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BOE May 5th 21 Day Amsterdam to Paris

We are Rick and Alice from St Johns Florida. This is our first Rick Steve's tour. Looking forward to it, but the pace of the tour is a bit daunting. Hoping we haven't gotten in over our heads. :-) We've been all over Europe, but mostly cruising (ocean and river). In fact, we are cruising over on Holland America from Ft. Lauderdale Florida, landing in Amsterdam on May 5th. Seemed like a perfect fit to put the two vacations together. Looking for other travelers who have done this tour or similar RS tours and can tell us their experiences.

We really are looking forward to it - we've seen many of RS shows on TV and like the places he goes and and people he meets. Looks like it could be lots of fun, and we'll be visiting some places we haven't been to before.
Anyone else going on this tour?

Posted by
11440 posts

Hi , I’ve inly done one RS tour ( normally we travel independently) and I loved it !!!

Note - many times there are choices , for example - when we were in Austria we had the choice to take a walk through the forest to visit the castle - but 4 people did choose to take the bus over . Also there is no mandatory activity - tiger than being st the bus when it’s time to move on - so you can always choose to rest or do something on your own .

Honestly I unless you are very unfit I think you’ll be fine , that said , you should start a walking regime at home - at least 2 -3 Miles ( work up to it if you need to ) it really helps , and PACK LIGHT !!!!! You will be lifting and carrying that thing !

Posted by
929 posts

St John's - just down the street lol.

I won't be on your tour but we did take the 21 day tour in late 2015. I second Pat's advice to pack fairly light. We each had the RS convertible backpack and day bags that we carried our electronics, meds, etc. in on the way over and back. We had two opportunities to do laundry - once in Austria where we had to wash/dry our own, and then in Cinque Terre, where we dropped off laundry and found it on our bed neatly folded and wrapped when we returned from an outing. The rest of the time we sink washed every few days when we had at least two nights at that location in order to give time to dry. We each carried a few hangers from home in case we needed them - and we did! We began walking a couple of miles daily in the shoes we were taking and went to the hospital to climb stairs since there are few hills here. Still, I ended up with a blister because walking on cobbles is different than walking on smooth concrete - more sliding around in the shoe. Pack some moleskin in your first aid kit.

I was advised by Pam from Idaho that it would be in our best interest to pack our day bags with change of clothes when visiting Venice and Cinque Terre and leave our bigger bags on the bus. That worked very well, especially in Venice where the bridges have stairs.

The only thing I wished we could have done differently was to add on another week in Paris at the end of the tour. Sadly we had to return for a family wedding.

Here is a link to my review of the tour. Nance's overview of 21BOE

Have an awesome trip and feel free to pm me if you have questions.

Posted by
7790 posts

I took this tour in 2014 and it remains my favorite. Just an awesome trip!

I agree with Nance and Pat! Pack light and yes, I took my own advice and was so glad I did not have to manage my RS backpack (or a wheelie which I use now) over the bridges in Venice! They are steps not ramps so you lift up and over every time.

I'd start walking now and try to be able to do at least 4 miles 3 or 4 days a week. I'm nuts but I also try to work up to a longer walk one day a week and like to get up to 8 miles or so. The longest walking days we had were Amsterdam and Rome when we went 10-12 miles. You've got about 2 months so should be able to build up some good walks between now and then.

Here is my old Trip Report as well. I'd pack less if I did it again! I also have changed the kind of packing cubes I use (the ones I use now sit upright in my 21" wheelie instead of lying flat and stacked on each other) but definitely recommend some kind of cubes for organization.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/21-day-best-of-europe-8-26-14

Posted by
22 posts

Hi, Rick and Alice. My wife and I have been on three Rick Steves tours and we have loved them all.
You are taking the exact same Holland America Transatlantic cruise that we did last year! Then we took the Best of Europe in 21 Days right after that, just like you have planned. It was nice seeing the Azores, Cherbourg, Zeebruge, and the other ports along the way. We had time on the ship to read about the places we were going to visit, which was helpful.
We decided to load Rick's Best of Europe book on our Kindles and leave the book behind but discovered that it wasn't such a good idea after all. Our tour guide would say, "turn to page number..." which we found was difficult to navigate on the Kindle in a timely manner. Best to pull out the pages you need or just take the whole book with you.
If you can work it in, go to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (just a short distance from the Rijksmuseum). If you want to do that, get your tickets online ahead of time. It is really pretty amazing. Also, make a point to see St. Bavo's Cathedral in Haarlem, if you like seeing churches or cathedrals.
As the others have mentioned, pack light. And as Nance suggested, plan to use a small bag/duffel/daypack for Venice and Cinque Terre and leave the big bags on the bus. We did this also in Bacharach, as we stayed in an 800-year-old tower that had a tight spiral staircase leading up to the rooms.
My wife used one of Rick's rolling bags, and I used his "classic" backpack. One advantage of a backpack is that it freed up my hands to help my wife navigate steps, etc. The downside is that you can accidentally whomp someone when you turn around. Rick says to keep your bag at 20 pounds, and I topped out at 21. I'm really glad I didn't pack any heavier.
As has been mentioned by others, you can sit out some activities if they seem too strenuous. We sat out a few things and we also took advantage of any downtime there was to rest or explore on our own.
We really enjoyed the tour and made several new friends along the way. You will have fun!

