Please sign in to post.

How do YOU prepare for a Rick Steves BOE tour?

As I count the days to my 21 day BOE tour (54!) I find it gets harder and harder to focus on the day to day things. I struggle too, since I'm going solo, because I don't have too many people that I can talk about the trip with. My husband listens somewhat patiently, but a trip to Europe is the last thing on his mind. I want to talk about it ALL THE TIME but don't want to come off as being boastful. Who can I get excited with? I have to come here to vent!

To help pass the time I've been doing the following things:

*walking as much as I can
*taking the stairs whenever possible
*trial packing (how will I get it all in that carry on?!)
*obsessing over shoes and clothes (what to take and what to leave)
*watching RS shows on the locations I'll be visiting
*reading all of the wonderful online scrapbooks of past tours
*working on my own blog/scrapbook to update the home folks while I'm gone
*chatting with former RS tour members
*trying to connect with my own tour members
*trying to figure out what cities I'll have free time in and what I can do to fill it (or do I just want a good nap?)

Here are my fears:
Plane crashes
Being lonely on the tour (there are only two other singles on my tour)
Getting lost
Not being able to keep up with everybody (I'm a plus sized girl- and while I can walk 8-10 miles a day, can I do it fast enough? I'd like to think so...)
I'm a picky eater. Not a fan of seafood (I was raised on beef and taters). I've promised myself that I will try something new each day, but it's scary. I might be the one person who loses weight on a European Tour...

Here are my hopes:
Lots of new friends
Adventure (such as paragliding in the alps!)
Learning (I love history, art and culture- don't get a lot of that in rural Nebraska)
Lots of stories to tell (preferably good ones)
Laughter
Meeting the locals and learning about them an their lives
Conquering fears
Conquering the packing of that carry on bag! ;-)

Any advice for me? Otherwise~
Please tell me what YOU did (or are doing) to help you count down until tour time!

Posted by
556 posts

Hi Rankster,

You sound just like me!! I'm also a solo traveler who obsesses before my tours (I've taken four now)! Before my first one, I would check the forum every day (ummm....which I still do pretty much now, 7 years later), look and re-look at all the scrapbooks, watch Rick's shows, as well as Rudy Maxa's and Burt Wolf's. I'd also check my reservations and figure out what to take. I, too, was nervous that I wouldn't like traveling solo, but it worked out great! There were some other singles going and I would spend time with them. There were also couples that I spent time. Most of the people on Rick's tours are like-minded, open people who are willing to have others tag along. By the way, I'm plus-sized too and I keep up just fine. ;)

Just keep doing what you're doing and coming here for support for the next 54 days. :)

Enjoy!

Posted by
5579 posts

Sounds like you're on the right track -- keep walking, but make sure you're using the shoes (and socks) you plan to wear on the tour.
You could also check out Rick's history/art books (Mona Winks and Europe 101) for general cultural background.

And yes, I do pack and re-pack repeatedly before flight date. Be ruthless in your cutting back!

Posted by
267 posts

I may not be traveling single, but my list still looks very much like yours. This will be our second trip to Italy, but our first RS tour. I have a lot of the same concerns that you mentioned, especially the one carry on! But I have made up my mind that I WILL accomplish this! I do have a tendency to over pack and although was able to manage a large case, a carry on, and a personal small backpack on our last trip, I am looking forward to the feeling of freedom that the carryon only will give me. Like you I keep going over and over what to take and what to leave home.

Don't worry about spending time thinking and dreaming about your upcoming BOE trip. I found that some of my enjoyment from our last trip came from that planning and dreaming. I was somewhat concerned that my pre trip planning would give me unrealistic expectations and the actual trip might be a disappointment. Totally NOT THE CASE!
The planning was exciting in itself and only a precursor to the main event. Relax and enjoy each phase of this exciting adventure!

Posted by
695 posts

Oh, Lisa.....I'm not going solo but with that exception, I could have written your post. I try really hard not to talk about it at work....although one girl does placate me because she went to Europe 10 years ago....another recently told me she has better things to spend her money on.....anyway........

This past weekend I pulled out all the clothes I considered bringing on my trip and tried them all on to make sure everything goes with each piece.

I've hand-washed items to make sure they will look acceptable after being dripped dry. I've filled the small TSA certified bottles with our shampoos and lotions and used them for 3+ weeks to verify they will get us thru the trip. I've bought and returned several pairs of shoes. I need to do another trial run with the packing again. Last time I made it work but I've modified the packing list so I need to try it again.....I've also added another pair of shoes (sandles) that I think I will get some use out of.

I've also tried to purchase as much as I can now.....for example, I received our 2 day Paris passes in the mail and I've purchased/printed our Eiffel tower tickets. I did both of these using 2 different credit cards/debit card to verify that there was no additional fees charged to my card. It feels good having things paid for ahead of time!

I've watched numerous videos..... Ken Burns' THE WAR.......The Sorrow and the Pity. I've re-read The Diary of Anne Frank. I've read The Hiding Place and am curently reading The Winter Train. Of course I record Rick's shows every day and watch them. I want to really fully understand the events of history so when I see them for the first time they will have more meaning. I'm a college graduate but never took any history classes!

My vacation calendar says I have 43 days so you are right around the corner from me!

