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Favorite RS Tours

Curiosity compels these questions to those who have taken Rick Steves tours: What was your favorite? How would you rank the tours you took?

I certainly do not wish to exclude the opinion of anyone who has taken only one RS tour, and had an exceptionally good or surprisingly disappointing experience. The tours generally seem to get great reviews. But I am wondering whether there were any particular tours that get especially high marks (my sense is that the Villages of Italy ranks high) and whether there were any that, even if very good, did not rank as highly in your experience as others.

A final note is that the RS tours that focus on the smaller or the less traveled venues seem to offer especially good value because of the transportation issues with traveling from one village or smaller city to another. As an aside, one that I have been considering is the Eastern France tour.

Thanks in advance for any opinions you would like to share.

Posted by
2232 posts

Richard, I have taken 7 RS Tours so far, enjoyed them all, and have certainly become a fan. Of these, I would say my favorites have been Bulgaria, Sicily and Spain. Intercultural interaction with everyday people, some inclusion of smaller towns and less-touristed sites on the itinerary, and a high level of enthusiasm of the guides are all important factors to me.

Posted by
308 posts

Richard, I took the Eastern France tour the first year it was offered. It has been altered a tad bit, but I have to say I absolutely loved that tour. If you love wine, this is a wonderful tour to take (perhaps if you don't, it wouldn't be as special). But the variety of the scenery (vineyards, alps, the South of France-highlights for me), the events you participate in (country picnic near Beaune, day to hike near Chamonix, vineyard tour and lunch in the South plus so much more!), and the regional foods, ah. I'd do that one again in a heartbeat.

I also adored the Sicily tour - the variety of food and history and the people. That's a winner too.

High on the list are the Eastern Europe tour and GAS. But I have to say, that of the ten tours I've taken, I have enjoyed each and every one. Maybe the only fluctuations would be some of the tours had tour mates that meshed better than others.

Just wish I could do more than one tour per year. How will I get around to all of them??

Happy Travels!

Posted by
1835 posts

My gosh-This is a difficult question for me. I will be taking tour #18 (#19?) in August, Eastern Europe. Of all those tours, there isn't a one I wouldn't happily repeat and in fact, I did go back to Sicily as the second time was a slightly different itinerary. When asked that question, I usually I answer by saying my favorite is the last one I've taken. In this case, it was the Villages of South England and that was a fabulous tour! As Barbara so rightly says, "Maybe the only fluctuations would be some of the tours had tour mates that meshed better than others." Ranking would be hard as each tour offered such a variety of activities, differing lengths of stays in each location (a week in London, Paris, etc. as compared to a 21 Day tour of the highlights of (western) Europe.) and other considerations. Anywhere in Italy would rank high on the list with me, loved the Barcelona & Madrid, London City, any of the ones on France, the Adriatic, Tallinn-Helsinki-St. Petersburg, and I could go on. Obviously, I really enjoy traveling the Rick Steves way although I have yet to take a My Way!

Posted by
1068 posts

Hate to be a non-answerer. Have taken 7 RS tours, 2 more scheduled. Liked them all for different reasons.

Posted by
233 posts

My husband and I are pretty much newbies to RS tours having only taken 1. Hopefully more to follow. We did the 14 day Best of Europe My Way and it was amazing!!! We hit so many high lights! We went on a Globus tour for our first in Europe and while ok, it was, "ok" On the RS Best of Europe tour we started in Paris,then to Lauterbrunnen,up to Munich during Oktoberfest then to Venice and Cinque Terre and finally Rome. It was wonderful!! We planned our activities,had a great escort and made some good friends. We are even thinking of talking our Aussie friends into doing the same tour with us again!!!!!

Posted by
57 posts

I've been on 4 RS tours and the Eastern France tour was the best, it was a lovely and varied itinerary to places that I had not been to before and that I know I would not do on my own. I also really enjoyed the Best of England. On the Best of Italy tour the highlights were the places I had not previously been to in Northern Italy: Lake Como, the Dolomites, Venice and the Cinque Terre.