Posted by
4 posts

Wow! Thanks for all the info. I read trip reports and all of the comments and will have to take some notes. Very informative. Now I really am looking forward to the trip. Sounds great!
I am 70 and in good health and pretty active and wife is much younger (perhaps a year - I'm not allowed to say) and active as well. Will have to do more stairs before we go, but I think the rest is doable.

Was wondering how much cash to bring and how many Euros. We have ATM cards but have never used them. I can try them out and make sure they work if that's the way to go. Seems that's what Rick Steve's recommends.
Also, going to have to work extra hard to keep the weight down on suitcases. This is a running joke with my wife and me. We always say we'll travel light next time, but if allowed weight is 50 pound, we usually come in at 49 per suitcase, and we usually come home with clothes we didn't wear. Our fallback is we say each time, "well, it's good to have options".
We both have lightweight back packs that we're used to carrying - put in an extra fleece jacket or a raincoat and perhaps snacks and water, and hats etc. Any other suggestions?
I bought a lightweight clothsline and clothspins and six Tide packets for sink washing. Altogether that weighs 5.5 ounces in a ziplock bag. Is this overkill or a good thing to bring?
Oh, another question - do the hotels not supply soap and shampoo? I saw that on the Rick Steve's packing list and was wondering if that was really needed. Also, is there free time sometimes to run out and find soap or toothpaste or other needs if you run out along the way?
Thanks again for all the info. Really appreciate it. I read it all.
And if anyone else is on this tour, sign in please.

Posted by
406 posts

Enjoy your trip! I would bring shampoo just In Case in small bottles. Practice packing before the trip. Get those steps in you will be glad you did. Enjoy ! You do have time if you need to get anything but do you really want to spend your free time doing that?

Posted by
929 posts

I used my debit card to get euros from a bank atm in the airport when we landed in Amsterdam. Vystar CU doesn't deal in foreign currencies so I couldn't get anything here before leaving and that wasn't a problem. You each need to use your debit cards a few times here at home to make sure the pins work, no problems encountered. You also will most likely need to contact your bank and cc holder to let them know where and when you are traveling so they don't shut down your cards for fraud. We have a pin with our Visa cc so we can use it for cash withdrawal, but only if there were an emergency and both of our debit cards were refused and we were in dire straits and absolutely had to have cash at that moment. That's never happened, but I did make sure the pin would work in the atm for a withdrawal and then went home and paid it off so as not to be charged interest for a cash advance. We really don't use our cc much in Europe, mainly carry them as emergency backup or for expensive purchases where we don't want to use up all of our cash.

I usually budget $100/day for the two of us to use for meals and incidentals and we never use that much on an average daily basis. Depending on whether you are shoppers will determine if you need more, but you might consider using credit for any large items. I make sure to have that extra travel budget in my checking account above and beyond what will be automatically withdrawn for bills. I always come home to leftover money in my account.

ps - We always pack small bottles of shampoo and little toothpastes in our 3-1-1's. It's fun to go into drug and grocery stores to browse but I only do it because I want to, not because I have too, other than buying groceries. Carrying these few things with me leaves my options open : )

Posted by
7790 posts

I agree with Nance, yet again!!!...to start using your debit cards now. Use them at the grocery store and gas station so you are used to them when you travel. IF your bank has an ATM, try that a couple of times too just to get some cash and so you will be familiar with how they work. Of course they will be a bit different in Europe. And I ONLY use my debit card to get cash from an ATM in Europe. I do not use it for purchases.

I like to have Euro in my pocket when I arrive. You won't be jet-lagged but you'll need Euro for transportation to the train station from your dock and then a ticket to Haarlem (Nance will know for sure but I think this has to be by credit card). When I first started traveling to Europe I got about 100E from my bank before I left home. The exchange rate is not as good as if you were getting cash out of a European ATM but I needed that security. Now I just bring back money with me for my next trip.

I travel solo and I bring 2 credit cards and 2 debit cards (one on my local Credit Union and one from my Money Market) in case one of them is compromised.

When you are on the bus going from Cinque Terre to Switzerland your guide will help the group figure out how much each person will need in Swiss Francs. They may stop at a Swiss ATM for people to change money.

