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Rick Steves United States Tour?

Hello everyone,

I do not recall which Rick Steves newsletter this information was in from earlier this year, but I recall Rick mentioned that he had an interest in potentially putting together another bus tour that goes across the continental United States. I have travelled through a fair amount of the US for my age (I'm in my mid-20's), but just wanted to make a post to say how I thought that was an awesome idea. I think Rick should really consider offering that tour, when it is safer. Especially with the pandemic and air travel, a US bus tour could be possibly easier to arrange. It could really be fun!

But that's just my two cents! :)

Posted by
4174 posts

Interesting idea, kate2! As much ground as the U.S. includes, I wonder if there might be regional tours, breaking down the country into smaller parts, focusing on just a section of the U.S. over a one or two week tour? Then, if there was a “Best of the USA” 3-week tour, what would it include? How many miles would it need to cover? Bus or Amtrak, or everybody driving their own cars on the Interstate system, in true American fashion, but having to reconvene at a destination? Where would you want to see, kate2?

Posted by
5535 posts

Does any foreign travel company provide such a tour service for European visitors to the US? I wondered if there's a Ricardo Estebanos company that has already identified that market?

But its a long way between most cities. Not sure I want to be on a bus that long. I'd like a New England tour, or an Arizona/New Mexico/Colorado tour.

Posted by
6515 posts

Caravan Tours has been doing US (and Canadian) tours for a long time along certain popular corridors (https://www.caravan.com), and I suspect they are not the only ones. I think Rick Steves doesn't want a niche in the domestic market; otherwise, he'd have to start from scratch and build up all the networks and relationships with suppliers, hotels, etc. to compete with more established firms. Except for older people or those with mobility issues (or even New Yorkers who may not have a lot of experience driving or owning a car), I cannot imagine that many would need hand holding when it comes to domestic travel due to lack of perceived barriers (as opposed to European travel). As a 20 some year old, I wouldn't want to be on vacation on a large or even small bus tour with strangers of my parents and grandparents age...that's just me (I bet a lot of young people feel like this and it's not heresy to admit it). I'm in my 40s now, and a domestic bus tour like this still doesn't sound appealing compared to a DYI road trip or a simple family trip where I could offer to plan, drive, and navigate if need be (luckily, I never had to do that since my Dad was the master planner and navigator for the family).

Posted by
59 posts

I think this would also be a great idea and in particular for regions. I have been on 3 of Rick's Europe tours and love the way he runs things.

Posted by
1672 posts

I believe Rick meant he is looking forward to a driving trip in the US from Seattle to Florida. For himself, where the various stops would be to cities and towns where he would give travel talks. I heard him mention this on one of his Monday Night Travel sessions. He’s not planning a US tour for travelers.

Posted by
4456 posts

Lots of companies do regional US tours already, for Americans and overseas visitors. I can't imagine why RS would want to enter that market from point zero, especially at his age.

Posted by
190 posts

Rick has an excellent customer base, platform, philosophy and a significant and very capable staff - not just tour guides, but marketing, operations, logistics, etc. He wouldn't be starting from scratch.

I don't believe he has any such plans, but to hold regional U.S. tours would not be a bad way to temporarily generate some much-needed revenue in summer 2021, while we wait for the popular itineraries in Europe to open up.

Posted by
161 posts

I also heard Rick comment about this idea on Monday Night Travel and interpreted it just as Judy B did.

Posted by
2645 posts

I also heard Rick comment about this idea on Monday Night Travel and interpreted it just as Judy B did.

Me, too.

Posted by
2744 posts

to hold regional U.S. tours would not be a bad way to temporarily
generate some much-needed revenue in summer 2021, while we wait for
the popular itineraries in Europe to open up.

Completely ignoring the fact that the pandemic is still going on, and will continue for quite a few months yet, so travel ( even domestic) is IMO irresponsible. It is already the end of Feb. Who would be able to organize all of the logistics required for such a tour, from scratch, publicize it and implement it in less than 4 months? Even Rick and his excellent team couldn't pull that rabbit out of their hat.

