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No more $100 online store credit included with our tour

I’m lobbying for RS Alumni to be given the option of the $100 store credit vs. the pre-packaged “trip kit” the RS company has decided is what you need: a money belt & book for your specific tour. As experienced travelers, and RS alumni, we already have half a dozen money belts and don’t need doubles on the tour books. Seems wasteful and not in keeping with the RS travel culture.
Staff response to my question states the change was made because they found tour participants arriving at their destinations without tour books. Therefore, now we as a couple taking two RS tours next year, will get eight items, six of which we do not need & will not be used. In contrast, with the store credit of $100/trip, we would have chosen one book per trip and other much needed travel gear. No doubt we would have spent more than the $100 credit & been grateful, versus pre-determined kits containing 80% of unneeded product. If COVID financial losses are really what’s driving this change, then lower the trip credit amount (if that’s what you need to do) rather than make choices for your Alumni travelers.
Your thoughts?
Sheri

Posted by
77 posts

Sheri- this change was made several years ago, well before Covid. And for the exact reasons you were given- people showing up unprepared (no book, no money belt) but with shiny new suitcases. I was on such a tour, the guide would mention a specific place to the group-on page 167 you will see....and of course this couple kept shouting out "what does it say, we don't have the book" (but they had shiny new suitcases).

Time costs money. 30,000 travelers a year. They simply do not have time to hand hold for that many people. That also includes trying to figure out who has or doesn't have books etc from previous trips. You're asking them to spend $100 solving your $25 problem. It would cost they more trying to make "exceptions" then to just do it (Henry Ford taught the world that one).

Just accept the "freebees" with thanks. If you do not need it there are lots of local libraries, Goodwills, etc that will take the donations-especially with new current books. And then go to the Travel Store and buy what you want.

Posted by
350 posts

Personally, I am glad that RS was not one of those travel companies that made people shout, beg and generally get aggrivated to get their money back. And, I like the way RS tried to keep his people on the payroll by doing public service jobs when he ran out of work for them. So, while the $100 was nice I am not going to fuss about it. In the Grand Scheme of Things, all I need is a current tour book. The money belts? I use an Eagle Creek money pouch that hooks on to the normal belt I wear to keep my pants up. It tucks inside my pants and is easier and less embarrassing to access in public. Needless to say suspenders are not useful to me. :-)

Posted by
4766 posts

I can’t comment on what RS offers, but I have never needed a money belt in Europe and in normal times, I spend 4 months + a year there. Just be careful as you would be at home.

I have used a money belt in Africa and parts of South America.

Posted by
3893 posts

We've done one RS tour. It was for Rome. Instead of 2 Rome books, we requested 1 for Rome, 1 for Italy.

Posted by
1006 posts

dplaunderville has said it well.

In addition, I believe you are given the option to decline the moneybelt and earplugs if you already have some.

Posted by
878 posts

I assume it will be the same this year as pre-Covid. You have the option not to accept the money belt and/or the guide book.

I was the recipient of the $100 store credit for several tours. Even then, I was running out of things to buy. If you can afford to travel and take a tour, you can afford to spend $100 on the travel gear. Why complain when something you already got for free isn't available anymore?

I also prefer a digital guide book, but the many blue and yellow books do look nice on my book shelf.

Also, as mentioned above, I would much rather get my deposits back during a pandemic than have a free store credit.

Posted by
12 posts

I was not complaining about a “gift”, the cost of which was factored into the tour price. I simply wanted the choice of something useful.

Sheri

Posted by
2609 posts

Personally, I’d rather have a credit applied to my tour balance. I always get the ebook, have never used the money belt or ear plugs on 14 tours and 11 independent solo trips.

Posted by
77 posts

Rick prints his own books. The cost to him is probably $1-2 per book. So his costs on the items is $5 +/-. Again, it would cost him more to track and "credit" someone $5 then the 'savings' in not sending the item.

2018 was the last year of the store credit. This isn't a reaction to Covid. There was no store credit for 2019, 2020, and 2021 tours (the few that went). The store credit program only lasted 3 years: 2016, 17, 18 with changes to try to get folks to use part of the credit for books midway...but the program was a bust and they smartly stopped it 4 years ago.

