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Family Europe: London to Florence, or BOE: Paris to Rome? Seeking advice

We're planning on taking either the Family Europe Tour, from London to Florence, or the 14-day BOE Tour, Paris to Rome, sometime next year. It'll be a first trip to Europe ever for me, not my husband, but first RS tour for both of us. First question - for a first trip to Europe, do you recommend one tour over the other? We have no children, so the only reason for considering the Family Tour is its itinerary. Any insight on either of these tours would be greatly appreciated!

So far, the major advantages with the Family Tour are: It starts in London, which I'd love to see, and it makes for an easier transition culture-wise; Taking the Chunnel to Paris - just for the experience; We'll spend a couple days in Cinque Terre, which I find very appealing.

Not-so advantageous Missing cities included on BOE tour (Munich, Venice, Tuscany, and Rome); Medieval day at Guedelon

Pro's for BOE tour: Munich, Venice, Tuscany, and Rome; Wine tasting day in Burgundy & Beaune

Con's for BOE tour: No London or Cinque Terre; Morning tour at Dachau (It's one of those things that I'd probably regret if we don't go, but I'm not particularly raring to go there, if that makes any sense. Years ago, a group of friends and I drove to DC specifically to spend the day at the Holocaust Museum when it first opened. Excellent museum, but it definitely casts a pall on your day.)

Also, while in Paris, do RS Tours provide the Paris Museum Pass, or is that something we buy on our own? It looks like we'll be hitting a few of the places included on the Pass already. But, according to the itinerary, there's a free afternoon (or part afternoon) and evening in Paris, and we'd love to see Versailles. Is there enough time to catch the RER to Versailles and back to see the Eiffel at night? Is that too ambitious? Or are we better off catching more, closer sites, like Orsay, Tuileries, and exploring a little bit of Paris?

I realize this tour is like a teaser tour - something with which to get our feet wet before diving into more detailed tours. There's just so much to see and so little time! Thanks again for any input!

Posted by
15548 posts

Hands down, BOE. The Family Tours are geared to kids and their interests, which is great if you are traveling with kids. With BOE, your tour mates will be mostly couples and singles that you'll have more in common with and have more opportunities to get to know and share experiences with.

BOE allows you to choose dates when there are fewer tourists and maybe better weather (not as hot as summer), especially in Italy, not to mention getting lower air fares.

I would not stress about what you will or won't see on the tour. As you yourself note, it's a teaser. You'll be back for more, either on your own or with a tour, as soon (and as often) as you can.

It's always recommended to arrive at least a day early (and more is better, if you can do it) to get over the jetlag and catch up on sleep. Depending on your time and budget restraints, you could fly into London for 3 nights (really not difficult to do on your own) and then take the train to Paris and spend a day or 2 before the tour starts.

Posted by
3580 posts

If you have time at the end of your tour (BOE) you can take a train to La Spezia and the CT in about four hours. Stay a couple of nights in one of the five towns and then fly from Pisa to London. Spend a couple of days in London and fly home from there. With an extra week at the end of the tour you could get a taste of those two places. Of course, you will probably want to return to Europe and see all the things you missed the first time! When I travel there is always something I miss and something I want to return to.

Posted by
2460 posts

Hi Plumeria,
I just signed up for the BOE in 14 days on 9/26/2016 tour. This will be my third trip with RS and I just love the people I have met and the itineraries and excellent guides. I feel so comfortable signing up as a single now because I know many of my fellow tour mates are friendly and interested in many of the same things I am. I can choose to be on my own or join others, there is so much flexibility when we have free time. The tours are designed with a good mixture of organized group time and free time. That is why we are going to Europe!

Chani is right about traveling in shoulder season, the benefits are fewer tourists, lower airfares and hopefully lower temperatures, especially in Italy. I was on the fence about which tour to take and finally, I asked myself, what if this is the last trip I will be able to take to Europe? I decided BOE because it will take me to Italy and Switzerland, places I have not been. BOE is designed to be a teaser and I will always hope to come back another time to explore places I loved in more depth and more time.

Perhaps we will meet if you decide on the 9/26/2016 tour!

Judy B

Posted by
13684 posts

I also vote for the BOE. You could do a few days ahead in London then take the Eurostar over to Paris. If you do this, I suggest you plan to travel to Paris the day before your tour starts to give yourselves some cushion in case of disrupted service. London is pretty easy to do on your own.

In looking at the itinerary for the BOE14, it does indicate a museum pass is included. I would probably not spend the time going out to Versailles for that afternoon but would do the Orangerie, D'Orsay or something else in Paris.