Posted by
1173 posts

I am 54 years old single woman and have been on 12 RS tours, mostly solo. It is scary, but I always have a great time. Your lucky, there are two other singles that is great. I have been on tours, where I did not make friends with the other single women, they were nice, but preferred to go on alone, so I made friends with the couples. Always make friends with the wife! I went on the 14 BOE tour and there was only one other single woman and we were together the whole two weeks, you would think we went together and she was great!!! We had a great time! I went on the 15 day France tour ( now 13 days) and there were two single women and the three of us stayed together all the time! One of the women used to go off on her own sometimes but always came back to eat with us all the time. We had the best time together! You need to take the attitude, I am here, I am going to have the best time I can and if you are alone sometimes ( it can be lonely) but you enjoy being on your own, you enjoy walking thru that museum and seeing the best art in the world, you enjoy taking that walk and seeing the sights if your on your own, then own it and enjoy it. Not easy to do, but go with the mind set, I am doing this and I am going to enjoy it! You are doing the right thing, walking, reviewing your clothes etc. As for the plane crashing, sure can it happen, but it still is safer than driving a car or crossing the street. And I can say this as I paid auto claims and accidental death claims which encompassed plane crashes. Much more car accidents than plane crashes. I am more concerned that the person sitting next to me is nice and not too heavy as the seats are tiny then if the plane crashed. I don't care too much for seafood, but you will find things to eat. You won't starve, the food is great. Take a rain jacket, layer, two pairs of shoes, one pair being sneakers. No dresses, no dress shoes, take a hoodie or sweater, pair of jeans. Bring ear buds for the walking tours, camera, batteries, memory card, some detergent to wash out underwear and comfortable clothes. It will be an adventure of a lifetime. Have a great time!

Posted by
8068 posts

Oh yes, I am definitely in the same mode when I travel and was when I did the BOE.

I do hope you are taking the day off the day before you fly. Plan to get your bag packed and your transit clothes set out including underwear, socks, etc. Get your purse organized or set up if you are taking a different purse. Take out your chapstick/lipstick and everything that needs to go in your 3-1-1 from your purse. I set out a separate ziplock in my purse and label it for my jewelry for the travel day including my watch, so I don't have to fumble to take it off before security. If you don't have the ability to take off the day before, do a preliminary pack on the weekend before. Get your underwear, pj's, toiletries, assorted other things in the suitcase and change out your purse on the weekend along with laying out your transit wardrobe.

One thing to know is not to worry too much about what you will see on your free time unless there is something specific. In Rome I knew I wanted to go to the Capitoline Museum and in Florence I knew I wanted to go in the Baptistry but otherwise I did not have a major plan for my free time. That is unusual for me as I am a planner from the git-go. Do know you will have time on the bus to read the chapter on the upcoming city and your guide will talk about it. You will also talk with your tour mates and may get good ideas form them or they from you. You will also discuss it at breakfast, lunch and dinner, lol!

I agree with the others about finding interesting people on the tours. I made it a point to try and eat meals with someone different each time. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. The first group meal is easy as you will likely be seated at 2 long tables so you just file in and sit at the next seat. I recommend you don't be the last one at the table. Are you starting at the Ambassador in Haarlem?

You will keep up just fine if you are going that distance! I, too, am plus-sized and had no problem. Dimitri, my BOE guide, said to someone who was having a hard time keeping up that they should stay up with him. He said the guide always goes at a reasonable pace, but the further you are back in the pack, the more you scramble. The photographers always seem to be at the back of the pack but really we never had to wait on anyone.

Bus seats: Well, no one has talked about this, but I head for the back. I like to get a window that doesn't have the curtain post blocking part of it. I found that lots of people don't like to sit toward the back but those that do bond. We had so many running jokes going on in the back of the bus! Remember there are enough seats for everyone to have their own set of 2. You will still have some couples who choose to sit together.

Food-wise: Well, I'm the vegan, so just call me Queen of Picky. I never went hungry. There are almost always 3 courses so plenty to eat. If not, you will be stopping at AutoGrilles when you are traveling and you can pick up some crackers, cookies, chips, cheese, chocolate, or something healthy, lol, for snacks. The only dish I had that I didn't really like was seitan in mushroom sauce and the hotel owner had had it prepared just for me so I ate it and thanked them profusely for fixing me something special. No way would I have hurt their feelings! They were so very proud of what they offered me. They did offer to fix it for me again the next night but I demurred and said I wanted to go out exploring. Very sweet of them though!

Guide book: Go thru it when you have a chance and rip out the sections that you are not going to be visiting, then bind it with a thicker rubber band. To break out the sections, open the book flat, then bend it backward. Start tearing out your targeted section maybe 5-10 pages at a time which will leave the binding a bit gap-toothed, but will be a little lighter. Then as you visit each city/country, you can continue to reduce the load.

Posted by
333 posts

Thanks everybody for your replies! It's nice to know I'm not alone in some of my worries and fears. I try not to concentrate on those, knowing how much fun I'm going to have, but sometimes reason leaves me and the fear is there. I just remind myself that my love of travel is greater than my fear of flying- so focus on the love of travel!

