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Single Supplement or Share - RS Tours or River Cruises

I am a 74 year old man who in the last 12 years has taken his wife and mother-in-law on three two-week trips to Scotland/England, Normandy/Provence and Italy and Paris, and two to Hawaii, as well as a solo trip to Italy in 2018 (Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome). In all cases I have used Rick's guide books, DVDs and this forum to plan these trips, and stayed in the hotels he recommends. Each time I got a room for my wife and her mother and one for me. It cost more but I slept better.

In the hope of letting someone else do all the work and just enjoy, this year I am considering a river cruise or possibly a RS tour for a solo trip. It seems that on a river cruise I can get a room for myself, but the cost is for the full room. On a RS tour there is a single supplement charge, but sharing a room is a concern. For one thing, I snore, so I know I would not be a good person to share a room with. I'm also a light sleeper so someone else storing would wake me up. On my Italy solo trip I paid for a double room to get the double or larger bed, but since I was not paying for three didn't mind. If on a RS tour paying the supplement what kind of room and bed do you get? I'm also uncertain how, with my independent travel experience, how I would fit in with the structure of a tour. Thanks for anything you'd care to share.


Posted by
7138 posts

Jim, my guess is that you will love the tour. I wondered the exact same question about whether a RS tour would be a good fit for me or not. I signed up for one and really enjoyed it. I’ve since gone on another one as well as done more independent travel. My third tour will be in June.

My observations. The logistics of the tour are very well done. The groups are friendly, inclusive people that are enjoyable to spend time with. There is a great deal of value to the guide in terms of learning history and background of what you are seeing or doing. When I know more, I enjoy more. There are experiences that can’t easily be replicated as an independent traveler built into the tours. Finally, there is a great balance between “group time” and free time. You still have the freedom to follow your individual interests independently during the free time or find someone else that would like to the same thing.

I have signed up for the single supplement each time and consider it money well spent. I like having my own space at the end of the day. Rooms sometimes have single beds and sometimes have double beds. It depends on the hotel. Some hotels are nicer than others, but they have all been good hotels that are always well located.

I hope you have a great trip, whichever way you choose to go.

Posted by
2643 posts

We often bring our adult daughter on RS tours and always pay the single supplement. The rooms have been just fine. We’ve always appreciated not having to deal with roommate issues.

Posted by
11905 posts

Jim, I’ve done 11 RS tours, 6 as a solo traveler. The other 5 I traveled with family but still paid for a single supplement so I had a room to myself. I’m not sure if I snore but I need a bit of time on my own. Room sizes vary based on location. Sometimes they are small, sometimes the same size as a double.

What I love about the RS tours are the excellent guides and the knowledge I get from them. Of course I enjoy the itineraries but also enjoy the other travelers. They are usually a varied and interesting group!

I am a planner and do independent travel before and/or after my tours. I actually enjoy giving over the main tour responsibilities to RS, lol!! I still do a lot of planning for my free time.

Which tour are you considering?

Posted by
1178 posts

I have been on 17 RS tours, mostly solo and I always get my own room. It is a pleasure to have the space and time to yourself in the room. So I would not hesitate to spend the money to get a room, which adds to the pleasure of the trip. As for what kind of room do you get, it just varies from hotel to hotel. It is a gamble for everyone on the tour. The hotels are not chain hotels so the rooms are not cookie cutter rooms. I have had small rooms, I have had large beautiful rooms. My room in Istanbul was large and wonderful, my room in Switzerland was plain with a single bed, which was perfectly fine and comfortable, but I had a balcony which was wonderful in my room. I had a small room in Venice. So there is no way to know what kind of room you are going to get, it just depends on what the hotel has to offer. My room in Vienna has two twin beds. You just need to prepare yourself that whatever room you have it will be a fine and you have it all to yourself.

As for the structure of the tour, it is up to you to see if you would enjoy it. You have options, a 7 day week long tour or a bus tour. Do you want to go 14 days or longer or take a shorter bus tour to see if you like the tours?

It basically is, meet the guide and tour mates at the hotel the first day around 3PM to 5PM. Have your introductions, then take a walking tour before dinner, which leads you to dinner altogether. The next morning, is another walking tour, then going to some sites. Break for lunch, sometimes meet up again, sometimes have the afternoon free, meet up for dinner or dinner is on your own.

