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Newbie Question about how much walking/physical activity there really is

Hello. My wife and I are thinking of doing the Best of England 14 days tour. Having never done one, I am curious about how much physical activity there really is. I'm a backpacker and runner, so not worried about myself, but just want to make sure my wife (who is a bit the opposite of me when it comes to exercise) has a good time and is not disappointed by not being able to keep up or too much for her. For example, when the itinerary says 2-8 miles in a day I am assuming that is 2-6 miles over the course of the day, not all at one time. Also, I assume if she felt it was too much for her, that you don't have to do that day's activity? Can anyone provide me with some input on this or provide what your experience has been on previous tours? Thanks in advance!
John

Posted by
3421 posts

...itinerary says 2-8 miles in a day I am assuming that is 2-6 miles over the course of the day, not all at one time. ...assume if she felt it was too much for her, that you don't have to do that day's activity...

Eight RS tours and your assumptions are correct on both counts.

Posted by
5639 posts

John, I don't know this tour, but generally, your daily activities in any given place start with walking from your hotel to the attractions, restaurants, etc. Sometimes its to catch a tram, underground, or city bus if they're far. The tour bus is used to get from one town to the next, but doesn't pick up and drop off to all sights, as it does in some tour companies. So it adds up, but its not a hiking tour. As long as you tell your buddy and the tour leader that you're not participating in an activity, its fine.

Posted by
1170 posts

Hi John, Welcome to the forum. I did my first RS tour in May, the South of Italy tour. The activity level looks to be about the same. I was 68, my sister-in-law was 71. We both were able to keep up with the activities, plus 5-days prior in Rome and a week afterwards in Calabria and Venice. We walked more during the days on our own than on the tour. 2-8 miles is for the whole day and you'll add more miles on your own during your free time. I have an old knee injury that acts up now and then and of course it chose to hurt three weeks before the trip. Wore a brace, took the stairs slowly and did just fine. Another lady on our tour hurt her knee about the same time, took it slow and did fine too. So I'd say unless your wife has major health problems, she will not be overstressed. Although I'm fairly active with my horse, riding and cleaning stall, I don't walk much. So to get ready for the trip, I walked in the neighborhood and the mountain preserves starting with a flat mile and building up to a hilly four-mile walk. (It's a good time to listen to the RS Audio Europe app or language lessons for travelers.) I had so much fun that I'm doing my second tour in 2021 when I'm 70.
Kathy near Pointe Tapatio

Posted by
8008 posts

I've done the Best of England and your assessment is correct. I looked back to my Trip Report for 2015 ( https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/trip-tour-report-for-best-of-england-paris-hof ) and my biggest days were when I added in long activity. Those were in Bath where I walked up to a garden I wanted to see (Prior Park) which was really an uphill pull from Bath City Center as well as in Keswick where I walked from city center out to Castlerigg stone circle, which also was really an uphill, lol! A friend took this tour a couple of years ago and their guide stopped at Castlerigg with the bus so that would have made it easier, lol!

There are not as many stairs on the Best of England than on some of the RS tour days I've spent in Rome. I felt at the time and still feel that this tour comes in as moderate based on the other RS tours I've done.

I would recommend your wife be in the best shape she can manage. My base is walking 4 miles 3 days a week and then I try to build up one day longer. Even if she is just walking an hour-1.5 hours several times a week that will help with her enjoyment.

The only time it's difficult to opt out of an activity is on a bus transit day. The strenuous days are listed as Day 7 (itinerary is changed a little from when I did it but it doesn't look particularly strenuous to me and she can opt out of some of the castle if she's not feeling it), Day 10 (Quite a bit of walking at Vindolanda at Hadrians wall but not too bad plus walking in York). For myself, I'd say the day you do the Tower of London and other activities would be more strenuous than either of these days yet it's marked as moderate. London is easy to cut short - if she's pooped she can hop the Tube back to the hotel.

This is a wonderful tour! I loved it and I hope you all do too!

Posted by
4525 posts

Looks like a great tour, and the description shows a midrange "activity level," which is less than the two RS tours I've taken. The itinerary shows only one day as "strenuous," which presumably refers to the walk along Hadrian's Wall. (Those categories aren't necessarily very precise though.) Like other RS tours, there's quite a bit of free time when your wife can decide what to do (or not). As others have noted, she can opt out of any activity after notifying the guide, her buddy, and of course you.

While the tour description refers to going up and down many steps in London's Underground, none of the described activities seems to involve using the Underground. It can be physically challenging, especially with bags, but it wouldn't seem necessary to use it unless you want to go some distances during free time.

Probably the most tiring experience would be dragging one's own bags from bus to hotel and vice versa, which could be a good distance, perhaps uphill, perhaps over uneven pavement. A good reason to pack light. But on my recent Spain tour, where we stayed in a hilltop town not accessible to buses, the guide arranged for a van to bring up our bags, and a few of the guests with walking issues took a taxi. I doubt if that kind of accommodation would be needed on the England tour, but it would be possible.

