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same seat on the bus - new tour rule?

In an email we got recently RS wrote

Tours will be smaller than usual. That means each person (or couple) gets their own row of seats on the bus. And we will not be rotating seats but keeping our same seat day after day.

Why do you think they're doing this? One thing I've enjoyed on the tour is a chance both to talk to the other folks on the tour (although to be honest many are just resting on the bus instead of chatting) as well as a chance to get a different view.

Posted by
188 posts

Covid. Cleaning, Makes sense and is perfectly reasonable. Keeping people safe and making them feel safe. Air circulates through the bus but folks will feel safer with 'their' surfaces being only touched by them. Every little bit helps.

Posted by
1733 posts

Just saw the email. All the new guidelines look good, and make me feel more assured about going on the tour.

Posted by
5536 posts

I imagine assigned seats will allow for easier contact tracing should someone come down with Covid and reduce the number of people identified as contacts.

Touring will not be same this year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a great experience!!

Posted by
8851 posts

Draw lots?

Alphabetical?

whim of the guide?

Order one signed up ?

I suspect the 'no grumps' policy will be quoted more often than in the past

Posted by
1585 posts

Not rotating seats makes no sense to me! Members will mingle during meeting times and at meals and at points of interest. If someone tests positive everyone is a contact.
As far as cleaning, hard surfaces can be wiped down easily and quickly. Do you wipe down restaurant chairs before using?
Hand washing and keeping your hands away from your face along with masks, vaccines, and testing is enough in my opinion.

Posted by
5536 posts

I respect that people will have different thoughts on this, but in the end whether you enjoy the tour will not depend on whether you like or agree with the thinking on all policies. It will depend on your willingness to embrace those policies with a cheerful disposition and move onto experiencing the joy of travel.

I don’t mind where I sit on the bus, I’m just thrilled at the thought of traveling again with RS tours.

Posted by
1381 posts

Ditto what Carol said.

I did a Odysseys Unlimited tour in October with similar Covid adjustments. I have no complaints and look forward to my late April RS tour.

Posted by
451 posts

One thing we discovered while spending hours on the bus during our lengthy RS tours was that we could hear the guide's comments and directions better in some seats than others. I understand the purpose for the new policy but I would hate to be relegated to the worst audio location.

Posted by
382 posts

I’m with Carol now retired on this one. My only problem right now is that my Covid booster was October 8 and we will be entering Italy 6 mos and 3 days after that. We might have to cancel our tours because of this ridiculous rule that starts February 1.

Posted by
108 posts

I have to say I’m a little nervous about this rule as well. Like many other people I get carsick if I’m in the back all the time. I’d hate to think I’m going to spend my entire vacation in the back of the bus. I suck it up taking my turn, but I’d hate to be stuck in that spot the entire time. You also don’t have as much contact with the guide and all the side information that gets discussed.

Posted by
2047 posts

They have sent you the rules, they did this for a reason. Not so that you can tell them how the rules should apply to you or why you don’t like it but so that you can decide if you could live with it.

Posted by
80 posts

I have no problem with any of the new protocols. We just returned from our 3-week December trip (independent) in Spain, Portugal and Bordeaux. Each country has a differing set of requirements for entry, exit and public health.

Just go with the flow and enjoy the traveling, leave the details to the tour professionals. We've been on nearly a dozen Rick Steve tours and the guides are experts at making sure we have a great time. We just show up and have fun. I can't wait to go on our RS tours this year!

Posted by
1733 posts

If I understand correctly, even in the ‘before times’, the buses were only half full, and now, with fewer people, there will be even more room. Therefore, I doubt very much that anyone will have to sit in the very back or otherwise be too far from the tour action.

Posted by
2150 posts

On our last RS Swiss tour, another couple joined us in the back of the bus and we had daily "happy hours" while transiting.

Posted by
1673 posts

I have no problems with the new rules. I am vax’d and boosted and intend to have at least one if not two more booster shots by September. I think a conversation with my local dispensing pharmacist will help the process. I don’t go anywhere without a mask so wearing one is no big deal.

I am a little worried about an assigned bus seat because I get very car sick very easily. Seats near the front of the bus are a huge help. On the South of Italy tour I often took two Dramamine for the bus ride. Slept most of the drive but that was better than carrying a barf bag. It will be a discussion to have with the tour director.