The morning you leave the town your in, breakfast, then get your bags to bring to the bus, Bus ride, bathroom stops and stop at a site along the way. Then pull into town in late afternoon, have that walking tour and go to dinner. The second day in a city you have dinner on your own, the first nite in a new town, most of the time, you have dinner with the group.

Read the tour descriptions, they really tell you what the day is and when you will have dinner with the tour or group. Sometimes, there is a lunch included but that is not usually in the tour descriptions, so that is always a nice surprise.

You get a mix of tour and independent travel. For someone with much more independent travel minded as you, I would choose a tour that interests you that you don't feel as comfortable traveling alone and would appreciate a tour to get you there.

I took the week long Istanbul tour, and I loved it as this is not a city I would go to by myself or even with a friend. Not that it is unsafe, far from it, but more different than cities in Europe. Maybe Turkey, where you may not go on your own but a tour gets you there and you would like it more because it is a place you want to see but would not go to on your own. Just an example, using Turkey.

Hope this helps. As for river cruises, I am sure they are lovely, but that is something I would rather do with someone.

Happy Travels.

Posted by
1178 posts

If your really want an independent tour, you could take a look at the My Way tours, there you don't have tours, you just get there and then your on your own for the day. That is another way to go.

Posted by
206 posts

According to Rick's brochures, getting the single supplement doesn't guarantee a "nicer/larger" room, as single rooms are often the smallest ones in European hotels. However, as others have said, it all depends. I've also had small, basic (but perfectly fine) rooms, and some have been larger or had bigger beds. (However, I've never booked the single supplement, I've gambled twice and gotten lucky.)

Posted by
870 posts

Jim, if you really want a river cruise check out Tauck. On their ships the category 1 cabins you can get without a single supplement. They are the smallest at 150 sqrft on the lower level so you you don't get a full height window. Plenty of room for one. In fact our first cruise my husband and I shared the same size cabin on the deck above - only difference a full height sliding door/ French balcony.

Except on the longer cruises (2 week) you spend very little time in your cabin.

We've taken 4 River cruises with Tauck. Not cheap but totally all inclusive and they always deliver more than expected.

Posted by
532 posts

Thank you all for your wonderful input and suggestions. You make the tour sound so easy to do. Lots to think about. The area I was thinking about for the river cruise was Basel to Amsterdam or Budapest to Munich. As for the RS tours, I have never been to Germany, Austria or Switzerland, but my wife has and doesn't care to return, so one of the tours to that area is appealing. We have also been to Normandy and Provence, but a tour together to other parts of France might work for one of both of us. Someone mentioned "single beds". Is that a twin or one double? I'm 6'1" and 210, so I'm not sure I'd fit, or sleep well in a twin sized bed.

Posted by
2014 posts

I am going to ask, what do you look forward to about traveling? Do you look forward to discovering something new and then maybe going back and learning something more on your own? Or, do you like to visit places and then go back and socialize with others? We've done both RS tours(5) and river cruises(plus one this summer). For us, the hotel/cabin space is probably our least consideration. We don't spend a lot of time in the room; we'd rather be exploring a town or sitting in the lounge. The reason we prefer RS tours is the central location and chance to maximize our free time by going back and exploring things that are of an interest to us.
Last May, we took my daughter's father-in-law with us on a RS tour and he seemed to be fine with the rooms he got. He paid the single supplement, but as the only single male he would have had his own room anyway. The group folded him into their activities and he was able to socialize independently of us whenever he chose. He's ready to go again.

Posted by
1178 posts

Jim: As I said, most of the tours I went on as solo and I had all sorts of beds. As for single beds, sometimes I had a twin bed only in the room, sometimes I had two twin beds in the room and they can be pushed together to make a double bed, sometimes I had a double bed. Again it is a gamble and it all depends on the room you get in the hotel.

Very hard to say what kind of bed, twin or double you will get on the tour. But most of the stays are two nights, sometimes there is a one night stay, as on the GAS tour which I took and loved. I loved that tour so much I also took the 8 day Munich, Salzburg, Vienna tour which is a spin off of the GAS tour. I also stayed in Vienna on my own twice for four days after each tour and found I loved my time in Vienna as there is so much to see and do.

