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How many are using RS Tours as a barometer for personal travel?

I see that RS tours are canceled thru mid-June. I have a July trip booked to UK, Iceland, and Germany which I'm thinking probably isn't going to happen, but I haven't canceled anything yet. But then I got to thinking...what if Rick ends up going forward with his July tours? (Assuming the EU and all that let him.) Is that good enough for you - e.g. "If Rick feels like it's OK to go, I'm OK with going too?"

Posted by
3554 posts

My guess is there will be a point where some of his tours can operate and others will still be cancelled. Not all of Europe will open at the same time. It might be ok to travel to country A before country B.

Posted by
5367 posts

If anything the tour schedule, as well as Air Schedules are more optimistic than what is really warranted. Of course cancellations always lag any guidance, they really have to, otherwise people would feel cheated, that the tour place bailed on them. Based on projections by most European Countries, as well as announcements about opening of borders, anything in Europe before September (for Foreign travel) is unlikely. I do think that those in Europe may be able to move around before then, as in the US, but International travel will still be clamped down.

Of course my view is about as educated or authoritative as the next idiot, so take from it what you want.

Posted by
98 posts

If our RS tour to Basque Spain in Oct isn’t cancelled, of course we’ll go. We also have another trip booked with a different company for winter and if that’s not cancelled, we’re going on that as well. We’ll make sure our airline and lodging reservations are still good and if they are, we’re comfortable with our plans to travel if RS is as well.

Posted by
267 posts

We have a trip to the western US for August. Like you, we are hoping that it will be safe to travel by then, but we feel that it may just be wishful thinking. We do look to Rick Steves to be a travel expert who keeps on top of the latest travel climate whether it be political safety or health issues like we now face, and we do trust his judgment. I still think that we would give international travel much thought anytime this summer. Not saying that we absolutely would not go but we would definitely look at the health statistics for ourselves. I'm sure that he would be disappointed if we didn't.

Posted by
6355 posts

Not all of Europe will open at the same time. It might be ok to travel to country A before country B.

And it's possible that even countries opening to travel, may not be allowing in those from countries that do not have the virus under control. Sad to say that might include the US. It's all going to be 'baby steps' when countries start to open up to foreign travelers and there's no way to predict right now what form that might take.

Posted by
1886 posts

When I hear that Dr. Fauci plans a vacation trip to Europe, THAT'S when I will feel it is safe to go!! :)

Seriously, we will not even consider any trip until such time there is a vaccine (or some super-easy, quick treatment) for Covid-19........and that the vaccine is so common that the bulk of the population is able to receive it. Granted, we have done the bulk of our lifetime travel, but even if we had not, my answer would be the same. There are still some places we would like to visit.

Posted by
3469 posts

No, I am not using RS offering tours in the next few months as an indicator that it will be safe or even possible to travel for the remainder of this year. Nor any other tour company. It is their reason for existing to have tours. There are simply too many moving parts that have to come together to insure any travel I take will go smoothly and I do not feel all of them will be working at a sufficiently dependable level for the next few months.

Part of the reason RS probably has not cancelled more tours is the refund deadlines mandated by state law where the company is located. They have 2 weeks to refund all participants of canceled tours or face penalties. So, with all the people booked, the employees simply cannot refund fast enough to make the deadlines if they cancel more at a time. While this may give the impression that they may be optimistic about actually operating the tours in July and onward, I fully expect to see more cancellations coming soon. It is sad because I know a lot of people are still really wanting to go on those tours who have made other travel arrangements they will also have to cancel (flights, extra hotel nights, and so on).

Posted by
686 posts

Part of this is safety and part of it is what will conditions be like at the other end - whether that is somewhere in the US or Europe. Attractions need to be open, dining facilities available, etc. Will masks be required? How many people can congregate together? etc

We're booked on a Tauck tour in Sep and a fellow traveler checked with them today about whether our tour would proceed if there were social distancing requirements that would ruin the experience. Answer was no. So not just about safety.

Posted by
6082 posts

I'm not expecting a trip in 2020. But am thinking that my next trip to Europe will be centered on an RS tour, as I would assume they wont be traveling without some confidence in the tourist infrastructure and the host nations' situation. Its the airlines that I am more concerned with. I need to have confidence they will be there before booking a flight.

Posted by
4889 posts

I wouldn’t use any commercial enterprise whose raison d’etre is to make money from tourism as a barometer as to when to travel.

Posted by
6733 posts

If I were living in the States, and with Carol's caveat that a RS tour may operate to country A while you are hoping to travel to Country B, which may not be on the same opening schedules, yes, I would use the Rick Steves company's decision as a guide to my own.

Yes they are a commercial enterprise with an interest in running tours, but I feel absolutely confident that they will not do so until it is appropriate.