Posted by
2783 posts

RS has a full time job running European tours that he would have no time to do a US tour.

Posted by
1633 posts

Rick has a full time job with Europe, but you don't think he could hire someone to run American operations? Other companies do.

This might be a good market for Americans and foreigners. I'll bet there's a lot of money to be made, especially with RS's reputation. Agree nobody wants to be on a bus 6-8 hours a day, thus perhaps regional tours would be more suitable?

We have a cross-country and back trip on our bucket list, but we'll do this on our own and travel to our preferences and schedule. Planning is half the fun of a trip.

Cyn's idea is intriguing.

CJean, nobody is suggesting such a tour for 2021.

Posted by
3612 posts

And for a little humor: If the US was added to the RS market territory, the forum could have some new challenges answering questions in the future such as this one! 😉

“I have two weeks to travel, and I want to see all of the highlights of the US. Please suggest the itinerary for NYC, LA - Hollywood and Disneyland, too, the Grand Canyon, some beaches, someplace with cactus, Yellowstone, Chicago - to compare their pizza with NY’s. I also want to have my passport stamped in Canada & Mexico while I’m there. Oh, and I don’t want to rent a car.”

Posted by
7969 posts

"“I have two weeks to travel, and I want to see all of the highlights of the US. Please suggest the itinerary for NYC, LA - Hollywood and Disneyland, too, the Grand Canyon, some beaches, someplace with cactus, Yellowstone, Chicago - to compare their pizza with NY’s. I also want to have my passport stamped in Canada & Mexico while I’m there. Oh, and I don’t want to rent a car.”"

Laughing....actually Jean, this was often the kind of requests posted on the Trip Advisor Road Trips forum. Not so much over the last year but when travel was open that kind of itinerary was often posted by people visiting the US for the first time, often wanting to travel by Greyhound and Amtrak. Yikes!

I'd agree there are lots of companies that do big US trips. Caravan was mentioned upthread but Road Scholar also targets the Senior market with domestic trips.

Posted by
2744 posts

BigMike:

CJean, nobody is suggesting such a tour for 2021

I quoted someone who suggested exactly that.

I would have to agree with Agnes. If Rick was interested in something like US tours, I think he would have done it before now. But given his travel philosophy, and his target audience, I think he would have aimed at a different continent; perhaps Asia, if he was really serious about expanding his reach.

Posted by
6515 posts

but to hold regional U.S. tours would not be a bad way to temporarily
generate some much-needed revenue in summer 2021

This pandemic thing is still going on - how/ why would RS buck CDC guidance against non-essential travel and what would their insurer say to that? Several states have quarantine requirements, including where my Mom lives in CA. Besides the public health guidance and insurance requirements, how would a tour work when most older people aren't willing to take trips with complete strangers until well after they're vaccinated, etc? Kids aren't going to be vaccinated by the summer, so that rules out family trips. Also, Rick has no infrastructure in place (or any special expertise) in domestic group tours - other operators do.

Posted by
626 posts

What about Rick teaming up with Elon Musk and beginning “space tours”? RS Through the Outer Limits.

Rick has NEVER discussed running organized tours in the US. Never. Where do you folks come up with this stuff?

Rick has written and talked in the past about his early years when HE, Rick Steves, traveled throughout the US putting on presentations to get people interested in travel to Europe (and building his business). He has talked longingly about this old days recently on his Monday night show and in his newsletters/blogs. He dreams of a repeat, when it is safe, to do a drive across the US (with staff aka the needed for a bus) and stopping at a different city each night to give a presentation and get the public back into a travel mood. Reaching out to people directly, in person, like his old days.

Posted by
7000 posts

I suspect Rick and the staff are going to be kept well occupied with getting the (pre) existing European tours back up and running, that trying to create the same kind of experience in the US is a non-starter.

Another issue is the US does not have the 1500-2500 years of history and "stuff" to see, that is present in Europe. The US does National Parks well, but a tour bus and guide do not work like they do to visit Venice Florence and Rome

Rick's grandkids might look into doing it, but I do not see it happening any earlier than that, if it does ever happen.

