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I am looking for recommendations for Rick's tours for people that are in their upper 70's. We did the Italy tour (Venice, Florence, Rome) and it was a lot for my parents and they are in good health. What are the best options? I would love to take a Rick Steve's tour with them again. That is, once we can travel again. Thank you.

Posted by
1353 posts

I think the VFR tour was exhausting also, and I was in my early sixties, and in good shape. I found the challenge of that tour to be the early starts with the late dinners. I understand that the early starts were to get us into the museums before the crowds [in April.] The long, slow, late dinners were the Italian way, but not what I am accustomed to.

We really enjoyed the Switzerland Tour, which included two free days and one late start day. In addition, the dinners did not last all evening. The physical pace was more relaxed, and very few museums. The scenery in Switzerland was fantastic, and the boats rides, cogwheel trains, and gondola transports were thrilling.

All of the folks on this tour felt that Switzerland was one of the best trips they had ever had.

Safe travels~

Posted by
7474 posts

Look at the country you want to visit and look at the various options. Each has an 'activity' meter

The V-F-R tour pegs the meter at the high end, so most others will be less taxing/busy.

Happy hunting!

Posted by
15 posts

I think the eastern France tour is rated as lower activity. I have never taken it, but it appeals to me.

Posted by
143 posts

Take a look at the “My Way” tours. You can set your own pace and do the activities you choose. My Way Alpine has great sights especially if one prefers to be outdoors. Probably not ideal for those who don’t like heights and riding to the top of a mountain on a suspended gondola car.

Posted by
137 posts

I suggest picking a tour with fewer stops. The pace of a multi-stop tour of 2 nights per location, some including a single night here and there, adds to the potentially taxing nature that can be consistent to group tour travel. (What definitely will tempt the travel gods' wrath and put any trip into a miserable and interminable purgatory is to over pack and under prepare.) The quasi 'week long' city tours, e.g. London or Paris (have done both, each are aces) can be good options as there's no having to pack up and move on during the length of the tour. I chose the Best of Barcelona and Madrid tour for my first foray to Spain since it features 3 nights in one city and 4 nights in the other. Time of year for a tour has an impact on one's ability to withstand its rigors; while late spring through early fall gives you the benefit of more daylight hours, warmer temps (especially in the south) and rising crowds, at least in past normal/preCOVID-19 days, put significant crimps on relaxing and comfortable walkabouts and visits, whether indoors or out. VFR was my first RST (out of 8 so far) and I wasn't able to add nights before and after on that trip. I think it can't be stressed enough that's really a critical part to prepping and setting a more leisurely pace for any RST. Having extra time before helps with dealing with jet lag, gives you a chance to scope out 'the lay of the land' and hit a highlight or two not featured on the tour itinerary. Adding night(s) after just feels smoother and less rushed; you're not having to depart at the crack of dawn on the tour's last 'day' (allowing you to really enjoy the farewell dinner) and can either leisurely revisit a site you had only a brief time in or do your own exploring at exactly your pace and timeframe. Even if it may not be the cheapest option, I choose the first and last RST hotel for extra nights expressly because it eliminates more packing and unpacking. Particularly for larger cities, the typically well-situated RST hotel helps maximize your time in getting out and about. Having breakfast as part of your accommodation is helpful and efficient when briefly visiting an area. I think determining where you really want to go and for how long is crucial in making a trip successful whether solo travel or in a group, and keeps the need for a 'vacation from your vacation' at bay. Here's to 'once we can travel again' happening in our near future!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for your responses. You definitely helped me as I dream of traveling again. Your ideas will help me in planning a trip for my parents. We so loved our first RST and would love to experience it again. I look forward to the day I can book another trip.

Posted by
5972 posts

tjkluver, just call the RSE tour office for advice. They can answer questions like this. While on tour, you can always talk to the tour leader about the next days activities, and opt out of things that you think will be too much.

Posted by
2495 posts

One thing to think about is what specific activities are too strenuous for your parents. Is it long distance walking? Later hours/earlier starts? Lots of packing and unpacking in many stops? Hills or stairs? Standing still or slowly moving(like in museums)? Lots of bus time (hard for those with bad backs or motion sickness!) These all could be called strenuous to different people.