Since I’m getting older, achier and my bucket list is getting longer, I’m just happy to be able to travel this year and planning my next trip.

Posted by
158 posts

My wife also gets car sick and expresses a hope that some accommodation can be made for those who suffer from this.

I don't quite understand the concern of the person whose booster is 6 months and 3 days before their trip to Italy. We are doing back-to-back tours of Italy in September and October. Our booster will be much older than 6 months by then. What is this requirement?

Posted by
1812 posts

This is a generalization, but I think the kind of people who are drawn to RS tours are the kind of people willing to accommodate for others. We’ve only got 5 RS tours behind us, but I don’t remember anyone gossiping or complaining about other tour mates. There have always been those prone to carsickness on the tours and it never seems to bother anyone to allow those people who need to sit in the front. I’m so happy to travel, I’ll follow whatever rules necessary.

Also, this COVID situation is so fluid that what is in place for the early tours maybe be a moot point for later tours.

Posted by
5766 posts

I don't quite understand the concern of the person whose booster is 6 months and 3 days before their trip to Italy. We are doing back-to-back tours of Italy in September and October. Our booster will be much older than 6 months by then. What is this requirement?

Most credible medical professionals that I've heard/read, citing data from Israel (where they are now giving 2nd boosters out), say that protection from boosters starts dropping after 3 months, and continues to drop quickly with each passing week. CDC is, I believe, mulling 2nd boosters after 5 months, but I've heard some epidemiologists saying that's too long to wait, instead recommending 3 months, and urging no more than 4 months, until further boosters. There is no clear consensus yet on the proper interval from the policy-makers. But lots of medical professionals are saying studies show it should not be 6 months until a 2nd booster, at least not for those vulnerable or in high-risk-of-exposure roles.

My spouse is a front line medical professional. She got the vaccine among the very first recipients in the USA, before Christmas of 2020 (we joke that she got her first Pfizer dose before President Biden did, and it's true). Her 2-shot regimen was completed in mid-January 2021. She got boosted late August 2021 (I'm a little behind her, but also an early adopter). I figure she is due for her 2nd booster NOW (over 4 months since her last jab). She expects to get that soon, I'll take mine as soon as they're available.

Point being: if you're feeling bullet-proof because you got your second jab, and got boosted too...but that was 6, 8, 9 months ago...stop feeling like you are still highly protected. Yes, you still have some level of protection, you're probably not going to get badly sick, hospitalized, etc. But you're not nearly as protected as you were soon after that second shot (or first booster).

I am not a medical professional and am not giving medical advice. But...check the medical professionals, you will see the issue of "waning protection" is real. Check the Israeli studies and see what they're doing.

OK now, back to concerns about where you will sit on the bus...

Posted by
382 posts

Italy’s new rule after February 1st is that the booster must be no more than 6 months old. That is my concern. I’m hoping Italy’s rule gets changed or the US starts giving 2nd boosters.

Posted by
60 posts

I wonder with a smaller tour size if the tour will have a higher chance of being cancelled if say one couple cancels. I'm more concerned about putting into effort of booking flights to Europe and the tour being cancelled and having the hassle of dealing with the airlines.

Posted by
158 posts

David - Thank you for the rundown on the efficacy of the boosters. However, my concern was about the rule that starts on February 1.
What is the rule?

"I’m with Carol now retired on this one. My only problem right now is that my Covid booster was October 8 and we will be entering Italy 6 mos and 3 days after that. We might have to cancel our tours because of this ridiculous rule that starts February 1."

Posted by
8419 posts

Jim, see Luv2Travel’s post for the answer.

Posted by
358 posts

I have done a couple of RS tours and a word with the tour manager at the beginning of the tour about my tendency for travel sickness ensured I was seated neat the front of the bus both trips. Also had Dramamine on hand but don’t like taking it because it makes me very sleepy. Most tours have a break every couple of hours which helps break the journey.

Posted by
13704 posts

Jim, also see Ricky's previous post about the most recent rules for entering Italy. The 6-month vaccine rule is mentioned there.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/new-covid-rules-in-italy-to-summarize

As your trip isn't until fall, some things will likely change so for now just keep an eye on the situation? Heck, even if it doesn't, by that time they may be routinely issuing boosters (3rd OR 4th) along with seasonal flu shots.

