We are planning on going on the 17 day best of Italy tour. We have friends who are in their 80’s who would like to go with us. They are in good shape for their age but are still over 80. I am wondering if this tour will be too difficult for them so they wouldn’t enjoy it.
It certainly is a wonderful tour, but there is a lot of walking and much of it is not just flat 'mall walking'
There are stairs and hills.
Read the "Itinerary" tab for the tour-- https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/italy/best-italy
Only they can decide if they are up to doing the tour. Some people, like my mother , are using a push mower and cutting 3000 sq ft of grass in their 80s. Other folks are confined to a wheelchair.
Where in this spectrum your friends are is unknowable to anyone here.
Definitely have them call the RS office. The staff can give them a better idea and ask them questions to ensure your friends either would enjoy it or should pass on it.
When we've talked to friends and family about going on a RS tour, they most often balk when hearing about long daily walks, smaller non-luxury hotels without air conditioning, elevators, or porters, and expectations of being chauffeured around to the sights. Read the itinerary carefully. Its not the age that decides, its the physical stamina and the attitude. Someone who is prepared for the climate and walking is going to be happy.
We've been on several of the more strenuous tours with people in their 80s. I think they, not you, should review the materials and call the office.
My "buddy" on our recent 21 day BOE tour turned 81 during the tour; she was one of the few people who hiked between villages in the Cinque Terre. And on the Villages of South England tour, we had a woman in her mid-80s who managed all the hills, steps, and wet rocks. She used hiking poles, which helped a lot. We also had a tour member on the Village Italy tour who, I believe, was in his early 80s; he skipped the hike to Civitá di Bagnoregio, but mostly because his wife had injured her knee just before the tour started, and couldn't handle the climb. He, along with a few other tour members, stayed back with her and cheered the rest of us on.
It's definitely an individual thing. I think my father could have handled a RS tour in his early 80s; I'm hoping I can, too! Not there yet, but I can see it from here...
I think this is a fantastic tour. I did it in October, a time of year when the weather is more moderate. The heat affects even young people so I think going during shoulder season - spring or fall will help older folks maintain their energy level. I think they should call the RS office for more details on the activity level of the tour. My memory of it is that some days are more packed with walking and standing in museums, etc., others are more low-key. Keep in mind any tour member can opt out of an activity when they choose. I would think if this couple walks regularly and/or engages in other exercise, they may be very able to participate fully. I hope you all go and share your experiences with us on the forum!
It depends on the individual. A problem with not being able to keep up with younger fitter people--say on long uphill stretches, stairs, etc--is that often the tour guide can only make limited concessions to someone who can't keep up on long stairs or uphill routes. Your lack of fitness can end up being a problem not only for you but also for the other people on the tour. It's just the nature of that kind of tour: if you're on your own, you have the choice of taking rest stops when you need them or going slower. But with a tour, you lose that flexibility.
"In good shape for their age" is not very definitive. Can they walk up and down 2-3 flights of stairs 2 or 3 times a day? Can they walk up and down hilly streets? Everyone can get into better condition in preparation for a tour by taking long walks several times a week to build up endurance. Are they willing to do that?
As Kent points out, guides are pretty limited in making allowances for group activities, but RS guides can often make suggestions for alternative activities for people who may find a certain walk or sight too demanding. However, this tour goes to some places that will require up/down hill walking and stairs. While you can enjoy some of the views in the Dolomites just by using the ski lifts and buses, you cannot avoid the difficult walking in Assisi or Siena or even Venice (lots of up and over bridges).
I agree that the individuals themselves should call the RS office AFTER they read the physical requirements of the RS tour, IF (and only if) they have any concerns re: their own physical condition and ability to meet the physical requirements.
If they have concerns, they could always pack a suitcase, lift it 4 feet 3 or 4 times in a row, and then carry it up a staircase twice, and then also go for a 3-mile hike.....then repeat the next day and then the following day. If they are not scared off, they would likely do just fine
I have to say, we have seen some incredibly physically fit people in their 80s on some pretty physically demanding trips (National Geographic expeditions to Antarctica and Iceland/Greenland). One guy in his 90s even participated in the polar plunge (swimming in Antarctica)!! Talk about living every ounce of life!!! Love it!!! We also traveled to the The Baltics with a gentleman (and his wife) who is in his 80s, who is one of our friends. He and his wife go the the Y or hike several miles each day. They can probably out-pace the typical 40 year old in the American population at large.
Age is just a number. It depends on the individuals.
And, as some posters point out from time to time, if there is a venue that might be way too challenging for your friends, they could always inform the guide they want to opt out that day or for a certain activity on any given day.
I have been on that tour and I think it might be too strenuous for someone in their 80’s. I know I will be criticized that I should not make that judgement, but I know that tour and there is a lot of walking. Keep in mind that sleeping in different hotels every other night does have an impact on your sleep and that impacts your energy. I really would not recommend that tour for them.
Now that I’m in my 70’s and trying to stay fit I can relate better to what a friend of mine in his 80’s told me years ago: there are three types of people in their 80’s, the go-go’s, the slow-go’s, and the no-go’s. You really have to know where you fit before embarking on a trip like this. We had a guy in his early 90’s on our Spain tour. He did better than his girlfriend in her 70’s! On our Adriatic tour we had an older couple who had problems (she did) keeping up and realized this was their last trip to Europe. Good shape for their age does not tell me anything. I’m in good shape for any age, that is what counts; barring a flare of my back issues or some black sheep event I can do anything that anyone else can do on these tours. Can your friends carry their bags, walk a few miles, stand for long periods (that last one is my biggest challenge-those museum tours kill my back, but I can climb hills ‘till the cows come home)? Are they willing to sit out a few activities? This is a long tour, maybe they would do better on something shorter with less travel?