Posted by
68 posts

My first and only RS Tour (so far!) was Heart of Italy. I loved everything about it, people, places, art, food, wine. It's a really nice mix of city, country, and coastline. The tour provided a wonderful depth, through our guide and the local guides, to places that could have been completely overwhelming- the Vatican museums, Colosseum, Uffizi, Accademia- and brought us to places like Volterra that are so lovely but a little off the beaten path. Definitely a favorite among all my travel experiences!

Posted by
2282 posts

How many RS tours are there? If you get enough replies you'll probably hit nearly all of them as someone's favorite. I have found the tour itself+the group+the guide=my enjoyability score. For example, I still rank Greece as #1. The country, sights, food were great. We had our daughter and there were three other young people on tour, something you can't count on. That was a plus. Our guide was the best we have had on any tours, although there were some close seconds. Our least favorite was the Adriatic. Great sights, food was good, not great, the group had two large groups traveling together and we couldn't break into that, and we did not care for the guide (at the introductory meeting he told the group "I'm not everybody's cup of tea". He was right. And he had a bad cold, which he shared with several in the group, including us). We enjoyed Village Italy and Spain very much. Obviously we like the RS tours, and hope Portugal and London will thrill us this summer!

Posted by
1036 posts

I have traveled to Europe on 6 vacations. The first 5 were independent trips without a tour and the last one was RS 17 Day Best of Italy. I never had so much fun as I did on the Best of Italy Tour. Italy has so much to offer. Being on a tour, I was totally able to relax and just take it all in.

Posted by
763 posts

I have been to Europe about 7 times (either on my own or with another group). I have only been on two RS tours - Best of Ireland 14 days- August 2014 and Holland & Belgium 10 day April 2016. Both were terrific. Guides and tours mates. I thought my first trip our group was terrific. I was afraid my second would not match up like my first, but it DID. We only had 18 members on our tour (due to the bombing in Brussel 2016, I think some people backed out). Our tour guide was so amazed that our tour mates meshed so well. She had not ever had a group that bonded so quickly.

Andi - I am glad to hear that you enjoyed Barcelona and Madrid, That is our next RS tour June 2017.

I am hoping that we can continue to be able to take an RS tour once a year. There are soooo many that peak my interest.

Happy Travels

Kim

Posted by
210 posts

Great topic!

I have done 11 tours.....#12 is booked.

As a few others have said.....ALL of them have been great experiences. Hard to pick #1.

Have done Scotland, the now defunct Budapest/Vienna/Prague, Sicily, Turkey, Portugal, Adriatic, Village Italy, Berlin/Prague/VIenna, Greece, Baltic Tour, & Basque Country....so far. I particularly enjoy "off the beaten path" locations....but it is still all good. Adding extra days before and after have really added to my experiences.

ALL of my other fellow tour group travelers have been wonderful.....except for one very small tour group (8 members) which had "Mr. & Mrs. Pain in the Tuchus" as members....lol.

Posted by
756 posts

Wonderful question! I have only been on one, Greece, but it was fabulous!! Terrific guide and wonderful fellow travelers. Next up GAS and Eastern Europe though I hope in my lifetime I can get to most of them. Love reading the responses.

Posted by
524 posts

I have taken 12 so far, with 13 and 14 already booked. By far, my favorite tour has been Village Italy. The best tour guide ever! Loved the smaller villages, wonderful art and history, fun activities, delicious food and wine, and delightful people. My next tour is Sicily, off season. I have put it off for a couple of years. I was lured away by the Southern Italy and South of England tours. While Village Italy has been my favorite, so far, that does not mean I have not enjoyed all the tours I have taken.

Posted by
308 posts

I've taken two RS tours and loved them both (Best of Scandinavia and Paris and the Heart of France). Several of my fellow tour members on both tours had taken quite a few and most of them said their absolute favorite was Best of Europe in 21 days. I was told that you become closer to your fellow tour members the longer the tour is, and you really do cover a lot of the big European sites.

Posted by
325 posts

By starting this thread, I feel as though I should be applying for a marketing position with the RS company. The responses have been exceptional and are especially helpful to anyone thinking about taking a first RS tour.

