark by your name and settle up as you head in to Paris.

-Be sure to sit with the bus driver at some of the meals. They are such interesting people and I love the way they are included as part of the group on Rick's tours! Richard often drives the 21 day tour and he is fabulous!

-Do some kind of journaling every day. REally. You think you will remember but this tour moves fast and you'll see SO MUCH stuff that you'll have better memories if you at least make some quick notes every night.

-I hope you both have waterproof jackets. Not water resistant. You'll want to continue touring in all weather!

Have an excellent time!

Posted by
112 posts

Great advice from Pam
We did this itinerary in 2006 with 2 kids (18&20 years), backpacks and Eurail passes. We repeated in 2016 on this tour starting in May. If you want to see the Van Gough Museum, you should do this prior—not enough time on the day the tour starts in my opinion. Haarlem is delightful and we did a day trip to den Hague and Delft. We had cold and wet weather prior to our tour, then overall nice weather. Definitely do the gondola ride in Venice. Our tour did not include the Vatican and we tried to squeeze it in. Definitely a “don’t miss” and I think it’s back in. Last year we went back to Rome and really enjoyed just walking around. If you can stay in Paris extra, do that too.
For packing: layers and a scarf or two—works as scarf or a light cover if you’re on the cool side of the bus. I’m a baby about my feet and bring 2 pairs plus sandals. Sketchers are light and pack well. Take care of your feet as you will walk 4-10 miles per day. Pack sunscreen as you may need it.
Most importantly, have fun.

Posted by
22 posts

Hi, Dean and Janice! I'm Doug and my wife's name is Gay. We are also on the May 13 Best Of Europe Tour. This will be our third Rick Steves tour (Paris & the Heart of France in 2011, and Best of Ireland in 14 Days in 2014).
This is a long trip for us because we start out by taking a transatlantic cruise to get to Europe (yay, we get to miss out on the jet lag!). Then we take the Best Of Europe tour, and then after that we go to Finland for 5 days.
We are arriving in Haarlem on Friday, May 11, and and are staying at the same hotel as the tour (hopefully the same room as well). We're going to see some things on our own in Amsterdam and Haarlem before the tour. We're staying an extra day after the tour ends in Paris and we will go to Versailles.
The others who have responded to your post have given a lot of great suggestions, so I don't think I need to add much to that. I can say that we have loved our other tours. Rick hires only the best guides and sets very high standards for hiring them. We like the extra room on the bus (24-28 people on a 50 passenger bus), the local guides he chooses, and the location of the hotels/B & B's he picks out for the tours. This is one of his original tours, so throughout the years all the kinks will have been worked out and we're expecting smooth sailing.
We did have one problem, though it's more my fault than Rick's. Several months before our France trip I recorded Rick's audio tour of one of the Paris museums we went to on my iPod. Right before we left, I recorded what I thought was the same audio tour on my wife's iPod. When we walked into the museum, I went one way and she went the other. Rick had updated the audio tour after I had recorded mine, so it didn't work because the exhibits had moved. If you do a similar thing, make sure the get the latest audio tour.
Make sure to bring good, well-worn-in walking shoes because we will walk a lot.
We're looking forward to meeting you and all the other tour members in May.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi! My name is Kim and I will be traveling as a solo on this same tour. This will be my third trip to Europe in three years but my first Rick Steves trip and first time traveling this light. I can’t wait! I too have spent years watching the TV shows and videos and have loved the guide books on my other trips. I am arriving early in the morning 12th and am thinking about going to Kuekenhof Gardens for a couple of hours before going to Haarlem. It looks like there is a bus direct from the airport to the gardens. I am also staying a couple of extra days in Paris. Happy 36th Anniversary! What a great way to celebrate. Can’t wait to meet everyone!

Posted by
6 posts

Hi fellow travelers! I am Dean's wife, Janice. Just a few short weeks and we'll be on a plane for our 21 day adventure.
Thanks, Pam and Patty for your helpful advice! The suggestion about using a separate bag, especially for Venice, is very helpful. Thanks Doug, Gay, and Kim for introducing yourselves. We're looking forward to meeting you!

