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RS Family Tours & Getting the Kids up Early

What’s the typical morning on a family tour? We’ve taken 6 RS tours and have usually had to be ready to either check out of lodging or be on the bus for a group thing between 8-9am everyday. I enjoy the early morning wake-ups but on the last two tours we took to Ireland and Scotland, there were some teens who had a particularly hard time with the early morning departures.

So I’m curious if every morning on a Family Tour, which are 10 and 14 day trips, is an early morning wakeup. If you took your young children on one, how did they handle the schedule?

We want to take our two grandchildren on a RS family tour in 2021 or ‘22, whenever they start back up again. They’ll be 10 and 12 and aren’t really morning people. But their normal school day starts at 7:20am so I know they’ll do it when they have to. They’ve traveled internationally before but it’s been to beach vacation spots like Belize and Cancun. Lately they’ve been showing interest in the culture of other countries and did very well on an organized tour thru the jungle to see Mayan ruins. So we want to introduce them to Europe when it’s open to us.

Posted by
4574 posts

I can't specifically answer your question, but if they are sociable at all, use that to your advantage. Early on get them to meet some of the other kids, and strategize about a kids breakfast table. If they know they have timed plans with other kids, they may be more reliable in the mornings.

Posted by
15976 posts

Rosebud, I can't answer from personal experience either but "Physical Demands" in the info lists of the two Family Tours advertised includes the statement, "Be able to get up and "at 'em" in the morning, often departing around 8 a.m." I also see that there is one entire Cinque Terre free day in the"London to Florence in 13 Days Tour" and a "This morning we'll sleep in a bit...." in the "Amsterdam to Venice in 10 Days Tour." so you can count on at least one morning in each tour to hit the snooze button...not that I recommend it!

Still, as most children have to be at school at a similar 8:00-ish hour - and your grandkids are used to an even earlier start time - then rise-and-shine in time to get dressed, fed and out shouldn't be a big shock to their systems. You've obviously raised kids of your own so I'm sure you've not forgotten your own organizational tricks to herding young folks (!!!) but some which might help:

Have them lay out their clothes for the next day before they go to bed. If traveling onward in the morning, have them pre-pack everything else but their tooth/hair brushes and the jammies they'll wear to bed. Run a double check for loose electronics and whatnot.

Have them also take their showers or baths before bed, and Grandma and Grandpa should plan to get in and out of the bathroom in the A.M. before the youngsters' feet hit the floor.

Get them TO bed at a decent hour. You may need to enforce a nightly "lights out" to eliminate morning grumps. Keep them busy during the day and that might not be that difficult; all involved could be good and pooped.

Chat enthusiastically each evening about what exciting things they'll be seeing the next day. Just as it works on Christmas mornings (assuming Christmas is a celebrated holiday in your family) anticipation can get young folks out of bed cheerfully and early! HA!

Include them in the plan: Do some pre-research together so they have a solid idea of what they'll be seeing/doing before the trip. Decide together what to do during your free hours. As they're already showing interest in the bigger world, I'm sure you'll have a ball!!!

Posted by
1307 posts

Kathy gave you some excellent advice.
I would only add that you plan your family tour for as soon after the school year ends as possible so that the kids are still in the habit of getting up and going early in the morning. If you wait even a few weeks they might be in a very different sleep cycle.
And what fun for you to share this experience of Europe with your grands!

Posted by
198 posts

Rosebud, we did the Rick Steves Family Tour in 2008, so it has been awhile! As I recall, the start times were around 8 or 8:30 most days, but it was never a problem. Our children were 11, 13 and 16, and the ages of the other children on the tour ranged from 10-17. My kids were used to getting up early in the summer due to sports teams they were on, and the other kids seemed fine with the early starts too. The tour guides spaced the activities well so that there were opportunities to take breaks many days. We also had a couple of free mornings in Austria and Switzerland, where some families chose to sleep in. Of course, that was back in the days before you could get wifi everywhere, so there were less distractions that might have kept kids up at night. I would recommend that you absolutely do the tour when you can. My children (now in their 20's) still talk about what a great trip it was.