My 2 cents — which, again, are worth about as much or as little as anyone else's!

Kim

Posted by
83 posts

I have a self guided trip to England and Paris in September. I would definitely say that if RS has guided tours going out then it would definitely be one of the things I would take into consideration. My other criteria would be that everying (shops, tourist sites) were open and that the virus is dormant.

Posted by
12573 posts

Discussions of refund deadlines extending RS cancellations doesnt explain why he is still selling for late June and beyond. I think RS is a pretty good indicator as I doubt he will travel if the experience will not live up to expectations ... that is also part of capitalism.

I have conversations every few days with guides in several countries and I get a sense that working people there, like here, are coming to a breaking point. That may or may not influence things. It's still just wild speculation and sit and wait.

Posted by
921 posts

No, we aren't using that as a guide. Our tour that we were supposed to be on right now was cancelled back in early March, so we are planning on moving it to next summer. With that being said, we can wait quite a long time from now before actually planning anything so we have more flexibility. Right now just dreaming, watching videos, reading books and articles etc...

Posted by
1173 posts

There was an article in the LA in April 2020 and many were interviewed including Rick Steves.

Wait until ’21? Rick Steves doesn’t want to, but ...
Rick Steves, who publishes travel guides, makes PBS travelogues and operates Rick Steves’ Europe tours from an office in Edmonds, Wash., has canceled all tours with start dates through May 31. He’s on the brink of canceling more, including one that has special meaning for him.

To celebrate his daughter’s marriage, Steves arranged a 20-day grand tour of Europe that included about two dozen family members taking up a tour bus. They were going to start June 16 in Amsterdam.

“I’ve yet to cancel that, but I’m on the verge,” Steves said.

In fact, “I’m psychologically prepared to have no tours this year,” said Steves. “That’s the thing about this crisis: We just don’t know. … I’ll be grateful for anything we can salvage out of 2020.”

When restrictions do ease, he said, “I think the first thing that will come back is regional travel: going to the city that’s three hours away by car. What you don’t want to do is fly somewhere and find yourself in a situation where you’re going to be quarantined.”

This may answer your question about what Rick Steves is thinking right now as of April 2020.

Posted by
6758 posts

I wouldn't use any tour placeholder date as a mark of confidence or high probability that the tour will go on - too much is in flux and the virus case load could return even if the curve is momentarily flattened, causing another pullback to be re-instituted. As Mark said, no company wants to cancel their schedule before they absolutely have to even though they may know internally that it will likely be a "no go". Even countries that have tentative reopening dates will be watching the situation on the ground and adjusting accordingly. I don't look to the travel industry for guidance on when to travel (they are not an unbiased observer) unless they fully take in all the public health measures I would have considered anyway. Only public health indicators and infrastructure and one's own health profile has a direct link to risk, so I will defer to those instead. Also, group travel may be a different animal in the post-COVID world than individual travel - there may be more barriers to deal with regarding tour groups as far as physical proximity goes, so I am not sure I would treat it as a proxy for do-it-yourself trips.

Posted by
897 posts

Also, group travel may be a different animal in the post-COVID world than individual travel - there may be more barriers to deal with regarding tour groups as far as physical proximity goes, so I am not sure I would treat it as a proxy for do-it-yourself trips.

Correct. I think there are more restrictions for group travel than individual travel, so that's what's making me think that if it's safe for groups, then it should be safe for individuals.

Not saying that I blindly follow "what Rick says" (my dislike of his hotels bears that out!!) but just saying that RS's opinion is one that I value highly, having followed him now for almost 20 years and knowing his social conscience and personal ethics.

Posted by
1921 posts

I would definitely stand up and take notice if an announcement came, but that would just be a starting to point to begin my own research to determine if the conditions are right for me.

Posted by
2490 posts

There are no specific guidelines that pertain to group versus individual travel when it comes to COVID-19. If you are visiting places like The Sistine Chapel, the Louvre, WestminsterAbbey, etc. you are in a group whether you want to be or not. RSE has been very clear from the beginning of this pandemic-they are following the travel advice issued by the CDC. I expect they will re-start tours when the CDC gives a green light for travel. While individuals may be able to travel sooner than that if there is an “easing up” of restrictions I don’t think RSE want’s to be the canary in the coal mine with his tour groups. As for the OP’s question: yes, it would factor into my decision making, but this is going to come down to the individual, their particular circumstances and their weighing of risk/reward. I’m 71 with some underlying health issues so I will not be among the first to hop onboard even though it pains me greatly to be missing our Best of Tuscany tour this summer. If the CDC says no restrictions, RS tours resume, a reliable and safe vaccine is available, and I have any money left in my retirement account I’d consider it. Lot’s of bridges to cross between now and then.