I am breaking in my shoes! I bought a pair of ECCO shoes (a cross between hiking boots and tennis shoes) back in October and wore them all winter. I just bought a pair of Sketchers Airwalks, which I think might be the most comfortable pair of shoes I've ever worn. I also bought a pair of Sperry Topsiders which I plan to start breaking in ASAP. I decided against any sandals for a May trip, but love the thought of something lightweight and easy on/off.

As to clothes, I keep changing my mind! Right now I have 6 shirts on the list: 3 long sleeeves, 3 short sleeves, a vest and a sweater. Then two pair of pants and 2 pair capris, 2 night shirts, 1 pair yoga pants, socks and undies and my rainjacket. Of course I'll have my camera and tablet and a small notebook for note-taking on the tours. Ive not done any practice laundry yet, though I plan to. Although I'm 49, I'm a full time college student. My classes end on March 20th. After that, I'm fully focused on my trip! I'll start some practice washes then.

I'm not taking any liquids with me on the flight. On my first day in Amsterdam I plan to go shopping. I'll buy shampoo, conditioner, soap and other toiletries then, I might buy makeup too- practical souvenirs!

Kathy, I believe my tour is just a week after yours. I'll fly to Amsterdam five days early to explore on my own pre-tour (including a day trip to Bruges). Then post tour I'll spend an extra 3 days and then go to Scotland for 5 days.

I'm so excited about this trip, I actually get giddy!

Posted by
333 posts

Pam, you always have such great ideas and advice! Thank you! Yes, once school ends for me in March, I have nothing but time, so I'll really start packing, re-packing and re-re-packing to make sure I have everything I need (and nothing more)! I'll definitely refer back to this thread when it comes to my purse items and other things. I'm trying to think ahead (or over think) and I'll have my pacsafe purse and a collapsable duffel for souvenirs packed into a day pack backpack, which I'll use as my "purse" on the flight. The daypack zips onto my carry on, but makes the carry on oversized, so it has to be separate for the flight.

Posted by
5579 posts

Rankster, don't forget that the liquids you buy in Amsterdam will have to be carried in your baggage for the entire trip -- a good reason to carry the 3 ounce sizes and hope the hotel shampoo/soap/lotion works for you. Or at very least don't buy the large economy size.

Posted by
11 posts

I'm going on the 14th April BOE in 21 days, and I have similar coping strategies to you! I'm traveling with my husband, and we're arriving in Amsterdam via Morocco, Barcelona and Aix en Provence, so we leave in 27 days! I'm so excited! :)

Posted by
8068 posts

Rankster, I will bet you have a few liquids in your purse. Chapstick? eye drops? hand sanitizer? hand lotion? Make a note to put a new quart-sized ziplock in your PacSafe anyway.

I am sure time will ~drag~ until March 20, well, except for finals, papers, etc, lol! In your spare time (of which I am sure you have none, but I'll bet you have a list going) start making a list for what to do 24 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks out. With your DH at home you don't have to worry about stopping the paper, etc, but do make notes about getting some Euro, notifying your bank and CC companies, printing out your info on hotel res/flights/trains etc.

If your first tour hotel is Ambassador in Haarlem, they probably keep the breakfast room set up the same way. There is a buffet set up down the middle of the room and just beyond there are 2 big tables for 6 with tables for 2 and 4 around the perimeter of the room. Head for one of those big 6ers! Both for your meet-up and then your breakfasts with the group. I have to overcome my natural tendency for shyness (yes, really, as much as I talk on here, I am kind of shy!) and make myself go to the center of the room and the big tables. It gives you a good opportunity to link with others that way.

I am getting excited for both you, emsharp, Kathy, Carole and now I've forgotten who else is going this spring. Having some time ahead and at the end is really good as well.

Posted by
206 posts

I know how you are feeling right now. Just trying to get through the next couple months will be hard, as they will go so slow. Planning is very exciting and always lots of fun. Travelling alone is somewhat a downer in some respects. You want to talk about everything, but since you do not have a travel partner it is hard to talk to others about a trip that they have no interest in. Even felt some were jealous that I was going to Europe for 3 weeks and I sure knew they did not want to talk about it. Even when you come home and have all the pictures and memories, you will find that very few friends will even want to hear about the trip or see any pictures. That said, it still is a wonderful time to anticipate and plan. Just consider yourself so lucky that you can do a wonderful trip that so many will never have the chance to take. I'm positive you will meet new friends on the trip and will never feel left out. I was asked by several of the other single travelers and couples to join in with them many times. I roomed with a lawyer from California and we were as different as night and day, but had no problems rooming together. The best time I had on my last trip was at Oktoberfest opening weekend with 4 other single travelers. We stayed from noon until 8pm and had the most fun I had in years. Several of the things you plan to do sound wonderful and I know you will enjoy everything. Hope I can do the paragliding also when I go back next year.
I'm not into all the packing yet but have bought the R/S convertible carryon bag so I will also be doing what you are doing this time next year. As far as all the food on the tours, I don't think I ever saw anyone that had a problem with anything that was ever served at a group dinner. You may be served something that you may not know what it is, but try it, and be surprised at how good it is.

Enjoy the next couple months and have a great trip.
PS: You mentioned you have been looking at the scrapbooks. I have looked at most of the 2014 entries and some are so wonderful. Think there are 60 of them that made the deadline for entry last weekend. Have you seen BOE21 by Gord and Julie Braun? Great Scrapbook of the tour you will be on.