Posted by
30 posts

I will be on the BOE 21 Day, but starting on May 6th. I took this tour in 2015 and loved it. Just yesterday RS sent us the total hotel list and the names of our fellow tourmates. It is a wonderful tour and you will love it! I bought a few pair of quick dry pants that zip off at the knees and they worked out really well. I found the ones from North Face to be the best. Take a swimsuit as Cinque Terre is a great opportunity to go for a swim. Enjoy your trip!
Herb

Posted by
22 posts

Yay! I just received the Hotel Information, Roster, Itinerary, etc., for the 13 May Best Of Europe! So excited! There are 28 of us on the roster. I have not received an email alerting me to this development--I just log in to my account every day to look for it. If you want to see this info, you'll need to log in to your account and go to Manage My Tour and then to Itinerary.
See you all in a month!

Posted by
7736 posts

Well, of course we want to know who your guide is!!

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you, Doug, for pointing the way to the info! I had been watching my email. It really is getting close. I guess I had better do a packing run through! LOL

Posted by
6 posts

Good morning fellow tourists! And thanks to Doug for alerting us to the new information about our tour. Just four weeks from Sunday and we all meet at the Ambassador City Centre Hotel in Haarlem, time is getting short! Don't know if you folks know this, but there is an interview on the RS site which gives a nice introduction to our guide Jesse. As expected, good comments about him. Here's the link:

https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/guides/jesse-blackwood

Time to start finalizing our trip plans and details. I got to wondering yesterday whether we needed any particular vaccinations before leaving for Europe. I'll be doing some research on that today to see if I can find out. Anyone out there have any information on that topic?

Happy Travels!

Posted by
7736 posts

No vaccinations necessary. Your health care provider might suggest Hep A/B in general but at this point it's probably too late.

Posted by
6 posts

Yep Pam, I think you are right. If folks are up to date on their shots, then all is probably well.

I did find this website ( https://www.passporthealthusa.com/2016/04/which-vaccines-do-i-need-for-europe/ ) and it reviews where what is most needed in particular countries if anyone is interested.

Since so much of our tour expenses are covered by the upfront package cost, we don't have too much to purchase during the trip other than our lunches, half of the dinner meals, souvenirs, and sites which may have a cost that we elect to do on our free time. I'm wanting to get some Euros to have some spending cash for incidentals and perhaps some of the things just noted, even though our debit and credit cards should work in most places. I know that we could use ATMs to get cash once there, but I work for a bank and can get the Euros here for a small (2%) discount on the current exchange rate which the bank charges. Any thoughts on a reasonable amount to bring? I know amounts might vary widely depending on how frugal one wishes to be and other personal choices. Just looking for a rule of thumb, if one exists . . .

And one last question for today . . . is anyone thinking of making a reservation for the Eiffel Tower at the end of our tour? Thoughts about timing? I've been told to go up after dark . . . but seems like it would be too dark to easily identify what you would see around the city. I can imagine that seeing the city lights would be wonderful, but would that be better than being able to see and identify sites from the tower during the day?

Thanks!

Posted by
11 posts

I am not flying home until Monday after the tour ends so I signed up for one of the Fat Tire tours on Sunday. I think it is around 5:00 or 5:30. Anyone thinking of going to Versailles over the weekend?

Posted by
7736 posts

I think Rick suggests 50€ per day per person during the tour. I travel solo so didn’t always eat a big dinner meal and think I came in at around 35€/day for everything including food, transport, gondola ride in Venice and souvenirs. That included expensive days like in Switzerland where you’ll want to do anything optional the guide comes up with. I think it was maybe 125 Swiss francs for transport that day and we went up both sides of the valley.

As you come in to Switzerland the guide will discuss how many CHF to withdraw from the ATM. I would not get those ahead as you don’t want too many. If the weather is nice you’ll probably spend more than if the weather is crummy.

You’ll need money for however many days ahead you are there, too. I’d probably figure 100€pp/pd for non tour days, not counting hotel.

