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Minimum number of travelers on a RS tour?

I recently returned from a delightful Rick Steves tour, which had only 17 travelers. (Plus two guides!) Thank goodness the tour went on, but I was wondering whether a RS tour ever has to be canceled because too few people sign up. What a disappointment that would be!

In the case of this tour, I got the roster in the mail about a month before departure, as expected, but the website kept showing "Sign Up" until it switched to "Join Waitlist" about a week before departure.

Posted by
5 posts

Sure, it was the Heart of Belgium and Holland in 11 Days tour. I guess that those countries are not as popular as France or Italy, but that was one of the reasons that I wanted to do this tour.

I know that the maximum number of travelers on a RS tour is 27 or 28, and that other tour companies put many more travelers on one tour.

Posted by
936 posts

I wonder if a tour ever has been cancelled? That would be a great upset to have bought tickets to extra events, paid for extra hotels and expensive transportation only to have the trip cancelled out from under you. Surely they wouldn't do that at RS would they?

Posted by
3551 posts

I agree it would be a big and costly disappointment to have a tour cancelled. But we realize it is a business and they must at least breakeven on their tours. Our trip to greece had only 17 as there were some late cancellations and 2 no shows. According to our guide.
Last minute cancellations are very difficult for tour companies as they have made reservations with hotels for a block of rooms in advance and have a contract to honor. I do not know their break even but the daily per day rate is getting too high for me.

Posted by
3580 posts

I believe, After 9/11, when flights were cancelled and some travellers got cold feet, RS ran their tours as scheduled. Some tours had only a few members.

Posted by
4574 posts

We were on a Best of London tour this past February, and there were only 9 people on it, two of whom were young teens. Talk about personal attention! Great tour, by the way.

Posted by
350 posts

I've been on tours with as little as a dozen people, but mostly they are filled up or very near the maximum amount. The only major adaption on the 12 person tour was a smaller bus, but each of us still got their own seat two person seat.

This is something to take advantage of of. Check out the 'deals' offered, often savings of $300 or more. Also, the My Way tours seem to have a lot of deals, which if you like to do your own thing, are great. With the Euro as low as I have seen it in years and a $300 discount, I estimate that I can easily save a good $450 just for myself compared to a full price tour and the Euro above $1.30 (where it has been most during many of my earlier travels). If I planned to stay a few extra days, the saving are even more. Think about it. A 100 Euro room is a savings of about $20 a day compared to a few years ago.

Posted by
350 posts

One comment, the Heart of Belgium and Holland tour, IMHO, is a better tour for summer than Italy or Spain. Belgium and Holland while warm are not as HOT and HUMID as Italy, for example. And the countries are very interesting but in a very different way from an Italy or France. Highly recommended by yours truly.

Posted by
917 posts

We just got back from the Eastern France tour and there were only 14 people on our tour. Our guide said that a lot of the tours have lower numbers this year (which is surprising with the exchange rate! ) she said that a couple of what were supposed to be her tours have already been cancelled for later this year. One of my friends had her RS Spain tour cancelled a few years ago and it wasn't that far in advance (like only a month bear the tour was supposed to start).

Posted by
350 posts

I wonder if the higher airfares are an issue. Or people are avoiding the hotter summer months? Or RS overestimated the positive effects of the lowest Euro we have seen in years?

There are many 'sale' tours, but also many that are 'wait listed' for months at a time. Inventory management is important to any business including the tour business. No doubt they will work this out.

Posted by
468 posts

Were there many more tour dates offered from the get-go this year? I remember in the past seeing just a few options for a given month, and then seeing additional dates added over time (I'm assuming as the original dates filled up). I imagine it would be better for planning (hotel reservations, group reservations at popular sites) if the RS company had more dates scheduled earlier, but I wonder if this strategy backfired with a number of tours just not filling up.

I think last summer was a record year for number of people on RS tours. It seems as though they may have added more tours, accordingly. But they also raised prices quite a bit over last year's prices. Maybe doing both at once led to tours that aren't filling up.

It also seems like there are way more tours offered on sale than in the past. Is that your impression, too? If you sign up for a tour, and later that same tour is listed with a $400 discount, are you out of luck? It doesn't seem quite fair. I know it happens all the time with airline pricing and the like....but who likes that!

Posted by
917 posts

I agree with Ruth; if a discount is offered on a tour, then all participants should be eligible. In our case, we had just paid for our tour and the following week it was discounted $400. IF we ever take another RS tour, we will wait until it goes on sale to purchase.

As for the prices of the tours, I have to agree with others. With the euro at an all time low, it seems odd and counter intuitive that the tour prices would have increased over last years prices, when RS's costs are 20%-25% lower. In our particular case this year, it also seemed the quality of the food and hotels took a nose dive. We were left a little baffled.

Posted by
524 posts

My husband says the same thing, he feels he should get a refund. I see it differently. I chose the tour and the date, if it goes on sale, well I guess I just missed out. I don't see anything that states he does price matching. Here's a thought, would I like it if he increased the price and I was made to pay the increase? Some tour companies do, thankfully he has not changed this policy. I would be more upset if he canceled my tour. I would hate to be stuck with flight tickets and then no tour.

Posted by
206 posts

I always book the tour dates I want early to get those dates. Tours only go on sale later in order to try to fill some spots. If you book airfare in June for Sept and rates go down in July, you don't get a refund. If you took a survey of 100 people getting on the same plane in the same town going to the same destination, I'm pretty sure you would find people that paid several hundred dollars more and less than others on the same plane. If you can wait until tours go on sale and pick a date, that is great. Most plan vacations far in advance and enjoy the planning. If you book before a tour before the end of the year for the next year they give a $100 discount for that. A tour sale is like any kind of sale. It is to move product or tours. I never expect the sale price for something I purchased 30 days ago. You can't please everyone. The change from "Sign Up" to "Join Waitlist" just meant that there was no longer time enough for signup for that tour. I know the tour I will sign up for in Sept 2016 will be full by June. Pretty sure Rick's company makes every effort to make sure all posted tour dates are met.