Posted by
1633 posts

CJean and Agnes:

Thank you for your perspective, which I think is the correct one.

But more importantly, thank you for your insightful contributions to this board.

Posted by
11989 posts

Laughing....actually Jean, this was often the kind of requests posted
on the Trip Advisor Road Trips forum. Not so much over the last year
but when travel was open that kind of itinerary was often posted by
people visiting the US for the first time, often wanting to travel by
Greyhound and Amtrak. Yikes!

LOL, Pam! I saw similar on Thorn Tree forums for the States. As amusing were the people who could drive but wanted to do that from West coast to East Coast in a week, and wanted a list of "all the sights" to see along the way. Seriously. To give them some idea of what sort of ground they were covering, this site came in handy. Here's what could be provided a traveler from England:

https://mapfight.xyz/map/england/#usc

Our public transit situation is a real challenge for tourists from abroad who don't/can't/won't drive, however. We've seen a lot of tour buses full of foreigners at the National Parks out west. Shoot, same is true for American seniors who are just not comfortable behind the wheel away from home, or others with limitations such as their youth. It can be prohibitively expensive to rent a car under age 24 or so.

Posted by
9082 posts

As someone who has worked as a tour director mostly in the U.S., I find this thread amusing. My passengers were Americans, Australians, South Africans, British and New Zealanders with a few from Hong Kong thrown in for good measure. And a few english speaking Germans and Scandinavians. (Surprisingly all in their 20's)

Let's focus on the Americans. Who were they? You'd be surprised. They were not all seniors. I had everything from mid-30's to mid-80s. (Non-Americans skewed lower.) Most took the tour for the same reason Americans take tours anywhere else--they wanted someone else to make all the arrangments, do all the driving, and tell them what they are seeing. We didn't just visit National Parks. Major cities were included as well. And while the history may not go back as far as Europe, the different cultures and ethnicities made for some good walking tours. (One of the most popular was a walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco. We covered the history of the area as well as the role the Chinese played in building not just that area but America as well.)

Trying to cover the entire country in two weeks is crazy. Most Europeans didn't get the size of this country. Consider this, if you take England and Scotland--forget Wales for a moment--and then double it on top of each other so it's Scotland-England-Scotland-England--that's about the size of California. New York to Miami is similar to London to Rome (flying). London to Tel Aviv is still a couple of hundred miles shorter than New York to Los Angeles by air.

Would a Rick Steves tour work in the U.S.? It might. But it would be different. Not as much art and churches. Plenty of history but it doesn't go back as far as Europe. The hotels would be different.

Posted by
6515 posts

Another issue is the US does not have the 1500-2500 years of history
and "stuff" to see, that is present in Europe.

The US has plenty of its own history and things to see, they are spread further apart though in most areas. I grew up in Europe and don't believe the US is somehow inferior when it comes to touring. It's not just national and state parks. Just as people in the US seem infatuated with Europe, it may surprise others to know that people from Europe also want to experience things that are different than the country they come from. I remember when I went to some small village in Quebec Province, I spoke with the inn keeper and she was fascinated by rodeos and country music (the kind of culture you'd find in places like Texas). When I went to Memphis, I saw plenty of Australians hanging out in music bars and taking old recording studio tours (and I didn't even go to Graceland). When I tour certain regions of the US myself, I feel like I'm in a different country. Maybe it's just me. Most young(er) Europeans I know are not at all intimidated by renting a car in the US, and they're comfortable with DYI trips. Some want to do camper-style vacations here that I'm not as familiar with (since I don't own one or have anywhere to store it).

Posted by
7969 posts

@Kathy...laughing...yes that is an excellent reference!

As to history in the US...the oldest standing building in Idaho was built in 1850. (Cataldo Mission).

In Idaho of course there are Lewis and Clark history waypoints back to 1803 and Native American history extending much further back. There is a rockshelter in Idaho that has been dated to 8,000 years ago although it is not on the tourist trail (and it is pretty disappointing as it's been backfilled with dirt to preserve it) plus of course old growth cedars in the 500 year old range.