Posted by
1364 posts

Draw lots?

Alphabetical?

whim of the guide?

Order one signed up ?

I suspect the 'no grumps' policy will be quoted more often than in the past

I do hope there is some randomness applied. I don't want to be the person stuck with an inadequate window for the whole journey, especially since the Turkey Tour has long bus days. Also was looking forward to a turn at the front with the best view.

I really don't want to be the pushy person trying to get a good seat, or the person feeling crappy for having the worst seat.

Oh well, it is what it is.

Posted by
115 posts

Sounds like numerous of us suffer from motion sickness. on the tours I have taken I have managed to vary my seats from mid bus up. I definitely avoided the back, back seat. Although after reading Pat from san diego post about happy hour in the back maybe that would make up for the motion sickness factor...........

Posted by
74 posts

Fortunately, I don't get carsick. And since Jr High School, my favorite spot IS the back of the bus. :) . I'm sure it will all work out.

Posted by
6802 posts

Every tour we've been on, people who have car sickness problems have spoken up to the tour guide ahead of time about seating. No reason not to discuss before the tour starts. I'd be surprised if the guide doesn't bring it up themselves at the orientation meeting as part of their routine.

Every tour we've been on, after the first couple of days, most people would sit in the same seats anyway, as a matter of routine.

Every tour we've been on, the far back seats were the most coveted, for spreading out and napping.

Posted by
810 posts

First off let me say that I have willingly followed all covid restrictions and gotten both vaccinated and boosted. I also took 2 tours back to back in Europe last fall with a different tour company. Both tours had abnormally small groups compared to normal sized (about 40+) with one having 22 travelers and the other 9. So lots of room to spread out on the bus. We were required to wear masks on the bus and seating left an empty row between each pair. We did practice seat rotation.

I do not see the efficacy of not doing seat rotation. You're on a tour with a group spending lots of time together often with much closer proximity than sitting on the bus. Are they also going to ban travelers eating together at the same table? Will they always be practicing social distancing from each other outside the bus? Will the driver be wiping down the door and anything else on the bus that all travelers are likely to touch getting on/off? I could go on.

This feels like RS made a deal with the bus company so they driver didn't have to do any seat cleaning at the end of the day. I too am prone to motion sickness and luckily only had one instance where it was a problem. If I'd been stuck in a rear seat for an entire tour it would have been miserable. And that's not counting the ability to see and enjoy the passing scenery. Some seat are just better than others. Best of luck.

Posted by
84 posts

Carol now retired
I love your philosophy. I’m a newbie here and I am just really looking forward to traveling later this year. I’ve never been to Europe but I have always wanted to go…trying not to sound desperate here but I believe I would be happy sitting anywhere on the bus just to get a glimpse of the scenery. I’ll get boosted several more times if that’s what it takes to travel safely to Italy. Poke me, jab me, make me stand in the aisle, I’m going to make this happen. Also, I appreciate all that RS is doing to keep travelers safe as well as adhering to new travel guidelines from the travel industry and other countries. It’s all good! I have to have faith & trust that eventually I will get to Europe. This all being said doesn’t mean that I don’t grump everytime I read about another obstacle pertaining to Covid and travel alike. Betty White is my new hero, she believed in staying positive!

Posted by
517 posts

As Carol and others have posted… I have no problem with Rick’s new rules… I am just grateful for the trips to run…the last two years have been a crash course on adapt, pivot and be flexible.

Luv2Trvl… I also hope we have a 4th booster available to us…..we are on the Best of Switzerland tour staring 7/3/2022 and arriving 7/1/2022 departing 7/15/2022… learned that Switzerland most likely will change validity period of Swiss Covid Certificates from 365 days to 270 days…this would put us at 273 days since our current EU Certificate based on 3rd booster was October 15 2021. Oh well….it’s worth it to be out in the world again.

@Silas….my last RS tour in 2019 our guide used the whisper system on the bus when he was talking to us during long bus rides

Posted by
5152 posts

I checked with my pharmacist (who is also a family member) about a second booster. He said as of now they are not allowed in the US, but he'll continue to check on it. As he said, we can't be the only people with this problem!

I didn't remember that the rule started in February; that may be why second boosters aren't available yet. We got our boosters in October; if we were traveling to Italy in February or March, we'd be okay.