You will have to decide if you can take the chance on what type of bed you will get.

Posted by
3493 posts

A single bed does not mean one bed in the room, it means a bed big enough for a single person. This might be a standard twin bed, or it can be a slightly larger but not double sized bed. I am 6' 3" and around 250 and had no problems sleeping in the single beds.

Important to note: You do not have the ability to request a certain sized bed on RS tours. You get what the hotel has for single travelers. In my experience on 10 RS tours that varies from hotel to hotel, as others already mentioned.

Posted by
1259 posts

I pay for single supplements because I enjoy my privacy and I have earned the luxury. You will pay a premium for the luxury of privacy but, man, you deserve it, too. Sign up early and just pay the single supplement before the tour's accommodations fill up and they cannot handle your request. (Just me, of course, but my hotel room is a bed and a shower. I spend little time there. On a cruise, I would be opting for an inexpensive interior room, near the engine even, since I'd seldom be in the room and I have earplugs.)

Rick Steves tour? No problem! The single rooms may not be large and they may not have view terraces. The RS tour dynamics are great and you will fit in fine with the group. Your independent traveling experiences will allow you to be prepared for anything and to manage your abundant free time with confidence. You may even find yourself in charge of a small group of adventurers! You are going to have a wonderful time.

Please consider posting a trip report when you return. Safe travels.

One more thing: Do not discuss American politics with your tour members because they and you will learn some things everyone is better off not knowing. Let it go for a few weeks.

Posted by
1925 posts

Hi Jim, I've done several Rick Steves tours solo and had a great time. I always pay the single supplement because I really need/want time alone at the end of the day. I did Germany, Austria, Switzerland solo and it was wonderful. I've also done all the France tours (as a couple) and loved them too. The groups are welcoming to everyone; singles, couples, and families.

Rick Steves tours are educational and fun and they take you to places you would not see on your own. For example, on the Eastern France tour we went to a wine tasting at the Chateau de Rully in Burgundy. The chateau is owned by Count Raoul de Ternay. He gave us a tour and conducted the tasting. It was very interesting and something we'd probably never have been able to do on our own. Paris and the Heart of France was also a great tour. We spent a full day with a guide at the Normandy battlefields, very interesting.

We also did a Viking River cruise (Basel to Amsterdam) a few years ago and enjoyed that too. I think it would be more difficult and costly to travel solo on a river cruise.

Hope you have a great trip, whatever you decide.

Posted by
87 posts

About whether a single room has twin mattresses. On my R.S. tour to Spain last Fall I remember not being comfortable in the bed in the Barcelona hotel. I paid the single supplement. The room had two twin beds pushed together. I kept feeling like my feet were falling off the end of the bed. I am wondering if this mattress size is common for single occupancy hotel rooms in Europe. Not sure. IMHO, twin mattresses should only be for children. At that same stop, another traveler had one double size or similar mattress (and she didn't even pay the single supplement). I noticed the discomfort more since I arrived ahead of the tour and spent the most days at that hotel. It wasn't a deal breaker, I still would recommend the tour overall and had a great time. On the other hand, for the price of the tour I do like comfort from my bed. I suppose after the first night I could have inquired about getting a different room since I was paying the hotel directly for those extra nights.

Posted by
5695 posts

kaydee, I think you could have asked for a new room (or bed) even if you hadn't been paying for the room yourself. But especially since you were staying there longer, it would have been a good idea. You could have dumped that uncomfortable mattress memory that much sooner.

Posted by
532 posts

After reading some of the good comments and more horror stories I find myself leaning more toward traveling independently instead of a tour. On four previous trips to Europe, one of which was solo, I knew going in what kind of lodging and bed I would have and that made all the difference in the world for my well-being. As I was researching a the RS Venice-Florence-Rome tour I did a lot of research in to things I’d want to do that were not included on the tour. In the end I basically followed the tour itinerary and added a couple of days in Milan and two extra days in Rome. Buying advanced tickets/reservations was easy and I had the flexibility to come and go as I pleased. In looking at the Germany-Austria- Switzerland tour I was uncertain that I could do the same in those countries. Given the doubts raised about single supplement rooms and the extra cost, I think I need to research the trip better to see if I could possibly do it as good or better independently. I appreciate all the input and advice.