Posted by
2785 posts

I wonder if the length of the tour should also be a consideration. A certain pace, packing and unpacking, bus time might be fine for a week but become increasingly difficult on longer tours.

Posted by
5972 posts

Or consider the "one city" tours: London, Paris, or Rome. That eliminates the long bus rides, and makes it easy to plan a day on your own if the walking distances are too great. Then you can add on a few days on your own before or after, at another location.

Posted by
871 posts

Take a look at Bulgaria. That tour has been mentioned in other threads like this one. I am saving it in my back pocket for down the road when my arthritis is worse.

Posted by
8242 posts

Interesting question!

I thought the Belgium and Holland tour was less active but it is rated at moderate. The hardest day was the Keukenhof Garden day (I went in April).

I just went thru a few tours and Munich, Salzburg and Vienna is rated lower than Belgium and Holland as is Eastern France which was mentioned above. It looks like Bulgaria is a bit more than both of those. I am not sure the city tours are less active but you have the option of grabbing a taxi if you are out with the group and get tired. I did Best of Paris and walked a LOT.

You might look at Road Scholar tours. I've done 11 of them, 6 in Europe (5 activity ones in the US). They are often a little less active than the Rick Steves tours. They also have an activity level shown for each tour and I find them fairly accurate. Some of the ones I've done lately (well, the last few years, lol) I've chosen because they stayed in one place 4-5 days and did day trips from there. That also makes it easier to skip a day if someone is feeling fatigued.

I was not totally pleased with Road Scholar at the beginning of the pandemic as they were slow to agree to refunds for tours they cancelled. After about 2 weeks they did start refunding money for their cancellations. They often encourage people to sign up a year or more ahead of time and I just don't want to do that in the current climate. I am happy to tell give you more information if you decide you are interested. www.roadscholar.org

Posted by
911 posts

Greece is pretty fast paced. I've also hear Turkey is and Village Italy even though it doesn't rate it that way. But as a previous poster said, decide where you want to go and work your way from there.

Posted by
22 posts

Another option for you and your parents would be to consider a river cruise. Pre trip and post trips are available on these cruises. The pace is easy. Unpack only once. Meals are wonderful. Company arranges air travel. We have used Grand Circle for 10 trips and have been very happy with their prices for cruises as well. I add that the Rick Steves Best of 21 days was the trip of a life time, it was very active.

Posted by
1582 posts

We did the Eastern France tour and there was a couple in their mid-80s on it. They paced themselves and seemed fine, only opting out of wandering a vineyard in the Alsace portion. ( a hot day in late August) The bus dropped them off in town and they met us at the tasting room. That tour felt very relaxed with lots of time to recharge.

Posted by
1290 posts

I did the Turkey tour and it wasn’t a fast paced tour. I was in my late 60s at the time. We went at the end of September. It was very hot though.
The BOE 21 day tour had days of fast paced activities with days with a slower pace. The most tiring days were in the cities of Amsterdam and Rome.

Posted by
261 posts

The Eastern France tour is an excellent choice for a less active tour. Having 2 3-night locations is especially nice. The Athens & Heart of Greece is extremely active, that one would not be appropriate. All RS tours can be early morning and/or late at night types, depending on the day and itinerary. Yes, I would think the city tours mentioned above might be a good choice too.

Posted by
2785 posts

One of the reasons I would not do a RS tour is possibly having to climb several flights of stairs with my luggage to get to my room. Another consideration should be how heavy they pack and can they climb those stairs.

Posted by
1939 posts

I would have suggested what Stan did-a City tour. One hotel in a terrific, easily accessible location and little to no bus time. If a City tour isn't of interest, for almost any tour that piques their interest, keep in mind they can always opt out of anything that might be too strenuous for them. All they have to do is let their buddy and/or the guide know. I have done quite a few tours and found the "busiest" to be Greece and Villages Italy, both of which include hill climbs!

Posted by
1682 posts

While on this topic could you recommend a tour for those in their 90s and beyond? I'm talking to my dad about the possibilities. Dad can walk but it would take him a half hour to cover 100 yards. He has too much pride for a stroller or scooter.