One thing I forgot is that if your guide offers optional things, take them up on it! Generally they will all offer to organize a gondola ride in Venice, but mine also offered a couple of extra meals. He ordered, we paid him and had a wonderful time. On the free day in Switzerland mine also offered to take anyone who wanted up to the top of the Schilthorn, then offered to take those who wanted up the opposite side of the valley to do an easy hike. Swiss transportation is expensive...don't blink, don't think about it, just do it!

Soap is provided everywhere so you don't need to bring this. Shampoo usually is as well altho I am sensitive to products so I bring my own shampoo and conditioner. If your wife has sensitivities to shampoos she may want to consider bringing small containers of shampoo and conditioner.

As far as packing....the best advice I got here when I first started is to "pack on paper first". Yep, do a packing list and stick to it. Probably for your wife more than you, have her do a capsule wardrobe where everything matches everything else. All pants match all shirts match all sweaters.

You'll sometimes have free time, especially in the bigger cities so if you forgot something you can shop for it.

Do bring small daypacks or a tote to use for a "bus bag". You can leave this on the bus and have your jacket/guidebook/water/snacks/entertainment in it. You'd not need to carry this in the cities on walking tours, etc. You can also use this bag to take your stuff for 2 nights in to Venice and Monterosso.

I try to get my suitcase down to 20# but the best I've done is 22#. There may be instances where you have to carry your cases upstairs as you will have to porter them yourselves so please don't burden yourselves with 49#! I'd do a trial pack then head for a trail in your area and see if you can manage this over at least 1/2 a mile. You shouldn't have to manage it that far but that will give you a fair assessment. I pack for up to 8 weeks in a 21 inch wheelie.

If your wife wants ideas on color combinations for capsule wardrobes, have her take a look at The Vivienne Files blog. She has wonderful ideas on colors altho many of her clothes are too expensive or too dressy for my N. Idaho lifestyle!

www.viviennefiles.com

PS Also plan to keep a journal of some sort. Even if you just write a couple of lines a day or list your expenses you'll thank yourself at the end. Especially when you write your Trip Report to post here, lol!!

Posted by
8 posts

Alice and Rick, We did this exact tour May 7 - 27, 2017. You will both love this tour. As the above have written, packing light is essential. Research capsule wardrobes as it will help in making sure that every item you bring will go with every other item you bring. Your challenge is that you will need cold weather clothes and warm weather outfits. Layer. Layer. Layer. You will be able to do some hand washing and you will have two laundry opportunities as above mentioned. I worried so much about carry on only and now that is the only way we travel. I made a calendar with average daily temps (high/low), daily bus time, scheduled sites, free time, included dinners and hotels noted on each day. This helped me to look at the trip on several levels.

On May 5 in Haarlem they have an amazing Liberation Day celebration. WWII Army vehicles (about 40) rolled into the square in the morning and the celebration began. It was so much fun and a wonderful start to our tour.

Yes it is a busy schedule. Most days: Up at 6:30am-ish. Shower and quick pack. Breakfast at 7:00am. On the bus at 8am. Prompt. I thought I would be able to do some research on the bus in my RS tour book. But honestly the views out the bus window were too amazing to not look at. I did take my RS book and went to FedEx Office and had them slice it and bind the pages in 3 different small booklets. That worked out well for me.

I would suggest that as you are thinking about shoes........think about comfort (consider a extra cushy insole added in) and (this is for your wife...) no one, no one wears ballet flats. Think your best Asics or similar and another warm hiking shoe. Also keep all shirts logo free and solid color.

If you are on Facebook send me a PM and you can look at my daily postings and you can see what clothes that we wore and the group wore. That might help.

Congrats on choosing this tour !! It is so much fun !! Diane

Posted by
26 posts

We’re not on your tour but we went on the BOE 14-day version last September and thought it was the best thing we ever did. The BOE-21 tour runs in the opposite direction of the BOE-14. We met a RS group doing the 21 day tour while at a rest stop / shopping mall in France. We were heading toward Lauterbrunnen and they were heading toward Beaune. Everyone in that group seemed to be having a blast. We especially loved Venice, Lauterbrunnen, and Paris. The hike in the Alps and gondola ride to the Shilthorn summit were definitely highlights.

Posted by
1 posts

We are Greg and Cathy from Kansas City and we are on your tour. This is our first Rick Steve’s tour as well. My brother has gone on several (although not this one) and highly recommends them. My husband prefers trips that are more structured and I want considerably less so Rick Steve’s tours seemed like a good compromise. It started with wanting to go to Rome and just seemed to evolve from there. While we have been to Paris and Cinque Terre before, all the other cities are new for us. We arrive 5/3 and plan on spending Saturday in Amsterdam where we have already booked tickets for the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. We will stay an extra day in Paris at the end and then go on to London for a week on our own.

There is so much good information from everyone on this site. I really appreciate everyone’s willingness to share their experiences.

We look forward to meeting you, Rick and Alice.

