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Solo travelers on Rick Steves tours?

I'm considering a My Way alpine tour for next year, and curious to know if other single travelers have had positive / negative experiences on Rick Steves tours specifically related to being a solo traveler? In general I am perfectly fine with doing stuff alone (prefer it most times, hence my solo travel preference), but it would be really nice if the tours tend to attract other singles or friendly individuals who are open to attending the occasional side excursion or meal together.

For a bit of background, this would be my first tour experience. I've been to Europe 3 times by myself and loved it, but my last trip was tough because it was the first time I wasn't visiting a friend or attending a specific event that lent itself to meeting other travelers. It was very isolating to not know anybody, not know the native language, and not have anyone to hang out with or just compare notes with. My whole trip I largely only communicated with waiters, shopkeepers, and the guy at the hotel desk! The other tough thing was trying to arrange various side trips, transportation etc. and dealing with outdated schedules / incorrect information / pay phones that didn't work / cell phone not working etc. etc. So the idea of just getting on the bus sounds heavenly!

Thanks all.

Posted by
3460 posts

On the 10 RS tours I have taken I always went solo. Enjoyed every one. It was always easy to find someone from the group to talk to, have a meal with, or simply wander with during free time. Most tours have had multiple singles, some only a few. I have met several that I still keep in touch with.

Only suggestion is if you really prefer your alone time, make sure you opt for the single supplement. I do now every trip. No complaints about the roommates I had on the tours where I shared, but it is nice to have a room to yourself to unwind after the day's activities.

Posted by
8 posts

I would also assume that tour dates after Labor Day will be less likely to include children? Having all adults could make for a (theoretically) more pleasant trip.

Posted by
8203 posts

I've done 5 RS tours, 2 solo, 3 with family. I had a wonderful time on all of them. The 2 solo tours were Best of Europe and the week in Paris. I'm headed out in a week for Best of England solo. I have not done a My Way just because I like the advantage of the guide's knowledge and am willing to pay for that.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
127 posts

I've done four RS tours. All single. The first was My Way Austria, Germany, Switzerland. The others were guided tours. I don't think you'll feel out of place as a single. I never have.

One other comment. As others have mentioned, I highly recommend getting the single supplement. It's nice to have a little private time at the end of each day.

Posted by
896 posts

Hi. I've been on 9 tours solo including the very first MyWay Alpine. I think there may have been greater cohesiveness on that tour than on any of the guided tours, maybe because we knew we might end up depending on each other in the absence of a guide - though our escort was really great and super helpful. I spent time with some BFFs, separately and together, numerous couples, other solos, male and female, and sometimes I went my own way. Mostly, we all gravitated to joining each other for dinner and finding the rest of the group already there. It was lots of fun.

I too value the private time at the end of the day, so I always add the single supplement.

If any of that great group are reading: Heisse Liebe!

Look for a great dessert of that name in Hallstatt and have fun.

Posted by
20 posts

Le-weekend,

Like you, I'm seriously planning my first RS 'my way' trip to italy in May 2016 for 13 days. I also enjoy solo travel and am pleased to see that the supplement is popular and highly recommended. I almost visited the Amalie coast solo in 2014. Based on your previous solo experience, I'm glad I didn't go! I'm hoping my upcoming trip will empower me to take more trips and learn tips from other expert travellers. Good luck !

Posted by
233 posts

I took one RS tour (Ireland) many, many years ago (2002). One of the reasons I took it was because singles paid the same price as non-singles (no single supplement), and since I had hosteled so much, I didn't think a random roommate would be an issue. My roommate was fine, but I really missed having my own room/space for the high cost of the tour. I haven't taken a tour as a solo traveler since--I either travel independently alone or convince a family member to come along. (I took a tour of China with my mother.) The RS tours are over my budget now (even without having to pay an additional single supplement for your own room), but they are a quality product. Have a great trip!

