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Questions for those who have been on a RS Family Tour.

I recently returned home after traveling on the London to Florence family tour and I have a few questions. This was my 24th RS tour, so I’m familiar with the regular tour format. This tour was quite different, but not in the way I had expected.

I assumed that a family tour would have some activities just for the kids, but there were none. And, this tour had the least amount of actual guiding that I’ve ever experienced. I did question our guide about that and he said that the office feels that the family tours need more free time. From what I saw on our tour, I think that everyone (kids and adults) would have enjoyed some activities specifically for the kids, and some orientations/activity suggestions/restaurant recommendations. We did have an assistant guide and I thought that she might do some activities with the kids, but she didn’t really interact with anyone other than the lead guide. Aside from the group dinners, which I thought were excellent, this felt more like a My Way tour than a regular one.

To me, local guides add a great deal to my experience. We had only one local guide and that was for about 30 minutes in Florence. We did have a Ghost Tour in London, but he was more of an entertainer than a guide. I expected guides for the kids and adults in the Louve, but we had none.

Before I fill out my evaluation, I’d like to know if my experience was similar to others who have taken family tours. I’m wondering if, rather than being tours geared both for kids and adults, they are simply tours that allow kids to go along?

I don’t mean for this to sound like a negative report. We had a wonderful time, our group couldn’t have been better and I liked our guide a lot. I do think that it could have been so much more, though.

Posted by
9885 posts

Did what happened on your tour not conform to what is published on the website regarding 'itinerary' and 'included' items?

Do give your feedback, as a 'problem' cannot be fixed if it is not known.

Posted by
673 posts

Joe, I’ll definitely give feedback. I think that my assumptions came more from the scrapbooks that are on the RS website than on the published tour info. I’m simply interested in knowing whether our tour was the norm among family tours.

Posted by
2216 posts

Nancy, we took our family on the Family Tour in 2008 so my take is on what seems to have been a completely different (family) tour model from what they are offering now. Back then, we pretty much followed the 14 day Best of Europe tour itinerary; only one Family Tour itinerary was offered at the time. We also had two guides and sometimes there was a definite separation of specific activities-kids and adults. I'm thinking specifically of Florence, where the adults were taken to the Uffizi by the assistant guide and the main guide took George and me and all the kids to the Food Market. Since G and I had already been to the museum on a few occasions, we really, really enjoyed the option to go to the Market with a "guide". The kids also had a dedicated guide for the Louvre in Paris. Dimitri, our guide, and Matt, our assistant guide each did an amazing job of engaging and interesting the kids (and us) in everything this tour offered. We stayed at places with pools and were afforded the opportunity to horseback ride at one of our overnights in Tuscany. It was a truly memorable time and even though my grandkids have since been on 3 more RS tours, this is the one they remember best and refer to often-10 years later. It seems from what I have read, that the tour really has been changed up quite a bit since '08. Everyone on our tour had such a fantastic experience, I am wondering the rationale for the changes.

Posted by
5707 posts

Nancy, the Louvre evidently doesn't allow guides any more. That's what we were told on our 21 Day Best of Europe a few months ago. We were led to the entry, and left there on our own.

Posted by
673 posts

Jane, I don’t think that’s the case. Our guide told us that all of the guided tours for groups were sold out before the RS office tried to book for our tour. Looking online, I see numerous options for booking tours for the museum, so I don’t think they’ve been eliminated.

Posted by
5707 posts

Nancy, that is odd. I didn't mind not having a guided tour, but I think they can be useful for folks who have a limited amount of time or just want to see a few things. We did have guided tours twice at the Louvre on earlier RS tours, and both times we had the same guide. DH and I had decided if we were going to have him again we'd opt for another group, or just go out on our own. I wouldn't say I know more about art than he did, but I certainly knew the Caravaggio he pointed out wasn't.

Posted by
3493 posts

The Louvre doesn't allow EXTERNAL guides to guide you around. It has to be one of their guides.

There have been too many reports lately of RS tours being too late to get something. Makes me wonder what's changed or what is going wrong.

Posted by
5707 posts

Thanks, Mark, for clearing up the Louvre guide question.

