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RS tour first timer questions

I would like to take a solo RS tour in 2024. I've not decided which one but will probably be a short one and not a lot of moving around since it will be my first tour and I'm not sure I'll like it. I'm recently retired but hubs still working. We have traveled in Europe before but I did all the planning (which I love doing). My first question is regarding RS hotels......I need AC! Do most have AC? I'm one of those people that have the air cranked down and 2 fans going. Sad but true. Post menopause (sorry gents), and the fact that I take oral chemo medication post breast cancer.

My second question....don't judge....is regarding smoking. I have a friend that is considering tagging along. Yes, she smokes. She is very respectful of others so no worries along those lines. But will she be able to smoke away from others? And are there ever any other smokers? Like I said, don't judge me.....I told her I would ask. Thanks for any advice.

Posted by
567 posts

I've been on only one RS tour (so far!). I went to Scotland in September 2017. At least one of the hotels did not have AC. It was fairly cool outside, so not too bad. I was able to get a fan at that hotel. My room's only window was a skylight that automatically closed when it rained, which was a new experience for me! You might want to consider bringing a small travel fan.
I don't recall any smokers on that trip; I'd imagine there would be opportunities to do it. Best to ask the RS office about that.

Posted by
41 posts

To begin to address your second question re smoking, this is a quote from the RS Tour FAQ:

"Is smoking allowed on tour?
No: You're not allowed to smoke or vape on the bus, in the hotel, or where other tour members are present. Nonsmokers, be aware that we can't isolate you from Europeans who smoke in public areas or hotels."

-Ben

Posted by
14175 posts

I've done 12 RS tours. I'd say the AC varies. I am not heat-tolerant so I don't travel in the summer. Very rarely have I stayed in a European hotel (Rick or not) that had AC that gets cold like American AC. If you choose a hotter country, I'd go in early spring or late Fall. You may need to bring a small fan for your bedside that is battery driven that you can recharge with a USB port.

Smoking - I'm a non-smoker. I have only very occasionally noted a smoker on tours. They were respectful and smoked well away from the group. I think one I am thinking of would go off for a walk on his own and get his smoke in. All the hotels are non-smoking and many have posted that they will levy a charge if smoke is smelled in the room. I was in the RS hotel in Ghent last year (although not on a RS tour) and the people next to me were hanging out their window smoking. I'd had my window open and was worried about the smell drifting in so told the reception desk when I went out for a meal about my concern. They said they would note it and not to worry. They must have spoken to the occupants because I did not notice them smoking out the window the next day.

There are plenty of smokers in Europe especially on the cafe terraces.

If your budget allows it I do recommend getting the single supplement for each of you. The twin beds can be pretty close together in the European hotel rooms.

Posted by
244 posts

I have taken 7 RS tours and stayed in at least 40 tour hotels. I can only recall 3-4 without air conditioning and those were in cooler areas like Scotland, Ireland and Switzerland. I suggest that you talk with someone in the tour offices when 2024 tours are offered later this summer about the hotels on any tour you are considering.

I have encountered a few smokers on these tours, but none smoked on the bus or hotel or on group activities. There is free time each day when your friend could take a smoke away from the group.

Posted by
34 posts

If you're looking for a shorter tour look at the city tours. I have taken both the Paris & Rome tours. The hotels were lovely and had good AC. Your friend would be able to smoke outside in free time and plenty of locals smoke esp. in Paris. I would suggest adding some days before or after the tour staying in the same hotel.

Posted by
6364 posts

We have been on RS tours where the hotels did not have a/c. but this is usually noted in the itinerary. As someone suggested, best to call the office to ask about specific tours and hotels. We have the opposite problem; we don't like a/c, and have had problems convincing the hotel staff to quit turning it on in our room!

And yes, there may well be smokers on the tour; as BenH posted there are restrictionson when and where they can smoke. We were on one tour not too long ago when Stan and I went for an evening walk, and ran into our guide and the bus driver, enjoying a cigarette. "Well, you caught me," said the guide. We didn't share her secret; there was no need.

Posted by
23437 posts

You didn't indicate what time you want to go. Even if A/C is available you may not have absolute control over the AC. Many rooms use a key card to control all the electricity in the room. When you leave the room everything shuts off including AC until you return. In many cities, local laws determine when AC is turned on for the season. And AC controls maybe limited so you cannot turn your room into a refrig. AC usage is far more complicated in Europe than in the US.

My experience with smoking is that it is becoming more restrictive in Europe. While Europe lags the US in regulations, it is becoming harder to causally smoke in Europe.

Posted by
7403 posts

Hi Ginger,

Hotel rooms usually have air conditioning, but it’s not going to be the cold temperatures like we have in the US. I would plan on going during one of the shoulder season months, like May or October, so you’re more comfortable.