Posted by
31271 posts

le,

I've taken eight RS tours as a solo traveller, and every one of them was fantastic. As others have mentioned, paying extra for the single supplement is a good idea. If there are more than one single of the same gender on your tour, you'll be rotated through different room mates. Some may be easy to get along with, but others may not which would make for a miserable time.

There are pros & cons with both the fully guided and the May Way tours. With the My Way you'll have to do more work to figure out your sightseeing as that won't be covered, and admissions to any sights you want to see won't be covered. You'll probably learn more on the fully guided tours, as the local guides cover a lot of interesting history. The group meals on the fully guided are awesome, and tour members dine well.

"It was very isolating to not know anybody, not know the native language, and not have anyone to hang out with or just compare notes with. My whole trip I largely only communicated with waiters, shopkeepers, and the guy at the hotel desk! The other tough thing was trying to arrange various side trips, transportation etc. and dealing with outdated schedules / incorrect information / pay phones that didn't work / cell phone not working etc."

I often travel solo and have experienced much the same thing. Those are just some of the differences of solo travel, and I don't usually find things like that to be a problem. Solo travellers often tend to me more outgoing and more approachable by other people, as opposed to couples. I always seem to find people to chat with, other than waiters or shop keepers (often other tourists - I sometimes get some good tips by comparing notes).

My side trips and transportation are usually very well planned, so don't often have a problem there. Language has not been a huge issue for the most part. I always try to learn the usual "polite words" for countries that I'm visiting, and have found that most people in the tourist industry can usually speak some English. However, every so often I encounter a "challenging" situation (that was the case in Poland last year), but with some help with a phrase book and a few hand gestures, I can usually manage to communicate. Whoever said that most of the younger crowd can speak English doesn't know what they're talking about! My cell phone has always been very reliable, although I did have a few "connectivity issues" in Croatia last year.

The biggest issue that I've found with solo travel is not having anyone to share my wonderful travel experiences with. I can enthusiastically relate the details of my trip to family and friends, but usually just get a cursory, "oh that's nice" or "it sounds like you had a great trip", as their eyes glaze over and they start looking at their watch. I guess that's one of those "you had to be there" situations.

I'm sure you'd have a great time on that tour!

Posted by
14267 posts

I was on that tour in early June this year. There were 4 of us singles, 2 women, 2 men, all paid the single supplement. Everyone on the tour was friendly and inclusive. I think the 4 of us pretty much ran the gamut from prefer to be alone to not wanting to be alone, and it varied from day to day. I don't think anyone ate dinner alone unless s/he chose too. Even when people went off on their own, they often met up during the day since we were all going to the same 2 or 3 places and staying in villages. On our 3rd evening, our tour escort arranged a no-host happy hour that most people came to. After that, there was usually a spontaneous happy hour in any hotel we stayed at that had a lounge/bar.

This tour has quite a bit of bus time, with rest stops every couple of hours, giving us lots of time to get to know each other along the way.

Our escort had been to all the places on the tour several times, had up-to-date information on hours, transportation (like the lift that wasn't running in Alpi di Siusi on the day we were there), and since she'd hike a lot of the trails and been to most of the sights, was able to explain what we could accomplish on any given day. She spent time with each of us on the bus, helping us to plan the next day's itinerary based on our interests, needs and abilities. In nearly every town, she took us on an orientation walk soon after arrival. The hotel staff everywhere we stayed spoke fluent English.

The only really negative things I can say about the tour relate to unfortunately bad weather for a lot of it, sigh.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you Chani! This is great information. I'm so sorry you didn't have great weather. I am curious, what is the weather "supposed" to be like on that tour? Is it quite chilly when you're high up in the mountains? Can you wear shorts every day? And I guess, hearing your report, that it's best to be prepared for rain?

My other concern is, it seems like you're not spending very much time at any one stop. Did it feel like you had sufficient time to get to know a place and catch your breath before getting back on the bus?

Thank you again to everyone who has written with great advice.