Posted by
333 posts

Pam, right now I don't have a purse at all, lol, although I carry a brush and a pocket-sized hand lotion in my backpack! The purse I'm taking will be packed empty. When I use it, I will have a small brush, small lotion (bought in Amsterdam), my money/passport and a camera. It won't hold more than that!

As to liquids I buy in Amsterdam, I'll buy the smallest sizes I can to last me the five weeks I travel. Its not a big deal to leave it behind after the tour, or take it home either, as I plan to check my carry-on on the way home. I have a collapsible duffel I'll be filling with souvenirs as I tour (the boys/men want German beer steins and Swiss Army Knives and the girls want Italian masks). I'll take that as my carry on for the flights home.

Thanks for the links for scrapbooks! I've read Bob's wonderful webpage and just finished Gord and Julie's. However, y'all reminded me to double check the list. I see two last minute entries that I didn't see before. Better check them out!

Posted by
501 posts

this is a great thread . . . as for the liquids 3-1-1, I was under the impression that solids like lipstick, chapstick, solid deodorant, bar soap do NOT count as liquids & they do NOT have to go in our 3-1-1 quart sized bag?????

Posted by
695 posts

Check about the Swiss army knives. .....can you bring those in a carry on home? May need to pack those in the checked bag for the trip home.

Ams I think you may be right, Chinalake. I thought chapstick was a solid too

Posted by
762 posts

I have travelled solo on 2 RS tours and with friends on 2 others. I am going on the Best of Spain this fall solo. I have also travelled solo at other times. When preparing for tours, I do look at where the free time is and do make some tetative plans for that free time; I try to keep it loose, so I have a few choices, plus the guides recommendations, which will be great. I allow myself some downtime, so If I feel like sitting in a cafe for a few hours, catchng up on my journal, sipping coffee or an aperatif, I do it without guilt.

I am a photography nut so I do tarry awhile to take 100's of pictures. That makes travelling solo great, I can spend 1 hour getting sunset photos on a bridge in Florence, such a fabulous memory that will last forever. I am crazy about markets so whenever I can, I hit the market. That is something I look up beforehand.

I am hooked on RS tours. My friend and family members are not enamoured with the tours like I am. So solo travel it is! Each tour group is different. Most tours I do things on my own; sometimes I tag along with other singles or couples in free time.

Getting lost: I get a few maps ahead of time and do not fret much about getting lost, which in some cities like Venice is the norm! I use Rick's advice and have the hotel's name or business card with me and a map of some sort. Although I have driven across the US and Canada solo, I can get lost in old Italian cities so easily. The narrow street and tall buildings make it hard for me to keep oriented to direction! Oh well, it is somethng I chuckle about.

I have never been lonely on the tours as there is quite a bit of group time interspersed with free time on your own. On many tours where we had a free day, the guide accompanied most of the group to a location by train and gave us info on how to get back. Other tours, the guide welcomed everyone to come with them on the free time or free meals.

I am also a plus sized girl, and I can keep up. I might be slower when going up more than 3 flights of stairs, but I am the slow and steady walker. You are doing the right thing by taking stairs beforehand.

Do enjoy your tour. You might get hooked!

Posted by
8068 posts

@kathy and ChinaLake...I was sure chapstick was a 3-1-1 item, but now I can't find anything to back that up. It does seem as it would be a solid like a deodo stick so there is a good chance I just made up that info, lol! I am guessing a small tube of vaseline would definitely be 3-1-1, but you are right to question my comment on the chapstick. I fly thru a small airport so maybe next time I am by there I will pop in for a chat with the TSA group if they are not busy or maybe I will just leave it in my purse next time I fly and see what's what.

I do have to be careful because I often will stick it in my pocket so I can get to it and I try to make sure my pockets are clear when going thru security even tho the local airport has the old walk thru metal detectors not the nude-o-scopes.

Posted by
333 posts

Kathy, I'm sure you're right. If I buy Swiss Army Knives I'll need to put them in the checked luggage, which is fine.

June, I appreciate what you said. I'm a huge photo nut. I took over 6000 pictures over 3 weeks when I was in Europe before. I can only imagine what damage I'll do in 5 weeks! I'm also looking into a "selfie stick". While I hate them in theory, the truth is, if I want to be in my pictures without bugging my travel buddies all the time, I'll have to rely on my cell phone selfies for that and a selfie stick will give me a chance at better shots. As for everything else, I love my Nikon! Even though I'm not a morning person by nature, you can bet I'll be up early most days to take advantage of the scenic views before they become clogged with people. So while I'll attempt to stay with the guide in order to keep up, the truth is I'll probably always be lagging and running, lagging and running, taking pictures and trying to catch up, lol!

I really hesitated to start this thread, not wanting to admit my fears "out loud", so to speak. I'm so glad I did! I love hearing everybody's advice and experiences. If only I could speed up the days until April- and then slow them down for the month of May, lol!

Lisa

Posted by
695 posts

Lisa, let's compare how many photos we take after you get back. I tend to over-indulge in the picture taking category. That IS one of hubby's jobs.....to make sure I don't lose our guide!