Now if I may... dropping the the week long City Tour of Florence. Now that was a loss!!! (yes, you can do Florence on your own, duh, but sometimes a tour provides transportation, knowledgeable local guides, and the joy of seeing a site(s) with others- discussion about what you have experienced over lunch, dinner etc).

Posted by
3527 posts

It's been my experience that sometimes the tour book the guide refers to is a different edition than the one we have, especially if we got the book early or a new edition was sent to the guide. So the pagination is off anyway.

I rip out a huge part of the book, but I hang onto the parts that are going to be covered in the tour -- until we're done with that. The dang books are just too heavy to lug around in their intact state. I don't blame people for not bringing them along.

I just weighed the Ireland book we got for last year. One. Full. Pound. It was published in January 2020 and was great for my May tour that didn’t happen. Will we get an updated edition for 2022? Doubtful.

The books are obviously thorough guides to the countries they cover and super for planning, perhaps especially for people who are not on a RS tour and/or want to research for their tour free time and/or want to plan their own trip and/or have never been to Europe.

I'd like to see digital access tailored to the sections of the books the tour guides will use so that we could follow along that way or print the important pages and toss them as we move along. But regardless of format, size or specificity, some people will simply not read or research much of anything before they go on the tour.

As for the money belts, I don’t use any of the kind RS sells. My preferred style is like this or this, worn under my clothes, of course, not outside. I have passed the extras on to the kids and grandkids, along with the earplugs that hurt my ears.

Posted by
350 posts

Thanks Lo for the travel belt information. They're nice but after checking out the websites, I realized I would need to lose at least 30 years and change my gender for those belts to work as well for me as they do for the models. :-) I work hard to keep my youthful physic, but I don't want to work that hard.

While I tend to disagree with the original post, I do think that newbies probably can make better use of the $100 than those of us who have traveled a lot. Like many there isn't much in the RS store than I really need, and I resist buying things just to use up the $100. If I did get the $100 I would probably use half of it on early Christmas presents. But, I can see her point, even though I don't think it's a big deal for me overall. I can relate to the guide's issues with people who don't have the book. I once took an RS tour with an outdated guide book. It was a lot of extra bother trying to find information, charts, etc, that the guide mentioned. New tour, new guidebook. FWIW, I don''t care for the electronic versions at all. I cut up my guide book into sections that I will be visiting and then, using staples and tape, I rebind each section. Instead of carrying a big thick book, I carry only the small rebound section for the area I am currently visiting. I do keep the rest of the book with me on the trip. One never knows when plans will change.

Posted by
4606 posts

We've taken several tours where a number of tour members had neither guidebooks nor money belts. And while the store credit was fun while it lasted, we too were running out of things to buy. When we asked a guide why the store credit went away, we received the same explanation: too many people without books and money belts. In fact, on an earlier tour, in the store credit days, one of our guides said she had learned to carry extra money belts to hand out to the folks who didn't have one. Sure enough, I saw her give money belts to at least two tour members.

dplaunderville is also spot on about the Best of Florence tour. That was our first RS tour, in 2009, the one where we drank the kool-ade. I understand there also used to be a 7 or 8 day Best of Venice. I'd be first in line for that one.

Posted by
1945 posts

Jane, there also used to be a Prague city tour and an Istanbul city tour. I really enjoyed both. I would love to see more city tours, I think they are wonderful and appropriately immersive! About the topic: I wouldn’t mind seeing a choice between print and digital tour books although I would choose paper every time. I also take only the sections I need but do enjoy getting the tour book. I only wish they would send it out earlier when I’m actually planning free time, post and pre tour things to do. For the OP, just thank them and tell them you don’t need what they are offering.

Posted by
30 posts

As others have already posted, the credit was several years ago and dropped for good reason. We went thru the experience of having several people on multiple tours that did not have the current book which made it inconvenient and a waste of tour time for everyone else that did have the book and frustrating for the guide. I believe the saying has always been that you multiply the amount of wasted time by 24 tour members. And frankly, expecting a $100 credit for approximately $40 worth of merchandise seems pretty petty. Don’t need two books, leave one at home for future reference and tear the other up as you travel.