I have visited Europe in the past. When young (a long time ago), I made a solo trip. Decades later, a family trip with older children. And then a Med cruise and later a Baltic cruise. I have struggled with menus in Paris, and directions in Rome, and last-minute rail changes in Salzburg. There are places I would love to revisit and other places I want to visit for the first time. And more and more--especially for the "out-of-the-way" venues--I have been thinking about making a RS tour.

To each one of you who has taken the time to share his or her experience, thank you. Your responses are helping immensely those asking whether they should take the plunge.

Posted by
896 posts

We have done two RS tours. Our first was the Best of Turkey and this past summer the 21 day
Best of Europe. We loved both of them. We just received a very large catalog from another tour company we have used many times. Hubby pointed out that it was on the table. I told him to look and find a tour to take (we aren't traveling this year) to see if he might find something and we would go someplace this summer. He just smiled and said he was no longer a fan of the other company since doing a RS tour. He is hooked!
Travel for us this year is in the USA. Our next tour will be Spain or Portugal next year.

Posted by
2751 posts

I have taken 14 RS tours, one every year for the last 15 years. I am often asked which one was my favorite to which I can honestly reply: "All of them". The first RS tour I took was the "21 Day Best of Europe Tour" which also happened to be my first trip to Europe. As I look back on all of the tours that one brings back many fond memories. Great guides and great groups all around.

Posted by
739 posts

I know your question was aimed at people who've taken multiple tours, but I see a few responses from those who've taken only one, so I'll chime in. We were on the Best of Paris tour in early June 2015 and absolutely loved it. We're signed up for and are greatly anticipating the Venice-Florence-Rome tour this May (though my wife often remarks how she really enjoyed staying put for the week in Paris). At any rate, the extraordinarily knowledgeable guides, the structured-plus-free-time itinerary and camaraderie we introverts enjoyed with our group all added up to a totally first-rate experience. We are hoping and expecting to enjoy our second tour as much as the first.

Posted by
270 posts

My husband and I have taken 3 RS tours. I would have to say that my favorite was "Best of Italy in 17 days". I fell in love with Michaelangelo at age 14 after reading "The Agony and the Ecstasy ". Then I minored in Art History in college. My dream trip was to go to Italy. We went with friends who picked the tour dates. Well, it worked out that our tour arrived in Florence on my 60th birthday. That afternoon, I saw "David"! What an indescribable moment. I will never forget that day! Besides that we had incredible food, wonderful tour mates, an awesome guide, beautiful scenery, and extremely moving cathedrals. In September of this year, we will be on the "Best of Paris" and "Eastern France ". So excited!

Posted by
540 posts

We have been on one RS tour -- My Way Alpine Tour this past September and absolutely loved it. We did 2 prior trips mostly on our own. We liked the My Way tour for assistance in getting places I did not want to figure out, but then being on our own to hike at each location as we choose. It was a great way to break in to a RS tour. As a result, we are signed up for the Best of Eastern Europe this September. We decided it went to places we might not do on our own. Knowing the basic structure of a RS tour after our recent experience encouraged us to say YES to a fully guided tour (with free time for these two introverts).

Posted by
260 posts

I loved the eastern France trip as well. This was before they slightly changed the ending I believe. The scenery was unbelievable, and it was a very varied trip.

I didn't care for the Adriatic tour very much, also partially because of the tour group which wasn't very friendly. It was one of the few trips that I was basically on my own for. I also didn't care for the tour guide, who was not the same one mentioned in comments above. She was surprisingly shy for tour guide! I also didn't care for the Belgium and Holland tour, because I thought I could've easily done it on my own and enjoyed it more. I also didn't care for that guide as much as the others I have had. I have taken multiple other RS trips. I loved every single one of the other ones.

Posted by
3931 posts

We've taken 10 RS tours since 2009, and have booked our 11th for this coming summer. I think my favorite was the first one we took, Best of Florence. No, they don't offer that one any longer, and it's a shame.

My DH's favorite was the 21 day Best of Europe. In fact, he suggested we do that one again in 2018, to celebrate a milestone anniversary.

Posted by
37 posts

Of the 10 tours I've taken, Village Italy was the best. I think the itinerary of smallish towns and cities makes it very special. I'd go again, but I keep finding other great tours! Next year will be Loire to the South of France-can't wait.

