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RS Tour With Nonmember Followers

Has anyone done a RS tour and encountered people that seem to be following the footsteps of the tour but weren’t members of the tour. We just returned from France and had two couples that kept showing up at the same locations and same hotels but weren’t part of our tour group. We all laughed about it but frankly, it started to get kind of creepy.

Posted by
2954 posts

I think that Rick's itineraries are clearly shown in his tour descriptions. It wouldn't take a great deal more to figure some of the tour hotels and do a "tour" on your own. However, there are the aspects of a tour that can't be cloned or copied such as the positive group dynamics and relationships and the value of a guide.

Posted by
7680 posts

Oh gosh, that is weird. Nope, hasn't happened on any of my 10 tours!

Posted by
2464 posts

The old saying goes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... that mediocrity can pay to greatness".

So you had a group trying to do a RS tour on the cheap. Except they didn't have the benefit of your guide, or all the insight that he could provide during your tour. I don't think it's creepy. Would it have been creepy if they were a day ahead or behind your group?

Posted by
2331 posts

We’ve had a minor league version of that-last summer on our London tour our guide was giving an in depth discussion of a painting at the National Portrait Gallery. He noticed a couple of hanger oners on the periphery of our group. Our very good guide with an outsized personality stopped talking walked up to them and told them what he was doing, and for who, and would they please move along. They did. Given your description I would have thought your guide would do something along those lines. Perhaps not so inclined?

Posted by
4011 posts

On our Best of Rome tour some years back, several folks joined our group in the Vatican Museum. Our guide said to them, "Excuse me, these people have paid for this tour. Please move on." We saw the same thing happen at Pompeii, not on a RS tour.

On the other hand, in one of his books, Rick suggests eavesdropping on guided tours...

Posted by
769 posts

No, never had that. Though on our GAS tour this past May we met the same couple in both Bacharach which we did on our own, and Munich. My guess, as others have said, is that they were doing the tour route on their own.

Posted by
7680 posts

Alan! That sounds like it could have been Tom!

I had people sidle up during an Uffizi tour with a local guide on one of my RS tours. Several of us noticed it so we moved together to block them. We were NOT hogging the area right in front of the painting but were back some.

Posted by
6045 posts

The OP doesn't mention the 'followers' trying to horn in on private RS guided tours of venues, that would be uncool but hardly creepy. What he says is the couples in question showed up at the same locations and hotels. So what? The last I heard it's a free country (or free world in this case) and they are free to stay in any hotels they can get reservations in - even if they are the same as those RS tour is staying in. The same goes for whatever 'locations' the OP is talking about, I'm assuming museums or other tourist sites, maybe even restaurants.

I've not taken a RS tour but I have taken several tours with a group I belong to that visits lighthouses all over the world. Occasionally there have been people who couldn't get on the tours due to the limit on number of participants and these people using their own transportation did follow the tour to some extent on their own. Once or twice our tour leader did allow them to join in some chartered boat trips when space allowed and they were willing to pay the going rate. There's nothing wrong with someone following in the footsteps of a tour as long as they don't assume they can join in on private tours or functions they haven't paid for.

I agree with the poster who noted that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I find it strange that some thought it was creepy.

Posted by
503 posts

Creepy might be too strong a word, but then, who am I to say how it felt to the group? What I find odd is the very strange coincidence of the two couples showing up at the same hotels. It's one thing to go on the website and see the itinerary for any particular tour, but the hotel lists are not given out until very close to the tour start time and then only to the tour members. Unless you have a friend who is either on the tour or has done the tour, I don't know how they would have known to book at the same hotels.

Posted by
15577 posts

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.

Goldfinger

Posted by
276 posts

Alan I just got home from Greece. We had the most learned guide I have ever had the pleasure to listen to and she was the sweetest woman also. In Philippi a lady was listening to our guide and during an appropriate pause she asked a very good question. Our guide answered the question. We all learned something too. The woman asked if she could continue to listen. None of us had an issue wish sharing our wonderful guide. Granted the woman asked permission but still had she not what would be the harm in letting someone have the experience to learn particularly if they are not intrusive.

Posted by
597 posts

I do find it a bit problematic for guides to warn people away from artworks in galleries. On a crowded day, it can be easy to find yourself within earshot of someone's comments; and surely non-tour-members have a right to look at artworks too. Hopefully a sensitive guide can distinguish between accidental cases of this sort, and persons who are trying for a free ride.