Oh, and I'm watching today's RS show on Belgium.....and my mouth is watering at the chocolate. Bruges looks so quaint. I so wish we could have gone a few days earlier than we are to take in that city.

Posted by
8068 posts

veering slightly off topic here, but: My brother and I visited Belgium for a few days last June to see the airbase our Dad flew from in WWII. We were staying in a small town in Eastern Belgium and for breakfast they had a huge bowl of chocolates on the buffet. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Starting the day with chocolates and the heck with whether they were vegan or not!

Rankster, I am glad you started the thread. I think most people have worries about travel. I always think I am going to cancel up to the last minute when I know there is no way I would actually do that! Silly, but there it is!

I also agree with Tony and others upthread. It is very hard to discuss this with others. Either they are not interested in travel or can't swing it financially for some reason and it just doesn't make a good conversation. EVERYONE here knows how excited you feel and I love sharing in the excitement of your upcoming ventures.

Posted by
333 posts

Pam, chocolate is NEVER off topic! I want to do everything Rick did in his Bruges video. I want to watch little old ladies tat lace (and then buy some), see the relic with Christ's blood at the church, take a canal ride (and lots of pictures) and taste some chocolate! (And buy extra to nibble on until Germany and Switzerland!) With careful planning I hope to do all of that! I think my tour is 8 hours on the bus for 6 hours in the town- it is what it is.

Kathy, it's a deal! I'm gonna have to get new memory cards for both my phone, tablet and my camera! I love to people watch and take candids of people as well as pictures of places and things. On my Russian River Cruise some of my favorite pictures are the ones I took from the ship, of the Russian people playing/laughing/living along the riverbanks. I also love taking pictures of kids- as much as I can without looking inappropriate. I miss having little ones and kids are such great subjects! I also love seeing how they dress in different countries and how they interact with their families. I'm all about the people, first and foremost. And animals! LOL and pretty things... Yep, nothing escapes my camera.

Posted by
8068 posts

One of the things that I actually wish I had taken pictures of were the tourists taking selfies...everywhere! The craziest were the ones in the Grand Place in Brussels where there were scads of Asian tour groups and the women, who were way past the age of sexy, kittenish selfies, posing that way left and right. Hands framing face, head tilt left. Then head tilt right. Then hands under chin with head tilt. Yikes! And why were they standing on tiptoe?? Also what I was shocked at in Paris and Venice were all the people there tromping around in wedding dresses getting pictures. I decided the ones especially in Paris, had not gotten married there, they were just taking photos there. I did foof out some skirts for a bride or two...figured the groom/husb who was taking the shots was not looking at the dress, but she would notice once they got home. I actually wondered if there was some kind of bridal gown rental-by-the-day in Paris, lol.

You may do this as well, but as a solo traveler, I often offer to take someone's picture but the selfie stick may negate that need. BTW you will see the selfie sticks for sale by African or some other non-native entrepreneur ~everywhere~ but especially in Venice and Rome. Have no idea of the quality.

Posted by
695 posts

In my research of Viator tours I found one package where you can renew your wedding vows under the Eiffel tower! I wonder if that could have been what you were seeing, Pam?

Lisa, I want that lace too!

Posted by
68 posts

Congratulations on booking your trip and having the guts to go! I can completely understand that people get sick of you talking about your trip, I live in rural Iowa. I hope that my talking about my travels and encouraging others to travel might convince one of my friends or coworkers to go see the world outside of the Midwest.
I do not think you will have any problems with the food. I am not sure what your fish exposure has been. I never eat seafood at home because it's usually gross but will eat it on vacation when it's fresh, not frozen for 3 months and has travelled many miles. Worst case scenario you have to stop at a 7-11 type place and pick up a snack or dinner but that is easy to do. I like to have a book when I am solo to read when eating, it makes me feel less lonely if there isn't any good people watching. I also like to use that time to write emails home (on my iPhone). I am terrible with directions, worst case scenario you go into a hotel/restaurant and have them get a cab to take you to your destination. I do not think you will have any trouble keeping up. I sprained my ankle day one of my tour and still had no problems keeping up (and I get lapped on the track at the gym by people 40 years older than me). You mentioned you like history, I have found that reading some history books about WW1, WW2, and other things makes traveling more interesting. An e reader is good for that. I think you will have a wonderful time! When in Brugge you need to try some beer and fries with mayo. It sounds gross until you try it, then you will wish you hadn't because you will want them all the time and it's hard on the waistline :-)

Posted by
8068 posts

@kathy, no these did not look like vow renewals as they were young couples, often Asian. Often with the girls allowing their gowns to drag in the dirt (on the Champ du Mars in the Eiffel Tower area) and on the dirty pavement. I am not sure why that was driving me nuts, but it did!

Posted by
333 posts

Interesting about the wedding dresses, I wonder what that was? In St Petersburg, Russia we saw a TON of brides at the fountains of Peterhof Palace. I took lots of pictures of them. But they appeared to be Russian brides, so I assumed it was some sort of good luck tradition. Not sure about the Asian brides at the Eiffel. I didn't see any when I was there, so perhaps you lucked onto some kind of special circumstance.

Posted by
333 posts

Michelle, thanks for your comments. I will have some books downloaded on my tablet or phone, as I'm an avid reader. I'm just finishing "Unbroken" and will probably re-read "The Hiding Place" and the book I bought about Anne Frank the last time I was at her house in 2012. I am a big WW2 buff.