I’d not feel comfortable carrying that much cash around, but again I travel solo. Getting 300€ out every now and then works better for me personally.

BTW, you may know this but if you get Euro from your bank, don’t let them stick you with big bills. Maybe a couple of 50s, but mostly 20s, 10s and 5s. No big bills unless you are going to pay hotel with cash. I just always put that on a CC anyway.

Posted by
11437 posts

Its likely too late to make reservations for the Eiffel Tour , they only sell so many per time slot and they go FAST. However once in a while they put a few more up.. so check daily.. often..
Other options are to get in line for elevators.. or the much faster line for the stairs..

Posted by
6 posts

Aloha Dean and Janice, Doug and Gay, and to Kim as well as all those yet to comment who are traveling on the 21 day tour starting May 13 2018, :). I started a thread today to ask if anyone wanted to connect before our tour and someone with the name of Liz commented on my thread pointing me here. The upcoming 21 day tour will be my second Rick Steves Tour. My first one was to Sicily, 4/8 to 4/18/2018. The Sicily tour was Phenomenal! Our Guide, David T. was a walking library and I am eternally grateful to him as he helped me connect the dots with history of the past and life of the present. I have Every Intention to book further tours with Rick Steves Tours! (I am new to Rick Steve's and his shows. I discovered him and his shows a few months ago.)

I am happy to be able to connect here in this forum for as a solo traveler I find it helpful to open doors of communication prior to the start of the tour. I will be arriving in Amsterdam and to Harrlem on May 12 - staying at the Ambassador City Centre Hotel. I am not able to see the other comments as I type but I do believe a couple of people will be at this hotel early? Perhaps, we could exchange last names and I could leave a note of "Hellos" when I arrive? I will be staying in Paris for 3 nights after the tour ends, specifically, to visit Versailles; however, with the strike in play at this time in France it has been brought to my attention this site has been closed. I do hope it will be open when we get to Paris for Versailles has been on my list to see.

Presently, I live in Morton, Washington which is between Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in small rural town. I am originally from La Jolla, California and moved to Hawai'i when I was 17 with $500.00 and a backpack. I remained in Hawai'i for 30 years and consider Hawai'i my home. I have been in Washington a few years and am in the process of looking for a new place to live. I am passionate about Plants, Herbs, Spices as well as Alternative Health Modalities, Organic Foods and Sustainable Living Practices.

I am looking forward to connecting with each one of you to learn of your life's adventures.
Thank you Pam, Patty and Herbster for your input for the 21 day tour of Europe.
Wow...only 3 more weeks. See you there. :) Jennifer

Posted by
11 posts

Hi, Jennifer! I’m glad you found your way to this thread! I am the other single on this trip. I will also be arriving in Haarlem on the 12th and will be at the Ambassador City Center that night. My plane lands at 8:00 AM if on time and I am planning on going to Keukenhof Gardens upon arrival since it will be pretty early to check in. I am also staying in Paris two extra nights with hopes of going to Versailles if I still have any energy at that point! LOL! My last name is Gnagy. How about dinner the night of the 12th? (open invite to anyone else in the area that night!)

Posted by
6 posts

Hello fellow BOA21-May13 travelers! This is Dean. So good to meet more of our group via this forum!

Janice and I will be arriving at the Schiphol airport at 1PM on Saturday the 12th and we'll also be staying at the Ambassador Centre City hotel that first evening. We are arriving later in the day, so will probably only do some local walking and exploring in the Haarlem area. Thanks Kim for the open dinner invitation for that evening, I believe we'll take you up on that!

It's starting to feel more "real" now that we're only two weeks out. Delay time is gone, and we've got to make final selections as to what we're bringing. We've got our Euros in hand, still have to get the phones ready, downloading what tours we know we'll want, that sort of thing.

That reminds me, do any of you have experience with any good quality travel blog sites that are easy to use? We'd like to post photos for interested family and friends to view if they care to. But neither of us are web programmers, just simple folks who'd like to provide a glimpse into our tour for those who won't be joining us there. Any thoughts?