Posted by
2466 posts

We’ve done many RS tours. On several there have been some folks who found the tour too strenuous. We had several falls, none with severe injuries. Other tour members tried to be helpful when they could but in more than one instance the slower person disrupted the pace of the tour. We did one city tour, London, and contrary to the advice above, we found it actually more demanding. The bus days on other tours give you a break to rest and re-energize. But our experience with London was up and go, really go, every day. One day I paced 14 miles! As for opting out-sure, its always an option. But every part of the tour is priced in. Opt out often enough and you’ve basically paid a lot of money for nothing. Keep in mind what this website says about RS tours:

These tours are very active.
Our tours are not for everyone. They are very active — physically and socially. They're designed for energetic and curious people who are ready for the experience of a lifetime.
Museum tours, guided neighborhood walks and occasional hikes all add up to lots of time on our feet during the day. Afterward, we relax at dinner with lively conversations.

We found the descriptions of difficulty to be a bit on the high side for some of the tours we took. But not by too much and we are in great shape. My answer to you is not the one you want to hear. If they found one RS tour to be “a lot” for them chances are in 2022 (probably the soonest tours will resume) it won’t be any easier.

Posted by
2724 posts

I did some research about this topic previously in an attempt to bring my husband with me on my second tour. I am always worried about being the inconveniencing person, etc. I took the Greece tour solo and was very concerned about the 'strenuous' description. Well, it was not, and in fact my 79 year old husband could have done that tour fine. In fact, we had an 87 year old man on our tour, who never seemed to have a problem. There were some options for climbing, but they were options and not usually group climbs and not necessary. I chose one of them that I'd really wanted to do and did not bother with two others as I found other things that were more interesting to me. I also agree that the bus time allows for good rest time. There is also much free time, which allows a nap or pleasant sit in a cafe.

As we hardly unpack our bags, I don't find short stays a problem. Pack in packing cubes so your suitcase is like your bureau, which I sure don't unload each day.

This year, which as you know was cancelled, we had decided to take the Berlin, Prague and Vienna tour. As health and energy can change on a dime, we decided this type of city tour allowed us to leave the group at any point should my husband be tired or if we have another interest. I called the office at one point regarding the difference, etc. to be better able to make a decision. This laissez faire approach would work for us, as we are independent travelers and would be fine dropping out and doing something else. Personally, I think most people should feel free to join a tour as long as they are willing to go their own way should they find they are slowing down the group. The guide will always tell you where to meet up later. I might be frugal at home, but I would never be so frugal on a trip to continue joining in on something that I was not interested in, was inconveniencing others, or too tired to enjoy. Not a big deal to opt out of something mid-stream or stay longer with something than the group will allow. As long as you don't miss the bus if it is a bus day!

Posted by
920 posts

I second the idea of My Way Alpine. You don't have to go on gondolas, though I did get over my fear of them on this trip. But it was a personal choice, not a group mandate. We had a lot of time to fill as we chose and a bit more relaxation ensued than on some RS trips. Plus, we had a very friendly group and were glad to meet up at the end of the day in a relaxed, unscheduled way.

While some folks think hiking when they hear Alpine, I think moseying along a village street looking at the local flower and veggie gardens. The village street might be in the mountains, but I did not hike to get there. This tour has a nice mix - to me - of some urban experiences mixed with opportunities to see flower meadows and then castles (touristy, but then I had a relaxing lunch munching wild boar burger and then dinner in a local ruin in a fantastic Greek restaurant). And while I did go up a large peak (via transport, not on my own steam) in Chamonix, I spent a really great afternoon with tour members on the hotel lawn watching folks river raft in front of us - while we sipped chilled wine.

There were tour members who were all about the serious hiking, but the tour seemed to offer options for us all.

Posted by
4595 posts

Debbie: I love the word "mosey!"

If you mosey somewhere, you go there slowly, often without any
particular purpose. [informal] He usually moseys into town for no
special reason. [VERB adverb/preposition] COBUILD Advanced English
Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

And your mini-trip report here makes me even more open to taking the Alpine My Way tour. I had assumed it was for hairy chested folks looking to conquer the heights. Nope, moseying and sipping white wine are more my style.