Posted by
3175 posts

The following must happen in this order for me to begin planning travel:

  1. Both my husband and I are back in our respective offices working full time. Neither of us can be either furloughed or unemployed.

  2. Travel restrictions are lifted by all European countries and by the US to all European countries.

Once these two happen, I will be planning. That said, I’ll be eager to learn when RS tours resume.

Posted by
69 posts

Who knows what the future will bring? I consider the RS Tours as a barometer for optimism! Perhaps European health will improve this summer or fall - and if so, the RS Tours are ready to go. We are hoping for the same as we are booked for a RS Tour of Scotland in October. If it doesn't work out, we'll make other plans. Rick often reminds travelers to be flexible and I'm still learning to embrace this wisdom. Hope is a choice I embrace - wherever I am!

Garrison

Posted by
1952 posts

Garrison, thank you for this: "Hope is a choice I embrace - wherever I am!" I try to do the same. While I wouldn't take tours being scheduled as an absolute, I would give weight to the thought that if the RS organization thinks it's safe to take groups of trusting travelers to Europe, it very well may be. But then I also rely on actually being allowed to travel by all entities involved plus my own "gut feeling" after weighing all my options. Hasn't steered me wrong so far.

Posted by
4787 posts

Good points above, especially what Andi just said. I'd argue that RS and other reputable tour companies will be more conservative than individuals might be about going ahead with tours, because the companies will have problems (marketing, not necessarily legal liability) if people get sick and/or have a lousy time because of restrictions, closures, etc. in the places they visit. So the fact that RS is going ahead with a tour somewhere might give me more confidence about going there on my own.

As the LA Times article suggested, RS isn't really expecting to go through with any more tours this year. And another poster made the good point that his cancellation timing has a lot to do with the refund deadline Washington law requires.

I'd suggest to Kelly -- try not to cancel any non-refundable flight if you can help it. Let the airline cancel so they have to refund your fare (or give you a credit if you prefer). BTW, "I'd rather be traveling" too! ;-)

Posted by
12573 posts

And another poster made the good point that his cancellation timing
has a lot to do with the refund deadline Washington law requires.

And that would explain why you can still sign up for the Best of Eastern Europe tour departing June 21st.

Posted by
897 posts

I'd suggest to Kelly -- try not to cancel any non-refundable flight if you can help it. Let the airline cancel so they have to refund your fare (or give you a credit if you prefer). BTW, "I'd rather be traveling" too! ;-)

Oh, don't worry, I'm sitting tight! The flights to and from Europe were booked on SkyMiles, so I anticipate no problem getting those credited back to my Delta account. The more troublesome one is the Berlin to Reykjavik one. I booked it directly on the KLM website. The first leg is Berlin - Amsterdam via KLM, and the 2nd leg is Amsterdam to Reykjavik via Icelandair. Honestly I'm not sure how KLM was able to book me a Icelandair flight since they are not codeshares. So I'm wondering if I will have to deal ONLY with KLM when/if I ask for a refund/credit, or if I will have to deal with both KLM and Icelandair, separately. We'll see! I'm hoping that they cancel those flights and I get my money back. I can use a KLM flight pretty widely from America, but using an Icelandair flight is much more limited. At any rate I'm sitting tight until mid-July, when the trip was scheduled, before I do anything.

Posted by
2265 posts

Sure do wish I were a bit younger and healthier. I would like to think that myself and my ability to travel will outlive the impacts of this crud, but who knows? Somehow I’ve passed too quickly from young adventurer to vulnerable elderly. Yuk!

Posted by
4015 posts

I would not use RS tours as a barometer for personal travel. I am using my own informed sources. However, here are two ideas to consider for those really wanting to get back to travel. Airline tickets are quite cheap right now and the airlines are being quite liberal with changes to tickets purchased thru May 31, I believe. You could book tickets for your best guess travel timeframe. We are considering travel in March of 2021 and might book tickets now. Also, I have noticed the RS tours have been pretty responsible in terms of cancellation and it sounds like they are being fair with refunds/exchanges. If a tour might be of interest, a RS tour might be a good "less risky" option. I have done one and only one RS tour. We enjoyed it, but we still enjoy traveling on our own, so please don't consider this an explicit recommendation for a RS tour, because that's a more personal choice.

Posted by
2490 posts

I would not use RS tours as a barometer for personal travel. I am using my own informed sources

What would those be? Please share.

Posted by
4015 posts

CDC, statistics, location specific data, and I have a son who is a scientist at a research institution working in the same department as people working on COVID therapies, tests, etc. I also know several epidemiologists. I'm a math person and data driven.