Posted by
110 posts

Hello,
I have only been on one tour, the best of Rome, but I liked it enough to book another RS tour for later this year. Since I was only a week long the group stayed in one hotel so I was easy to get settle in.

I loved the guides I had and learned a lot with out feeling like I was being lectured to death. The guides are more focused on teaching then getting you to buy stuff so the guide can get a kickback from the store.
J

Posted by
1533 posts

I have taken 3 RS tours and, as others have said, each was wonderful in its unique way.

Paris and the Heart of France was my first and might be my favorite because it was the first! But, I also loved Berlin, Prague & Vienna and the Best of Italy in 17 Days, each for different reasons. I am booked for my 4th tour at the end of March - 7 Days in Rome. It seems I am becoming a "Ricknik".
Friends tell me when they see a Rick program on tv and say they thought of me!

Judy B

Posted by
784 posts

We have done two - 14 day Best of Europe My Way in 2013, and France My Way in 2016. I think this is a very different question for folks who do fully guided tours. There are so many other variables to judge those tours on. We only have a few points to judge: tour manager, hotels, group personality, logistics of getting from one point to the other.
The first was fantastic, good friendly group of people, tour manager who was helpful but not intrusive. Took daughter for high school graduation and there were a good number of of other kids around her age and they really got along great and it was wonderful that she could get away from us sometimes. We made some good friends on that trip and the places we went were spectacular. Loved it all.
The France tour was brand new this summer. I loved the places we went but there were a few hiccups (amount of time spent at some places, departure times that got us to next town before hotel was ready) and the group we were in did not bond as I think is typical with RS tour groups. The tour manager was a very nice woman, but a bit too much for a My Way group. I think she was accustomed to fully guided tours, which she is probably great at. We have some great memories from the tour, but overall I felt we'd have done better on our own. We'll probably not do another single-country tour since so much of the benefit of tours to us is covering a lot of ground in a short time and not having to worry about logistics. We are doing Germany this summer on our own. It's a lot of work, but we are also probably going to save a ton of money, and have flexibility.

Posted by
4 posts

We've been on two RS tours - Rome and the Adriatic Tour; loooovvveeed both of them, but the Adriatic was so very different and eye-opening. We highly recommend it!
Ok...but Rome was absolutely amazing, too. Both tours are ones that we didn't want to do on our own.
doesn't matter which you choose, just make sure you go!

Posted by
7606 posts

I've done 8 and my favorite was the 21BOE. It was my 3rd RS tour. I loved the guide (Dimitri!!), loved the itinerary and LOVED the group. I enjoyed them so much and now after 2.5 years am still friends with many on FB. The rest of the tours come in a very close second, hahahha. Loved Best of England, loved GAS ( the smaller towns better than Munich and Vienna but I needed to see it all), loved VI, loved Paris and Heart of France, loved Best of Paris, and have a special fondness for my first one which was Heart of Italy.

The only one I was neutral on was Ireland. I know that is practically heresy to admit but it just did not catch me. The group dynamic was weird as there was a group of 11 traveling together so that affected things a bit. I was also in a group of 5. The guide was great. I am a go-to-bed early kind of gal so I didn't really enjoy the pub stuff that didn't get going until 9:30 or 10. I also found I'm not much of a trad music fan. I'm not sorry I went, but there are many other places I would go before I went back there. My view of the tour had nothing to do with the itinerary, the guide, the driver, or the RS organization. It just didn't resonate with me on a personal level.

I've enjoyed ALL my guides. They have been such different personalities but all enjoyable, knowledgeable and so much fun to travel with.

None of this is helping with your decision is it, lol!!

Posted by
502 posts

Hands down, Eastern Europe. The history of the countries, the scenery, places I'd never get to on my own, everything about it was great. I'd love to do it again and pick up more of the history "lessons" on the bus. I'm sure I missed some of it, and, like re-reading a good book, you pick up more the second time around. Our guide was fantastic (George!) and the group was a good combination of personalities and meshed well.

