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If Rick Doesn't Tour this Year

Hello. My Mom and I are scheduled on the GAS tour in Sept. If Rick doesn't do the tour, and the borders are open, we are thinking of trying it on our own. We could follow the exact itinerary. The only issue would be the transportation. I really don't want to wait another year. I think if a vaccine becomes available, my age and health status would make me one of the last to have access to it. Also, we have already purchased our flights, and the analysts are expecting much higher ticket prices next year.

I would like some opinions on this. Especially, if you have done the GAS tour before. How hard is the driving? I can drive a stick shift, but I don't like bumper to bumper. I've been up the Amalfi coast and certainly don't want anything like that.

Posted by
10240 posts

Having a rental car would be a challenge in Vienna and Munich.

Posted by
4947 posts

You can do the GAS tour by train. Easy. In fact, you cant get into Mürren with a car. It would not be relaxing to drive that whole route for the driver, and much more comfortable for both of you on the train. Note that parking in the cities is not like it is in the US. Strongly suggest you consider the train, but don't assume you need a Eurail pass. There are other ways to save on train tickets.

Posted by
2443 posts

I think that hoping the EU will be open to non EU tourists by September is probably a bridge too far.

But cars are not your only option. Nor is car/train a binary situation. Look at doing both - a car for rural stays ( and returning the car in that same country), and trains for urban areas. Outside the cities, I doubt you'll run into much bumper to bumper traffic this year.

Posted by
6032 posts

Just one comment? Are you planning on following the exact itinerary in the same amount of time? If so, that's probably not realistic and you will most likely need more time to do it on your own. And that's if it's even possible to travel to all of those countries as an American in September. Even though EU countries will most likely be open to travelers from other EU countries in September, that does not guarantee that they will be open to us that soon, at least for non-essential travel. I hope it is, but I wouldn't count on it.

Posted by
326 posts

I like the suggestion of looking into doing as much as possible by train. We took this tour (a wonderful tour!), but it covered a LOT of miles. More than most RS tours, I think. It wouldn't be fun to drive it all yourself.

Fingers crossed that you're able to go sometime.

Posted by
572 posts

Are you planning on following the exact itinerary in the same amount of time? If so, that's probably not realistic and you will most likely need more time to do it on your own.

This, since you talk about following the exact itinerary.

For example on day 4 the tour leaves Baden-Baden for the Black Forest Open-Air Museum, and you end up that night in Murren. They list it as 6 hours on the bus, which will drop you off in the Lauterbrunnen valley and then the group takes the lift up to Murren. It is going to be difficult to do this same day on your own. A car might be more convenient than a train for the museum since you can leave your luggage in the trunk, but you can't drive to Murren and rental rates are much higher if you drop off in another country. You could drive to the museum, then drop the car off in Germany and take trains (there's likely a connection or two) to Lauterbrunnen. In the end you'll probably need to add an extra day if you want to see the museum, perhaps taking the train to a nearby town to drop your bags, go to the museum, and spend the nite before continuing on to Murren via train.

The point is that you might end up adding an extra day for each location the tour stops in if you want to replicate the path. The flip side is even with the slower pace it might cost less than the RS tour. It isn't really apples-to-apples though, you won't have the local guides and your group tour guide. You can probably find guided walks in many of the stops and we've always enjoyed these, although again it is a bit less convenient since for the RS tour the guide shows up to match the tour schedule, for public walks if it is at 3pm and you wanted to leave town at lunchtime then its either add another day or skip the tour.

I'm not trying to discourage you. Using many or all of the same stops the tour uses you can put together a fun trip, just a somewhat different trip than the tour.

Posted by
20597 posts

Stop and think about it. We are all looking for big hope but if Rick cannot go in Sep why would you expect that you could. We know the virus is still going to be very active in Sept so where do you want to catch it. Here or there???? I would rather be here.

Posted by
3977 posts

Be prepared for 14 days quarantine on arrival even if you are permitted to travel. You can’t travel at the same pace on your own as on an organised tour, so something will have to give.

If the tour could run, it would be running so it’s unlikely that doing it yourself is going to be possible.

Posted by
2941 posts

I just wanted to mention that a tour is much more than just an itinerary. You will want to make the decision that is best for you and your mom, but if you haven't been on a Rick Steves Tour I want you to know that there are several elements that go together to make the tour a great experience beyond just the places that the group goes.

First there is the tour guide. These are amazing individuals who add a whole new layer to the experience through their knowledge. Then there are the local guides. Same thing. Finally, there is the group itself. I have not been on a tour where the make up of the group wasn't amazing and I have met so many wonderful people. There is a different experience on a tour.

I also travel independently and know that you and your mother could have a great trip that way (assuming no limitations due to Covid), but I don't want you to make the mistake of thinking that these are comparable experiences. They are too different. Both can be great.

Posted by
9 posts

In response to the person who asked if I thought I could go in September if Rick wasn't able to go-- I think that we might not be able to tour in large groups on a bus. I do think the borders will be open to tourists, but that's just my opinion. Greece has already said they will, and that is another place on my bucket list I would be willing to go. I appreciate all of the great feedback.

After reading through all of the posts and good things to consider, I have pretty much decided if Rick does the tour, I am going. If he doesn't, I'm still going somewhere, but will probably wait and do the GAS tour next year.

Posted by
6749 posts

Borders of some countries may be open to European tourists, but even some Europeans, like the British, will have mandatory quarantine upon return. Another example, the French are not allowed to travel outside France this year. Then if there is an uptick, everyone will be confined to their homes again. So the short little articles we read give us wanderlust but not the details. But, I just received a mailing from Oceania Cruises for Mediterranean cruises in September, so maybe Spain and Italy will be a go for non-Europeans.

No matter, hopeful news on vaccine research as well as a drug from the University of Peking, could open possibilities for later 2021. Don't give up.

Posted by
566 posts

You will want to get on Booking.com or some other hotel websites to see what hotel options are open. Then check attraction websites. LOTS of things may not be available by September. If you start checking now you will be able to see changes over time too for interesting locations/properties.

Good luck.