And now my silly question . . . please don't laugh at me. Or at least, if you do, please don't point and laugh!

In the restaurants in Europe (we've only been to London and few nearby towns, never on the European continent), I have just assumed that they'd have restrooms where we can wash our hands before our meal, and use the toilet as needed. But it struck me the other day, that this thought is just an assumption I have had. I've never seen it discussed in the forum entries I've read. I don't recall Rick ever mentioning it in any of his shows. And I just got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, things are somewhat different there. I'll bet they aren't, but does anyone want to set me straight on this?

Thanks!

Posted by
11 posts

Dean, I recently found an app called Track My Tour that I am using this trip. My Dad likes to hear from me when I travel but my email service limits file size so sending pics is hard and slow. With this app you can easily load pics and type captions or information. It essentially keeps a runnng journal of your trip. If you load pics that were taken on a device like a phone that has the GPS info it also puts a tag on a map so your trip is also mapped. Then when you want to “share” your map you just tell it to share and it pulls up your email with your trip link and you send it off. The receiver gets a link they click on and can see your pics, captions, map, etc. I tested it by inputting data from my last trip and it worked well. I was able to send test emails to my Dad and Aunt and it worked great from their end, too. Every time you send the map it sends your entire trip with the most recent entries on top. If you want to give me your email I would be more than happy to send you a link so you can check it out.

Posted by
7736 posts

Dean, as well as I can remember, there were bathrooms in all the restaurants used for all the RS group meals.

The places you may stop while on a bus segment are often called AutoGrilles and they generally have nice bathrooms but there is a charge to enter of around .50€ (or 50 Euro cents). You often will get a ticket for 50 cents off a purchase to make up for it.

Fun that so many of you are checking the forum! Often you'll find RS tour members who have no knowledge of this site!

Posted by
6 posts

Here's another question . . . does anyone know if our hotels (not all, but at least some of them) will have an iron and ironing board available? Though we are fine for using travel clothes, or the best we can for daily walking and site seeing, there will be some times (dinners/evenings) when we'll want to be a little more "pressed". We've got a small portable garment steamer which I've considered packing (26 ounces!), but if that's totally unnecessary, then it needs to stay here. But if someone knows that we'll only have an iron in very few of the hotels, then we (and maybe others in our group) would benefit if we bring it along. Any thoughts?

Posted by
6 posts

Aloha Kim, Dean, Janice and Pam, :). For some reason I am not getting notifications that there have been replies on this thread. I am glad I checked in directly. Kim, I am suppose to arrive in Amsterdam at 8:30 am on May 12th, if the plane is not late. The Gardens sound like a Wonderful Idea. Depending on how I feel I just might stop there first; but, the jet lag during my last trip a couple of weeks ago was Intense, so I will keep my plan open. ( I Love plants, flowers and trees.) --- Dinner that night...another Wonderful idea. It would be fun to meet you, Dean and Janice. Let me see how I am feeling. --- I use Facebook for posting. I would like to know more about how all of you "do the tech thing", in real application for my last 2 trips (Sicily and when I lived in Jaipur, India) not one shred of tech worked.--- I will check this thread from time to time in the next 8 days. I am preparing to dive deep into Nia White Belt Intensive Training so, if I do not respond right away please be patient. Thank you Pam for continuing to give input. I am finding it quite helpful. Bye for now, :) , Jennifer

Posted by
6 posts

Oh, I almost forgot. What type of ticket have you bought for Versailles? (Kim and anyone else?)
I am thinking of the Passport but then I saw a ticket which includes the equestrian side. So much to see and all of it = Ah - MaZing!

Posted by
11 posts

Is Everyone getting excited? I just did a practice pack. Feels a little heavier than I wanted so may have to edit. How does all that shampoo & stuff weigh so much? And I am NOT a high maintenance person! LOL! Jennifer, I have the Passport ticket to Versailles but sounds like the transportation strike in France is starting on June 2nd so we’ll see. Dinner on the 12th for anyone who wants to go, do you want to meet in the hotel lobby and go from there? What do you all think? 6:30 or 7? Suggestions?