Posted by
613 posts

RS uses a lot of the hotels recommended in his guidebooks for his tours and so it isn’t uncommon to see RS tours when you are traveling independently. In Granada last year, we stayed for 3 nights and there were two different RS tour groups when we were there. We ran into one of the tour groups at dinner. Had we known that the tour group was going to the same restaurant, we would have skipped it as the restaurants catered to the larger group and we had mediocre service.

Sandy

Posted by
22 posts

As a museum professional, I've caught pieces of guided tours in museums--though I've never followed one around (that's weird). I don't do this to get a freeby, but to understand what people are interested in. As RS says, a museum can ruin a perfectly good vacation. We're working to change that, and often, the most innovative tours are given by people not paid by the museum. I also LOVE seeing school groups who are completely rapt in a tour.

Posted by
3282 posts

Yes, there have been a few times that "extras" have joined the guided tours in museums while I was on a RS tour. This has dropped off, at least from what I have seen, since the use of the whisper devices has started. When the guide had to talk loudly for everyone to hear, it seemed to be a magnet for others. Most would happily move along when the guide told them this was a private group. A few were insistent until the guide had the museum people chase them off.

Posted by
1975 posts

One time I was in a museum when a guide was giving a tour to good-sized group. It was impossible to be in the same room without hearing what the guide was saying. I made a comment after the guide made an incorrect statement and a woman came up to me and hissed that "this is a private tour".

With hindsight, I wish I had pointed out that we were in a room that was open to the public and that it was impossible not to hear what the guide was saying - and it was inaccurate. Instead, I was embarrassed enough that I left the museum.

Posted by
2372 posts

When we were on our Rick Steves Best of England tour this past spring, at Westminster Abbey, there was a fellow who was not part of our group who followed us around in the Abbey. He sat next to me when husband and I sat down in Westminster Abbey for a service. He was smiling, and very friendly. He looked very familiar. Then we noticed him at our hotel the next morning at breakfast. He sat at our table, and asked, "Are you with the Rick Steves tour?" We replied that we were. He said he was starting a Rick Steves tour in a couple of days. He did not introduce himself, but we figured out he was Cameron Hewitt, Rick's co-author and guidebook researcher. So he wasn't really a stranger after all! Just doing some research for the next guidebook, I guess.

Posted by
915 posts

It depends if they were actively following you or just happened to have the same itinerary as your tour. In Barcelona, at the Sagrada Familia we ran into a loud tour group of Americans-they were wearing the same t-shirts and we left them at the church. The same afternoon at Parc Guell, there they were again-we joked they were following us.

However on my paid city walking tours in London, Paris and at the Barcelona cathedral, there were people who thought nothing of following us and listening in on everything. The guides were usually good about this and asked if they wanted to pay the money to join the tour. Usually sent them scrambling.

Posted by
24 posts

The two couples somehow had our itinerary months in advance to be able to book rooms in the small hotels on the same days. I guess what is weird is why the same days. It would be considerably more pleasant to not continually be in the same small breakfast room with a loud chattering tour group who just demolished all the croissants and coffee. And it does give you a strange feeling to ride for hours only to keep seeing the same two couples but I guess you had to be there to fully understand.

Posted by
7680 posts

Rebecca!! That is so funny! I hope RS Laura is lurking on this thread and will message him about it!

I agree with Mark that I think using the whisper sets has helped a lot. I think it also helps to keep from being a nuisance to others in a tight setting.

"Hopefully a sensitive guide can distinguish between accidental cases of this sort, and persons who are trying for a free ride."

I am sure that is part of Guide 101 training. I'm betting they can tell right away if someone is just looking at a piece of artwork or if someone is trying to take advantage of having a free tour. In the case in point, if it's the RS guide I know, he is very skilled and has held leadership roles in the London Blue Badge Guide Assn.

I love the comment from the museum professional! Very interesting!

Posted by
4213 posts

Interesting thread. I give tours of our state capitol and invite unattached people to join us whenever I run into them. But those tours are free. I welcome the chance to pitch civic engagement (shamelessly) to whoever, whenever.