I’m going to throw out a few ideas for tours if you’re wanting a shorter one.

Prague & Budapest in 8 days. (This one just has one bus ride, so you could get a trial feel for what happens on RS tours when you switch hotels.)
Best of London
Best of Paris

Posted by
1863 posts

I agree with Frank's advice on A/C. I have been on 8 RS tours and would say most had a/c, but some just had fans. I would suggest going in April/May or Oct and would stay in northern part of Europe. e.g., Spain & Italy can get really hot in May or September. I have encountered very few folks on the tours who smoke, but some of the bus drivers & guides did (but they were very discreet about it and made sure no one was near.} If you can survive TX summers, you'll do fine as long as you carefully choose the date and the location.

Posted by
104 posts

Most of my tours have been in May or October. My one (Heart of Italy) during the first week of July several years ago was HOT. It had been in the 60s here in the PNW during June and every day on the tour reached over 95F. The hotels had AC but it was definitely sluggish. I, too, have a hard time with heat and have found early and late tours to work well for me. My Sicily tour in Oct had low 70ish days. So I suggest you look into spring and fall/winter tours.
I have a smoker friend who has taken many of the tours with me. She just walks well behind the group when she lights up. Since many hotels are no smoking, she also just goes outside last thing at night and first thing in the morning. It has not seemed to be a problem for her. And she seems to bond with any other smoker who is on the tour.
I've considered the city tours, but since I've learned to arrive several days early I often 'do' a major city pre tour on my own. The bus time can be very interesting on the other tours. I actually don't remember the bus being a problem on the Eastern Europe tour and we put in many a mile on the trip. On all the trips (I've done 12), the bus stops about every 2 hours. Some of these stops are very interesting! Some of the days however start really early - if there is a long drive ahead or to get the group to a major site well ahead of other tour buses (especially from cruise ships like in Sicily). But there can be early mornings in a city tour too.
Whatever you choose, have fun!

Posted by
4441 posts

With regard to OP's "surviving Texas summers" have you experienced AC in public buildings in the southern US? Don't even think about wearing sleeveless or short sleeved clothes! Apparently, people like the OP control the AC in those places(or more likely, men wearing suits even when it's 95 outside!) She will definitely be uncomfortable in what I consider to be "reasonable" AC in many European hotels.

Posted by
60 posts

Thank you for all the generous replies. Looks like I should go early May or October. Now I just need to get out of my comfort zone and do it solo or with my friend. Think I will opt for a city tour for my first solo trip.

Posted by
891 posts

Hubby and I have taken 7 RS tours 2 of which were city tours. The first 3 were multi city tours which we really enjoyed. We travel mid October to end of November mostly in Italy and France. Never had a problem getting hot in the hotels at night.

One thing I want to mention is that for your first trip, especially if your friend does not go, is that you might enjoy a multi city tour better . It is much easier to get to know your tour mates on a multi city tour. The bus time is a great time to chat and get to know everyone. On one of our early tours we really bonded with two other couples and traveled with them on 2 more RS tours. We also got to know some of the single travelers and had some free night dinners with them. This makes the tour much more interesting for all of us. We even had a young honeymoon couple on one of our tours!

We have had a few smokers on each tour. On the multi city tours the bus makes mandatory stops about every 2 hours, sometimes for bathroom and snack stops and sometimes for lunch. The smokers walked away in the parking lot or to a picnic table and smoked before joining everyone. It was not a problem. No smoking on the bus and the bathroom (toilet and sink) on the bus were for emergencies only. We never had anyone use them on our trips. (The bus driver has to do the cleaning)

I hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
8538 posts

Congrats on considering a RS tour. I’ve been on 4 as a solo traveler and it is easy to do as a solo. I do get a single supplement. I’d suggest Paris and the Heart of France. Part city, part moving around.

Smoking. People will not be happy if the smoker comes back on the bus reeking of smoke. That would be the only issue.

Posted by
15574 posts

Much of what I wanted to say has already been stated:

--not all hotels will have a/c

--in some areas it may not be turned on under local ordinance

--take a small fan. I have one that is USB charged. It won't cool down a room but if you put it on your nightstand it will help cool you off enough to help you sleep. It's been a lifesaver for me. Unfortunately, the one I have is currenty unavailable.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07R2BBZ2B/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Posted by
1259 posts

Your friends needs to chase this topic down to her own satisfaction. You may want to look at more upscale tour operators that put you in luxe hotels.

