I just wondered how it was being on the bus for 6-8 hours for several days. Thanks!
Honestly, I didn't even remember that we had days on the bus that were that long (did this tour in 2013). I wrote in my journal and rested. The days are so busy, it was nice to have the down time in between. The only negative I remember is that at the end of the long bus day, you don't have a lot of time left in that day to do a lot in the city. But we still managed to make good use of what time we had. It's an awesome tour.
We just finished a My Way Tour, 14 day Best of Europe. The bus ride was broken up by frequent stops. I was almost looking forward to getting back on the bus to relax! My husband wasn't quite as comfortable as I was. He did have to keep my day bag behind him to make the seat more comfortable. He also threatened me for months before that ,if he had to, he was using the bus potty. Never happened! You can have drinks on the bus, relax,watch the beautiful scenery go bye. I didn't think it was a problem.
I have not done the My Way tours.. but did to a 14 Day RS tour.. and while on paper a few longer bus days we listed.. we certainly never felt them.
By law bus drivers must stop like every 2 hours ..( or was it 2.5) anyways.. so they had frequent stops at nice places..
And since so much of the tour can be a bit go go go( even on our free time we would keep very busy).. the bus days were actually a nice chance to relax and actually enjoy the scenery!
I didn't enjoy it. So my description is honest and brutal. I am not a sit around type of person, and you are riding on a bus, and for me that was 56 hours total.
For me it made for long days, just sitting for 6-8 hours in a bus seat. Yes you stop every 2 hours for 20-40 min at rest stops and often wait in line(women) for 20 min to use the restrooms. We also ate some of our lunches at these rest stops, very exspensive food.
To me this is the downside of the trip, but there is no way around it, you have to get to the next town somehow.
This is also the time our guide would explain what was going to happen in the next town, or stories about people, or Language classes, or money classes, or political discussions, or you can put your head phones on and try to sleep. Honestly, most people on the bus slept the entire time, I couldn't, I was ready to be on vacation. I guess I have too much energy.
The views most of the time are of the highways, occasionally you will see fields of crops and hills with an individual or group of homes. The exception to this is the trip thru the Swiss Alps, it was pretty.
Looking back, I should have brought a few books to read, a few DVDs to watch or a pillow. If I decide to take another tour, I would pick a city tour where you stay in one place for 3 nights or more. Probably a better fit for me, but everyone needs to walk in their own shoes.
No restrooms on our bus so if you drink any of the things for sale on the bus, you will have to wait 2 hours to the next rest area. This is firm....
Similar to the poster above, I haven't done the My Way tour, but did do the 14 day BOE tour, and I did not mind the bus days at all. As others have written, you do stop every couple of hours (and unlike some of the posters, I never had to wait in line more than a couple of minutes to use the ladies' room during these stops - maybe we were just lucky). I enjoyed them as "catch up" days. I could sleep or just "chill" and read a book or visit with tour-mates. The 14 day BOE was a BUSY tour, and we made the most of our free time as well, so I appreciated the opportunity for down time (as an example, on our second day in Munich, we met up at 8:15 a.m. for our guided tour and between the tour, an optional tour to Dachau that our guide put together afterwards, and then dinner and an evening out with some distant relatives that lived in Munich, we didn't get back to our hotel until almost midnight, so I was so glad to have a "bus day" the next day).
"To me this is the downside of the trip, but there is no way around it, you have to get to the next town somehow..." Yes, there is a way around it. It's called "the train". You don't have to stop and waste time at potties because you just use the one's on a train. Trains go FASTER than buses.
I despise bus group travel, and planning these European trips is just so easy to do yourself. I hope some day you can break out of the RS trips and start doing them on your own.
Anne - it's the "price" you pay to cover a lot of ground. I recently took a 12-day RS tour that had a lot of bus time. Some people enjoyed the "days of rest" between strenuous days of walking/hiking, while others would have preferred to be magically transported from stop to stop. RS uses modern, full-size tour buses so there's lots of room to spread out and to move around and chat with other tour members.