As to the food, I'll probably be taking great advantage of the Autogrilles and the local markets for bread and cheese (and chocolate). I have no problems with carbs and dairy, lol! My exposure to fish is next to nil. I eat salmon on occasion and of course I've had fishsticks, but that's about it. I had crab (almost always julienned) while in Russia and liked that. Otherwise it's what I see my husband and daughter order at Red Lobster or cook from frozen. I tried some lobster once at Red Lobster and ended up giving it to my nephew, it was awful. I want to be a good sport and try a bite when it's offered on the tour, but even the smell bothers me and the texture looks... well.... It really is something I'll have to try hard to overcome. I also hate mushrooms which seems to be a key ingredient in a lot of European cooking. I'm sure I'll manage NOT to starve to death but I have a feeling I'll be eating "lite" at many of the group meals and supplimenting inbetween times. Such is life. I'll deal, as I know it's my own issue.

I think it's a great idea to have a couple of ideas on hand for free time at the various cities, and then listen to our guides recommendations and fellow tourmate recommendations and make a plan from that. I don't want to lock myself in to anything and be disappointed when it doesn't happen. Neither do I want to lose any great opportunities because I didn't take the time to research and waste precious free time in hem-hawing. I want to be prepared for anything- as much as a person can be.

Lisa

Posted by
8068 posts

" Neither do I want to lose any great opportunities because I didn't take the time to research and waste precious free time in hem-hawing."

Ain't that the truth! It is so hard to strike a balance! I think what happened to me is that I did intensive planning for what to see in my time before the tour (London and Amsterdam) and for time with a friend after the tour (Paris) plus getting transportation and hotels organized for the non-tour time that I ran out of steam for the tour days itself. I had been to Florence and Rome and knew particularly what I wanted to do in Rome and sort of what I wanted to do in Florence but that was it. I realized after the first couple of days that that was OK. The couple who usually sat behind me had an iPad and listened to some of Rick's shows on the next place we were going. I could listen with them or not, it was not intrusive. I also realized there was plenty of time on the bus to do some guide book research and that the guide would talk about fun and interesting things to see as well.

However, sometimes serendipity occurs. While we were at the group dinner in Monterosso, someone noticed some commotion near the ferry dock so asked the waiter. He said it was an end of summer festival of thanks for the fishing (and the tourists?). A group takes off from the new Town beach with the huge statue of Mary in a boat, lands at the ferry dock, then it is paraded back thru town behind a huge cross, a band, a choir and townspeople. Many of us hung around with the locals to watch and it was very cool. Others in our group went ahead and wound up being volunteers to launch hundreds of candles out into the sea from the beachfront. As we were walking back to our hotel in the new town we came thru the tunnel and the sea was still lit with all the candles! Later we found out Jim and Karen had had a hand in that.

In Rome there was some kind of food festival going on along the Tiber that many went to for dinner. It was a neat local thing that the guide pointed them to.

So...yes good idea to have some preliminary planning, but it's OK if you don't and it's OK if you don't see what you planned to see because something more interesting popped up!

Posted by
68 posts

In Russia (at least St. Petersburg and Moscow) it is tradition to wear your wedding dress around town to the famous sites for your wedding day. We were told that this was something that started in the communist era as you would no longer have a church wedding. Not sure if that is tour guide history or real history. I am not sure if the trend in Europe is a take away from that or it's own trend for a different reason. Some couples in Iowa do travel around to 'famous' sites like the capitol or sculpture garden to get their wedding pictures taken, we just have less tourists to notice.

Posted by
263 posts

I know exactly what you mean about wanting to talk about your trip, but not wanting to be boastful. Most of my friends' trips are more of the "stay in the same state, or visit grandma" trips. Maybe two have ever been out of the country (to Mexico, but when you live in CA that's pretty much like staying in the same state). In any case, you should not worry about being the single person. The hubby and I did GAS two years ago and there were two singles on our tour. A group of us, the two singles and couples, all hung out together and went almost everywhere together. Take opportunities when they present themselves and don't be afraid to offer suggestions of dinner or sightseeing together. RS tour members are usually like minded and love having new experiences, no matter who they're with.
Addressing your other points: It's a good idea that you are walking now and thinking about what to pack. You will find that while the tours have a lot of walking, there is also a lot of standing around and resting. Also, you should definitely try every new food that passes your way! What good is going to a foreign country if you don't try something new? You are already "outside the box" by being on the trip in the first place.
And finally, obsessing over shoes and clothes is perfectly natural, and a really great way to build a fantastic wardrobe. DO NOT skimp on the shoes. Buy good quality and break them in. Pack light and plan to do laundry on the road. Tip: when you pull into a new hotel there is always a bit of downtime before dinner or the orientation walk. That's when you do laundry. Quickly get it done so it has time to dry, and move on to enjoy your night. You'll feel much better enjoying your evening knowing you do not have to do laundry when you get back.
We're doing Athens and the Heart of Greece beginning June 22nd. The tour kit came in the mail today, and it was all I could do to not read the whole book in one sitting. Needless to say I CANNOT wait.
Have fun, happy travels, and let us know how it went.