If you don't do London ahead of your tour, then I would come in to Paris a few days before your tour. If you wanted to do Versailles you could do it on one of those days altho truth be told, I would spend my time in Paris. To me, Versailles takes a whole day and it is exhausting especially if you go thru the gardens and out to the Petit Trianon and Hamlet areas. It is beautiful, but on a short visit your time might be better spent elsewhere unless this is the #1 site someone wants to see.

We visited Dachau on the 21BOE I did. It was very moving and thought provoking and I think we were all glad we had a chance to visit. It looks like from the itinerary that it is done as a 1/2 day trip from your base in Munich so you could easily opt out of it if you felt it would upset you. You are free to opt out of anything on a RS tour altho it is pretty difficult to do on a bus day or transit day where you are moving from one place to another. All you need to do is tell the guide and let your buddy know. (On RS tours everyone has a buddy - someone they are not traveling with- so the guide does not have to constantly count noses. The guide will just call out Buddy check before you get on a bus or at some other point so everyone knows everyone is there. If you opt out, it's good just to let your buddy know not to look for you.)

Posted by
544 posts

I think you'd really enjoy the Best of Europe tour. If you want to add Versailles I would arrive in Paris one night before the tour starts and go to Versailles the morning the tour begins. The meeting that starts the tour is in the evening, so if you're up early (you will be), you'll have plenty of time to make your way to Versailles and back.

If you have more time in your schedule and budget you could always add Cinque Terre to the end of your trip. For Cinque Terre, you could make your way on your own after the end of the tour and then fly home from Milan. For adding London to the end of the tour here are two options:
- Book your flights to go home from London and add a one-way flight Rome to London on a separate reservation
- Book a multi-city reservation that is home - Paris, Rome - London, London - home, all on the same ticket.

If you want to add both London and Cinque Terre, you can start in London and then take the Eurostar to Paris like Pam suggests. This could be cool just for the experience of going 186mph on a train. Start in London on your own, do best of Europe and then finish up on your own in Cinque Terre. If you really want to go all out, you could do both a RS London tour and the BOE tour.

My personal recommendation would be to do the BOE tour, add a day trip to Versailles, and save London and Cinque Terre for two later trips.

Posted by
11 posts

Lots of great ideas & things to consider. Thank you! Flying into London or Paris early, or ending the trip with time in Cinque Terre are particularly great ideas.

But just out of curiosity, just how different is the Family Tour from BOE? Are there generally lots of smaller children? Has anyone ever gone on one before?

Posted by
13684 posts

Do note that the BOE14 has the meet up at 1PM so I would not try to do Versailles that morning. Often the meet-ups are at 5 which would give you plenty of time but this one is different.

I see one of the differences (besides the major itinerary differences) is that the family tour does Guedelon which is a castle that is being constructed using Medieval techniques. I went here on the Paris and Heart of France and enjoyed it. The 14BOE does a wine tasting and has time in Beaune since you overnight there. I visited Beaune on the 21BOE and enjoyed it as well!

I have not done one of the family tours but I have done 7 other RS tours. On the ones that had time in Germany, Italy and France there were always several wine tastings which were fun. I'm not a big drinker but have enjoyed all the wine tastings I've done on the RS tours. Most of the tours I have done were May, Sept or Oct so no kids on them. Some people have indicated they have had kids on their summer tours. I think there is a lower age limit...maybe 8 or 9? Not sure.

If you like the itinerary better on the Family tour, then do that one. It will just have a different rhythm as it will be more focused on activities the kids might enjoy.

Posted by
2251 posts

I haven't been on the BOE tour but did take the Family Europe way back when there was only one itinerary. There were 8 kids on the tour, ranging in age from 8 to 17. They formed a group of their own, with the 16-17 yr olds alternating between spending time with the younger kids and the adults. My understanding is that there is (still?) one guide plus an assistant guide on the Family tours. We did not do all activities together. For example, in Florence, the assistant guide took the adults to the Uffizi while the guide took the kids (and my husband and me-we were/are The Grandparents) to the Food Market. Having been to the Uffizi several times, we thoroughly enjoyed a guided tour of the Market! Not everyone on the tour had children or was one. It was a wonderful group of people and neither age nor parental status seemed to make a difference in the group "bonding". I have been on a lot of tours; some with my family and many without. All have been wonderful but this was one of my favorites. I loved seeing Europe through the eyes of three generations of tour participants.

Posted by
458 posts

HI read your question with interest. We have been on 4 RS tours. Two with kids and two without. The ones with kids was a week in Paris and a week in London. We are now looking at the BOE or the family tour. I also like the spots of the family tour. I am concerned that my teens now older would like the regular one better.
I hope you get more replies from people that have been on the family tour. Would like to hear their thoughts. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks, LA! We decided to go with the BOE, 14 days. And we might tack on a few extra days in London prior to the tour - take the Eurostar into Paris, etc. I'm so excited!!!