Posted by
106 posts

RS is just not going to jump into the US market and make money. RS would need to market tours, set up guides, transportation etc, even without Covid. Also there are plenty of competitors. He will stick to his core business and be profitable in 2022. There are plenty of places to visit in the US and I will be visiting them i 2021.

Posted by
3150 posts

What a preposterous idea. There is no way on God’s green earth that this is true. Talk about a bus going across the country that is a Covid spreader.

Millions can’t get the vaccine yet and & have chronic health conditions so they have yet to spend any time with elderly parents/relatives and other immediate family. But people are going to get on a bus and go across the country between Seattle and Florida? Glad the Northeast isn’t any part of such a reckless itinerary. I cannot believe any of it is even remotely factual.

Posted by
276 posts

I have to chuckle at one of the Europeans that we met in the Grand Canyon 2 years ago. They were going to drive to Yosemite from the Grand Canyon in one day. We told them it would be impossible and gave them some alternatives. We have met lots of Germans, Italians, French, Australian and Canadian tourists at our wonderful National Parks. I am thrilled that they are seeing the beauty of our country and not just the big cities. A lot of them fly to LA or Las Vegas and rent an RV and spend 1-2 months on the road seeing our unique scenery. They are amazed at the diversity of our national parks. My husband and I have visited 39 national parks and countless national monuments. I hope that some of you will get out of your houses and go and see the beauty and majesty of our great nation. We were in Yellowstone last Summer and I was thrilled to see the parks filled with families who were enjoying each other and the gorgeous scenery. You can drive yourself and use common sense regarding masks etc. I'm hoping that we will be able to travel to Europe soon, but if not, then I will continue to find new places to explore here in our own country.

Posted by
11989 posts

We have met lots of Germans, Italians, French, Australian and Canadian
tourists at our wonderful National Parks.... I hope that some of you
will get out of your houses and go and see the beauty and majesty of
our great nation. We were in Yellowstone last Summer and I was
thrilled to see the parks filled with families who were enjoying each
other and the gorgeous scenery.

Same here, Janet. In fact, there have been days on the trails where we've heard more foreign languages than English! Along with the unique scenery, especially in the Southwestern US, it has been mentioned to us by foreign visitors many times that they'd seriously underestimated the sheer size of our country.

Our national parks and monuments are truly "America's Best Idea", as Ken Burns' titled his excellent documentary on the subject. One word of caution? You're unlikely to be able to just rock up to some of the most visited (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Arches, etc.) and find a place to stay. Park lodges are filling far in advance for high and shoulder, as are accommodations in gateway towns like Moab (Arches), and Springdale (Zion). Parks that were over visited even before COVID are seeing even higher visitation numbers, and newbies to these destinations are finding they've waited too long to make their summer and/or spring break plans.

Posted by
308 posts

I agree. Jumping into the US market would probably make the financial losses of 2020 look like peanuts.

That said, I do think a Europe vs. USA tour would be interesting. Imagine a group of Americans and Europeans touring the great sites of the USA and contrasting them with the comparable great sites of Europe - man made and natural wonders And it would be a real learning experience. For example, at dinner the Americans would have to eat with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. In the rooms, an object could be put in the showers to make the usable space no bigger than 2 x 2.5 feet. When walking we could cross at any place in the street while dodging traffic. Europeans on the tour would do the opposite. Switch the hands holding the knife and fork, use spacious showers that don't wet down the entire bathroom floor, and wait patiently for the WALK sign to flash even when there is no traffic within 500 feet.

Posted by
11989 posts

For example, at dinner the Americans would have to eat with the fork
in the left hand and the knife in the right hand.

Um, I am hopelessly left handed so that's sort of how I eat in ANY country. Actually, I hold a fork with the left, and switch to a knife with the left & anchor with the right if I have to cut something. It's weird but done it all of my life, as did my father, grandfather and cousins who are lefties (runs in the family.)