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Summer 2016 Tour Recommendations

I'm new here researching a solo RS tour for late June / early July 2016 and have found this forum incredibly helpful (1st RS tour, 1st solo travel, 1st European travel). I truly appreciate both the positive and negative feedback offered because I feel that disappointment occurs when expectations don't match reality. I won't be disappointed that my hotel doesn't have a/c, for example, if I knew that information going in.

With that being said, I could use some help picking an itinerary. (Yes, I know the 2016 dates/tours haven't been released yet, and things can change.) I'm trying to avoid itineraries that are too hot for June/July travel (Spain, Greece, Italy, etc.). I'm trying to avoid itineraries that are filled with families and kids (A couple of teens are fine, but I'm leaving my grumpy teen at home.). I also can't choose any tour over 14 scheduled days.

Any thoughts/ideas on these?
Berlin, Prague, and Vienna
Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
Paris and the Heart of France
Best of Europe 14 days: Too many kids? Too hot in Italy in June/July?
I read that a Best of Switzerland will be coming out - may be interested in that as well.

The Scandinavia, Russia, Baltics tours don't seem to attract my interest too much right now, nor do the Scotland, Ireland, England tours. I also looked at doing the city tours Paris and London back to back, but it got too pricey with the single supplements for both.

I welcome any advice and feedback, both positive and negative!

Posted by
9692 posts

Coming from the position of having done ~none~ of the tours you have picked, but having done 5 other RS tours (2 solo, 3 with family members) with Paris and Heart of France set for the end of Sept, here is what I think.

There are 2 family itineraries of BOE 14 days, so I would probably consider doing the regular one assuming most families would do family specific ones. I have done the BOE21 and had a wonderful, wonderful time. These are fast moving, strenuous tours and perfect as a taster of many different places. On the BOE21 we walked 12-14 miles on our days in Amsterdam and Rome, but you have to to get a taste of the cities!

On that tour one of my favorite days was the full day in Switzerland so my other choices out of your list would be either GAS or possibly the new Switzerland tour...I'll be looking at that itinerary when it comes out.

I am also very much looking forward to the Paris and Heart of France tour in Sept! I did the Best of Paris last Fall and my days there made me feel so comfortable in Paris that I am really looking forward to that. I am looking forward to this whole itinerary with the chateaus, the D-Day tour, MSM and well...ALL of it!

I can actually see that my post is not going to help you narrow anything down, lol. Basically, you can't go wrong. For a first trip/first tour/solo though, I would probably choose BOE14.

Posted by
206 posts

Kristen, I would suggest the Germany, Austria, Switzerland tour. The tour is amazing and most of the places you go would not be near as crowded as Paris and other very big tourist cities. Munich and Vienna are the largest cities you visit and they have never seemed as crowded to me. The weather for those areas also shows high 70's and low 80's for those areas during the summer. You can, however, get a hot spell anywhere in Europe in the summer. If you have to go in June or July. this would be my choice. I prefer mid Sept to early October but you have to go when you can. Many people have or just are finishing up that tour so try to find some tour reviews for June and July. Tour reviews are getting harder to find on the site but they do still have some. The research and planning are so much fun as well. Enjoy!

Posted by
44 posts

Hi Kristen,

I have taken six RS tours as a solo female. They were Best of Paris, Best of Venice, Florence and Rome, Best of South Italy, Village Italy, Best of Berlin, Prague and Vienna and Best of Sicily.

I started with the Best of Paris in March 2006 to try it out since it was a short tour. I loved it! The tour, tour guide and fellow travelers were wonderful. Paris was a little cold but there were no crowds.

I now travel in early May or in the Fall (September or October) because it isn't as busy and the weather is not so hot. I don't travel in the Summer at all.

The Best of Europe in the Spring or Fall would be a great way to go. That way you get a good taste of the countries and the weather should be fine.

Beware! Travel is very addictive.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have taken 13 RS tours and all of those you mention. I always advise folks to go south in the winter and north in the summer. I too might recommend the GAS tour but I would encourage you to check out the average temperatures for any tour you are considering. It can be found by going to that tours web site and clicking on
WEATHER.

