For those have taken Road Scholar Tours and Rick Steves tours would you say the amount of walking/ physical demands are comparable? I know RS tours you need to handle your own luggage, transfers etc and Road Scholar has porter service etc.
I've taken 8 RS tours and just 1 Road Scholar tour. The walking/physical demands were in no way comparable. The Road Scholar Australia tour catered to the bare minimum of physical demand whereas on the RS tours, we made a concerted effort to get in shape to walk a minimum of 5 miles a day. Perhaps there are more rigorous Road Scholar tours, but the Australia tour was not.
Rick Steves tours are based on the travel philosophy of one person, who believes in physically active tours.
RoadScholar tours vary. A lot. I've been on 2 and it's clear it really depends on the program. Both companies try to rate the physical needs of a particular tour, but comparing them in a general way isn't really possible.
Having taken 3 Rd Scholar and 7 Rick Steves' tours I would say in general they each vary according to the individual tour. Both companies give you an indication how active each tour will be. The 3 Rd Scholar tours though seemed to not be as active as the Rick Steves' tours. I happen to not like porter service (especially having to leave your luggage outside your hotel room in the hallway early in the morning,) Not all Rd Scholar tours have transfers included. I travel light and I enjoy public transportation so I don't see transfers or porter service as a perk, but that's just me. I am in my 70s, but was raised by a military father who raised his kids to always be responsible for our one bag (all we were allowed) when we traveled. He loved public transportation so we also learned at an early age how to take buses and subways and trains.
I have done 13 Road Scholar tours and 11 Rick tours. I agree with the others that Road Scholar tours in general are not quite as active. I do think the Road Scholar activity indicators are accurate for the ones I've done lately. On the Road Scholar tours I think the guides expect people to not participate in some of the more active segments and are always ready with a suggestion on a place to sit or a way to cut out active parts. On the Provence tour I took in 2019 a number of people waited near the bus at the Marseilles cathedral because there were several sets of stairs to get up to the elevator. The exceptions were the Road Scholar hiking tours I did, one of which was as expected, the other was so much more mileage than advertised...but after that year they upped the rating on that one.
Regarding porter service: On my last Road Scholar tour in May we only had one hotel change but the hotel in Ghent did not have enough staffing to provide porter service so people were asked to bring their bags down and take them to the bus (parked perhaps 100 ft away from the front door). One poor soul got confused and thought she was supposed to put her bag in the baggage room and there it sat over a holiday weekend until a courier service could bring it to her in Amsterdam. I am like Laurie Beth, I want to see my bag loaded into the baggage bay of the bus so I handle my own. When we arrived at the Amsterdam hotel, they too did not have enough staff for porter services so people had to manage their own bags down a set of stairs to the hotel lobby and up to their rooms. Most seemed to have 26 to 28" bags including one person who had a 28", a rolling carry on about 21" size and a huge tote to manage.
I do try to be in pretty good shape for a Rick Steves tour. I want to be able to walk 5-6 miles. I have gotten to the point where I realize I don't need to bother for the Road Scholar tours although I include independent time and if that is Paris I want to be in shape there, lol!!
I'm not sure if you are planning a Road Scholar trip this year but I do not recommend taking one based out of Belgium and Netherlands this year as their contractor system seems to have collapsed there this year.
We have been on one Road Scholar Tour and 2 Rick Steve's "My Way" Tours. For "My Way" you walk as much as you want and choose your sights, restaurants and hiking/walking destinations. The Road Scholar tour was focused on day hiking the Appalachian trail with naturalists as guides and the hikes were 5-7 miles a day at a moderate 2 mile an hour pace. Road Scholar has many different types of tours with some being more focused on physical activity than others. Most of the people on that tour were avid hikers and very fit. We stopped a lot to learn about the flora and fauna from our expert guides which we appreciated because we like to take photos. The plants in North Carolina in Appalachia, where it rains a lot, are very different from those in California so I loved the tour. We stayed at a Methodist retreat center in a small town and carried/wheeled our own luggage into the cabins.