(relating to Tim's post) The train is faster . . . from train station to train station . . . and not always. When you factor in the extra time to get to/from the train station to/from the hotel with your luggage, it evens out. For instance, the first leg is Paris-Beaune. 2 or 2.5 hours by train, 4 by bus. Figure 1/2 hour to the Paris station, arrive 1/4 hour before departure, then another 1/4-1/2 hour to the Beaune hotel, plus change trains en route, you're moving your luggage 4 times and saving about 1/2 hour travel time. Not very relaxing. Lauterbrunnen to Munich is 7 hours on the bus. Per the bahn.de website, it's 6.5 hours by train (3 changes), or 6.5 hours by a combination of 3 trains and a 4.25 hour bus ride. So it actually takes longer since you still have to get to your Munich hotel from the train station.
Some people only have 2 weeks and want to see a lot of different places. A tour offers the convenience and ease of door-to-door transportation. For those who don't want that much travel time, there are tours that have shorter distances and go to less remote places ( and not to places like Lauterbrunnen Valley and Cinque Terre).
Travel independently and it will take you longer to get from place to place and you will have to "figure it out" at each location on your own. No sensible person would try to duplicate a tour route and schedule on an independent trip.
We've traveled through Europe on our own and also have done two RS tours. With the RS tours we've never minded the bus. Every person gets two seats and the buses have all been Mercedes. It also takes the worry away over strikes with the trains and buses. In some countries it happens often.
When you go with a tour your time is structured. Most days the bus leaves by 8 am so no sleeping in.
I have not done a RS tour but have done bus tours as well as long distance bus travel. I don't love it, but it's sometimes the only option. The train doesn't go everywhere, and for a group tour...it just makes logistics easier.
Can you read on a bus? I can't, I get motion sickness, which was my biggest problem. The busses aren't especially rough or anything - I'm fine on the bus when not reading, but reading in anything that moves makes me ill. If you can read on the bus, bring lots of information about your destinations. History, novels, tour books - this will get you excited and also save you prep time at the hotels. I suggest some sort of electronic reader like a kindle, because carrying around history books will eat into your luggage weight! If you can't read - try audio books. I also saw some people editing their photos on their ipads - again, smart way to save time. I do this every night at the hotels but would have loved to be able to do it on the bus. Write in your journal, organize your plans, etc.
I guess my theme here is figure out what "chores" you do at night in the hotel (write e-mails, read, edit photos, whatever) and do some on the bus. There's no wi-fi on the busses I used, but you can draft emails and send them when you get somewhere with internet. Or write letters or postcards or in your journal!
Chani - Thank you for the perspective on why some of us prefer the RS tours. I know it's on ongoing "us vs. them" discussion here.
I have limited time to plan the things I want to do and see while on my two week vacation, and adding the complexity of logistics to that isn't practical. I already have a full time + job to pay for said vacation! I do prefer My Way tours, don't need to be herded from site to site (although we are considering the "normal" RS tour to Eastern Europe or Turkey). We drove all over Ireland (twice), but it's great to be able to stop for lunch and have wine or beer and not have to worry with driving (or even thinking) until the bus stops!
And yes, I had also forgotten that I planned our days in Paris quite extensively before we left the US, but I definitely used the bus time for continued planning as we went along. Just not enough time to research that many destinations in depth before we left.
Hope this is helpful for the OP.
Another vote for the positive side of the tour buses. We used our bus time to enjoy the scenery, preview the next stop in our guidebook, practice with the phrase book, and just chill. The rest stops were always at very nice places, most of which had surprisingly good food choices. The rest stops also had excellent bathrooms (usually pay), and a shop where you could buy snacks, souvenirs, or wine and beer. And on a longer rest stop, you can wander around outside to stretch your legs and breathe fresh air.
The bus is also a good time to get to know your fellow tour members. We swapped seats on the bus every leg of the trip, so you always have to opportunity to chat with someone new.
And, as someone has already noted, the guide would use the bus time to tell us about upcoming stops, filling us in on history, politics, and culture. It was really the best time to ask the guide general questions about the country we were visiting.
It can definitely be a positive part of the trip. Enjoy. Happy travels.
I have taken several RS tours, though not the far-flung "Europe" ones. I usually spend days on my own before the tour and research extensively how to spend time, where to stay, eat, transportation, etc. Once I get to the tour and bag can go on the bus, the vacation begins. I must say, though, that long bus rides is something I look at when selecting a tour.