Posted by
14267 posts

I'm so sorry you didn't have great weather. I am curious, what is the weather "supposed" to be like on that tour? Is it quite chilly when you're high up in the mountains? Can you wear shorts every day? And I guess, hearing your report, that it's best to be prepared for rain?
My other concern is, it seems like you're not spending very much time at any one stop. Did it feel like you had sufficient time to get to know a place and catch your breath before getting back on the bus?

Weather I read the reviews of the tours just before and after mine (late May and late June). Seems like mine was the only one that had bad weather and too much of it. Drenching rain on our first evening in Salzburg, mostly cloudy skies for long hours every day. Several hours of rain in the Alpi di Siusi, drizzling in Lauterbrunnen - never saw the Swiss Alps, just the clouds. The weather was mostly warm, sometimes enough to make gelato or a cold beer a welcome treat, but winter clothes were definitely needed for mountain tops. Most of us chose outdoor seating for dinner everywhere.

Pace I never felt rushed but it is necessary to make choices on how you'll spend your one full day in each place (which hike to take, which mountain to ascend) and have a plan B if plan A isn't possible. This tour is big on scenery - the drives are scenic too - and hiking. The towns we stayed in were small enough that an enjoyable walk around for an hour or two was all you needed. It's a tour so you are moving around a lot, but unlike other tours, you're not going from city to city, from sight to sight, from monument to monument, trying to take it all in and keep it from kaleidoscoping in your brain. There's not much to do after dinner, so it's easy to get up early and on bus days our departures were at 9 or 9.30 (once an early morning - 8.30!). If you take this tour, you'll want to spend at least couple days in Salzburg beforehand for the sights there, the one day of the tour is not nearly enough. Many people choose to spend another day or two in Chamonix enjoying more of the French Alps . . . and French pastries.

Posted by
516 posts

Two tours as a single female. Picked places hubby didn't want to see. First one was Paris and the Heart of France. The second one was Best of England in 14 days. Loved both of these tours. Never felt alone or not part of a group. As a single I got to spend time talking to all the tour members and picked different people to eat with. I wouldn't worry about going single on a RS tour. You become part of the group and never feel alone or left out.

Happy travels.

Posted by
68 posts

I too am thinking about the My Way Alpine tour next year as a single. I went solo on the Eastern Europe trip in 2011 and had a great time and enjoyed meeting other people. Since that was a guided tour, it was nice to have people to share some of the experience with but still have some free/alone time. I too am concerned that the My Way may feel much more isolated - and I'm not very gregarious when on my own. 12 days on my own does sound a bit daunting to me. Being single, the cost of these trips is the other factor. I'd love to go on lots of RS guided tours - but the budget says no way. Glad to hear there are some singles that take these My Way trips as I figured it was more couples/relatives/friends. Perhaps we'll end up on the same My Way tour next year - and I'd definitely join you for dinner or an outing and small talk.

Posted by
902 posts

I've never been on a My Way tour but have been on my own for a few days pre and post-tour as well as traveling in the U.S. for work conferences. I would say evenings can be the toughest time if you don't have anything planned. Walking around, sightseeing, breakfast, lunch, shopping--to me that's fairly easy to do on your own, but after the museums and shops close, you need to figure out what you want to do. I don't eat big portions, so sometimes I've skipped dinner and opted to pick up a snack at a grocery and take it back to my room, have eaten fish and chips out of paper on a bench or picnic table, and even had gelato for dinner one night in Rome. So...when the opportunity arises for a free evening, I look for church or classical concerts, a play, a ghost tour, and those sorts of things. I've only done the go to a pub and have dinner by myself thing once, and yes, the tables were close enough together that the couple next to me (who ended up being American) did chat a bit, but they were finishing up just as I was getting my food. I know Rick talks up the idea of "just go in, go to the bar, talk to the locals..." thing but not all of us are extroverts that way if we're on our own and/or even in this day and age, I'm gonna be honest, as a woman, it can be awkward going into a pub/stube solo. But, maybe that's just my personality.