In addition, I wouldn't be surprised if the new tour rules weren't modified as time goes on.

Posted by
451 posts

@Chris… on our last very long RS tours in 2018 and 2019 the guide also used the whisper system. We discovered that the reception varied by seat location. Tour members often scrambled for the better spots on the longest stretches. It didn't matter as much of course for short rides. I'm sure this varies by bus, guide and specific equipment. I have super hearing but this will still be a consideration for me and my travel partner.

Posted by
319 posts

my experience on three RS tours: many people sat in the back of the bus (including me) and tended to go to the same seats. Not a problem.

Posted by
920 posts

I love the back of the bus and same seat!! We always have fun in the back

Posted by
1104 posts

I have no problem with the new rules but I am one of those people that will need to be in the first 4-5 rows of the bus or I get horrible motion sickness even with meds. So I'm hoping my tour mates don't mind.

Posted by
5152 posts

Kim, I'm always glad there are people who choose the back of the bus! I don't get carsick much, but if I do, it's usually in the back of the bus. Middle or front for me!

Posted by
1364 posts

If there's a happy hour at the back of our bus I'll be right on it!

Posted by
292 posts

In my experience, human nature is that once a seat is chosen, people tend to stick with it. I've seen it in classrooms and on buses. Even in dance and exercise classes, people tend to inhabit the same physical space in the venue for every session. People feel comfortable with the familiar. There are those who like the front of the bus and those who prefer the back. Hopefully, they will let you find your comfort zone and let you stay there.

Posted by
2 posts

I think there will be a mixture of front of the bus and back of the bus individuals. From my experience on a RS tour, everyone was very considerate, therefore I don't feel this is going to be an issue. I believe many people will give up their front to midway seat for someone who needs it. I will happily sit in the back of the bus!

Posted by
21317 posts

I don't take multi-day bus tours, but I'd be a bit disappointed never to have a shot at one of the front seats. I don't know exactly why this policy is being implemented, but I think a reasonable compromise would be to assign everyone a regular seat while leaving the four front seats free (assuming seats behind the driver have a good view). Then folks who wanted an opportunity at the front could rotate into one of those four front seats once or twice during the tour. If it was decided cleaning was required, it would only involve four seats, not the whole bus.

Posted by
5152 posts

Maybe the tour members could help clean? That's what our church did last year - volunteers would stay after Mass and wipe down all the pews and kneelers with some great smelling disinfectant.

Posted by
1381 posts

As I said above, I am fine with whatever covid safety procedures RS tours decides they will use.

I suspect it's about spacing, rather than cleaning.
I did an Odysseys Unlimited tour of the SW a few months ago. We were assigned seats on the bus to allow as much space between people as possible. There were 19 of us. We did rotate daily, and this was accomplished by the tour guide putting cards with our name on them on the seat you were to use every day.

Posted by
5536 posts

My bet remains on contact tracing vs cleaning. I’ve been on cruise shore excursions all this last week, several of which have involved time on a bus. Everyone on the cruise is vaccinated and initially presented a negative Covid test. Masking at all times unless in own cabin, eating , or greater than 6 feet from others outside. Each time there is a bus involved, we are spaced out and a seating chart is made using cabin numbers. The purpose of this is that should anyone later test positive for Covid, it would be easy to ID those who had been close contacts (within 6 feet for extended period of time) for further testing.

As far as cleaning goes, I suggest the same method we used in the classroom last year. You arrive at your seat and wipe down your space. When it is time to leave , you wipe it down again. Deep Cleaning/Disinfecting done overnight.

Posted by
334 posts

I came upon this thread while searching for something else, but it does make me wonder if everyone is still getting their own row of seats on the tours. While the email we did get a few months ago said tours would be smaller than usual, our list has 28 tour members, so that is even larger than the other RS tours we've been on.

Posted by
118 posts

I also just came upon this and am now wondering why we were told that tours would be smaller than normal. We leave in a week and after having participated in 8 tours, this one will be the largest we have ever been on with 28 people. I’m happy to be traveling again but a little discouraged that the Rick Steves small group experience is now being discarded.

Posted by
5265 posts

They've had a 28-person limit for years, usually though not always reached. Maybe last winter they were expecting fewer people and now they're getting more. BTW, I don't care where I sit on the bus, I always have a row to myself. On one previous tour, one guy was about 6'6" or so. The middle seat in the back row was the only one comfortable for him. So a lot of things come into play.

