When the RS tour says 5 hours on the bus. Does this mean this is the total journey time including stops or does this mean actual time you are actually on the bus and 5 hours could be a 6.5 hour trip?
I think it means actual time you are on the bus. Sometimes between your night stops you stop somewhere else and do sightseeing, obviously that does not count as the time on the bus.
We did the Heart of Ireland in May. The driver has to stop every 2 hours so there were little breaks.
That is your bus time. You'll usually leave on the bus around 8AM and arrive to the new place mid to late afternoon. Don't let the bus times scare you. The bus is relaxed and fun. People socialize, nap, journal, read ahead on the next town/city, sightsee from the windows, share snacks, etc. Your guide might point out sights of interest, give you a language lesson, inform you about what's to come, etc. You'll stop every couple of hours for a bathroom break, and often for a lengthy (1-3 hrs) visit at someplace interesting over lunch. It's your down time in an otherwise hectic but wonderful tour schedule.
From my experience (3 tours), it's from leaving the origin to arriving at the destination. If it's more than 2 hours, there will be a break. If it's more than 5 hours, there will be two breaks. However, if the itinerary says there's a stop for lunch, that will be a long stop and not included in the bus time. You won't spend more than 2.5 hours on the bus before a pit stop or a sight visit en route. Also, the times are generous, taking into account that there could be delays. So the travel time is often less than stated.
I just returned from the Best of Eastern Europe tour and it means actual bus time. In addition, it is usually an estimate and can be more based on traffic or border crossings. I greatly underestimated the actual bus time. Unlike many I didn't find the bus rides that much fun. It was a lot of bus. I had assumed like you it was more of a total time with stops. It was not. So just factor that into your decision when picking a tour.
Thanks judgekw. I was afraid of that answer. I am also looking at the Eastern Europe tour as well. While I don't mind some bus riding, some of these days look awfully long, especially the two 7 hour rides and one 8 hour ride. This is approximately 3 days of nothing but travel. I have to re-think my plans. Thanks.
I did the Best of Europe in 14 days, so I had plenty of bus time. I thought the times were more indicative of actual bus times. I'm not sure I would use the word "fun" to describe bus rides, but here are my positives: first, a lot of the rides had amazing scenery. The leg through France was through some nice rolling hills and wine country. Then I enjoyed the trip into/out of Switzerland, and loved driving through the mountains of northern Italy.
I think the bus rides also give you some "mandatory" rest time. After 10+ miles of hiking and walking on certain days, it's probably a good balance to lose a half day here and there.
For me, the bus rides wouldn't be a deterrent. I wanted to cover some ground, and to get from Paris to Rome in two weeks required some transport time, no doubt. But as you know, many RS tours are more compact and stick to smaller areas and regions, so perhaps those would be better options.
I took the Eastern European trip when it was 16 days long. The long bus rides looked scary when I booked. However I found them to be okay. We stopped every couple of hours usually at some place interesting but once only at a gas station for a bathroom break. I found the scenery fascinating so I spent my time looking out the window. We moved around on the bus each day so there were new people to talk to during the ride. We got mini history lessons while traveling. Some people took naps or read.
The only time in my seven tours (so far!) that we were on a bus longer than 2.5 hours without a break was on my South Italy tour. A major accident had us take an alternate route which while interesting had absolutely no place to stop for a bathroom break. I did get to see an Italian National forest park (!) But the almost four hours on the bus was definitely pushing it.
Generally I'd say that bus time is fine. And you do have a lot of territory to cover! Don't let those posted hours keep you from a trip that, otherwise, appeals to you.
I also did Best of Eastern Europe when it was 16 days. The 16 day version had 1-night stops that broke up 2 of the 3 long bus rides on the current 14 day version. But keep in mind that each of the 3 long bus days includes an extended stop, so it's actually 2 moderate-length bus rides on the same day rather than just one long all-day bus ride.
As others have also suggested, don't shy away from an itinerary you really like because of the bus time. Just plan to recharge during the longer bus rides rather than during free time at tour destinations.
Thanks for all your feedback. After reading all your responses, reading the itinerary closer and utilizing Google maps I see where there really is only 1 extensive long bus trip. As others have said the other 2 long bus days have a breakup to cut up the ride into two moderate trips. Looking forward to this Eastern Europe trip.