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Best of Europe Tour

I've been researching so many tours that I'm becoming confused. In one review someone mentioned that their suitcase was left in the bus while their day bag was taken to the hotel for the two day stay. I'm not sure if this was mentioned for Venice or Cinque Terre or another tour company.

Can anyone who has taken the Best of Europe Tour confirm if this is true for Rick Steves and which.

Also I've read the tour trip plan many times and was wondering how the free time is handled. Does the guide give a time and place to meet up or do the tour members just make their way back to the hotel.

Thanks!

Posted by
971 posts

For any of the RS tours that go to Venice it will easier to take a small overnight bag. Leave the bigger bag on the bus. You need to take a vaporetto from where the bus parks. Once off the vaporetto you will need to carry your bag to the hotel from the dock. Sometimes this will involve going over one or more bridges. Obviously this does not apply to any of the tours that start in Venice since you will not be able to access the bus until you leave.

Posted by
85 posts

We did this tour in 2016. We took a small bag and left the suitcase in Venice and it was an option in Cinque Terre and in Switzerland. Our tour started May 1 and our Pretour weather was cold. My cold weather clothes were packed away under the bus for much of the time (a small backpack) and in Venice and Switzerland those clothes went into the suitcase and the backpack was used for these overnights.
Great trip and the weather variety was handled with layers. Have fun.

Posted by
78 posts

I have done nine RS Tours including the BOE21 tour. My experience has been Venice, Cinque Terre, and a couple other places with difficult walking conditions, the guide has suggested that we should consider bringing a small overnight bag during that particular stay. However, if you can handle your baggage you can take whatever you want to where you will be staying. The bus also has “deep storage” for those bags/packages you do not intend use much (booty storage?). The bus is locked and parked in a secure and safe area each night.

On the bus the guide will typically give you some ideas on how you can spend your free time (bring your guide book – the guide will refer to it, especially the maps!). Usually free time will either be the whole day or after some tour activity that starts at the beginning of the day. Use the guide book and the internet to prepare for your visit well in advance to ensure your time is spent productively (if you are into that kind of thing!). Not everything that may be of interest to you can be found in Rick’s guidebooks! For example I am an airplane guy and I will bet most visitors to Rome do not know that the Italian Air Force Museum is a thirty minute commuter train ride away. Ok, it is also a half hour walk from the train station which is the middle of nowhere – so there are no taxis or other kinds of rides. I was stunned to discover that while it is not the RAF Museum in London, nor the Seattle Museum of Flight, it does comes pretty close!

Posted by
3097 posts

Trixie-Belle, usually the tour members make their own way back to the hotel after free time, but occasionally the guide will have the group meet somewhere, if there's an evening activity scheduled or if the free time is in a location distant from the hotel (side trip to a village, for example.) One of the things I love about RS tours is that they treat you like adults. It is assumed that after a brief orientation you will be able to make your way around on your own, use public transportation, etc. If you need more help or guidance, it is always available.

The overnight bag for Venice and Cinque Terre is your own choice. Some people choose to take a smaller bag so not to be burdened in a place with lots of stairs or narrow, hilly streets. The bridges in Venice are not gently sloping overpasses, they have stairs - and sometimes a lot of them. Roller bags in particular could be troublesome. And the narrow, hilly, crowded, cobbled streets in Cinque Terre are also not friendly to bulky bags.

Posted by
6734 posts

I agree with the others about choosing to leave your main suitcase on the bus while visiting Venice and CT. It's easier but as pointed out not required. If you want to haul your bag in on the vaporetto and over the bridges (which are steps not ramps) you can.

In bigger cities (Rome and Paris are the ones that come to mind) you may be given tickets to use the public transportation system. I think in both Rome and Paris we were given tickets for 4 rides. Some we used with the group to get to a certain location, then we were on our own to come back to the hotel using the other ticket. One of the hallmarks of Rick's tours is that the guides work on teaching you travel skills including using public transportation. I don't know where you live, but I've never lived anywhere that there was a transportation system so I particularly appreciated the lessons!

If you are considering this tour my tips are to work on fitness so you are comfortable walking at least 6-8 miles. In both Amsterdam and Rome we went closer to 10-12 miles with the guide! I'd also suggest you have shoes you know can go this distance. You have to take care of your feet on this tour!

Do plan to arrive in Haarlem a day or two before the tour start date (as many days as you can manage) and plan to stay longer in Paris at the end if you can.

This is such a wonderful, wonderful tour! You will see SO much!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone this is very helpful. I've been a fan of Rick's since the 90's so I travel light but I like the idea of just bringing an even smaller bag to certain locations. It reminds me of George Carlin's "A place for my stuff." I usually travel solo, so I like that this ETTBD treats the group members like adults.

Posted by
6734 posts

I know what you meant about being a solo traveler was in relation to traveling independently but thought I’d add the groups are very welcoming to those on their own.

I’ll also say that I traveled as a single on this tour and found it a wonderful way to cover a lot of territory. I’ve done 11 RS tours, 6 of them on my own, 5 with family members. I always have a great time with the group. I do get the single supplement because I need some time on my own.

Posted by
25 posts

One good reason to take everything with you to Cinque Terre is the possibility of laundry. Depending on your hotel, you may be just a few steps away from a laundry service that will accept your items the night you arrive and return them neatly folded to your hotel the next evening. They charge by the load. I think we spent 13 euros for a reasonably large load. The owner speaks English and will verify that you want everything to go in the dryer and the temperature you'd like for the wash & dry cycles.

That being said, it is a bit of a hike from the train station to the hotel, but well worth it to have all that clean laundry!

Yes, you can decide to leave your main bag in the bus pretty much everywhere. The only time we couldn't was leaving Florence for Rome. We had to take everything with us as we had a different bus driver/bus for the one day due to European driving rules. Our regular driver caught up with us later in Rome.

Posted by
2671 posts

Of all the RS tours I have taken, the only spots where it was highly suggested to leave most of your stuff on the bus and take only a small overnight bag with you was Mt St Michele and Venice.

We brought everything with us to CT since the hotel did laundry for a very low cost and it was the middle of the tour. The hotel provided a pickup truck for us to throw our bags in at the train station and then we took a leisurely stroll around CT and our bags were waiting for us at the hotels.

You are of course free to ignore the suggestion and haul everything along if you desire. As long as you remember it is your luggage and no one will be helping you haul it. I have seen the look of regret on many faces when this was the option chosen. :-)

Posted by
3097 posts

It really is a personal decision. On our BOE tours my DH and I carried our regular bags (smallish backpacks) with no trouble. On the Heart of France tour, we did just take one small bag on the Mont Saint-Michel night. Our room was several flights up an extremely narrow spiral staircase, and the backpacks would have been cumbersome.

Posted by
85 posts

With regard to the free time question, our guide would usually go back to the hotel and anyone could head back with him, especially in the larger cities. He arranged a few extras that were optional— gondola in Venice, a pizza dinner in Rome and for those interested in hiking he went across the valley in Lauterbrunen with us. (We were in Wengen). Some went with and some headed to the top on the Wengen side. It was great fun.