When deciding amongst several tours that all sound great for their own reasons, what other factors do you consider (money, time off work, variety of countries, new experiences, etc.) in ultimately picking one?
My husband and I have traveled a lot independently. We decided to try a tour this coming fall just to see what they are like. We decided to choose a tour in an area where we felt a guide would be very handy in terms of both logistics and learning about the sites. We are very interested in history and art so we've done a lot of learning both in school and on our own, but we felt that we were "weakest" in ancient civilizations/art, etc., so we decided on the 7 day Rome tour because I think the guide will have a lot of info for us on the sites that would be harder to get on our own. Also, just in my research it seems as though Rome might have some challenges related to crowds/logistics etc., that having someone else deal with that stuff might be more relaxing. We are also very independent people so this will be a good test! When I look at a lot of the other tours I feel like they include things we've done or that we could easily do on our own. Who knows, we may like it enough that we'd be willing to give up some control again in the future!
We try to alternate types of places - like a hot, Mediterranean destination and then next time something in the mountains or northern Europe. Also, we try to alternate types of trips, like one year it will be a destination that is mainly about the scenery to us, and the next mainly about culture and history. For instance, I wouldn't generally pick the Greece tour and then do the Adriatic next, even though they are both on my wishlist, because the scenery and culture seems more similar. So we did Greece and then Berlin, Prague and Vienna. Our next one will probably be the Adriatic or Spain. I feel like now that we have gone to our biggest wish list places, it is almost harder to pick because everything sounds equally wonderful.
Are you trying to pick between certain tours? You'll have a great time no matter what you choose, I am sure!
I'm retired so don't need to worry about time off work, money is OK so not really an issue for a RS tour. The more tours I take the more I find I prefer ones that visit smaller towns and the countryside over the ones featuring the bigger cities.
So...I base it solely on itinerary in countries that are of interest to me.
When I was first traveling with Rick's tours I had my eye on the 21 Best of Europe. I did that one and wow...just loved it. It had a huge variety and gave me a wonderful taste of many different countries. I think my tastes have been refined a bit and now I know what I enjoy so I'm able to be more focused and figure out what itineraries will work best for me.
You had posted recently that you were interested in the Adriatic tour. Still thinking about that one or has another caught your eye?
Great question Justin! I guess for me it's what peaks my interest. I like a variety of countries that centers on history, culture, art, music and new learning experiences. I tend to want to embrace every place we visit. Our upcoming independent trip to Central Europe & Amsterdam is "themed based." It will emphasize WW2 and Jewish history. My ideas come from reading guidebooks, history, friends, tour members, family and the excellent Trip Reports on the Forum! These are all tools that help determine our next journey.
We had traveled independently before we started taking RS Tours. Heart of Italy was our first because we didn’t speak the language and wanted to see how we felt about doing a tour. Next up was Greece because we figured since it was strenuous we should do it while we still could. We chose Ireland because public transportation is a little tougher. The rest of it just falls into place.
@Jules -- that's a good point about the tour guide. It is a big factor in choosing a tour of areas that are difficult to travel through independently, for whatever reasons.
@Pam -- Adriatic is still my top tour. However, in looking at the dates, we're in a bit of a predicament. Ideally we'd love to travel in early June for the best combination of crowds, weather, and price, but unfortunately we have other plans that would overlap with that tour.
Late April/early May works, but it's not the ideal in terms of weather. Late mid-September also works, but the price for those tours also jumps up a lot too. And mid-to-late May is tough for my wife's schedule.
Time away from home is a big decision maker for me. Large dog with mental problems that wouldn’t do well in a kennel is one reason. Money also is a consideration, especially if I’ve done one expensive trip already that year. I tend to choose countries by something I’ve always wanted to see there. There was one thing in Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Guatemala and now France that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Of course, I end up seeing many more things and meeting wonderful people so my first reason for going isn’t always the most memorial part of my trip. But it’s always been fantastic! How do you decide?
I have made my choices so far for tours based on the idea that there were some places where it would be a benefit to be in a group vs. solo travel. For example, I feel completely comfortable touring anywhere in the UK by myself.
Last year I went on Paris and the Heart of France because I realized that this was an area I was interested in, but didn't have all the language skills that would have made me feel comfortable as a solo.
This year, I am going on Best of Switzerland. Now, I have been to Switzerland before and know that I could travel around it solo with no problems. However, my family doesn't want me hiking alone. For safety reasons, I have chosen to go with a group.
Next year I am planning on the Best of the Adriatic because I think, once again, that my experience as part of a group there will be better than my experience solo would be. I would be less likely to visit that region on my own.
The good news is that you can hardly go wrong. There are many interesting tours out there.
I have taken 6 of Rick's tours and have also traveled in Europe extensively on my own.
The tours I have taken have been in regions that would be difficult to do on my own with public transportation and little of the local language.
The Adriatic is a good example and it's a great tour. I went in April a couple of years ago and the weather was fine with only a couple of days with light rain.
For what it's worth, I try to go early in the touring season rather than later with the thought that the guides and locals won't be so tired of us!
Have a wonderful time at whichever you choose!
Other factors we’ve considered for choosing a specific tour have been how difficult or time-consuming the transportation would be for us if traveling by train on our own (we’re eyeing the Adriatic tour!), and we’ve also eliminated some Nordic tours because of the food & cost and headed towards other countries because of their great food.
