Please sign in to post.

Question Regarding Dates and Times When Booking Airline Ticket


I'm currently planning on taking my first Rick Steves' Tour, but I do have some questions about the details...

If, for example, the travel dates are 10/15 - 10/30, would you generally buy a ticket for same day arrival (10/15) and departure (10/30)? Are there specific times to arrive / depart by?

Posted by
1075 posts

Most flights to Europe are overnight. So if your trip starts on the 15th, you need your flight to depart on the 14th in the evening so that you arrive the morning of the 15th. However, most people come in a day or two early to orient themselves, get over jet lag, and have a more relaxed time instead of going straight into the tour.

Posted by
3 posts

Most flights to Europe are overnight. So if your trip starts on the
15th, you need your flight to depart on the 14th in the evening so
that you arrive the morning of the 15th. However, most people come in
a day or two early to orient themselves, get over jet lag, and have a
more relaxed time instead of going straight into the tour.

Thanks for the reply! What about on departure dates? Is it something where the tours will run up to and on the last date, and most people leave late at night or the next day?

Do they usually provide a more detailed itinerary with specific times as the tour dates approach?

Posted by
24897 posts

Tours are costly on a per-day visit, so I'd want to arrive early enough to be in decent mental shape by the first day of the tour. People react differently to the ovenight flight. I arrive positively brain-dead.

It's also important to consider how far your last tour hotel will be from a workable departure airport. Some tours end in places not so close to airports with a lot of good flight options to the US. Think about how much ground you'll need to cover after the tour ends; a flight departing that day may end up not being ideal for you.

Consider, too, that the tours move fast and generally don't spend much time at their first and last stops. You might be very glad to have some extra free time in those locations.

Posted by
2108 posts

Planning to arrive a day or 2 early is also helpful in case of a flight delay.
If the final stop of the tour is not near the airport, you might want to add a day there, too. Or, if the flights are very early.

There really isn't one answer, it depends on how much time you have available and if you want to spend more time in the start and end places.

Posted by
2108 posts

Tours always start around 4-6 pm on the first day, and end the morning of the last day. There are never any group activities on the last day.

Posted by
418 posts

I like to add time at both the beginning and end of the trip, if at all possible. For instance, I recently did the Village Italy tour. I spent a couple nights in Venice and a couple nights extra in Padua (the start of the tour) at the beginning of the tour, and a couple nights in Milan at the end. Of course, because I’m retired, I can afford the extra time! If you’re still working, you might not be able to do this. But it’s a good idea to arrive at least one day early just in case there are any delays or glitches in getting there.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for the replies! They've been very helpful.

In this case, I think I'll try to plan at least 1 or 2 extra days, both before and after, to account for any possible travel, delays and just letting myself get oriented / rested, etc.

Thank you all again!

Posted by
1933 posts

Your last day of the tour ends after breakfast. Most move on for home or more traveling on early morning flights while others linger for breakfast and then head out.
There is a group farewell dinner the night before the tour ends. Occasionally and rarely, some tour mates move on and don’t participate in the last group meal because of logistical reasons with onward travel.
We always plan on arriving two days prior to the start date and on occasion have stayed a few days after.
Your tour guide will help you with obtaining transportation to the airport at the end of the tour.
Arriving the day of would make for a very long and exhausting day. Right after the initial meeting, you are off and walking the area on the way to your first group meal.
Also, hotel rooms may not be ready until after 3 PM.

Posted by
6182 posts

We like to arrive at least three days early for RS tours. Usually we add an extra location for those initial days before taking the train to our first location of the tour. My husband has commented that sometimes he still feels tired from jet lag on Day 2, so it’s nice to be all ready to go when we meet up with the group.

We have never extended our time after a tour because we needed to fly home to get back to work. Our flights have always been morning ones, so we didn’t have breakfast at the hotel before departing. The big finale is the group dinner the night before the tour finishes.

Posted by
932 posts

Like all tour companies RS uses what I like to call "tour math". The tour starts with a meeting and dinner and they call that a tour day, it ends with breakfast and they call that a tour day too. So a "12 day" tour has only 10 noontimes in it. If you only have a few vacation days that you can add to the trip I'd suggest adding them on the front end to allow getting over jetlag to some extent. Some people actually do fly in the day of the tour but that carries a risk if there is a flight delay, plus they generally are pretty tired. For departure some people do fly home that same day, we've done that before but prefer to stay after the tour as well if we can.

Posted by
1202 posts

Which tour are you going on? It should tell you right in the itinerary before you book it what time the tour starts, and it always ends after breakfast the last day.

Posted by
1398 posts

The itinerary for your tour can be found by clicking on "Our Tours". Choose your tour and then click on the itinerary.

Posted by
22891 posts

For any tour we plan on arriving two or three days early. First, allows adjustment to jet lag on our time so that we are adjusted by the time the tour starts. With the early arrival it allows for some flight adjustments without impact the start of the tour. In 40+ years of travel and more than a dozen trips to Europe we have had a couple of flights delayed for a couple hours, one by over 12 hours and another completely cancelled flight -- a full 747. It took three days to find a couple seats for the cancelled flight. There were people standing in line trying to reschedule with tears in the eyes as they were trying to meet cruise departures and other tours starts the following day. Personally I would consider a week early but your available time is a concern.

Departure is much easier since you not meeting a schedule. Most direct flights back to the US depart in the early PM or later. So that is not a problem when the tour breaks up in the early AM. However, sometimes you need to catch an early local flight to a major airport for the direct flight home. The local connecting flight can leave very early in the morning. So we tend to stay a couple of days afterwards so we don't have a big rush to the airport. And sometimes will consider taking a train to the departure airport instead of a local flight -- just easier and less stressful.

You will have to decide what works best for you but coming early has benefits.

Posted by
210 posts

I have read more than once that airlines are advising to give yourself at least one extra day before you have to be at your scheduled event. Air travel has been more unreliable this year than previous times.

Posted by
1943 posts

This definitely depends on the specific tour. For example, I am going on the Best of Turkey tour. The tour starts on the designated day at 1 p.m. (not later in the afternoon, as other tours typically do). So arriving on the tour start date is not a good idea, and even just one day ahead gives you no free time ahead of the tour to sightsee and get over jet lag. I'm going to leave the US 4 days before the start of my tour so I have two full days on my own before my tour starts. Coming home, the tour ends in a smaller town, so coming home I plan to overnight in Europe on the way back (my choice to break up what would otherwise be an extremely long travel day).

Assuming you have actually booked the tour, your RS tour account has a section called "pre-tour planning" that contains useful information about logistics associated with arriving and departing. You can also contact the tour department.

Posted by
78 posts

On our last tour, Best of Switzerland our flights were from Detroit and we live 2 hours west. We did a park and stay that cost about $25. more than just parking for 15 days. Booked with hotel directly and had hotel room after our return to the states. Despite a “daytime” flight home, we were up 22 hours by the time we landed in Detroit. It was great being able to crash, sleep in and drive the 2 hours home rested.

We arrived 2 days early and explored things in Lucerne not on the tour, and added one day at end. We stayed at the Blue hotel at the hotel in Zurich, not a central hotel that we like, but darn convenient to flying out the next day.

2 years ago we arrived one day early for Heart of Italy. Visited the Borghese the day we arrived and explored some on our own the next day before the tour. After tour ended we took train from Florence and stayed 3 nights in Venice.

Your flights are a huge expense, so if time allows adding on both ends of the trip is worth it. I wouldn’t do a tour without arriving at least one day early.