In any event, from what I've read, it sounds like the My Way tours have friendly folks and tour escorts who make an effort to plan dinners, happy hours, and other opportunities for travelers to get together. I hope it's a great experience, and please share your thoughts when you return!

Posted by
34 posts

Lots of great responses. I have not done a My Way tour, but recently completed a Best of Europe in 14 days tour, as a solo traveler (and happened to be the only solo on that trip). I had no problem with it, but I guess it depends on your personality. I'm fine on my own, and embrace the solitude. I also feel like solo travel really lines up with some of RS' philosophies - you learn more of how to navigate a city, plan, interact, etc. You also have the freedom to do exactly what YOU want to do, without worrying about appeasing someone else.

As for meals, if I was dining alone, I tended to choose the options that were quicker. As you know, European meals can be long affairs of up to 2+ hours. For example, in Paris I would order the plat du jour and a quick dessert and coffee. In Italy, I'd be more likely to choose just one or two dishes (maybe a pasta and a dessert), or even a pizza place, instead of the standard four-course feast. Take your RS guidebook, do some research, and plan out the next day.

Posted by
56 posts

I've done only one tour, but it was as a solo traveler & I was quite happy with the experience. I went with the single supplement, in my opinion, a must, although there were other singles on the tour who shared rooms & others who did not. I valued the privacy, the ability to come & go from my room as I pleased without disturbing anyone & the ability to decompress in solitude after a long day of sightseeing. It's worth it.

You'll find that you'll make fast friends on this tour. Breakfasts are very casual & while I sometimes sat alone because I was the first to arrive & would often busy myself reading a newspaper, I would other times be joined by one or more people from the group. Dinners were in shared company, either because they were part of the tour or because we'd split up at the end of the day & some of us thought someplace looked good on the way back to the hotel. Lunches were usually on your own & you'd go with whoever might be willing to share your adventure.

Side excursions depend on the interest & expense. I'm an early riser & was also far younger than others on my tour, so early morning runs, horseback rides or hikes up mountains weren't as much on the minds of others as getting buzzed at some whiskey distillery after lunch. Don't let that impede you from enjoying YOURSELF.

Look into apps like Maps.Me & download & bookmark places you plan to visit beforehand so you can navigate to them offline to save battery power on your phone & WhatsApp to communicate with people while in Airplane Mode. They came in handy.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have taken 13 RS tours and am about to sign up for #14. On every one of those tours we have had two or more single tour mates. All the rest of the tour folks have always made a good effort to include the single folks in "off
tour" activities, if they wanted to be included. Some did not. If I were to take my first RS tour and was single, I would choose a fully guided tour rather than a My Way tour since I would want to be able to connect with other tour members more often. My wife, who had previously been to Europe twice, was hesitant to go on a regular tour since she really values her independence. However, to keep an eye on me, she signed up with me for our first RS tour which was my first visit to Europe. After that first RS tour, which she describes as an "untour", she has gone on all of our 13 RS tours, much to her delight. I often see positive reports about RS tours and rarely see
any really negative ones. Most of the negative ones relate to issues that would not have occurred if the person writing the negative post had just read all of the fine print that is provided and had gotten in shape before hand.
Guess I sound like a "Ricknick"

Posted by
350 posts

Fully guided or My Way, I think you will enjoy an RS tour. It comes with a bunch of new friends as you will find out after first or second day. If you don't want to be to alone, choose a guided tour since the group does many more things together. The My Way tour has its together time om the bus. If you don't mind being on your own but just don't want to be isolated, a My Way will work fine.

FWIW, I think the fully guided tours are a better overall value than the My Way tours.

Posted by
35 posts

I'm looking into the My Way Alpine tour in May 2016!! I haven't decided if I'll pay the supplement or not. I have traveled on mission trips & shared a room with fellow females.....who were great, so it doesn't bother me sharing a room.
Both persons have to be considerate/ polite towards each other ( not making a mess, trying to be quiet when entering/exiting room )
It can be done! : )
I think i will add a day or two before and after for some extra time, especially before the trip because of such a long flight.