Posted by
943 posts

We have been on three tours: Paris, Barcelona-Madrid and Sicily. While they were all excellent, the Sicily tour was the best. As others have mentioned, the longer tour length allowed us to get to know all of our fellow tour members. It was nice having the bus to take us around Sicily. The tour guide (Alfio) was outstanding, and the tour seemed to get better every day.

Posted by
11 posts

We'll be going on our 8th RS tour (to Belgium and Netherlands) in April, and every one we've taken has been fabulous. If I had to pick a single favorite, it would be Sicily, partly because my husband's family is from the Palermo area and the moment we arrived I felt like I somehow already knew every Sicilian I met along the way, and partly because of the best RS guide ever--Alfio! Sicily was once the crossroads of the world and the tour really brings that home. So many cultural influences at work on that island. Current RS tours no longer stop in Cefalu, but if I had to choose my favorite place I've ever been, it would be that magical village. I daydream of it so often. For the record, we've done RS tours to Ireland, Scandinavia, Paris and Northern France, Northern Italy, Germany/Switzerland/Austria, Barcelona/Madrid, and Sicily. As long as we can keep up with our tourmates, we intend to take at least one RS tour a year. Our 2018 tour will be Southern Italy. 2019...who knows?

Posted by
50 posts

Eastern Europe was my favorite of the five that I've taken. Probably my second favorite was my first tour - Germany, Austria, Switzerland. All of them have been great tours - also have done 2 in Italy and one in England. They do change over time. I like the ones with small towns. On the Eastern European one we got to do a marvelous national park and a huge cave. The tasting sessions on all have been memorable. I've just booked Switzerland for my 2017 because mountains are calling to me.

Posted by
2 posts

We have taken seven Rick Steves tours and plan MORE in the future. We have developed the confidence that we can see and vacation in big cities on our own, which was one of our goals. Yes we have met some wonderful friends who we now take Rick Steve's tours with.

hands down, Village Italy was our favorite, with the "old" Spain and Portugal tour a close second. Both of these tours had a great "small town" feel. And, RS does these wonderfully. Our village italy guide was able to grant us proxy to her friendships with hotels and restaurants throughout our tour, making us feel like we lived in each of these great small towns.

Conversely, the Eastern Europe tour was mostly big city, but given the great locations of the hotels, we had the same small town treatment in many of the stops. And, our guide Etelka was excellent at making every stop feel "comfortable."

I am guessing you are going to conclude that every one of our tours will get covered here ? ? But, we will stop here, with Village Italy being our favorite to date.

Posted by
1 posts

We've been on 6 tours so far and will be taking both the Switzerland and Portugal tours this year. Like many, it's really impossible to choose a favorite; we've loved all of them. I guess I'd have to say the most meaningful and emotional tour was Paris and the South of France, with our guide, William Altman. All of our guides have been superb but William brought so much knowledge, empathy, and warmheartedness, in his understated way -- that this would top my list. With all your well planned itineraries, I would say the guide we get is the definite X factor. And don't forget the driver -- on our Eastern France tour, we all bonded with our driver, Hilda. She was wonderful. So I guess it comes down to the folks you hire to be with us on our adventures.

Posted by
516 posts

Four RS tours and my favorite is Paris and the Heart of France.

Posted by
3 posts

I have been on three RS tours. Two to England and one to Ireland, and they were all great. Each one was unique, from the Cotswolds , to Cornwall or the Antrim coast .I am signed up for Italy and looking at another, great way to travel. Dave P ,Sitka Alaska

Posted by
23 posts

I've been on 5 RS tours so far, and all were great. Like others have mentioned, Eastern France was wonderful because of the variety of sites. It felt like we visited Germany (Alsace region and Colmar) and Switzerland (Chamonix), as well as France. The food and wine were great, as were all the history and sites. Our guide, Toni Seymour, was great, and our group was a delight. No one has mentioned the Basque Country tour yet, and that one ties with Eastern France as my favorite, though all the others are close seconds. I'm happy to hear so many raves about the Villages of Southern England, as I just signed up for that one.