Posted by
267 posts

Travel is as individualized as each tour member. We had always been independent travelers who loved watching RS travel series. Then we finally decided to take the plunge and sign up for a tour. We took the Best of South Italy tour and we were hooked! The itinerary, the hotels, and especially the guide, what can I say, it all made for the trip of a lifetime! We have taken tours since that first tour and have been thrilled with each of them. But we started group travel as we started our sixth decade and now we no longer want the stress of keeping up the pace. We certainly do not want inconvenience others. Our last RS tour was the My Way Best of Europe in 14 days. This allowed us to plan all our activities without the chore of coordinating the logistics of travel between locations and wondering if our hotel choice would be what we hoped it would be. We love the planning and spend many hours ahead of time researching what we want to do (I'm sure more time than we actually need, but half the fun is the dreaming and anticipating). Those hours made for a very smooth and amazingly memorable trip! We had a fantastic tour manager who shred her insight as we went along---invaluable! That being said, we saw Europe the way we wanted to at our own pace and shared experiences with new friends. We planned one major activity for each day and a couple of less demanding events to fit in if time and energy allow. We are now on a notification list for a My Way tour when we are again able to travel and can't wait!

Posted by
5972 posts

I always thought the My Way tours (not taken one) would mostly attract the very active folks, but I see where it would also serve the less active. Perhaps RSE should consider marketing as such, or create a couple of low energy itineraries for the aging demographic it serves.

Posted by
2625 posts

I recommend the Best of England tour. It starts in Bath with a walking tour of the city, mostly flat and level. When we got to the Lake District, I opted out of the walk the group was going to do to the top of Cat Bells mountain. I had talked with our guide the evening before, and told him I would not be going with them on that walk. I reminded him the next morning at breakfast that I had opted out of that walk. He was perfectly fine with that. My husband and I lingered at breakfast with an extra cup of coffee after everyone else was out the door to go on the walk. Two or three other tour members had opted out, as it was a gray, rainy day, so we all chatted and took a walk around town (Keswick) later in the day after the rain had stopped.
I think this tour is not that strenuous if you take out the walk up Cat Bells. There was a city walk around York, but that was flat and level and very short, as it ended at our group dinner destination. The next day York Minster was a short flat and level walk from our hotel.
The London portion of this tour is not strenuous, as you learn to use the tube and buses to go everywhere. Inside Westminster Abbey was mostly flat and level. The Tower of London has some walkways that are flat and level, but if a person cannot climb steep stairs, avoid going into the White Tower or up into the outer walls with the steep stairs. The Crown Jewel House is easily accessible, as is the cafe. The yard inside the Tower is mostly flat and level with benches so you can sit, rest, and enjoy the sights around you.

Posted by
1173 posts

I think the Eastern France tour, which I did last year in May was a good tour to take if you want it to be a slower paced tour. I found it lovely, with lots of spare time for cafes, drinking wine, sitting outside and not a lot of churches or museums. And the ones that you do go to are smaller churches and smaller museums. It is not as taxing as the week long tours or the tours like Ireland where there are lots of rocks and trails. This is a pretty tour that is more easy going and spend time walking and relaxing.

Posted by
3551 posts

May I suggest a river cruise. We did Netherlands Incl Brugge last year. It was wonderful. So much more restful than roving bus tours. Also U can opt out of a day tour here an there pending energy levels. Ours even had an elevator for those in need of. Roomy cabins with nice big windows. Nice Meals on board, some entertainment. It was a Gate One tour. They have many other river tours avail. Our Danube cruise this year was cancelled due to pandemic.
Yes RS tours are nice but I would think much too active for your circumstance.
Always stairs, quirky lodging, with max 2 nights per stay, so lots a packing and un packing and hauling luggage.
Just a thought.

Posted by
8242 posts

I've never traveled Gate 1 but I've seen some posts on Trip Advisor (and here) regarding issues with getting them to refund on their cancelled tours during the pandemic. A friend from my 21 day Best of Europe posted on FB she was having issues as Gate 1 was refusing to refund. I suggested the method people on TA were using to get refunds and she was able to get her $$ back that way. For this reason I'd think twice about Gate 1. At least ask every question you can think of regarding cancellations and refunds if you do go with this company.

I think there were some threads early on about some river cruise companies refunding promptly so I'd research that if you decide you all are interested in a cruise.

Posted by
1682 posts

I don't know JS those river cruises are daggone expensive for a white boy from the hills of West Virginia! I have to pay for my dad, too! What are my budget trip options? Oh, yeah, my Hot Wife and his, well, really old wife, too. The years have taken a toll on her. I think they're pitching in on some stuff, but Big Mike is doing the heavy lifting.