Posted by
1331 posts

I’m not relying on any tour organizer as a barometer for future travel. Heck, even if countries open up and accept some tourists soon, I would not take the risk. I’d have to follow the scientific community guidelines and recommendations. Unless the United States gets a handle on our cases, who says we would be allowed entry to pursue normal tourist activity? Way too many variables.

Posted by
52 posts

No. It was obvious months before RS cancelled our tour that there was no way it would be safe to travel when the time came. If you can cancel, cancel. You can always rebook.

Posted by
12573 posts

I’d have to follow the scientific community guidelines and
recommendations.

I would concede that our decisions need to be informed by science, but I never want to be part of a society that is ruled by science. RS is probably not a great barometer, but at least I have confidence that he is informed by medical science and by sociology and will probably find something in the range of correct. Although to be accurate Sociology is a science too..... so if that is the science you were referring too... I agree.

Posted by
904 posts

James,
I have seen a lot written by/about sociologists lately. Their recommendations are mainly about how to cope with physical distancing and how to prevent social distancing. I have also read sociologists predictions for what our social structure might look like in the future, post-pandemic. But I haven't read where any sociologist has given recommendations of when or how to travel.

Have I missed something?

Posted by
6082 posts

Sociologists (like economists) are much better at explaining what already happened than they are at predicting the future. Unless there are government-enforced rules impacting the travel industry (primarily air travel) people are just going to follow their gut instincts, no matter how well-supported by science official guidance is. Travel industry will follow their market. I already see rapidly shrinking compliance with mask/glove/distancing recommendations here in my city, as people relax their vigilance.

Posted by
655 posts

Rick's travel decisions will be a leading factor in determining my personal travel. Not the only factor, but definitely near the top.

Posted by
117 posts

Although many factors will play into when we feel safe to travel internationally again, I do believe that RS’s company has been very responsible in following guidelines issued by the various health agencies. In the past 10 years, we’ve traveled on several cruises and 3 RS tours. A little less than a month ago, I cancelled 2 cruises and do not anticipate cruising in the future. I always enjoyed the cruising experience (on older, smaller ships), but feel that the cruise industry did not handle this current crisis well at all. After the first debacle in Japan, no ship should have embarked anywhere, but many did and it created a dangerous situation for so many people. I love to travel and look forward to more trips with the RS organization. Our 3 RS tours have been wonderful, with great guides and interesting people met along the way. I am eyeing some of Rick’s tours for the future, but don’t anticipate that will happen until sometime in 2021. I am sad for everyone who won’t get to travel this year as I believe it adds to goodwill all over the world. I have a trip planned in Sept, close to home, but all my reservations can be cancelled if need be. Of course, all in all, those who are ill, providing care to the sick and/or are struggling with lost income are the people really suffering at this difficult time. I hope for better times ahead for everyone.

Posted by
12573 posts

Stan, I think the Sociologists will/have done a good job at predicting our behavior in this mess.

Posted by
1331 posts

James E. The scientific recommendations I will be following are those put out by the CDC, WHO, NIH.

Posted by
12573 posts

The CDC, great guys, the WHO, pretty unreliable; never did get much right about this COVID. I know, cause in February I made the same statement that you made, only to be let down by WHO time and time again. Not the least of their blunders was advising against lockdowns, closing schools and borders; and believing the ChiComs.

But, you sort of miss the point. A barometer is a device to make predictions. The WHO and CDC dont make tourism predictions. I like Rick, so for lack of anything better, my money is on traveling as soon as he does.

Posted by
1331 posts

James E.
I agree that the WHO missed the boat. I didn’t miss the point at all. For me, the scientists are my barometer and not any specific tour operator even though I have two RS tours booked for half of September. Im waiting to cx air and hotel mid August.

Posted by
12573 posts

Diane, I guess that depends on your standards. If all the scientists in the world said it was safe to travel, my first question would be, safe to travel where? It isnt reasonable to expect the situation in all locations to be the same. Italy, maybe no, Hungary maybe yes. Of course to get that deep into the weeds, you have to define "safe". It probably means something different to you than it does to me. Next and equally important question is once I get there will it have been worth the trip? What if its "safe" but everything worth experiencing is closed? My assumption is a major tour operator isnt going to take groups on a fruitless trip. Nor will he try before it is legal (pretty much my definition of safe). And I would suspect he has the resources to make these determinations. Finally, a tour operator isnt traveling empty, so a full tour implies a consensus of opinion among people I share some values with. So, as a barometer, not half bad. That in no way discounts the need for self responsibility, to do your own research, and confirm that the indications presented by the barometer are correct. But if the tour operator has shut down till August 15, then that's a fair indication to look beyond that date for a good and safe experience.

Personally, I am off just as soon as the borders are fully open and by doing so, I am invited in.