Sometimes people on this forum ask where they should spend time in various countries or regions and get advice to check out the RS tour itineraries -- not to piggyback onto the tours but to see where this quality tour company steers people. That makes sense to me if one has no other clear priorities. I guess sooner or later some folks' itineraries are bound to coincide with tours -- not so much stalking as sheer coincidence. Like the million monkeys typing randomly and one writes Shakespeare. ;-)

Posted by
995 posts

The closest experience I've had to this was on a trip to Walt Disney World. We'd made advance reservations at several restaurants, and we found ourselves sitting RIGHT NEXT TO the same trio of people in multiple restaurants. Given the fact that I'd booked these based on our own tastes and time preferences for that day, it felt odd to see them again...and again...and again.

But as far as a RS tour, I'd guess that maybe somebody wanted to replicate the RS experience on their own. People have posted here before and discussed specific hotels. Maybe they just wanted to do it on their own?

If it happens on your next trip, you've seriously crossed into the Twilight Zone.

Posted by
5008 posts

People trying to follow a tour group at a museum is one thing - they hear English being spoken, and naturally want to listen in. But the OP was describing people who were showing up at the same hotels and then following the same daily itinerary. That is a bit odd, and yeah, it sounds like someone on the tour has tipped them off, or they are smart detectives.

Posted by
4821 posts

The real question is, why was your tour following these people around?

Seriously, I have never taken a tour, but in many trips, I have often bumped into the same people at a couple towns, or at least sights within a town, especially if I was relying on Rick Steves guides for a destination or sight. My wife and I, when hitting a town or sight highlighted in a Rick Steves book, made a point of counting the number of RS guidebooks we saw. If it would have been a drinking game, often we would have been face down by noon.

Posted by
4444 posts

The two couples somehow had our itinerary months in advance to be able to book rooms in the small hotels on the same days

Maybe the couples booked before your tour was booked and were annoyed that a tour group kept showing up at their hotels.

The RS books cover a limited number of hotels and places. They have recommended itineraries. His website has the tour itinerary posted and they don’t change much from year to year. People post tour hotels on this website and in scrapbooks. Perhaps these couples developed a plan based on the 2017 tour itinerary before your specific tour date was even announced.

I rarely stay in RS hotels anymore. They are usually full of RS readers long before I make a reservation. I can certainly see how someone planning a trip based on info in the RS books and on the RS website could cross paths with the group.

I know that I have run into people traveling independently multiple times in my own travels.

Posted by
3136 posts

I have never taken a tour so I'll ask what could be a silly question. Do tour members wear headphones and hear their guides via the headphones? If so, I would think that would stop the leeches but maybe headphones aren't ubiquitous on all tours.

Posted by
5008 posts

continental, the only time the headsets appear is when inside a church, museum, art gallery etc., not on the street. If you're close enough to the guide, you can hear without them, but it avoids everyone trying to crowd around in a big space. I think its more to avoid shouting to be heard in a shared space than privacy. I've seen them at least once on every tour (3) but not every place on the tour.

Posted by
24 posts

Actually on several RS tours now we have used the audio systems walking down the street. They are not just for inside locations.

Posted by
1217 posts

Unless you have a friend who is either on the tour or has done the tour, I don't know how they would have known to book at the same hotels.

Hotel reviews. In some rural or small town areas, the number of decent hotel rooms is pretty limited and you can come across all kinds of 'I was there with a tour' reviews on Tripadvisor and the like. The place I recently booked in Switzerland had a rather scathing 'it was by far the worst hotel on my Rick Steves tour-worst customer service ever!!!' review and the hotel owner responded by noting that the guests in questions were very loud late night drunks on a hotel balcony in violation of normal Swiss 'quiet hours' norms and also got beligerant when the manager/owner told them they needed to stop going up and down the fire escape that was for emergency use only.

Posted by
29 posts

Hey Margie,
This topic reminds me of a time in 1980 when I was travelling solo in Egypt. Went to the pyramids in Giza, and instead of paying for a tour, I followed (what a I thought was at a discreet distance) behind a tour group. The farther we went into the pyramid, the more uncomfortable I became. I'd never had claustrophobia, but I was certainly experiencing it in that pyramid! That great tour guide recognized my distress, left his group and quickly escorted me out of the pyramid. I was embarrassed, but extremely grateful for his quick action, so I gave him some money...probably more than if I had paid for the tour!