Posted by
1956 posts

I donate my extra guidebooks to my local public library. I have several boxes of books, other kinds of books and guidebooks, for the volunteer group at my library when they resume their operations.

Posted by
4706 posts

I appreciated the $100 credit on my first tour but, as others noted, it went away before Covid. Losing the credit probably helps keep the tour price down a little, which is fine with me. I also have more money belts and earplugs than I know what to do with, but that's OK.

As for city tours, the more the better! How about Berlin? Venice? Florence again? Vienna? I guess it's a supply/demand issue -- what cities would draw enough customers, by themselves, to make a weeklong tour worthwhile to offer? Certainly London, Paris, and Rome, not so obviously others.

Posted by
1259 posts

Lo, I ordered a Stashbandz. They look great and should be more comfortable than a neck wallet. Since I wear leggings, being able to distribute cards/ passports/€or£ should avoid a lump or in the case of a money belt a muffin belly.
If anyone is interested, Stashbandz runs large. I called their CA office for the size but since I am between sizes we guessed wrong. I’m giving it to a friend and ordering another.
Since small businesses pay Amazon a fee, you can help their bottom line by ordering direct https://www.stashbandz.com/

As for guidebooks, I don’t mind another France book to rip up for the tour and toss in recycle afterwards. I didn’t use the Italy guidebook as much as I probably should have on the 2019 tour but part of southern Italy is not included. Many of the large city walks are on RS app and bookmarking sights in Google maps helps a lot.

Posted by
96 posts

At least returning tour members still got a bit of a tour credit! ($50)

I went through the same discussion about the tour books on another forum topic a couple of years back. The books are great before the trip, but I'm not going to waste valuable backpack weight on it. So glad I didn't bring it on the 2019 GAS tour, no regrets. They need to come up with a better solution. I hate to destroy the book by ripping out pages, which I did for that tour, but I never even looked at them during. I asked the staff about a digital version, but they cited something about copyrights with respect to the digital versions of his books on Amazon Kindle. I believe the tour books are just hodgepodge physical copy/paste of pages of his other books. I will just purchase a Kindle version of whatever books I need and have those at the ready on my phone if needed... and use Google of course. Google Translate and Google Maps were my two most used apps!

Posted by
3893 posts

For people that want a digital copy, check your local library. There are services like HOOPLA and LIBBY that libraries subscribe to for digital materials. Right now from LIBBY, I have the RS 2020 France, DK Dordogne and Michelin Spain. They need to be returned in 3 weeks and can be renewed if no one is waiting for it. If it does get "taken from you", just get back on the waiting list and check out an older copy in the time being.

Posted by
12 posts

I agree with Sheri. I would rather have the store credit, allowing me to get the tour book now (I can’t wait), and something else useful. I love those little Rick Steve’s backpacks we have, and I wouldn’t have purchased them otherwise. Think about my trips every time I use them. Not complaining, but I’d rather have less credit that included one tour book, and choices of my own.

Posted by
5981 posts

On our first RS tour, every day when time came to "afternoon free . . ." we had a gaggle of several members surround the RS tour leader, asking for suggestions on what to do and where to go (and where the heck are we). He would patiently answer questions and make suggestions, but was increasingly annoyed. And then some would just follow him around wherever he was going. At one point he told people that one reason they want you to bring the book is so you could figure out yourselves what to do in free time.

PS the e-book issue has come up before and the answer was that RSE does not have the rights to sell or distribute what is actually an Amazon (kindle) product.

PPS I've had good luck finding older editions at the Half-Price Bookstore ( a chain of stores that buy/sell used books), knowing that a fresh edition will come eventually.

Posted by
3893 posts

I feel like the tour book came about 2 months before the tour. For sure, a month before. I can understand, and it also applies to myself, the desire to have the book much sooner for planning and dreaming. Anyone that is anxious to plan their trip before they get the guide book could check out a guide book from their local library or get a digital copy from a library service.

As a result of COVID, I would be suspect of any of the details in the most recent guide (hours, days, prices, or whether they are even still in business) so to me, it doesn't matter much if the guide is the newest available guide or not.

