Hello. Newbie here. Although I enjoy reading the posts and have learned so much from so many knowledgeable contributors, this is my first post. Why? It may be uncomfortable to participate when, unlike other posters on this forum, I have never taken a Rick Steves tour (reasons explained below), although I have read many itineraries carefully. However, I have taken 14 Road Scholar tours, 11 in Europe and 3 in the United States, so I do feel comfortable writing about this.
Although daily itineraries, hotels, and meal options vary and make exact comparisons difficult, prices do seem fairly comparable between the two groups. Also, individual preferences vary about which factors are and are not important when selecting a tour. So please understand that I am not criticizing Rick Steves tours but am explaining why Road Scholar work best for me:
1. Road Scholar has more European tours than Rick Steves, although the fewer than before the pandemic, and more tours featuring Central and Eastern Europe where it may be somewhat challenging to travel on your own.
2. Road Scholar tends to stay for more nights at many locations.
3. Most Road Scholar tours have expert outside lecturers and docent-led museum tours. It's important to emphasize that the lectures are not mandatory and it's easy to skip those that aren't of interest.
1. All Road Scholar tours list the hotels used in their mail and online catalogues rather than after booking,
2. With one exception at one hotel in Europe, all luggage on my Road Scholar tours was delivered either to the hotel entrance or to the lobby.
3. All the Road Scholar hotels that I have stayed in, including those in small towns, have had elevators. Since prices are fairly comparable, I don't understand why Rick Steves risks participants falling and sustaining injuries from carrying even light luggage up and down flights of stairs rather than booking more accessible options. Perhaps this is my bias, as I am very much toward the older age range of Rick Steves participants and have mild arthritis. Although I walk easily for extended periods, climbing stairs with luggage throws me off balance and causes fear of falling. Perhaps other older travelers experience this as well.
1. I travel solo and enjoy having more group dinners that Road Scholar provides (just my preference as I don't like eating dinner alone).
2. If you are still reading this, here's where you may strongly disagree with me. I really don't understand the "No Grumps" policy and actually find it somewhat condescending to expect mature, well-traveled adults to sign such a policy. On all my tours, and I've also traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel and Odysseys Unlimited, this was never an issue. Of course, it's understood that participants on all tours will be considerate of others, enthusiastic, on time, and friendly. The very few times that one of my tours had a major grump (everyone is entitled to one off day), that person was ostracized from the group (i.e, no one wanted to sit or eat with him or her). Perhaps an interesting new forum topic would be which negative comments are legitimate on a Rick Steves tour versus which would be considered a violation of the "No Grumps" policy.
People differ. Thanks for understanding that these are my personal feelings. I completely understand why Rick Steves has such a large and loyal following but Road Scholar works better for me.