Posted by
1259 posts

Perhaps the My Way tours would be more appropriate for your sleepyheads. Requires much more planning on your part in order to fill the days, of course, but that’s what the RS guidebooks are for. You can pre-book private tour guides or just climb on bus or tube and wing it most days.

Posted by
99 posts

I really appreciate the ideas and suggestions you’ve all posted. I realize in reading them that I’ve forgotten a lot about having to get a child up early in the morning! It’s been 20 yrs since I’ve had to deal with a grumpy sleepy child at 7am.

The grandkids are really sociable and interested in learning more about the world so I think it’s time to introduce them to places they’ve never been. I just want it to be a positive experience. I think that having other children there would help as well. I wasn’t sure how much leisure time the family tours had either.

I’m debating whether we should do a Family Tour or a My Way tour, neither of which I’ve gone. Need to do more research I guess. Something for all of us to look forward to,

Posted by
2976 posts

Grandpa would tell me, "Get your --- up, boy." I did.

He was at Bastogne during the winter of 1944 so he was a man's man. He was not prone to coddling, but you felt secure around him.

I don't know about today. Maybe give them money? Show empathy about how hard it is to wake up? Mediation?

Posted by
2145 posts

Big Mike - too funny ! 😂

Rosebud - sounds like a wonderful time for you and your grandchildren. Get them involved in the planning and they’ll be so excited they will wake you up!

Posted by
15976 posts

I wasn’t sure how much leisure time the family tours had either.

There are day-by-day itineraries on this site for all RS tours so you can see which days you'll be packing up and moving, which days will have free time, and how much time you'll have to work with. And, of course, time on transport is also leisure time. You are familiar with the "Our Tours" page, finding the tours you'd be interested in and what each of them involve as far as activity, pace, itineraries, etc.?

Posted by
4421 posts

Have you discussed the two options with them to see what they think? If they feel that they had input, they might have more buy-in.

Posted by
11374 posts

Getting there 2-4 days early is key to resetting their body clock to get up at what would be midnight to 2 AM back home (presumably the US)

Posted by
11507 posts

I took my then 11 yr old daughter on a 14 day Rs family tour years ago .

She ( we ) LOVED IT !

She never complained about getting up and getting ready for new adventures and seeing all her new bus friends ! Kids on our tour really bonded and took over back of bus !

Remember we usually had early nights - but then we didn’t bring electronics so my kid wasn’t glued to a screen till 11 at night , so getting up wasn’t that hard really . And also there are those “ free “ days you can all sleep in .

Posted by
559 posts


I agree with Kathy's advice. The only thing I would add - set the expectation up ahead of time (before the trip starts). Explain that the trip costs a lot of money for you to fly all the way to Europe, just for them to sleep in a hotel. I mean that you would do this in the kindest way possible. They will probably by into it as well if they know the expectations ahead of time.


Posted by
19 posts

I took my 14 year old daughter on an RS tour last summer. The only days we had to be up and out by 8 or 9 were travel (bus) days. On his tours you typically sleep 2 nights in every location - so travel days are every other day. She got on an adult sleep schedule for our trip. She reverted back to being a night owl a few days after our return home. I find they are so tired each night they are happy to go to sleep at a reasonable time. Warning: Europe is not for every kid. Learning a new city every other day - getting used to a hotel with different showers, layouts, towns, public transportation, etc... every other day - is a lot to deal with. If the kids are very easy going and flexible - they would be great candidates for a RS tour. Every 48 hours you have completely readjust to brand new surroundings - sometimes new languages. (Read that last sentence a few times to let it sink in.) Not trying to discourage you - just want you to make an educated decision. If somebody is unhappy or overwhelmed or just not ready for the rigors of a RS tour - it could affect how they feel about travel in the future. You may want to do your own European vacation so that you can stay in towns longer. Just my 2 cents.