Posted by
3620 posts

I agree with Tony and would suggest the Germany, Austria, Switzerland tour due to the weather and relative lack of crowds. It can be warm during that time, but as a general rule it nothing like the southern parts of Europe weather wise or people wise.

Posted by
170 posts

RS Eastern European Tour is a gem. There were 3 solo travelers, 2 college-age adults with their parents and a mix of all ages. It was a wonderful blend of 6 countries, incredible history to learn about, beautiful scenery, etc. Europe didn't feel complete to us until we traveled to Eastern Europe.

Posted by
6627 posts

Kristen, there are no bad choices here. IMO, if a person has to choose only one trip or a first trip to Europe, it should include, or be focused on Italy. Our first RS tour was Venice, Florence, Rome - three great cities full of things to fit all interests, (and only two hotel changes). Weather is always a gamble no matter where or when you go. Switzerland is heaven when its sunny, less so when gray and cold.

Do you have any special connections with any of these countries? Family history? Speak a European Language? Interest in specific artist, writer or a favorite movie set in Paris or Rome? Foodie, or wine fanatic? All good reasons to go one place or another. IF not, read some of the RS guides or watch the videos until something grabs you.

I think RS makes them all easy. The main challenges to a new traveler are getting to the start of the tour location on your own, hopefully a day or two early.

Posted by
608 posts

Another vote for Germany, Austria and Switzerland! It is one of only two tours we have been on, but it was fantastic. There was a great combination of awe inspiring scenery and beautiful architecture. It allowed great insight into different parts of history and different cultures. I think the Switzerland portion of the trip might have better weather in the summer months than the foggy, rainy/snowy weather we had in May. We just can't say enough about that tour, though I'm sure they would all be great!

Posted by
86 posts

I really appreciate everyone's input! I am stuck traveling in the summer until I retire as I am a teacher.

The GAS tour looks amazing, and I hadn't factored city crowds into my research. Thanks for that info. I have been paying attention to the weather information listed for each trip, but I know a heat wave could happen.

I have no connections to anywhere in Europe; I'm just choosing based on what seems to pique my interest. I've vacationed with family in the Caribbean for years, but have grown bored of it as of late. I'm thrilled at the opportunity to travel to Europe and to be a solo traveler. I'm a bit too excited to have a trip on the horizon where I'll only have to be responsible for myself. As a mom, I know that sounds a bit selfish :)

Once the trip is booked, I'm sure I'll have dozens of other questions for all of you. Cheers!

Posted by
2096 posts

Hi Kristen,
What a wonderful question: where oh where do I want to go? I am ready to jump in with my 2 cents.

You mention the two RS tours I have taken: Berlin Prague & Vienna in 12 days - and just this June 21 - July 2, such a fantastic experience! There were 20 people - all adults, no children, couples and several ladies traveling solo. There were 2 mother/daughters with us, both young ladies in their early 20's, college students. It was a friendly group and our guide really helped the group to gel.

Crowds were pretty heavy in Prague but not so much in Berlin or Vienna or Dresden or Chesky Krumlov.
Weather was nice and coolish in Berlin and, as we traveled south, it warmed up until Vienna we encountered a heat wave, very warm. Of course, it is not always so hot in Europe in early summer.

The other trip was Paris & the Heart of France in 11 days last Oct. There were no kids obviously. It also was a lovely trip. I think this tour would be crowded in Paris in June/July but not so much on the rest of the itinerary. And Normandy and Mont St Michel are so moving and interesting.

If the heat is a problem for you in June/July, possibly consider the Gas tour as others have suggested, that appeals to me, too. Anyway you have many good options to consider.
Best wishes,
Judy B

Posted by
14898 posts

Go to the tour scrapbooks and read the ones for the tours you are considering. They will give you a good idea of what each tour is like.

I doubt you can predict which tours will attract families with kids. I was on an Alpine tour in late June and we had a family with 3 kids, ages 8 and 9. They were the quietest people in the group.

Posted by
4371 posts

I'm so glad Chani posted the link to the Tour Scrapbooks! Beware - they're addictive!

Have you seen the 45-minute long Tour Experience video yet? Besides giving you an idea of what a Rick Steves Tour is like, it follows a 14-Day BoE Tour...which seems like the obvious one for you to take. I believe you will enjoy any of them, though.