When we’re trying to decide which itinerary to take when traveling independently, it’s mainly eliminating a country that we’ve visited within the last two years. We usually return to a couple of towns we have been previously and add several new ones.
My last tour was my first visit to Europe--1970. The internet has made flight and room reservations so easy, and the information available today online is truly mind boggling.
We just got home from Spain and Paris. I swear our credit card statements beat me home. And that included my wife booking a second trip this year to Europe on a guided tour for herself and her oldest daughter. We'll see how well she likes someone else taking care of the details.
I always told her we'd be saving our guided tours to when we get a little older--and when we cannot navigate on our own. But in a couple of years, it's going to be hard for me to even rent a car despite looking and acting many years younger than 69. Then, I'll be looking for tours to places like the Adriatic--and Eastern Europe. We've been to just about every major European city 4-5 times and some more, and we need a change of scenery anyway.
When deciding on a tour as compared to doing it myself I take a look at places I want to see but don't necessarily want to do all the driving. The RS Loire Valley to the South of France is a good example. I really wanted to see the Caves in the Dordogne Region as well as Carcassonne. Both were out of the way places that I really only needed 1-2 days each and so wasn't worth going out of our way to see by ourselves.
We have been on six RS tours (Village Italy was the last one). We had a great time, but were bothered by spring allergies. The Village Italy tour started in mid-April which is before the allergy season really starts in Connecticut. My theory is that Italy is ahead of us in terms of things blooming, so it was like jumping ahead a a month in the pollen schedule. In any event, we have decided to change our European trips to the fall. Also, a fair number of people on the Village Italy tour were sick, perhaps because it was at the tail end of cold season.
We don't have the desire to see all of Europe, but would rather get to know a few countries well. After the Village Italy tour, we agreed that it was time to dive into some new areas (we have been to Italy five times including two RS tours).
We also decided that we prefer the tours that focus on smaller towns/cities.
On the Village Italy tour we became close with another couple, and have decided to join them on the Best of England tour in September 2020. It turns out that we are all Beatles fans, so we will spend time in Liverpool before the start of the tour.
We don't do RS tours, but occasionally do one with another company. We prefer to travel on our own, but I sign up for tours in areas where the public transportation is not as good-like Lisbon and Spain-when we went, there was not a high speed train to Granada and no train between Lisbon and Sevilla. Tours are also good for covering a lot of ground efficiently in a shorter period of time than going on our own.
"money, time off work, variety of countries, new experiences, etc."
All but one (time off work) factor into my decision making, and the "etc." part include ease of arrival and departure, time of year and amount of ground travel.
As a budget minded tour traveler, I consider the daily cost per person, with a desired goal of $200/day. Few RS tours approach that number - "Best of Turkey" and "Best of Bulgaria" come to mind - two tours that interest me for reasons beyond their daily value - but both compromise the overall value by the added cost of air travel to the start and end points of those tours. At the other end of the "value scale", some tours exceed $300/day, which motivates me to be a "go it alone" traveler - of course directed by the RS guidebook appropriate to that region.
Travel in northern Europe would not be welcomed by me in a season other than summer - adding considerably to the travel costs - in an already expensive section of Europe. However, summer travel in southern Europe would be met with very high temperatures - so that's an issue, too. Given the choice, I'd rather be cold than hot.
There are regions in Europe that don't interest me - although many of those (Italy, Germany, France) are high on nearly every traveler's list of "must see" locations. I guess I can add "travel oddball" to my "budget minded" moniker. I like eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal as preferred destinations, although, as previously mentioned, travel to eastern Europe is expensive.
My wife is interested in the U.K., a destination that is low on my list in as much as I once lived in London and traveled extensively while there. And, like a 50th high school reunion, I am reluctant for a revisit fearing "My London" of 1969 would be largely unrecognizable to me, today.
Back story: Since 1976, when I realized I could travel as well on my own as on a tour...after observing the guides on my college art history tour make mistakes, I've traveled independently until 2017. Internationally, my husband tries not to admit it, but when I'm traveling solo, he worries about me. I took my first RS tour for the following reasons:
1. My husband had been in the hospital for 131 days and was home for a long recuperation and he recognized I needed something to think about besides him, so he suggested I plan a trip. I picked an RS tour so he would not worry about me, as he had enough on his plate at that time. (He's fully recovered because he's a miracle, but took two years).
2. Due to above stated husband's illness, I needed to not have to think for a while, hence a tour.
3. If I was going to take a tour, I decided to take one of the more energetic tours as no use putting them off, as I'm not getting any younger..
4. I picked one that would be the hardest for me to navigate on my own due to distances and/or out of the way locations and/or lack of easy public transportation.
5. Where had I always wanted to go? Thinking back to a college class on the Art of the Ancient Greeks.
----Yes, I picked Greece as it satisfied items 3-5. Any tour would have satisfied items 1-2.
So I would say, you need to evaluate your life and requirements, make a list, and chose based on that list. The rest of us are just throwing out what we should or want to do. I loved my tour, and I suspect I'd love just about any RS tour, and will take one again assuming I live long enough...although I'll/we'll go independently most of the time as I do like to stay in locations more than a couple of nights and spoil myself at a whim...but again, still, I'd love any RS tour... You can't go wrong!