Posted by
263 posts

I forgot to add one more thing. Leave the selfie stick at home, especially if you are planning on using it at a museum. Most USA and many European museums have banned their use. It seems like unnecessary weight to bring. Plus, many of the other tour members take turns taking pics of others in front of the major tourist attractions.

Posted by
101 posts

Dear Rankster,
You will certainly be well prepared. I too, go as a single woman, as my husband has died. I have never been lonely on 5 Rick Steves Tours as the "no grumps" policy screens all the grumps out. The tours are active, so lots of walking and steps are a good preparation. I have never lacked for things to do during our "free time" as the guide usually has suggestions for us.
I have never turned down a "bath" opportunity either in Hungary or in Baden-Baden. They are basically water parks for adults. Hamams in Turkey are way out of my comfort zone, but I have been scrubbed 3 times.
Packing light is always a challenge but I discovered the Eagle Creek packing system and have been able to use every crevasse in my wheeled carryon and small backpack. One night last summer in Switzerland a batch of laundry wasn't quite, dry but I folded it into my Eagle Creek system, and it dried perfectly!
I met Ann from Staten Island in Ireland. She has a wealth of travel knowledge. Ann has it down; 2 pairs of shoes, nothing dressy and layers.
Rick Steves Tours attract friendly, curious, educated travelers. The tours also really tutor you in European travel. After my tour 2 summers ago I went on an Aegean cruise by myself (fabulous) and last summer I ventured back to Istanbul on my own (hey, I know people there now)!
Rick Steves Tours attract friendly, curious adults. The tours have been perfected and make really wise use of your travel time.
Enjoy the Best of Europe!

Posted by
333 posts

I'll probably take your advice, Julie. I would never try to use them in a museum. My thoughts were to use one as I walk around by myself, the places where I'd take a selfie anyway because I don't want to bother other people. But you're right, it's a space taker and I don't have any space to spare. That's an easy thing to leave out.

Pam, I'm so excited! 32 days!

Posted by
1529 posts

Much has been said already that is spot on. As a frequent solo traveler (and worrier) I offer the following humble advice: 1) Stop watching the news until you depart. There is always something that will freak you out (recent experience: the Malaysia air flight was hijacked two days before I left for SE Asia trip, and I was scheduled to fly on exact same type of plane). If people start talking to you about plane crashes, let them know you're focusing on all those flights that make it every day without incident. 2) Don't watch any US news while you're on your trip. I work in politics and trust me, getting away from it is liberating. Local TV in Europe is much more fun to watch even if you don't understand it. 3) Sit with someone different at every meal. I have done 4 RS tours solo, and the cliques form rapidly, especially among the couples. Mix it up and meet new people. 4) Just because you're traveling solo doesn't mean you are obligated to be instant (and constant) buddies with the other solos, or anyone else for that matter. I've made wonderful friends of fellow travelers, but there are always some people that were challenging (one in particular had significant medical issues and "expected" her fellow solo travelers to take care of her). It's your (expensive) vacation, and you don't have to spend time with people who drag you down. A polite "I am heading out on my own today" covers it. 5) Take half the stuff and twice the amount of money. And two different ATM cards. 6) Once each day, in some place that is truly magical, take a deep breath, look around, close your eyes, and let that memory sink into your soul. You're in the memory making business when you travel, so make some! When I'm stressed out, I think of those times and it reminds me why I work 50 hours a week to pay for those treasures. Have a wonderful adventure.

Posted by
333 posts

CL, that's some great advice- thank you! After hearing about the plane crash in the alps, I said that very thing to my husband- I can't listen to that kind of news or I'll never get on the plane!

As to packing half as much and taking twice as much money, I can only try. ;-) A crowded carry on and daypack are probably the best I can do considering my shorter trip to Europe had me with a huge, stuffed rolling suitcase AND my a big backpack and purse! My daughter just sprang a June wedding on me (as her future inlaws are moving out of state in July). JUNE! I leave in four weeks and won't be back until early June. So I'm planning a wedding of 150+ in five weeks with about 3 weeks for last minute stuff when I get back. I don't think there will be twice as much money for me to bring! In fact, there might be less to bring than originally budgeted at the rate it's flying out the window. Sheesh! But I'll try. ;-)

I do look forward to meeting everybody and like your idea of trying to eat with somebody new each day. I'll see what I can do!
Lisa

Posted by
13 posts

Hi Rankster,
My name is Tara and I work in the Rick Steves Tour Department. I am also a guide for our Germany, Austria & Switzerland tours. I want to tell you that I loved your list. As a guide and a traveler, I felt for myself that your list is one that could fit many of us. Before I leave, I am walking as much as I can, taking the stairs, packing and trying to read and review everything I possible. I have learn from all my years of travel that learning and packing are ongoing lessons! :-) I can tell you from experience that we have amazing people who travel with us. Our tour members come from all over and we have small groups so everyone really gets to know each other. Several times I have had solo travelers on tour and they are always having a wonderful time and never lonely. How do I know this? They have shared with me that "being lonely" was also a fear and they were pleasantly surprised that everyone was so welcoming and wanted them to join in. With the walking - don't underestimate yourself! I have been an assistant guide on the BOE and know what it is about. You are doing all the right things - walking, taking stairs etc. My advice is to build on what you are doing but also on your walk go up and down some hills or 2-3 miles a day if you have the time. On tour, we do not walk 8 miles straight. It can add up to 8 miles during the day but I call them "fun miles" because it usually involves a local guided tour for 2 hours or so (lots of walking, stopping, standing) and maybe a museum tour on top of that - then you are set free and you find yourself visiting other sights, walking around, checking things out and all of a sudden - 8 miles without even realizing it. Getting lost - we all do it and it makes for the best stories. Even as guides we do it. How do you think we came across the best gelato stand ever that we now recommend to tour members? With your hopes.....you will experience all of that (well, conquering the packing could be a tough one - it is for me!). You have a great adventurous attitude and I know you will have a wonderful, life changing experience!