Posted by
977 posts

I cast another vote of appreciation for the Tour Scrapbooks. I love to find a tour scrapbook I am interested in during a time of year I am contemplating. I look at clothes and crowds, especially. My last two tours, MyWay Alpine and Paris and the Heart of France were during June/July by necessity. On the MyWay Alpine, which would be similar to GAS, I noticed many Chinese tour groups at this time, especially around Hallstatt. Google Hallstatt and China. They were not hiking around Bolzano or Lauterbrunnen, however.

Prior to and during the Heart of France tour, I noticed hordes of teen travel groups at the Philly airport and in Heathrow. Apparently, this is THE time for teen group travel. At the end of the tour, I enjoyed, not, an overnight stay in Oxford where a teen group loaded up their bus at 3 AM, trundling every suitcase down the stairs by my room. While in France, groups of school children spent their end of year classes in day trips - some of which were on the RS itinerary. Those days took on a Disney World Quality that I did not anticipate or relish.

I am not considering another summer trip just yet. If I do, I would read up on travel in August. US teens may be safely back home preparing for school, and places like Paris and Rome seem to be rather more deserted. Perhaps something to be looking forward to? Ask about AC in hotels. Or, as someone else suggested, go north.

A number of years ago, I travelled in the Cotswolds and East Anglia over the 4th of July and saw nairy another tourist. If you research and avoid where the big bus tours go, summer travel can be very enjoyable.

GAS if in the height of summer would be my choice. Some new tours in Switz. and the south of England sound inviting, too. Maybe Ireland. Think about 7 days in Paris and London perhaps in winter? Do you get time off over Christmas? New Year's without the grumpy teen?

D

Posted by
86 posts

I did find the scrapbooks - they are fantastic! And I watched the tour experience video tonight. I had seen clips before, but never watched it as one program. I never really thought about student tour groups; I should have, though. My daughter (aka "the grumpy teen") is going on a high school trip to Japan early in June. That's why I'm planning my trip after hers.

My goal is to roll with the punches...large tour groups invading our space, noisy hotel rooms, etc.

I'm really leaning towards the GAS trip, although the BOE 14 day is also in the running.

I can't thank everyone enough! The feedback has been great!

Posted by
286 posts

Kristen, we just returned from the 14-day BOE tour. It was fantastic. To your question about weather in June/July, YES it will likely be very hot. But that's to be expected in the summer (would be news if it wasn't!). : ) Rome, the tour's southern-most point, was 39c and 40c, respectively, during the two days we were there. But locals told us that was extreme ('historical' for those dates, in fact). If you're considering this tour and can swing a shoulder-season itinerary, perhaps going in May or October, that should alleviate concerns. Our group had 22 participants, of which maybe five were 'kids' (early-to-late teens), including our daughter. There were likewise three or four people in their seventies, with the rest of the demographics comprised of 30's/40's/50's/60's. For whatever reason, we didn't have twenty-somethings on our tour. Not sure if this is typical, but thought you might find the profiles helpful as you're looking at similar dates. This tour is a great way to see many different parts of the continent, but in that context it also means you're constantly moving from locale to locale. The hotels, the weather, the composition of a particular group, are all things out of your control if you elect to move forward with this trip. But as with anything, it's what you make of it. I would do this tour again in a heartbeat. Good travels!

Posted by
369 posts

I like the city tours such as Berlin, Prague, Vienna because they minimize time riding about in the bus. If you add one day to Berlin and Vienna each, on your own time, you have four nights and three full days in each city. Not bad.

Or consider two single city tours if you have time - a week in Rome followed by a week in London for example.

Posted by
369 posts

One thing, IIRC, I believe I heard RS himself state that the Best of Europe tours tend to draw more newbies than those tours that focus on a particular area or a particular part of the country. My own experience, limited as it is, confirms this. You might talk to the tour department if that is a concern.

Posted by
608 posts

Kristen - I'll send you a PM with a link to my albums of pictures from my GAS tour this May in case you'd like to look at them. I don't have a scrapbook put together yet, but I know I relied on other people's scrapbooks and pictures a lot to make my decision.