Posted by
350 posts

"I would say the Belgium and Holland was fairly low key! :) "

That was a wonderful tour. And, if I recall correctly, bus times were minimal since the countries are so small. I like to minimize windshield time whether on a tour or driving my own vehicle. 3 night stays are also very nice, but there seem to be fewer of them. The last three night tour I took with RS was the Basque region of France and Spain, but I see that has changed. Still the Basque area was VERY worth seeing.

Posted by
1682 posts

Are there tours for people who really can't walk much, if at all? In general I'm talking about my dad and those over 90. We'd prefer a longer tour. I would imagine buses have room for scooters.

Posted by
4595 posts

I think, of the 14 RS tours we have taken, the least active were the Belgium/Holland, and the Barcelona/Madrid. I remember on the Barcelona/Madrid tour a couple of our tour mates were complaining about how strenuous it was, and I was puzzled. However, I think the problem was they were not at all prepared for it. My guess is the ladies (two sisters) were in their 60s, and not used to longish walks. The tour had been gifted to them by their son/nephew, as a surprise.

Do not surprise people with this kind of tour. I think these ladies would have been happy as clams had someone carried their luggage and warned them there was walking involved.

And I'm not blaming their age; several of us on that tour were in the same age bracket or older and had no trouble. I will say, however, just as an aside, that there were a lot of younger folks on that tour. I'm thinking 5 or 6 folks in their 20s, several in their 30s and 40s.

That's the tour where, even though wine was included, we were cut off at one group dinner. :-)

Posted by
1682 posts

Thanks, Jane. I wonder if scooters are allowed on the luggage compartment of buses? Also, if the tour guide will wait for us because, well, dad is 93 and sometimes we can't hurry if he needs to use a bathroom, etc. Are the seats usually full or is there room to stretch out to nap?

Posted by
28 posts

I guess I've lost the thread Big Mike, are you thinking about taking your 90 y.o. father who needs a scooter on a RS tour? Or were you thinking about a different tour company?

Posted by
3551 posts

Re: Gate One river cruises that others have posted on. I had no prob getting a refund for 4 people this year when we cancelled as a precaution for Covid. Yes there was a penalty but it is what we agreed on when we signed up. The cruises are quite reasonable when compared to the more elegant 5 star type of cruises such as Viking. In the past we had taken their bus tours which were also very good and well priced.

Posted by
4595 posts

Big Mike, the buses tend to be roomy, although they vary. It is usual, though, that there are two seats per person.

Bathroom breaks are frequent. While I don't think any driver or guide will deliberately leave a person behind, someone who consistently held up the group might eventually be resented just a wee bit.

The buses do have onboard toilets, although we are asked to use them as infrequently as possible. On one tour, we had a woman who did need to use the bus toilet fairly often, even with our frequent breaks. It's there if people need it.

There is probably room in the bus luggage area for a scooter, but if your dad needs a scooter, how will he handle stairs? European hotels tend to have lots of stairs and few elevators. And what elevators there are tend to be tiny. I remember one in Paris where my husband and I and our two small backpacks filled the space. Like, it's a good thing we were already married. :-)

Posted by
1682 posts

Jane, thank you. No problem as I am used to carrying dad up and down stairs. Going to and getting out of the bathroom is a lengthy process, maybe 20 minutes. He can't go unless he's reading something.

Posted by
5972 posts

BigMike, if you are indeed asking about RS tours, then you'd best call and discuss with them. You have to sign a waiver up front that you are capable of walking long distances, up stairs with bags, etc. The itineraries show how many miles per day you'll be walking. IME, they will ask people who cant keep up to leave the tour or stay back at the hotel. Everything is timed with little wiggle room, like bus departure and the scheduled appointments with local guides and museum group entry times. The tour bus only takes you from one city to another, and stops in between. Touring around town is mostly walking or public transportation (not by tour bus), and a lot of standing. We've seen even good walkers straggling a block or two behind fast-walking tour leaders. You'd end up having to take taxis to every sight and likely miss much of the tours.

Posted by
2625 posts

Since the OP on this thread has not posted in several days, I will go ahead and answer some of the questions Big Mike has raised.

