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First trip to Europe in 2015

Hello there. This is the first time I have ever posted something on a blog. My husband and I are planning our first trip to Europe for Spring 2015, going to book the Best of Europe in 21 days. This trip seem to catch a lot of the places we wanted to see. We are anxiously awaiting for the spring dates to come out in August so we can sign up. My question is when we do the initial sign up and submit our down payment will the guidebooks come then? The reason for this is that from reading other posts we want to try to plan as much as possible of our free time before going and I know that RS Best of Europe guidebook would be beneficial. I have already figured out some things to do but I know the guidebook would help tremendously. I hope this is the place to pose this question. Thanks for any information you can provide. Very excited about our first trip to Europe.

Posted by
1600 posts

Hi Cak, you can expect to receive your guidebooks, moneybelt, etc. about 3 months before your tour date. You will get a list of the tour members and the name of your guide about 1 month in advance. In the meantime, check out the questions and responses on this very helpful site. Trip Advisor is also a good resource. You will have a great time on your 21 day tour. I've done 5 RS tours and every one was wonderful!

Posted by
177 posts

Donna thank you for the information. I changed my display name. Should have thought about that when I signed up. Well I will continue to use these forums and trip advisor until I get my guidebook.

Posted by
11246 posts

Another poster has suggested that one can get used copies of older editions of the RS books cheaply, through various online resources like http://www.abebooks.com/ and Amazon. While you will want the new edition during your actual travel for its details (things like bus stop locations change), you can certainly start to learn about your options from older editions. Of course, you can also get travel books from the library to get ideas; I always supplement Rick's books with others, to get other opinions.

Posted by
38 posts

I've borrowed guide books from the library before the one for the tour arrives. I like to plan ahead too. Just a suggestion, but you might want to look at other guidebooks besides Rick Steves. Sometimes there's good info in them, for example the Blue Guides. I second the Trip Advisor forums too. You can pick up some great info from their city forums.
Enjoy!

Posted by
177 posts

Thank you for the information. I guess I was right in placing my question here I would get great information. This is going to be a long 10 months before the trip. So excited.

Posted by
14241 posts

Congratulations on 2 great decisions - the tour and joining the RS forums.

Use the public library. The sights don't change from year to year. You can start reading, watching videos and even learning phrases in French or German or Italian. Also try going to used book stores. I've found older editions of RS and other guide books that way too. Since the tour starts in Amsterdam and ends in Paris , look at books for France, Belgium and Netherlands, and maybe consider London too - an easy train ride to Brussels or Amsterdam on Eurostar or from Paris at the end of the tour. Now is a good time to start thinking about what you want to see and do before the tour, since it's a really good idea to arrive in Europe at least a couple of days early to get over the jetlag and long-haul flight and be rested and acclimated for the start of the tour. After you've decided on your pre- and post-tour itineraries, you can book your flights, open-jaw (multi-destination option on most airline sites), flying into one city and home from another so there's no backtracking. Feel free to post more questions as they arise, you'll get lots of thoughtful advice here - I always have!

Posted by
25126 posts

The first batch of early 2015 tours has been released.

Posted by
8065 posts

One suggestion is to start figuring out how long you are going to go ahead of your tour and how long you will stay afterward. Then as soon as you get the info for the hotel in Haarlem (not sure if he uses more than one?) go ahead and make your reservations there. I am doing the 21 day the end of August. I waited a bit to make my initial hotel reservations as I was unsure of my time frame. When I started to book, the hotel was showing full on their website. However, I did a search, got shuffled to booking.com and saw there were vacancies at the tour hotel showing on there. I immediately emailed the hotel asking if a reservation was possible and was able to secure it directly thru the hotel.

I am just going to stay one night in Haarlem before the tour starts, but will actually fly in to London for a few days and take the train to Haarlem.