Posted by
21 posts

I come at this from a very different place than you, Nancy--my family and I took that same London-to-Florence family tour last year in June, but it was our very first RS experience. So I obviously lack the comparative frame of reference that you have here. That said, this tour met or exceeded all of our expectations, particularly as a family tour. Going into it, here's what we expected:

1) Pacing that is better for families. This meant at least two nights in every location, so we weren't always on the go. It also meant getting a breather of sorts after hectic city experiences. In particular, on this latter score, the stay in Burgandy after busy days in London in Paris, where the kids spent a lot of time in the pool, was ideal.

2) Some activities that kids, in particular, would enjoy. I thought the petanque lesson in Paris, for example, was especially enjoyed by the kids, and then having a petanque court at the chateau in Burgandy was a brilliant little bit of programming.

3) I'll add, about Burgandy: the day at Guedelon Castle, while enjoyable for parents for sure, seemed clearly aimed at educating the kids, who all were fascinated. Similarly, the beach day swimming in the Med at the Cinque Terre was well-chosen for the kids. Those moments were sprinkled throughout in all the right ways, I thought.

4) I wanted, and valued, the amount of free time we had as a family on this tour--lots of opportunities for us to choose and do what we wanted without being tied to a big group.

5) I also especially valued the way the family tour, as a matter of course, attracts families--people in my children's (rough) age cohort, but also for the parents as well. My kids made friends who, to this day a year later, they regularly contact, Facetime with, etc. But we enjoyed the time with the parents too!

I could go on, but more generally to your question: I would strongly disagree that this was, as you ask, simply a tour that allows kids to go along. I thought it was a tour geared ideally for kids, and also for families (as two distinct categories, in a sense). I couldn't have been happier. We are saving our pennies angling for the other family tour next year, as a direct result of our total satisfaction with last year.

Posted by
558 posts

Hi Nancy,

I'm sorry to say I don't have an answer to this, but I hope more Tour Vets who have done this tour respond. I actually was wondering the same thing, as I am trying to convince some family/friends to take one of these tours. Knowing the kids, they are definitely NOT museum kids, but I think if there were enough alternatives (and kid-friendly museum guides), they would love to do it. I may even accompany them. So, I am hoping there are several other kid-friendly, guided activities during the tour. I eagerly await more answers to this.

:) Gretchen

Posted by
2 posts

I am a bit late responding to this thread from earlier this year. We took our first RS tour last June on the same London-Florence Family tour as the OP and our experience couldn't have been more different than the unfortunate one Nancy describes.

Our group of 28 was split equally between kids and adults - there were three other girls under 11 besides our daughter. This made for a great dynamic between them and interesting times in the back of the bus for them :)

Our Guides very much geared the activities towards the kids:
1) As the other poster said, learned petanque in Pairs and the kids played it again in Burgundy.
2) The Guideon Castle tour was very much geared towards the kids, with the local guides interacting with the kids and asking questions.
3) While the adults went on an excellent tour of the Uffizi in Florence, the kids went on a scavenger hunt around the museum.
4) The final dinner in Florence, where we cook the meal, was especially fun for the kids.

We liked all of our the local guides, and as the other poster indicates, I don't believe that tour guides are allowed in Louvre.

Free time was perfect amount and they followed the schedule published. Aside from the issue with the guides, Nancy, did they follow the schedule? It clearly calls out kids activities.

Posted by
673 posts

I’m encouraged to read your report. We, too, had a great group of kids and adults on our tour. They were wonderful!

“Our Guides very much geared the activities towards the kids:”

This simply wasn’t our experience. For one thing, our assistant guide didn’t interact with anyone other than the lead guide. We did play pétanque in Paris. This was my second visit to Guédelon. I didn’t see any difference between this visit and a past one on an adult tour. There was no scavenger hunt for the kids in Florence or anywhere else. We all loved preparing the dinner in Florence! The staff members at that school were awesome.

“We liked all of our local guides”

We only had one local guide for a short museum tour in Florence. She was wonderful, but it certainly wasn’t a presentation geared for kids.

I agree that the amount of free time was good. It’s what we’ve come to expect on RS tours.

“Nancy, did they follow the schedule? It clearly calls out kids activities”

There were no organized activities for the kids.

Again, we have wonderful memories from this tour and we’ve already signed up for the Amsterdam-Rome tour next summer. I just thought it was curious that a family tour had no activities specifically geared toward the kids. We expect to have another wonderful experience next year, but I will be going with different expectations.