"Are there tours for people who really can't walk much, if at all? In general I'm talking about my dad and those over 90. We'd prefer a longer tour. I would imagine buses have room for scooters. "

"Thanks, Jane. I wonder if scooters are allowed on the luggage compartment of buses? Also, if the tour guide will wait for us because, well, dad is 93 and sometimes we can't hurry if he needs to use a bathroom, etc. Are the seats usually full or is there room to stretch out to nap?"

"Jane, thank you. No problem as I am used to carrying dad up and down stairs. Going to and getting out of the bathroom is a lengthy process, maybe 20 minutes. He can't go unless he's reading something. "

To answer your first question; no, there are not any Rick Steves tours for people who really can't walk much, if at all.

No, the buses do not have room for scooters.
The small compartments under the bus are for carry on luggage, and just barely are able to fit in all of those brought by 20 to 26 tour members.

No, I cannot imagine the guides waiting and waiting for someone; they usually go on and leave without them if they cannot be on time when the bus is ready to leave.
For example, we were told to be at the front walkway at 7 AM sharp when checking out of one hotel, boarding the bus, and leaving for a new destination. If we had come downstairs 30 minutes to an hour late because we had to use the bathroom, the bus would have been gone.

Another word about the bathrooms on the RS tour buses. They are tiny. If you are 5' 2", with a petite build, the bathroom will be fine. If you are taller than that or weigh over 120 pounds, you will be stuffing yourself--literally--into the bathroom. The one on our bus tour was smaller than the refrigerator in my kitchen at home. And it's a small, narrow fridge!

You are also encouraged by the bus driver and guide NOT to use the bathroom onboard unless you absolutely positively have to. Apparently, it's a lot of trouble for the bus driver to clean the restroom after the tour is over. But customers are paying thousands of dollars as a group to go on the trip, so I've never understood that rule!

I would agree with Stan's suggestion: If you are thinking about RS tours, then you'd best call and discuss these issues with them.

Rick Steves tours are not designed for those with major disabilities, such as when someone needs a scooter and has special bathroom needs, extra time to walk certain distances, plus being carried up stairs, etc.
There are tour companies which cater to those who must have scooters and assistance to walk and complete the trip.
I do not know the names of those tour companies.
Maybe someone else here on the Forum can suggest such a tour company.

I do think you and your family would be better off planning your own do-it-yourself trip.
You set the pace.

Posted by
2625 posts

To continue what I was saying in my prior post, anything that prevents you and your father from keeping pace with the group in a Rick Steves tour will be a deal-killer.

I would suggest that you consider doing your trip on your own.
When you plan the itinerary, set a much slower pace than the RS tours. Give yourself more time in each town, consider that your family will be moving slowly to accommodate your dad's needs.
Instead of the two nights RS gives in each town on his tours, give yourself 3 or 4 nights if it is a location with lots to see and do.

This is the only way your dad will have a leisurely time to have his bathroom breaks and not feel rushed all the time.

Likewise, if it takes him a long time to stroll through a museum or a town, no problem.
You can set the pace, take breaks sitting in a cafe or on a bench in the park.
Rest along the way, enjoy yourself more instead of trying to do a tour at what may seem a break-neck pace to some.

Hotels: If you plan your own trip, you can book hotels with elevators, so you won't have to carry your dad up and down the stairs. Many of the Rick Steves tour hotels do have stairs, as they are known for staying in old inns and hotels with character.

Forum members will be glad to help you plan your trip. I am sure you'll get great suggestions for destinations, hotels and sights.
I think a trip to England could easily be done with your family.
You mentioned that you are footing the bill, thus your reluctance upthread to book a river cruise for everyone.
Planning your own trip will be cheaper than any other way, plus I believe, more enjoyable in your case.
Hotels out in the countryside and small towns of England can be what I consider dirt cheap, very inexpensive.
Train tickets bought ahead of time, likewise.

If your dad will be taking a scooter along, you may wish to rent a van and do the driving yourself.

Posted by
25742 posts

You are also encouraged by the bus driver and guide NOT to use the bathroom onboard unless you absolutely positively have to. Apparently, it's a lot of trouble for the bus driver to clean the restroom after the tour is over. But customers are paying thousands of dollars as a group to go on the trip, so I've never understood that rule!

I might be able to lend little light on the question. I haven't taken a RS tour but I have a fair knowledge of boats and vehicles with on-board toilets.