It is usually better to go a couple of days ahead to give yourselves some time to recover from jet lag. If you check luggage it will also give it time to catch up to you if it gets waylaid. I am just back from a RS Ireland tour and one of the members had her luggage misplaced when the airline had to reroute her (due to a missed plane). She arrived the day before the tour started and her bag finally caught up to her on day 4.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
799 posts

Carole, you are getting lots of great advice here, particularly the suggestion to arrive several days ahead to get over jet lag and see some things before the tour starts. Once you are on the tour, your guide will have TONS of suggestions about things to do during your free time, so you should probably focus your effort on the days before and after the tour. Have a wonderful trip - and may it be the first of many!

Posted by
177 posts

Thank you everyone for the great information. We are considering staying a night or two after the tour but still contemplating the pre-tour. I was thinking of doing the London before and taking a train to Haarlem. Still deciding. I know that I will have a great time planning and going on the tour. I know that there are some early dates for 2015 tours but not the ones for spring. I hear they are coming out in August. Will jump on them when I see them. I was hoping that I could make reservations for additional nights at the same place that we would be staying for the tour. It looks like I should be able to do that. Thanks again.

Posted by
11246 posts

If you do want to stay in the same hotel as the tour for a few nights pre- or post-tour, do follow Pam's suggestion of e-mailing hotels directly, and explaining that you are coming with a Rick Steves tour and want to spend a few extra nights. Compared with using an online booking engine like Hotels.com or even the hotel's own website, this can not only get you rooms that may not otherwise be available, but may get a better rate (I just encountered both of these bonuses in Switzerland).

Posted by
177 posts

I have received advice on making reservations for the extra nights directly with the hotels we will be staying at with the tour. When will I know that information? When I sign up for the tour or closer to the departure date? Thanks.

Posted by
1600 posts

Hi Carole, I received an e-mail showing the first and last hotels 5 months prior to the departure date. As others mentioned, when contacting the hotel be sure to let them know that you are joining a RS tour. This will help you get the best rate.

Posted by
177 posts

Thank you Donna. I plan on making reservations as soon as I can.

Posted by
77 posts

We guarantee that you will receive your tour books at least 60 days prior to your tour date, although in most cases tour members receive their materials well before then. The time frames vary when we will get everything out to you. Once you know which tour and the date you'd like to sign up for, our tour department can give you a better estimation. You can reach our tour department at (425) 771-8303 ext. 217. We are excited to have you join us!

Posted by
695 posts

Carole, my husband and I are planning the 21 day tour for spring 2015 as well! We want to go in April as this is our best chance of getting off work for that extended period of time...I'm already receiving flack about needing off so much time :(

This will be our first time to Europe as well. I would love to see London first but figured if I am having that hard of a time getting off work for 3 weeks, an extra few days will be even more difficult. I think this just gives us an excuse to go back another time and hit Scotland, Ireland, and UK. :)

We will stay an extra night in Haarlem or Amsterdam pre-tour and probably an extra night in Paris post-tour. Like you we are anxiously awaiting the dates to be posted for spring 2015. I think I read that they should be available on the 15th of August?

Does anyone know the date the balance of the tour needs to be paid off?

Posted by
177 posts

Kathy you sound as excited as we are for this trip. My husband and I retired last year so we do not have the problem of work schedule. We are planning on spending two additional nights at the end for a trip to the D-Day tours staying in Bayeux. Still unsure about staying one night on pre-tour. Are your plans to be in Europe the whole month of April or start in April end in May? The reason I ask is I have a friend who went this year for 14 days but was there around Easter and she said the churches were very packed. Easter is April 5, 2015. We plan on going late April through early May. You never know we might end up on the same trip.

Posted by
177 posts

Kathy forgot to answer your question, I read that you have to have the balance paid off 60 days prior to the beginning date of your tour.

Posted by
695 posts

Not sure on our exact dates and we will have to work around weekend schedules too.....my hope was to be on a tour that started on a thursday (april 9).....wishful thinking but it would be the easiest with our jobs. Looks like we skip the issue of Easter but that will put both of us working on Easter 2015. :(

Posted by
1233 posts

to add to the conversation about getting guide books from the library......I'm fond of the DK brand.....features drawn cross sections of churches, tombs, etc.....I love those visuals.

