Please sign in to post.

My Way Tours vs. Guided tours - Value?

I am curious about what people think of the perceived value in the 'My Way' tours versus the regular guided tours. On the surface, the guided tours include many things like museum passes, transportation within cities, very nice dinners and usually something extra (at least in my experience). The unguided tours offer the opportunity to wander about on one's own into parts of the city many tourists may not usually visit. Or to just hang out in a café and do nothing.

In my case I am comparing the 14 day Best of Europe Tours for me and a friend who has never been to Europe. The only difference in the itinerary is that the guided tour goes to Tuscany will the unguided tour goes to the Cinqua Terra. There is a $1000 difference in price.

I am thinking, but not sure, that the quality of the escort on the unguided tour is key to the value of these tours. If the escort can save us time, help us avoid tourist traps, and steer us towards nicer options we may not have known about that would be great.

Your thoughts?

Posted by
1939 posts

Josh, just for clarification, are you asking to compare guided RS tours to the unguided (but "escorted") My Way tours? I'm not sure your question was originally read that way. Not a tourist trap to be seen on any of the many RS tours I have taken and lots and lots of wonderful "back doors". I haven't taken a My Way tour yet, but can't imagine the quality would be any different.

Posted by
3580 posts

Guided tours have days off scheduled for those who want to wander or just sit. I've taken both types of trips with RS. For the extra $1000 you get some great meals, paid entrances and reservations to museums, etc. Both trips will have a guide who can help with time-off plans. In my opinion, it's worth the $1000 if you haven't been to an area before. If money is tight and you aren't too interested in the group dinners, it is possible to arrange for your own reservations to museums. Restaurants are everywhere. I enjoyed both experiences. It's easy to socialize with others on the tour; meals can be enjoyed together whichever type tour; free time is built into both.

Posted by
129 posts

I'm hoping to do the My Way Venice to Rome in 2015. My decision rests on the fact that I am going for the photography and I cannot stand the thought of passing up something I want to photograph while being in a group. I would get yelled at by the tour guide the entire trip! It will be my first solo trip outside the USA. I'm sure they are all excellent.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have taken 12 RS tours in the last 13 years and go to Europe every summer. I continue to take the fully guided tours even at the higher price since it just seems to pencil out better for us. In all of the tours I have taken, we have never been directed to anything I would consider a "tourist trap". Over those 12 tours we have stopped at a rug making factory, a glass blowing factory, and a ceramic factory, all of which I considered a very valuable learning experience. Of those three, we only purchased two small plates at the ceramic factory. I do not remember anyone on the tour purchasing anything at the rug factory in Turkey, one purchasing presents at the glass blowing factory, and several purchasing items at the ceramic factory, a place in hindsight that we should have purchased a few more small, inexpensive items. Not everyone on the tours chose to go thru these places and as long as you let the guide know of your plans, you can do anything you want as long as you meet the bus when it moves locations. We are already registered for our 13th RS tour for 2015. happy travels

Posted by
38 posts

I took the My Way Europe Tour in 2013. That was my eighth Rick Steves tour and first My Way tour. From a personal standpoint, the guided tours can't be beat, even though they're more expensive. Besides the "museum passes, transportation within cities, very nice dinners and usually something extra", the guides provide a depth of knowledge and understanding that you don't get from a guide book. The something extras are usually some of the highlights of the trip and can't be done as individuals- RS seems to have local friends all over Europe!
The escort on the My Way your I took was very nice and had all her guide books ready to answer questions at breakfast or on the bus. She didn't make many suggestions that I heard, but I also wasn't asking for any. One disappointment was that a small group of us decided we wanted to visit Murano from Venice. Our escort could tell us what vaporetto to take, but she didn't have any info on actually walking around Murano. I know it's in the Venice guidebook, but you can't carry everything on a tour as far reaching as this. (I should have brought my own!)
Hope this helps.

Posted by
28 posts

Yes, I am asking for a comparison of a RS Guided tour versus a similar RS My Way tour.

My gut tells me that the guided tour is probably a better overall value. The ones I have done have been excellent and well worth the extra dollars. Many times we ended up with a city museum pass that we used during free time to visit museums 'for free' that were not on the tour. And if I had to pay the cost of the specialist guides, transit passes, etc. I am sure the savings would be much less.

But, my friend is not a museum person, and will be more interested in active things even if it's just taking the metro or a bus to some interesting place and walking about to see the sights. For example, in Paris I imagnine will will buy a carnet of tickets and hop the metro to visit places all over the city until we are dead tired. :-) I can't imagine us spending 2-4 hours in a museum, not even the Louvre. And, since I have seen museums in most of the cities already, well... No point in going again just for me.

Posted by
295 posts

You sound like the ideal person for a My Way tour. They are designed for an independent person that wants to spend their day the way they want to. If you aren't a museum person then you can decide to wander instead and take photos. Its totally up to you to decide how to spend your time. Plus, with the My Way we have taken care of the basics. Your rooms are all booked, you always have breakfast, an escort on hand to ask questions and to get advice plus you don't need to worry about how to get from point A to point B. The tours are different and the fully guided is a great value if you enjoy local guides, walking tours, group meals and museums. We still have down time but if you want more flexibility than a My Way might be the way to go.

Posted by
28 posts

My hope is that the My Way group will come together and do some things together on an informal basis. It's hard to imagine this many hours together on a bus without developing some comradeship.

Posted by
1 posts

Hope you will post your experience. We're taking Europe in 14 days this month, but might consider a My Way Tour next year.

Posted by
4 posts

My husband and I took the My Way Italy tour in June and one word can describe our experience - fabulous! RS took care of our hotel accommodations and transportation from city to city. This proved to be a great opportunity for our group to bond. Our tour escort (Sarah) told us interesting bits of information about each city and provided suggestions for activities in each city - churches, museums, restaurants, hiking, etc. She even taught us a little Italian!