If you are hankering to check out the Christmas Markets, I recommend the new Munich/Salzburg/Vienna tour in December. Just took that tour last month and it was a perfect balance of history, sites and seasonal activities. Our guide Daniella was a fun, informative and generous guide and crammed so much in just one week, while leaving us enough time to recharge and explore on our own.

Posted by
123 posts

We have gone on three RS tours (Venice-Florence-Rome, Belgium-Netherlands, and Best of England). I loved them all and can't rank them. I can say this: I chose the Belgium-Netherlands tour because seemed it would be varied, and I wasn't disappointed. It had history (Flanders Fields), art (Rijksmuseum), and engineering (storm barrier near Rotterdam). Two small countries that are easy to overlook, compared to France, Italy, Germany and so on.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I have taken four RS tours: Sicily, Southern Italy, Eastern Europe and Eastern France (and two more to come this year). Sicily was our first RS tour and still remains our favorite, mostly thanks to Alfio, our fun tour guide, and for the trip's itinerary, cuisine and exposure to beauty (the coastal hike has sadly been eliminated). We've loved all the tours for different reasons. Years before we took our first RS tour, we traveled all over Europe using RS guide books and thoroughly enjoy doing it independently. Now we've used the RS tours to fill in some gaps: going to places we were not as familiar with, and in the case of the Eastern France tour, acquiring a more in-depth knowledge of the various wine districts. We love the variety included in all the tours, the wonderful tour guides, and the knowledge that we gain.

Posted by
2525 posts

Similar to the answer of which pub is best....the best tour is the one I'm on at the moment. All the ones taken are great.

Posted by
53 posts

We have been on 2, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and are booked for Best of Italy in Sept. Have traveled on our own for a month in France and traveled Finland, England, Germany & Switzerland also. The best was Eastern Europe. Our tour guide, Peter was so informative. He grew up in coummunist, Hungary. He would give talks about the different counties history and politics and his family's experiences as we were driving. In an area that was part of the "Iron Curtain" as we were growing up, it was like the curtain lifting. In an area with very different languages it was nice to have someone else handling the transportation kand accomodations.

Posted by
127 posts

I've done 10 RS tours, I have enjoyed all of them; however, I enjoyed one of them a lot less than the other nine. My rankings: 1. Sicily (regular season). 2. Best of Ireland. 3. My Way Alpine. 4. Eastern France - I was on this one in Sep.-Oct 2016, very enjoyable and with the elimination of Marseilles at the end in 2017 it should be even better. I have 5 others that were equally enjoyable: London, Rome, Berlin-Prague-Vienna, Heart of Italy and Village Italy. Village Italy was 14 years ago and was totally different than now, I think the current version has a better itinerary. #10 on my list is Best of Switzerland. We had great scenery, a good group and guide but there was a lot of bus time for such a small country. There were two nights where we didn't get to the hotel until 8 pm, Lugano and Murren. Between Murren and Bern it seemed like we made some stops with not much substance just to fill time. I think Switzerland would be much better on one's own time or with a shorter RS trip. But I'm still a fan, trying to decide between My Way Italy or Portugal right now.

Posted by
844 posts

Richard, First I want to say Hi. Hubby and I grew up in Louisiana. Live in Colorado now. I went to USL
back in the dinosaur days.
We have been on 7 RS tours. Our first was Village Italy, and we were hooked. It was great! Eastern Europe was wonderful. Eastern France was a lot of fun, informative and interesting. Our latest in Oct, 2016 was France Loire valley to Nice, then we flew to Rome and did Rome in 7 Day tour. We have also done Paris in 7 Days. I agree that the Village tours are a great bang for your buck. Loire valley was very interesting because there are some things there that just aren"t available on any other tours. Ex: the prehistoric caves and the Ponte Du Gard. The food on this tour was excellent also.
Eastern Europe was fun, Great Guide! It was interesting because we got a look at a number of countries
that we had not seen before and not too much bus time. It was broken up with some interesting stops.

I don't think that I could rank them, but Village Italy, Eastern France, Eastern Europe, and Loire Valley were my favorites. The city tours were interesting, and Southern Italy was okay. Just my opinion.

I would be interested in hearing what you decide and then how it turns out.
Happy traveling!
Mimi