Posted by
26 posts

what has changed?
A commitment to smaller tours is a constant and recent concept we've heard numerous times from the RS Company.
Look at each weekly summary and divide the tours and tour members and you'll see they have been smaller...in some weeks much smaller.
I totally get Rick Steve's Tours is a business...and I believe there is a high demand to travel by many...it's a difficult balancing act on all sides.
Life lesson learned...safety first!
Let's HOPE maxing out the tour members on a tour/bus proves to be the right thing to do!

FYI...I'm going to be one of those "testing out" the maxed out tours it appears in a week or so. And I'm a seasoned RS Tour Alumi.

I have been and remain a long time support of Rick Steve's and his Company...away we go with HOPE!

Posted by
334 posts

The email from January 13, 2022 stated "tours will be smaller than usual." I took that to mean they were lowering the number from 28, but I guess that isn't what smaller meant.

Posted by
118 posts

Dick, on future trips let’s hope you are still able get your own row but hopefully not at the inconvenience of others. Happy travels!

Posted by
65 posts

We just got our tour list for RS South England next month. The tour is sold out and we have only 19 people on the tour, so obviously they are keeping tours small.

Posted by
4612 posts

If you have the same seats each time, it will be easier each stop to find your buddy in the bus for “the buddy check”!

Posted by
334 posts

It will be! I had the best buddy ever on our first RS tour! I miss her!

I'm hoping we don't change seats, but I am also hoping we still get a full row so we can both have a window seat;) I am curious how they are assigning seats.

Posted by
13 posts

For what it’s worth, I came back from a RSE tour earlier this month. 24 in our group. People rotated seats and there was no rule that I was aware of or if there was it was not enforced. By the middle to end of time on the bus, people tended to gravitate towards the same rows.

Posted by
1673 posts

mnannie, I too had the best buddy on my RS tour. I met her on the forum, signed up for the same tour dates because I originally thought I was travelling solo before my sister-in-law decided to travel with me. We have become good friends, visiting occasionally when we're in each other's states and talk frequently. This reminds me I need to text her to wish her Hoppity Easter.

Posted by
26 posts

Sounds to me it's time for RSE to update/issue a "current" policy in and around this subject(s) ... IF possible...I'm aware it's a "moving target BUT..." a common base of knowledge" is always a good thing!

Posted by
11 posts

Agree with rueterjon. I went on the RS Portugal tour. No assigned seating but people basically stayed in the seats they originally chose. No one seemed to mind. Besides we were often dozing on the bus and mingling once we exited. I wouldn't worry about it.

Posted by
46 posts

I just returned from Best of Turkey March 28 to April 9. At the beginning our RS Tour Guide made it clear that we can keep the same seats or change around every day, there was no hard and fast rule. Most of us stayed in the same seats though. I am sure if you want to change seats, it wouldn't be a huge deal, especially because there are plenty of empty seats on the bus due to the lower tour numbers. One day we were on winding roads and the tour guide asked all people who tended towards seasickness, to please sit at the front of the bus. Three people took advantage of that offer and sat in the front.

Posted by
22 posts

Southern Italy in May. 29 travelers, that's not smaller. We'll have a great time. 4th RS Can't wait.

Posted by
2154 posts

I will be on my 8th Rick Steves tour, Scandinavia, May 22-June 4. We have 22 travelers on our tour. I will be happy to sit anywhere on the bus, just happy to be traveling again with lovely friendly RS tour mates!

Posted by
519 posts

Given there’s nothing normal about this year, I’m not surprised that some tours have 15 people and others have 28. I am a bit surprised about the 28, because when we signed up in May I know it said they’d reduced the maximum size to 24 this year. I’m very surprised about the 29 people on Craig’s upcoming tour, since the website clearly states (and has done so for as far back as I can remember) that tours have a maximum of 28 people!
“What we include…
A small, friendly group of just 24-28 people: We've built our tours around small groups to maximize our ability to sightsee, dine, and sleep where mainstream groups can only dream”

Posted by
1856 posts

@Craig Hi, we are on the same tour. See you soon.