Posted by
1616 posts

Hi Sheri, as others mentioned, the $100 credit changed a few years ago. It was fun having a shopping spree but under the book/money belt plan I think we still get free shipping for anything else we order. I usually add twist off luggage locks and some miscellaneous items. I was excited about our upcoming trip and already bought the book but I can always use a fresh money belt. The alumni credits for past trips is great. I think RS is a good company, love his approach to travel, and have no complaints about a free gift.

Posted by
3775 posts

We have taken RS tours and also traveled on our own. During the time of our first RS trip several years ago, a free RS suitcase was included. Fast forward several years. For the $100 credit, as a past customer, all we really wanted was the tour book. We already have a newer suitcase, our favorite packing cubes, electronic adapters, etc. I actually prefer the older money belts because they were thinner material that isn’t as stiff. So the $100 credit wasn’t really needed.

When we get two tour books, we carefully tear out the locations where we will travel to bring with us. That copy becomes “the working copy”. The other copy stays home to save for memories.

I certainly agree with other comments - having the entire tour group efficiently able to “be on the same page” saves everyone’s time & patience.

Posted by
34 posts

On a previous trip I tore out sections of our Italy tour book to cut down on weight and bulk. However, we stopped at a couple towns that were not mentioned in the tour description. So, I did not have the sections on those towns. I noticed on the BOE tour we are taking in 2022 that it says we will stop "in a hill town" but does not name the town. I love the extra stops, so I'm not sure what I'll do this time.

Posted by
2640 posts

Barnstormer wrote:
"The money belts? I use an Eagle Creek money pouch that hooks on to the normal belt I wear to keep my pants up. It tucks inside my pants and is easier and less embarrassing to access in public."

The whole idea of using a money belt is that you are NOT supposed to access it in public.
It should be a secret pocket (for valuables) whose location is not revealed to pickpockets who may be watching.
And yes, they are that good; this is what they do for a living.
Better to wait until you are in a private stall in a rest room to access the money belt.

I am just repeating advice that Rick gives in his guidebooks and on TV.

Posted by
2640 posts

Sheri,
We had rather have the $100 credit, also, and I certainly see your point.
"Therefore, now we as a couple taking two RS tours next year, will get eight items, six of which we do not need & will not be used. In contrast, with the store credit of $100/trip, we would have chosen one book per trip and other much needed travel gear."

I suggest that the unwanted books can be traded in at a used bookstore.
You could donate them to your local library. All libraries have periodic books sales and can use the money for childrens' reading programs and special events, such as art classes.

Guidebooks and money belts make good Christmas presents for family and friends.
I have given travel guidebooks to a next door neighbor who watches our house for us when we are away.
She really enjoys getting the books, reading them, and watching Rick Steves' programs on PBS.

So these items are not useless.

Posted by
9 posts

Agree I prefer the $100 credit. I have several RS money belts and never use them. Purchased travel gear with $100 credit, some favorite purchases travel wash, packing cubes, travel pillow, and favorite purchases 3 travel locks & compass. I usually leave my tour book with hotel. Confirmed on 2 tours in 2022, my 10th & 11th RS tours.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks Rebecca, Ann, rvm(?)2000 and everyone else who responded to my post constructively without passing judgment on me. I had no idea I am a petty, ungrateful complainer for favoring useful choices. This experience has reminded me why I dropped out of “social media” more than a decade ago. Well over a month ago I received a clear and KIND response from RS staff on the change and why it was made. I think the replies to my post have covered the subject exhaustively and the thread has veered off course to other subjects. It would be appropriate to open a new forum for those wishing to discuss tour offerings. I’m done with the entire subject ... lessons learned. Adios & Happy Travels

Posted by
3893 posts

Sheri, I'm sorry this was your experience. I do get a lot of useful information off this forum. Most people on here are very nice and really want to help. Others are helpful but a bit blunt. If you find yourself needing some travel advice and you aren't up to doing a post again, you could try a personal message to someone that has posted comments related to your travel question. Or else do a search on your topic and if you find certain posts particularly helpful you could message that person.

I too, like to be very environmentally conscious. I do not want multiple books or money belts, etc. My topic was bottled water. That didn't go over well either.