Posted by
78 posts

Carole
We just arrived home this week following our Best of Europe in 21 days tour. The tour rates 5 stars. It exceeded our expectations. We arrived 2 days early and opted to stay in Amsterdam. The train from the airport makes it easy to do. Harleem, where the tour starts, is a small town a short train ride from Amsterdam. We loved the opportunity to explore Amsterdam on our own a bit and walk of the jetlag. It was easy to catch a train out to Harleem the day the tour started. It is just a suggestion. We also stayed on following our tour as did the majority of our group. The tour ends in Paris. Many stayed on an extra night or two in order to visit Versailles which requires the better part of a day. The Eiffel Tower isn't part of the RS 21 day tour so that is another consideration. If you have the time it is nice to have time on your own at the end. Most of us moved from the tour hotel to other accommodation we were able to book long before we had the tour hotel list.
When you say free time do you mean when on tour or before and after? As others have mentioned once on tour your guide can give suggestions for free time. Feel free to ask more questions. I had so many helpful suggestions offered to me on this site prior to leaving.
Happy planning
JoAnn
Vernon

Posted by
177 posts

JoAnn/Vernon. Thank you for the very informative information. We are still having discussion on pre-trip going a day earlier or not. We are definitely staying on at least two extra nights after the tour to do the D-Day tours through Bayeux. We are now trying to decide if we should go back to Paris and stay one more night before leaving the next morning or leave early from Bayeux and catch a late afternoon flight out of Paris. Your comment on the Eiffel Tower was interesting to me because I knew that it was not part of the tour but we thought we would do that during our "free time" the day we are in Paris. Is that something that would not be feasible because of time? We will definitely be seeing the Eiffel Tower and if the time is an issue that will make the decision of staying one more night in Paris easy. My free time comment was for the free time during the tour. I would like to have an idea of what is in each city to see that might interest us. Also if we had to purchase tickets in advance we would need to know. We definitely will be taking the advise of the tour guide. I am glad to see you had a great time and we are very excited to be going. This will be our first time to Europe was this yours? Thanks again for the information.

Posted by
78 posts

Carole
There is some free time the day you arrive in Paris. Our group went for a mid-afternoon lunch then took the metro to St. Chapelle and walked to Notre Dame. After that we were on our own so you could certainly book Eiffel Tower tickets for later that evening. I think we were left to do our own sightseeing around 6:00 or 6:30. The final night in Paris is usually a group dinner so that might be too rushed. There was time in the afternoon of the final day between finishing at the Louvre and dinner so that would be another window of time. We did stay on and day tripped to Bayeux to see the D-day beaches. It would have been better to stay in Bayeux and have more time. We visited Italy a few years ago and that was the only other time we stepped foot in Europe. You've made an excellent tour choice. We absolutely loved the tour. As I said feel free to contact me with questions.
JoAnn
Vernon, Canada

Posted by
556 posts

Hi Carole,

I see you have received info regarding books and time frames, but I am going to address the question of arriving a day beforehand or not. I would definitely arrive at least one day prior if possible. Yes, it helps with jet lag and it's nice to not feel in a rush to get to your hotel, etc. on the day the actual tour starts. However, what no one here has mentioned is it also helps with flights delays and changes! I also live on the East coast, but I always try to give myself at least one day for problems with planes and airports. When I did my Village Italy tour, my flight left 4 hours late from Boston (I believe it was because the flight crew was delayed from somewhere else) and I had to make a connection in Frankfurt. Needless to say, I missed it (of course, they just put me on the next available plane), but I was glad I had an extra day to play with.

If you are going in early April, you never know what can happen with the weather, etc. so if you have the time, I definitely would try to add that extra day.

Have fun! I'm sure you will love the RS tour experience and your time in Europe!!