As mentioned earlier, the lengthier bus times are needed to get across large spaces. I have taken the train on the Munich Venice route many times. It always consumes all day and can require changes. While I love taking the train in this region, you can see as much scenery from the bus, which you might not when driving.
I took the My Way Alpine, and during one bus segment, we actually got the chance to go up the Zugspitze. Or, you may end up having a group picnic in a scenic location. Even the autostrada stops can be fun. Also, I sometimes find I need a time-out from activities. I will even take time off from scheduled visits, if necessary. The bus segments can give me the built in vacation from my vacation. And, the buses are cushy. So, all in all, I have found the bus not too bad.
Wow, what great feedback from the RS community, I appreciate it immensely! We have traveled in Europe on our own with a RS book under our arm but I really would like a break from "crazy" planning for a change. I get so overwhelmed reading review upon review of hotels and B&B's that are 4-5 star and trying to decide. On our last trip to Rome, I selected a highly recommended B&B and was so disappointed. Yes, the owners were very charming, the place was clean, the breakfast lovely but it was so off the beaten path that we found this very difficult. Yes, I did my research and I thought it wasn't as far as it was from specific areas of interest. Some people consider distance not be a real factor but sometimes after a busy day of sightseeing, walking a few miles isn't much fun.
So thanks again to everyone and happy, happy travels to all!
The time on the bus is much the same between the regular guided tours and the My Way tours (as they're visiting the same places). The bus time will vary on each leg of the journey. In some cases they need to cover a lot of ground in one day, so the ride will be a bit longer. As others have mentioned, there are stops every two hours which have two purposes....
- It allows tour members to stop at a rest stop, buy a coffee or something to eat and use the washrooms. The rest stops in Europe are incredible and some include mini shopping areas, coffee bars, restaurants, etc.
- More importantly these stops provide the mandated rest stop for the drivers. After a set period on the road, they MUST stop and rest for a set period. They're monitored by "black boxes" so there's NO cheating, and they can face severe penalties if they break the rules (that's what tour bus drivers have told me on many occasions).
Also, as mentioned the buses are full size but only about half full so everyone has room to "stretch out". In addition to allowing tour members a bit of time to have a nap, read the guidebook to prepare for the next stop or whatever, the bus time also provides some time for the guide to give the group information on the next destination. The RS tours are very much a "learning experience".
With the My Way tours, you'll need to plan your sightseeing in each place well, so you don't waste any time. If the tour is in a particular location for two nights, that only provides about a day and a half for touring so you'll need to be organized.
I'd suggest giving it a try, as you'll never really know what the tours are like until you take one.
I agree with Ken - give it a try! Hubs and I just got back from the My Way 14 Day BOE Tour and I would highly recommend it. We had a full tour - a wonderful group of people ranging from early 30's to mid 70's - 12 couples (including a pair of newlyweds and a few celebrating milestone anniversaries,) a pair of sisters and a single gal. Our escort, Travis Smith and our Belgium bus driver, Coos, made it 29. The bus was big and comfortable, with seats to spare. Some couples rode together, some spread out. I cannot sleep on a plane or a bus, so used my time to read up on our next destination, read books on my IPad, or just stare out the window and daydream. As the tour went on and we got to know our fellow tour members, there was much hilarity on the bus, laughing, telling stories of our adventures and mishaps at certain destinations - an all around good vibe. We went into this tour knowing it would be fast, and it was, but now we know where we would like to go back to and spend more time. I don't know if we'll do it again, I'd like to, but you just don't know what life is going to throw at you. With that being said, I'm so very glad we did it and I have no regrets, just fond and funny memories, and isn't that a great thing?
I have taken 8 RS tours and have all lengths of bus rides. I usually read, nap etc. If you can't read on a bus go to the library with your iPod or iPhone, or other mp3 player and have them show you how to checkout and down load an audiobook. You can generally keep them for 2-3 weeks and when that time is done they just go away. This way you can listen to a book instead of reading. My local library has hundreds of books and there are several places you can download from. The best part is as long as you have wifi you can check out audiobooks from anywhere. I find the audiobooks are great for the plane ride too!