Posted by
763 posts

I have been on 3 tours myself with RS and one many years ago with Trafalgar. I enjoyed myself a lot! I paid the supplement twice and lucked out once to stay by myself when there was only one other single, a male.

The guides are great about suggestions for free time. I do research beforehand on the things to do during the assigned free time, so I have a tentative plan of things to do. Sometimes I am invited to join others during their free time, other times I want time on my own in a museum or just to sit at a cafe to relax and people watch and catch up on my journal.

The tours work for me and I recommend them to many. I have not done a My Way but from reading about them, the tour person accompanying the group is there to give information on what to do and see. Each tour group is different, some are more welcoming to having singles join them, others keep to themselves during free time.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi everyone,
It was nice to read all the positive support for traveling solo and from so many of you who have traveled solo with us before. It often requires a bit of an extra effort to go off on one's own, a little more courage you might say, to travel to a place but have no one to travel with. But as you can read in these postings it often can be a most wonderful experience where you meet great people and make new friends. We like to think that most of our tour members are the kind that would see an person on their own and ask to see if they would like to join them for dinner or such. I have been on many tours and seen this happen. Now not everyone is going to ask a solo traveler out but with the make up of our groups there always seems to be some folks, whether they are a couple, friends traveling together or another solo traveler, who would be happy to have you join them. Of course, this does come with a little bit of effort having been made on your part. If one just hangs back and does not talk to any one it might be harder to meet other people. But if you come with the right attitude and spirit and put yourself out a little bit then I am sure you will make all the connections you might want. And, as well, remember to go off on your own sometimes and have you own personal adventures - that too can be as very rewarding (and you have some great stories to tell the rest of the group on your tour). Enjoy.

Posted by
1 posts

I also am thinking of the My Way Alpine tour next fall - and it'll be my first trip to Europe even! I say go for it - from what I've heard from a RS employee, they really take care of you and some of the best friendships have developed between solo travelers on their tours!

Posted by
174 posts

I've gone solo twice -- amazing time! I ended up with a room all to myself. I found everyone really welcoming and inclusive. Both times I made friends who "adopted me," so to speak; let me hang out with them, eat together, etc. We respected each other's free time when we wanted it, but they were always reliable. We still keep in touch to this day.

Posted by
210 posts

I have been on several RS tours as a solo traveler. It has worked well for me.

Most everyone is very inclusive. Occasionally there will be couples or groups of "pre-tour" friends who prefer to not mingle, but that's ok, it's their trip, too. I have never felt excluded from a tour. The buddy system helps "break down" walls. As much as I hate the name game, it is fun to share the mutual "hatred" of the game with your fellow tour members. Even so, I still "hate" it….we are adults.

I do a LOT of pre-tour planning so as not to get caught after a walking tour with no idea what to do. Standing around with indecision wastes valuable time. I have my "bucket list". If that meshes with our tour members, so be it. Otherwise…..I am working on my list of things that caused me to want to take that tour. Going solo creates many opportunities to connect with locals. You have to work at it. Many times those are some of my best memories.

When it comes to group meals, I am very conscious so as not to break up couples. I usually wait until all are seated and then take the "left over" seat. That usually leads to you getting to know others. If I am asked to sit with a group or a couple….then, yes, I do so.

If you have a "passion" for wine, music, art, beer, etc……sharing that will help attract others who want to learn more.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
304 posts

I have taken RS tours solo and as everyone has said, people are friendly and I got plenty of invitations to join 2 or 3 couples who were going out for dinner on the nites meals were on our own.

If I do another RS tour I'd probably pay for the single supplement. On my last trip the roomate was a friendly guy, no problems there, but he snored something awful! The kind where he would seemingly stop breathing for a minute or so and then launch into incredibly loud snores. Most nites I only got a few hours sleep if that, and it really detracted from my enjoyment of the trip to be dead-tired.