We had a diverse group that ranged from their 20's to their 70's and everyone found activities that suited them. We'd exchange stories of our daily activities and many times small groups formed to go to dinner, go on a hike, or tour a local attraction. It was a great balance and no one was stuck touring a museum they had no interest in or souvenir shopping when they would have preferred a wine tasting. Many were RS tour veterans and several had never been to Europe.

We enjoyed it so much we're planning our next My Way trip this summer. For us "My Way" is the "Only Way" to go!

Posted by
1939 posts

Even on the fully guided tours you are not required to go to museums or be a part of any other activity you might not be interested in. All the guides ask is that you let him/her know you are not going to go OR you will be leaving the group early. My husband and I left the Louvre museum tour before the group was finished to take a bike tour last time we were in Paris with RS. One of my favorite things about a fully guided tour is that often the guide will say "during our free time, I will be going to ______ and anyone who would like to come with me is welcome." I nearly always choose to go and have had some great and unexpected experiences that weren't even on the itinerary!

Posted by
125 posts

We just completed the My Way GAS tour and we will never do a My Way again. We have done a RS guided tour and it was so much more complete. The guides add so much to the tour and you still have time to explore on your own. Our travel savvy ;( escort only referred to the guide book, she didn't add anything to our trip. She admitted that I knew more than she did. I had done my homework and was prepared for our trip, and we had a good time because of my preparation. RS isn't offering the My Way trip next year. No explanation why. Our guide was Laurel, nice personality, but didn't help us on this trip. If you think you want to do a My Way trip, just plan it on your own and don't pay for the travel savvy escort!

Posted by
31294 posts

josh,

I've taken both types of tours and based on what you've written, I tend to agree with Jenn that the My Way tour would probably suit you better. A few thoughts.....

MY WAY TOURS

  • Planning will be more work and will take some time. You'll have to decide what you want to see in each location and if necessary pre-book reservations for sights that you want to see.
  • In addition to having a tour escort along, you'll be provided with a Guidebook as part of the tour so can plan to see what interests you.
  • Although the tour is "unstructured", you'll still have conform to the group schedule (ie: be at the bus on time, etc.).
  • The lower cost of the My Way tour will be offset by whatever attractions you choose to see (such as things which would be included with the fully guided tours). This is completely variable, depending on which sights each person chooses to see.

FULLY GUIDED TOURS

  • Although many local tours are included, there are also many free afternoon & evenings, and usually at least one completely free day.
  • As someone else mentioned, the local tours are not compulsory so anyone wishing to sit out a particular tour can certainly do so (after letting the guide know). Of course, you're paying for those local tours, so I usually like to take part.
  • The group dinners on the guided tours are spectacular affairs, and one of the things I found that I missed on the My Way tour (more on that later).
  • I find that the guided tours provide much more of look into the culture and history of the locations visited. This is not only due to the local tours, but also to information provided by the guides while on the bus. While the tour escort also provides some information, IMO it's not as much "in depth" as on the fully guided tours.

My hope is that the My Way group will come together and do some things together on an informal basis. It's hard to imagine this many hours together on a bus without developing some comradeship.

I found that was true to some extent on the My Way tour, but not to the same degree as on the fully guided tour. On both tours, I found that it's quite common for several in the group to get together for dinners or other activities. Also, some local tours and group dinners sometimes do happen on My Way tours. For example, on the My Way tour I took, the escort arranged one of the usual RS local guides in that city to provide a walking tour. This was extra cost of course, but I didn't mind paying for that. For our final farewell dinner, the escort arranged a gourmet meal at a restaurant close to the hotel, which was also optional and extra cost but most of the group attended. It was a spectacular affair and well worth the cost!

Good luck with your decision.

Posted by
91 posts

My wife and I have recently finished our 6th RS tour and firmly believe the quality of the guide who we traveled with as well as many of the local guides made a "very good" itinerary into a great trip of memories. On each tour the guide played a role in arranging experiences we had not even considered and sometimes not on the scheduled itinerary.

In Ireland we stopped at Ashford Castle for Irish coffee and an hour to wander the grounds because our guide knew staff there. Our bedroom wall has a collage of the flower pictures my wife took there. If we had walked through the Roman forum or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence without the excellent guides already prearranged by the tour, we would have missed out on so many interesting details. And of course it is nice that reservations were already taken care of for us! In Greece, a botany walk and a couple of "family style" dinners with the guide on our non-group meal nights had us trying things we probably would not have done on our own. On the GAS tour, our planned free afternoon in Switzerland after a morning hike was to take the train up to Jungfrau. To our dismay, it was sold out on that day. While we ate lunch, our guide made a couple of calls back to the hotel, and I was paragliding over the Lauterbrunnen Valley at 4PM! Very unlikely I would have made that happen on my own. Similar examples for Scandinavia and Turkey. The RS guides always seem to have a Plan B and a Plan C when needed. We believe the guides create the value we are paying for.

One could argue that those "extras" are not valuable enough to justify the higher cost of the guided tour. For us it is, and we have so many more of the guided tours on our wish list, that a My Way tour will be a distant 2nd choice.

Posted by
5980 posts

js the guided tour will take the pressure off of you of having to be the guide for your friend. When I first looked at making this decision a few years ago, I decided that I did not want to work that hard on vacation.

Posted by
14326 posts

I would compare the detailed itineraries. There is a lot of bus time that would allow you to get to know the rest of the group on the My Way tour. If you choose the My Way tour, and you have the time, you can easily hop a train from Rome and spend a couple of days in Florence afterward.

It's also a question of personal preferences. Would you rather have a good guide and be with a group or go at your own pace?