Posted by
8065 posts

Just one more addition...in the past Rick has offered discounts for early booking and also on his travel festival days in November and in the spring as well as on his Tour Reunion day in January. I would have no notion if these would be offered again this year, but it is certainly something to watch for! A hundred saved is a hundred freed up to spend in Europe, lol!

Posted by
177 posts

Pam I saw where if you sign up by 12/1/14 you get $100 off so we will definitely be doing that. Also I came across last night if you are purchasing your passport for the first time they will give you a credit for that. So I have never had a passport before, first time out of the country, so that was a nice surprise. Just waiting for the dates to come out later this month. Thanks for the idea of the duffle bag that might be good for us.

Posted by
8065 posts

Carole, I had forgotten about the passport thing! My brother/SIL took my 2 nephews on Heart of Italy last year and one did not have a passport. He did get credit on that which was great. You should definitely wait to apply for yours. You can pick up the paperwork and get your birth certificate now, then submit it after you sign up for the tour.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi there fellow travelers!

Would anyone know when the fall 2015 14 or 21 Day European tour dates be released for sign up? Thank you!!

Posted by
177 posts

Kpb, The 2015 dates should be out sometime during August. We are anxiously awaiting them to come out to sign up for the 21 day.

Posted by
18 posts

Carole, congratulations on your first trip to Europe! I would suggest adding Bruges at the beginning. It is beautiful, easily accessible (from Brussels airport it is approx 1-1/4 hour), easily walkable small city full of gorgeous architecture, delicious food, beer, and chocolate, and excellent small museums/sites. The trains to Amsterdam/Haarlem take 3-_ hours depending on train. I think it would be a great start to your trip and less hectic than starting in a large city like London (and I'm a city girl).

Posted by
695 posts

Carole, we booked our trip too! The nice people at RS also credited us for our passport costs even though we were technically 10 days over that 1 year time frame! Our tour starts April 19 and we got our passports on April 9 this year.

I know you have your WDW trip next month and we have an Ohio/NYC trip this November. ...it's hard not to get excited for our RS tour next spring :)

Posted by
177 posts

Kathy well it looks like we will be on the same tour and we are very excited and cannot wait. We will be getting our passports when we return from our two trips we have planned starting next week. I am now reading Europe through the Back Door 2014 edition that I got from the library. I also picked up France, Venice, and Germany just to get an idea of what are in the individual country books. This is making me so excited. We still have not booked our airline flight because I am having a hard time finding a decent price. Since I have just over 7 months before we leave I figured I can hold off for a little while longer. I know a lot of people used Kayak but they seem to be much higher than anything else I have seen. The one thing that is also getting me thinking about is the conversation about the reclining seats. Amazing all the news reports on about planes having to make special landings to take people off that are fighting. I hope this issue is not as big of a deal when we go next year. We have not flown in a verrrrrryyyyy long time. I am however not letting that creep into my excitement for this trip. Enjoy your trip in November and see you in April 2015.

Posted by
556 posts

Carole, I know mentioned this before, but I would suggest arriving at least one day prior, due to flight delays. The "Knee Defender" isn't what I normally would have considered as reason for a delay, but obviously, you can never predict what will cause a delay!

:)

ENJOY!!

Posted by
192 posts

Let me echo what the other Gretchen said about trying to arrive a day or two early because of possible delays getting to Europe.

Our connecting flight from Amsterdam to Rome was cancelled the day of or trip and we were rescheduled on one 48 HOURS later we would have missed the first day of the tour. Luckily KLM was able to get us on a different flight out og Seattle so we didn't miss a day. Not did we have to spend two nights in the AMS airport!

Also once you have your flights scheduled sign up to become a frequent flier of that airline and see if the airports you are flying into/through have a Smartphone app that you can use to be notified of delays, departure gates etc.

The only notification we received of Alitalia canceling our flight was for. The AMS airport Smartphone app.

Have fun!!