Posted by
27 posts

Ruth - when we received a tour list a couple months back with 29 people, I was surprised too. I reread the fine print of RSE conditions and it mentions that on rare occasions, there may be 29 people. In the end, there were 25 on the tour after some roster changes.

Posted by
1381 posts

Yeah, I think there will be more last minute dropouts this year.
Me, for instance. 😫

I was scheduled to be on the April 25 South England tour. Got the roster with 22 people listed. Tested positive on Monday. Feel okay, but not traveling. Blech.

Posted by
334 posts

Yeah, I think there will be more last minute dropouts this year.
Me, for instance. 😫

I'm sorry:( I hope you are well soon and get booked on another tour!

Posted by
382 posts

Just finished the Best of Sicily tour and we moved around seats every single day.

Posted by
9928 posts

LizInPA…so very sorry you are ill. Hope you can reschedule!

Posted by
27 posts

On our Paris & Heart of France tour (ended this morning), we picked our seats (first on, first pick) and did not change/rotate. There was plenty of space & everyone seemed satisfied by the seat selection process. One person with motion sickness requested a front seat and everyone was amenable to her need. It was a terrific group & tour!

Posted by
727 posts

The old "motion sickness" excuse to nab the primo seats on the bus. Seen it before. Not buying it.

Posted by
1381 posts

mnannie & Pam

Thanks for the good thoughts. My symptoms were not too serious and I feel pretty good now.

I was able to join another South England tour in late May, and the roster says there are 18 of us.

Posted by
65 posts

@Eric .... as someone who has had motion sickness ALL her life, believe me it is real. Be glad you haven't had to stop on the side of the rode and throw up.

Posted by
334 posts

Lucky Girl, I've had some bad bouts of motion sickness, too:(

I wear a prescription motion sickness patch, because I think the front seat is a special spot on the bus, and everyone should get to experience it.

Our last tour was in a small van. I was one of 2 out of 13 that never got the chance to ride in the front. It was disappointing to me that the guide didn't make it happen for all of us.

Posted by
1381 posts

Not everybody wants to sit up front. I find seeing the road in front increases my anxiety.

Case in point:
On the Odysseys tour I was on last fall, we were assigned seats and they were rotated daily. As luck would have it, the day I had the front seat we came thisclose to hitting a deer. Driver slammed on the brake and loose things in the coach went flying. Terrifying, and I can't believe that deer didn't end up splattered on the windshield.

Posted by
1673 posts

It sounds like I should bring barf bags for the tour bus days. I get queasy even in the front of the bus. Last tour I was taking two Dramamine on curvey road days which put me to sleep and that was sitting three rows from the front. I’ve gotten car sick, air sick, sea sick all my life and it’s gotten worse with age.

Posted by
9928 posts

The old "motion sickness" excuse to nab the primo seats on the bus. Seen it before. Not buying it.

I’m not sure if that was meant as a joke or not. I don’t get motion sick in the bus but I’ve been on a number of tours where the bus did need to pull over for someone to be sick. I felt so bad for them and they had sympathy from everyone on the bus. I’m willing to believe anyone who says they need to sit up front!

Posted by
80 posts

The old "motion sickness" excuse to nab the primo seats on the bus. Seen it before. Not buying it..
I, for one, am grateful to those people willing to sit in the front of the bus. That leaves plenty of seats in the back of the bus, where I think all the fun happens! LOL

Posted by
5152 posts

We are currently on the Loire to the south of France tour, and our guide pooh-poohed the notion of not rotating seats. Most of us switch seats daily, although we do tend to stick to the same section.

And yes, motion sickness in the back is real.

Posted by
334 posts

I would like the tours to follow all the guidelines they told us would be in place when we had to pay just a few months ago. The students at the school I sub at have had the same seat at lunch the entire year. We can do it for 12 days.

If you get motion sickness, use Scopolamine. It works great. I don't agree that I should get the front seat daily because I get motion sickness. I have traveled enough to know I need to be responsible for myself and bring the correct medicine.

Posted by
44 posts

Just back from The Best of Portugal and the Best of Turkey neither guide enforced the same seat rule.

Posted by
1812 posts

We just finished the RS Sicily tour and seats were rotated to a certain extent, especially the 2nd row. Both front row seats were reserved for the guide. Most people were seasoned RS travelers, so anyone with motion sickness knew how to mitigate.