Those toilets have a very limited holding tank and when they are used they need to be pumped out or drained, depending on the actual design. That means time when the bus, etc., is not available to transport people and the driver doesn't get their rest time. They can only be emptied at designated licensed locations which may not be in the centre of towns where the passengers have been dropped off.

Then the facility needs cleaning so everybody gets a lovely clean facility, during the trip in addition to at the end, and that's more time.

One last thing - these are usually macerating toilets (not the quietest) which take more than the usual maintenance. I'm sure that the folks on board wouldn't want a stinky, noisy toilet when driving through the gorgeous scenery.

Just my opinion, by the way.

If you gotta go you gotta go, but if not then there is a stop every couple of hours.

Posted by
8242 posts

Agree with Nigel, that's what several bus drivers have told me about toilets too, PLUS the driver has to clean them him/herself and they don't care for that chore. Most of the time the contents stay in the toilet until the end of the tour and they get back to their bus barn.

Posted by
2625 posts

Thanks Nigel and Pam, for the explanation of how the very small (holding tank) toilets work. Yes, there were indeed, plenty of rest area stops along the way on our tour. Only one person had to use the facilities on the ride from Hadrian's Wall to York, and that was our guide! Yep, when you've got to go, you gotta go.
And I totally understand that no one onboard wants to ride around on their tour with certain odors!
Thus, I understand the suggestion to "hold on".
Yes, I totally sympathize with the bus driver having to clean the facilities.

I was trying to emphasize to Big Mike that his father might not find this situation to be ideal for their needs.
Not complaining.
Just leading to my suggestion to Big Mike that he and his family may want to think about planning their own trip, so dad will be able to stop at bathrooms along the way whenever he wishes.

I have only good things to say about our Rick Steves tour. But for some older people Big Mike's dad's age, it may not be ideal to have to wait to use the toilet. Accidents do happen; at least, they did with my grandparents and my parents as they got older.

I do understand being thoughtful of the other tour members and keeping the rest room clean during our tour and ride on the bus.
My husband and I never entered the rest room, thus doing our part to wait until the next rest area stop.

Posted by
1682 posts

Well, doggone. Thank you, Stan and Rebecca.

On another note we did have a restroom issue on a tour bus in 2017. The smell was horrid and I felt bad for those near the toilet. It was worse than near the airplane toilets.

Posted by
3525 posts

BMWBGV, tjkluver and anyone else concerned about the activity levels of RS tours, please take the advice people are giving you to heart.

If you contact the RS tour folks with your concerns, don't be surprised if your group is discouraged from taking an RS tour. As a person with bad knees, I'm not exactly the ideal RS tour participant and I have personal experience with being on the receiving end of such discouragement.

Unless something changes by the time the tours start up again, RS tours tend to be fast-paced, regardless of the terrain covered. Even in flat areas, it can be hard to keep up for anyone who is not a speed walker or who wants to take pictures along the way. Needless to say, the challenge is increased if there are stairs or slopes to navigate, especially since most lack handrails of any kind.

In my experience over 5 tours, including one city-only one, rather than adopt a moderate pace with the guides talking as the group walks along, there is a tendency for the them to walk quickly to a spot and then stop to describe what you've just passed or what's ahead. That stopping spot can be the equivalent of several blocks away from the previous stop.

The end result can be that the fast walkers have time to rest until the slower ones catch up, at which point the group takes off again, providing no time for the slower ones to rest at all. I don't know if the guides or the fast walkers are going at the kind of pace where they can walk and talk at the same time. I do know that, especially if stairs or slopes are involved, I usually can't.

About toilets, on tours or not. Most are up or down stairs. Toilets on the same floor as the restaurant or museum or whatever you're visiting are rare. Toilets in general are few and far between. And those for women are as inadequate in number in Europe as they are in the U.S. If one is available, use it!

On one occasion I was the last on the bus because I was the last in line for the women's toilet. Somebody has to be last, but I'm thankful that the woman ahead of me informed the tour guide that there was someone else after her.

I hope you find a good way to take your families on a fun adventure. I'm a solo traveler and I think I learn a lot more and have more fun on RS tours than when I plan my own trips, but the daily pace is definitely daunting.