The people above who said it is an individual thing are correct. My wife and I are both in our upper 70's, soon to be 80's, and would not have a problem with this tour. This past spring we did back to back RS tours and had no problems. At no time did we hold anyone up, in fact there was only one person on each tour that out walked us and they were a teenager and a person in their 20's and both were runners. I walk 10 miles and climb 30 floors of stairs every day and work out in a gym 3 days a week. Yes, we would enjoy this tour.
Get some idea from Rick‘s office about what kind of shape they should really be in. I have one friend that was regularly doing 10 Km walks until 90. Another was doing week long bike tours well into her 80‘s. I‘m sure my mom could have done such a tour in her early 80‘s. Over 85 there is often quite a rapid decrease in ability.
My husband just got back from climbing Kilimanjaro. He said there were people in their 70's who did it who have nothing else to do with their time except train at the gym. However, I don't think the gym could adequately prepare them to walk on bare rock in the cold and rain!
My point: 80 yr olds who are probably retired have more time to spend doing physical training than somewhat younger people who are still working and thus the 80 yr olds might be ok with lots of walking, stairs, hills, and carrying luggage.
In line with what Kent, Jane and Chani said, I'm probably in the slow-go group and I'm only 73. It's partly due to my knees and partly due to a medication I take that slows my heart rate.
My experience with 2 of the 3 RS tours I've taken is that the guides have a tendency to walk a relatively long distance quickly, then stop and wait for people to catch up. Those people sometimes are like me and sometimes are taking pictures. But the result is that we laggards rush to catch up while the faster folks are actually taking a break and resting. Then when we arrive, everyone takes off again. No rest for the wicked, I guess.
This can be annoying to all parties concerned. I did recently read what someone who took the Portugal tour said about this issue. She said there were some slow people on her tour. The guide didn't totally follow their pace, but slowed down a bit rather than following the rushing and stopping pattern. The person who talked about this was annoyed at first. But then she realized that going more slowly allowed her to see things and take in what she was seeing better, and that it didn't take any longer than the typical rushing and waiting.
I made two mistakes on the Village Italy tour. I didn't wear my ankle supporting hiking boots and I didn't take my hiking poles. If I had done those things, I would've been faster. I did wear the boots and take one of the poles on the Scandinavia tour, and I did much better.
Your friends need to consider these things. As mentioned earlier, none of these tours is like mall walking. There may be fields that are sloped and full of dirt clods. There may be stairs without any handrails. And there may be steeply sloped streets without even a wall of some sort to steady themselves on. In those cases in particular, it's much harder to go down than up.
I should also mention that on all 3 tours I've taken, there have been people with some king of physical challenge, so it is not unusual. Most have used canes or hiking poles. One used one of those little portable folding seats, so that she could sit during the talks.
Lo! I was hoping you'd chime in. I remember on our Village Italy tour you did quite well; we had the one person with the injured knee and her husband, then the other woman in her mid-70's who didn't do too well. You coped better than any of them.
That was a great tour.
I think only the two individuals involved can determine their fitness. They should speak with the RS office. That being said, no one has to do all the activities. If one of them is tired, as for anyone, they can skip an activity. On the RS Greece tour that I took, we had an 87 year old man who I never noticed having any sort of issue. Of course, I also don't know if he took a snooze in our free time, but who cares? At 87 my grandfather was still climbing onto roofs. On the other hand at 50 I could barely walk across the house without having to sit down and rest...due to illness. Age is irrelevant. Fitness or health is relevent.
I have been on about 5 RS tours, the last when I was 72.
I have loved everyone but I decided after the last one to So Italy, that I would only do a "Your way tour" if I did another. The pace is so fast and I like to stop and "smell the flowers" and not be rushed all the time. I was usually the slow one and did not like holding people up.
(My last trip included Pompei and it started raining buckets. Trying to walk on very uneven slippery rocks was AWFUL and no fun.
Fortunately, there were many very thoughtful people who would give me a hand which I definitely needed.)
I have hated to give up these trips but they are not for me at age 75 without good balance.
Thanks for everyone’s response. It helped my friends decide that this is probably not the tour for them.
One thing people also need to consider is what economists call "opportunity costs". That is what are you giving up to go on this trip and is it worth the risk. I am assuming that these two people do not have unlimited time and money to travel about, which may not be true. If they take the RS tour and it doesn't work out for them, they have not only lost the the RS Tour benefits, but also lost the benefits of what they might have done as an alternative. For example, instead of two weeks traveling about on a tour they might have spent one week in Florence taking in the sights at their own more leisurely pace, and one week in Prague doing the same thing.
FWIW, I find that as I get older I want more time in most places. One night stays are a necessary evil when on the road. Even two night stays are becoming annoying. Three to five nights are great! Keep in mind I am the type of person who can spend 6-8 hours wandering all over a city like Paris or Munich taking photos and exploring odds and ends. And, I have no problem making numerous rest stops to have coffee and a pastry. :-)
Besides the walking and stairs, I am finding the standing around while waiting or while visiting a museum or church (and while having a guide speak on something) etc., to also be a strain.