Posted by
406 posts

Hi noticed on the 2018 scrapbook contest there are some BOE ones posted. Great to see a visual of the things others have done on your trip. Also some of the city ones Rome, Paris give you some great ideas what to do In Your free time there on items not covered on your trip. Enjoy.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks again for all the great replies and information. Really appreciate it. We're going to have lots to do preparing for the trip. Awfully busy now, but we'll have two weeks as we cross the Atlantic and stop at a few places along the way, so we're planning on doing lots of walking and stair climbing while on board. Just have to try and not eat too much... ;-) We got our ATM cards updated (we never used them before) and are ready to go. We're going to test the pins next week to make sure everything works.

I have a question about the comment from Pam "You can also use this bag (day bag or back pack) to take your stuff for 2 nights in to Venice and Monterosso." Are suitcases not allowed there. I guess it's difficult to get a suitcase to your room? We both have lightweight back packs that we use on all trips. I guess we could use those. Just wondering.

Also wondering, did anyone buy those packing cubes that are on the "Shop Online" area? Wondering if they are worth it. They are an extra 6 ounces. Really trying to cut weight.

And hello Greg and Cathy from Kansas City. We lived in the St Louis area for 26 years and one of our sons worked in Kansas City for 5 years, met a gal from Odessa (not far from KC) and married her. So we have connections to the area. It sounds like you have your trip pretty well planned out. Sounds great. We're going home the day the tour ends - we'll have already been gone 5 weeks and figured we better get back. Going to have lots to do when we get back. See you May 5th.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi! We are Bev and Steve from Salt Lake City, UT area. We will be on the same tour with you. This our first Rick Steve’s tour and first time to Europe! Talk about daunting!! Mostly wondering about how cold it will be. Looking forward to meeting and getting to know our fellow travelers. See you soon!

Posted by
11440 posts

In Venice you leave the bus and take a boat over - you will have to get your suitcase on and off boat - then , all those cute arched bridges you see , they aren’t ramps but STAIRS - so you will have to carry your bag up and down them on walk to hotel . We left our suitcases on bus and just took one bag for both of us into Venice , and I was very grateful guide had suggested it ! You don’t need everything in your suitcases for only two nights - so consider this as a great tip ! Lol

And please don’t take 49 lb bags - you will regret it over and over .

Posted by
7790 posts

Oops, sorry I didn’t see you asked me a follow up question. Pat’s answered as I would.

I’ll just add about Monterosso that the bus has to park in Levanto and you take the train to Monterosso. So it’s up/down steps at the station, up/down/on/off train and maybe a little way thru town depending on your hotel.

Venice is really where a suitcase is a pain!

Yes, I do use packing cubes. I’ve used the Eagle Creek sil-nylon compression cubes and now use the Compass Rose compression cubes from Travel Fashion girl. I like the way they fit in my 21” RS carryon. Keeping organized over 21 days is difficult so the cubes made it easier for me!

Posted by
4 posts

Hello Bev and Steve, and Cathy and Greg on our tour, and Pam and Pat and others who have given advice. Nice to hear from you all, and I am reading all this.
Looking forward to meeting you folks on the tour. We just got home from St Louis and Chicago visiting family and friends for a couple weeks a couple of days ago. We packed light to test out some theories and seemed to work fairly well, but still at 27 pounds each. Bought some super lightweight down coats with hoods while in Chicago and are now taking out some other heavy clothes because of it, but still around 24 to 25. So hard to get the weight down. Have not done much walking yet - just eating and visiting while up north. Going to have to get serious on the ship over to Amsterdam and do some serious walking and stair climbing. No elevators.

We leave early Sunday, so packing is a priority right now (and I won't see any more replies to this blog until we get to Amsterdam). I made a list of everything going into the suitcase on an EXCEL spreadsheet and weighed each item (yes, I'm a retired engineer). It's been so hard eliminating things, but shooting for 21 - 22 pounds. If I make that, I'll be happy. My wife is at 27 and says that's the best she can do. It's a struggle.

I just ordered some packing cubes for myself - Alice says she will use plastic bags - probably a lighter weight idea.

I just printed out all of the paperwork from the recent email, including the roster. 27 people. It's getting close. On the one hand, I'm a little nervous about this trip, but on the other hand, I read all of the glowing reviews and begin to look forward to it. We are not novice travelers - we've been to many of these places before - some quite a while ago. But we haven't done a bus tour in a number of years.
OK, I'm rambling. Thanks again for all the advice and look forward to meeting y'all.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi Rick and Alice and Bev and Steve!
We are Jane and David from Redmond, Washington and are joining you on this tour. This is our second time taking THIS tour - it's FANTASTIC - we're going to have an amazing time. Best advice we have - like everyone else - pack light!

Looking forward to meeting everyone on Sunday - safe travels!