Posted by
8242 posts

Wally, the guide will wait at a street crossing for everyone to catch up. Some may have stopped for pictures and gotten behind. They also probably had "whisperers" - the audio boxes where the guide talks in your ear so they are listening to the guide. The best advice I've heard from an RS guide is that if you are having problems keeping up, stay right with the guide. They walk a moderate pace. The further back in the pack you get the more you will have to work to keep up. I've found that to be true.

I do agree they would be a lot for someone with mobility impairment.

Posted by
350 posts

Are there tours for *people who really can't walk much, if at all*? In general I'm talking about my dad and those over 90. We'd prefer a longer tour. I would imagine buses have room for scooters.

I was on a tour with two ladies who were, to be quite frank, on the fragile side. One went home after about four days as she could not keep up. She had issues just going up the steps to get on the bus. The other lady complete the tour but spent many hours hanging out where the buses parked or at a convenient cafè instead of on the tour. I along with others helped her with her suitcase at most hotels. I felt bad for her, but, in reality she should not have been on the tour. Or she should have brought a strapping big young grandson to help her out. :-) However, she did see a lot, so she may have felt it worthwhile.

I don't know about scooters. How does that fit in with with being able to carry one's suitcase for several blocks on a bumpy cobblestone street? Or tote the suitcase up and down several flights of stairs? Not a good fit, IMO.

Posted by
1128 posts

I’d be curious if the tour made some arrangements for the person who couldn’t keep up to get a partial refund to make it easier for them to return home without ruining the trip for the entire group. That’s got to be an awful situation for all involved.

Posted by
2290 posts

I'm curious as to how the elderly ladies mentioned by Barnstormer ended up on a Rick Steves Tour. They're not the cheapest, and all of the advertising mentions that you will have to carry your own bags, negotiate a lot of steps, and do a lot of walking.

Posted by
4595 posts

all of the advertising mentions that you will have to carry your own bags, negotiate a lot of steps, and do a lot of walking.

Estimated Prophet, I have decided that a lot of people either don't actually read the materials, they just sign the forms, or they do read it, but don't believe it. It is not uncommon to meet folks on RS tours who seem to be surprised that there is so much walking, or that the hotels may not have elevators or air conditioning.

Big Mike, I think Rebecca is right on the mark. Plan a trip of your own, taking everyone's wishes and limitations into account. I've thought about taking my 92-year old dad on a trip, but I know there's no way he could keep up on a RS tour. I'm sure there are 90-somethings who could, but if you have to carry your dad up and down stairs, and if he takes that long in the bathroom, a group tour is not for you.

Posted by
113 posts

I have been on 3 RS tours over the last 3 years. Have loved them all! The most active was the Best of Eastern Europe with hike around the Piltvice Lakes being the longest walking day. While our Villages of Italy was our first and will always be a big favorite I would say our Best of Scandinavia was the least active. All the major cities were very level, (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Bergen). You send two nights on Aero Island which is a great place to relax and an overnight boat trip from Copenhagen to Oslo. There were some extra walks our guide Pal offered but they were not required and many of our group did not go.

Good Luck with some many choices it is hard to decide.

Posted by
147 posts

Wally, I did the Best of Paris and the guide did not wait for the people who got caught by the Walk/Don't Walk light at a street crossing at that big circle with the Pillar in the center (IIRC) by the Marais district.

He kept walking (the fairly fast pace) with the part of the group that did make the light as he went down the street and turned a corner. All while about 1/3 of the group was trapped back at the Red light. :(

We raced down to that corner when the light turned and luckily (?) he was still in sight walking further down the street.

Posted by
3525 posts

Leaving anyone stuck at a corner waiting for the walk light is inexcusable. A similar situation can happen weaving through crowds or just going around a corner.

In those situations it seems like the guides become laser-focused on getting to the next place on the list instead of paying attention to the group they are leading.

That's when it's useful for "buddies" to watch out for each other, although the guides don't always call for a "buddy check" when they get to the pre-determined location.

Posted by
147 posts

I did my first RS tours with that one.

First was the VFR tour in Italy. There the guide kept an eye on us and whispered over the radio to let the local people by when we were (inadvertently) blocking the sidewalk/walkway. Then I flew up to Paris for that tour. He seemed to believe everyone (including the locals) was "on your own". Not once do I remember him asking us to make way for local people trying to get through. :(

I was wondering if it was a "Big City" (Paris, Manhattan, etc) thing. Don't know.