Posted by
5044 posts

We went on the RS best of Switzerland tour, end of Sept, and the hotels were all very nice and actually had views- the Hotel des Alpes in Lucerne had rooms facing the Chapel Bridge, Murren with balconies facing the Eiger, no view in Bern. Our tour went to Engleburg but I think that part of the itinerary has been changed.
I know that hotels can be a criticism of RS tours, but the Swiss hotels were great! There were also a number of solos, but there's no guarantees. The tour members were very social.
I highly recommend this tour.
Safe travels!

Posted by
884 posts

Oh, we're offering suggestions?
Best of Barcelona and Madrid.
Either early May or late October.
(I took it in February - but look where I'm from.)
Two hotels and a high speed train ride.
If you like art, food and wine - this is a dream tour.
The guides who host this tour are among Rick's very best.

Posted by
888 posts

The first tour I took, and I was a solo traveller, was the Venice/Florence/Rome tour as I was also not sure I would like touring either so opted for a shorter tour without too much moving around. I loved it! It was just the right length, and I opted not to pay the single supplement and shared rooms with two other solo women travellers, one for Venice, the other for Florence, then in Rome I got the single room as I was staying on an extra day. I am not a person who enjoys hot weather so I went in October and it was mostly sunny, but not too hot. Fast forward to 2022 when I did the best of Greece tour at the end of April, and like you, I am post menopause, and have also done the breast cancer treatment as had a couple other women on the tour. Greece was hotter in April than Italy was in October, but every room had air conditioning. It was an adventure to figure out how some of it worked, but it worked well. After the Greece tour I returned to Venice for a week at the beginning of May and found the weather just right. A little cooler than Greece, but didn’t feel the need to jump in a canal to cool off. Of course, places such as Ireland or Scotland in April or September would have no need for air conditioning so those might be good options, too.

Posted by
848 posts

My two cents are look for tours that are more north than southern Europe. Don’t go in summer. Our experience is that even in Spring the weather currently has become warmer earlier and in Italy especially, they have a set date that they begin using their a/c and don’t like to turn it on earlier as we found out last May on the BOSI. As for the smoking, as others have mentioned RS has a no smoking policy. And as someone else also mentioned maybe you should look at a different more high end tour. I know Tauck stays at the 5 star hotel which should probably guarantee you the type of a/c you like. RS likes to stay in some funky Mom and Pop places that are close to the city centers. A/c is not guaranteed and sometimes what they call a/c is not going to be the crank it down to Arctic temp type.

Posted by
60 posts

Great ideas! Thank you for providing options. Gives me something to think about and plan.

Posted by
111 posts

Hi Ginger, I just wanted to add my two cents. I have the same health situation as you and the same travel situation as you (hubs doesn’t want to travel so go solo or not go at all). My first solo trip was RS Best of Ireland in October 2019. No problem with AC concerns there as it was cold which was perfectly fine with me. This was my first tour experience and my first time traveling solo so I was pretty apprehensive about it. I had the time of my life. Everybody was so nice and I made a lot of friends on that tour that I am still in touch with today. Yes, we moved around every couple of days, but if you are an organized packer (and a light packer) it is no problem repacking to move.

Last October I did the Best of Paris. Same hotel for the week, no bus. That was a fun tour too and I have to say it was nice being in one hotel the whole time. The other thing I really liked about that tour is I really got to get to know Paris and learned how to get around on my own. Staying in one city also gave me the great “live like a local” experience which made the trip even better for me. I highly recommend adding extra days before and after no matter which type of tour you choose. Arriving a couple days before gives you time to get over jet lag (I don’t snap back to normal as quickly as I used to now that I am older) and having a day or two after the tour is nice to do some exploring on your own and just hang out after having just come off an active tour.

Also, travel in the early Spring and the late Fall if you want to avoid hot weather.

Posted by
8597 posts

Hmmm. Different experience. Four tours and only a handful of hotels have had AC, and even if they did, the AC (or heat) wasn't always something you had control of in your individual room. Sometimes, we got an upscale hotel with more business clientele and they had more features.

Since they don't always have the same hotels on any given tour, it's impossible to generalize. It is something mentioned included in the tour descriptions under Physical Demands " Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning." It's by no means a luxury tour, and RS primary criteria for choosing small, central hotels is location, not comfort.

Posted by
106 posts

My first RS tour was the (then) 16 day Best of Eastern Europe which I did solo and I absolutely loved it. Since then I have taken 4 others and signed up for two more this year. I try to stay away from Summer season due to the heat as not all hotels will have AC although more and more of them do. I think the RS travel department realizes that most of their travelers are getting older and they try to get hotels with air but it is not guaranteed. You can ask for a fan but often times the hotels will only have a couple of them. As regards to smoking, Ive been on tours where there were smokers. They always were able to slip away and get their smoke in. They never made a big deal about it and no one cared at all.