Posted by
333 posts

Tara! I believe I saw you on you tube for the "test drive a tour guide" lecture for GAS! Watching that video is what finally convinved me to choose the RS tour over a "cheaper" company. I was planning to take the GAS tour originally, but fell in love with the thought of 3 weeks and seeing Italy as well. I'm hoping to take the GAS tour in the future, as the itinerary sounds so lovely!

Thanks for your encouraging words. I'm very excited and ready to meet my new "tour family". I'm even starting to change my waking/sleeping hours so as to make the time change transition a bit easier.

As to adding stairs to my exercise routine: the area I live in is extremely flat and most of the local buildings are 1-2 stories max, so stairs are difficult to work in. However, I'm starting to ride the stationery bike and do the eliptical machine. I'm also adding incline to the treadmill to help get me ready for the heavy step cities. ;-)

I can't believe I'm only 4 weeks away! WOOT-WOOT!!

Lisa

Posted by
8068 posts

Lisa, I want to do the GAS at some point too! Tara, I will be looking for you, lol.

Even with a wedding "looming", I hope you will be able to put that aside and enjoy your trip. I am so looking forward to knowing how much you enjoy this trip!

Posted by
333 posts

Thanks, Pam! Between my unexpected major dental issues last week, the wedding, the trip and now- my water heater just sprung a major leak- I'm hemmoraging money! I might go to Europe and just stay there! ;-)

I'll be sure to send you the link to my blog before I go. I'm still debating between two that I started. If I don't link you by mid April, remind me!

Lisa

Posted by
8068 posts

LOL, I put it on my calendar! The good thing about this trip is it will totally take you away from everything happening at home.

Posted by
333 posts

I'm VERY ready for the getaway! Pam, I'd suggest we try to get on the same GAS tour, but unless I win the scrapbook contest and get the freebie trip (which would totally be the GAS tour), it'll be years before I take an overseas trip again- like after I get my masters degree and work awhile to earn the money. That puts it about... 6-8 years off. :-( Of course if I win, it'll be ASAP in 2016!
Lisa

Posted by
8068 posts

Well, then I am keeping my fingers crossed you win the scrapbook contest because I am not sure I will be able to do GAS in 8 years...altho one of the guys on my BOE tour turns out was 79 (he just celebrated his 80th on FB, lol!) and he kept up including the hiking day in Switzerland!

Posted by
695 posts

GAS and My Way Alpine tour have caught my attention. I'm dying to see Salzburg. ....but I'm going to try and enjoy this coming trip first! !!

A little over 17 days! I need to go thru the piles of stuff we plan on taking. .....i need to try another packing run.

Posted by
333 posts

Coming up fast, Kathy! I just laid a bunch of stuff out tonight to prepare for a practice pack tomorrow. I bought some compression bags and want to see how well (or not) they do at saving space, maybe allowing me to pack another shirt or two. I'm not ready to brave a five week trip with only 5 shirts. Mr. UPS has been at my house the last three days delivering goodies from my best buddy, Amazon! ;-)

I'm with you, would love to see Salzburg and Vienna. The GAS tour sounds lovely. It's on the ASAP list.

Pam, you've not done the GAS tour yet?
Lisa

Posted by
8068 posts

No, I've not done GAS (Heart of Italy, Ireland, BOE, Paris, Village Italy) and yes, I want so see Salzburg as well, AND do the SOM tour no matter who thinks it is cheesy. I want to Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every stream. I will skip singing the dang Goatherd song though.

Laughing about the UPS guy as I hope they don't have to lay someone off after you have everything you need!

I am loving that both of you are doing trial packs! You will definitely thank yourselves as you do your final pack.

Posted by
333 posts

Ohhhh I'm all for a SOM Tour- I love cheese! Yodel-ay-hee, yodel-ay-hee, yodel-ay-hee-hoo!

I know... the poor, poor UPS man! I keep ordering stuff for my already overloaded carry on, lol, ya know, to make things better, ha ha! It should be an interesting practice pack today!

I'm off to the gym for my workout, and then I have to go buy a waterheater. Naturally I woke up to a FLOOD this morning. I guess the trip, the emergency dental visits and the unexpected wedding weren't taking enough of my money. Now it's waterheaters! Grrrrrrr!
Lisa

Posted by
2020 posts

Ok, so yes, it's cheesy, but the SOM tour is fabulous! Absolutely loved it. Also going to Berchtesgaden is great...and getting to look over at where the opening shot for SOM took place....beautiful, gorgeous!