Posted by
2528 posts

Your question has been pretty thoroughly answered by others, but I will just add one thing.
The most strenuous day on our BOE tour was in the Lake District, when the group hiked from Keswick up Cat Bells mountain for a spectacular view of the lakes for miles around.

I did not go on this hike, because I had come down with a cold plus had allergies, and as it was cold and windy outside, I stayed at the hotel that morning.
I had spoken with our group leader the evening before, and told him I would not be going with the group on the next days' hike. I reminded him of that, at breakfast on the morning they were to set out on their hike.
I also told him I felt I would hold the group back if I tried to go with them, because I knew I would not be able to keep up.
Several other people on the tour had also opted out of the hike.
Mid-morning, my husband and I walked around the town of Keswick on our own. It was an easier pace and we enjoyed walking by the lake, and through the town to check out some shops and pubs.
So your wife will be able to opt out of some activities if she wants to, just tell your RS guide.

Posted by
2396 posts

I think RS tours in general is conservative in their categorization as to not have folks who are unable to do the basics join and be disappointed. We use the challenge of an upcoming tour to get in better shape and your wife should do the same. Although we go to the gym nearly every day we use the 6 months or so before the RS tours to really start walking every day, working up to 3-4 miles a day. Walking is the key. It feels good and when we get there we are more than able to keep up. Yes, you can “opt out”, but hell, you’ve paid for this so unless you are sick you should be a willing and able participant!

Posted by
1173 posts

I have been on this tour and it is not as hard as some tours, but there is always a lot of walking on every tour. You did get free time to rest your body, you do get bus time that rests your body. But you should be fit and able to walk for long periods and be able to climb stairs and carry your own luggage. You can opt out of activities and in your free time go at your own pace. It is hard to say, not knowing her health and fitness. Can she train by doing walking leading up to the tour to get her body and muscles in tune for the tour.

Posted by
876 posts

In many cases, we have overdone it on our free time, not realizing how far we had wandered, so it is important to pace yourself during your free time: take some breaks, sit down with a glass of wine, and/or cab back to the hotel.
Safe travels!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for the great information. Very helpful!!! And looking forward to planning the trip for 2020.
John

Posted by
1517 posts

I haven't been on this tour, but have done four other RS tours. My only additional comment about the physical rating of the tours is not the walking distance, but walking over uneven ground/steps/cobblestones and also standing for long periods. My back protested more from a 3 hour museum tour, not a long distance but much standing and looking at things. Getting a little more active before the trip will help, as will sturdy comfortable shoes and a good supply of Advil. :)

Posted by
37 posts

I took this tour a couple of years ago. I do not remember it as being particularly strenuous compared to some other of the tours. To get to some places in Bath requires an uphill walk. There are stairs in London. The walk in the Lake District really depends on your guide. Mine just had us take a nice long walk loop around the upper part of the lake. However the hotel we stayed at there had LOTS of stairs and no elevator. I've found on my tours that I do walk a lot but much of that is caused by my rambles during free time. Getting to Vindolanda and it's marvelous museum requires some up and down hill walking but you can take at your own pace. The tour was great and I'm sure you'll have a good time.

Posted by
1131 posts

My sister took this tour in September and she is scheduled for a knee replacement next month. She took a knee brace and cane for days with lots of walking. She did stop and rest at bookstores or cafes when the itinerary allowed and just waited for the group to return if it had been a really strenuous day. Sometimes when there was free time she chose to rest up in her room or at a tea shop instead of doing an extra activity. All in all she was surprised how little trouble she had accommodating her knee. Many of the hotels do not have a lift so she was glad when she was on the ground floor. I met her at the end of her tour and we spent extra days in London, then took Eurostar to Paris for 5 days. She managed the Louvre and Versailles as she said she was actually in better shape after 14 days of constant walking.

Posted by
29 posts

We did this tour in Oct. this year. My husband is 73 and I’m 71. I walk about 2 miles a day and thought I was in shape. Our first day in Paris we walked 8 - 9 miles at a brisk pace. Most other days were not as many miles. We opted to walk from the Lauterbrennum Valley to Murren which was about an hour uphill hike but was beautiful. Only one couple had trouble keeping up, most days, and they didn’t do a lot of the walking in Rome and took a taxi back to the hotel after the day tour. Different guides have different paces but we saw so much in such a short time it was worth brisk walking. A must is comfortable walking shoes and a scarf and gloves for Switzerland. We LOVED our guide, Yorick, and thought the tour was wonderful. Enjoy!

Posted by
69 posts

The RS Tours are listed at 4 levels: Fairly active, moderately active, very active and most active. We've only been on one RS Tour so far, though we hope to enjoy more. We took the Heart of Ireland tour which is only about a week long and considered moderately active. We are in our mid-sixties and probably a bit more like your wife. There were a couple of days where we had a good work-out, but nothing exhausting. The tour had some free time to take naps, yet we never did. The tour group had an energy that was conducive to doing more!