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Thinking of going on the Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour aug 2-22 Advice please

Just a little last minute trip idea I am considering, 21 days touring Europe. This will be a first for me, touring with a group, touring on a bus and the possibility of rooming with another women, that I don’t know. There is always the possibility to pay 925.00 extra for a room by myself. I have always traveled alone but have some hesitations with the reputation Italy has with pick pockets and crime. I of course will wear the money belt and other precautions you use in similar countries.
I am a very active person, and have a few reservations about the whirlwind trip. See below my questions. Now don't hold back!

Advice from others that have been on a trip like this:
Do you feel like you are in the bus alot?
Do you get enough ground time? walking, sightseeing, etc?
Now about that roommate, whats your experience?
What were the rooms like and because it will be August what about aircondlting?

The positives:
Company
Great conversations
Dinner with new friends
I don't have to plan out the trip.

Posted by
31291 posts

pn,

If your budget will allow, I'd absolutely recommend signing up for the tour! You'll probably find it's one of the best travel experiences you've ever had. Regarding the single supplement, that's a matter of personal choice, but I always prefer to pay for that.

You might find it interesting to have a look at this recent Thread which describes the experiences of another solo traveller who just returned from that tour. She has also published a very interesting Blog, but it's not finished yet.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/4-days-i-can-t-believe-it

To answer some of your questions.....

  • Time on the Bus varies, but they stop every couple of hours, as the drivers are required to have rest stops at periodic intervals. The stops are always at very nice "truck stops" with restaurants, gift shops, etc. (also provides a WC break for the tour members).
  • Ground time, sightseeing - YES, absolutely! There are numerous walking tours with local guides and the lead guide, but also a fair amount of free time for tour members to do some exploring on their own. You'll receive so much information about the history and culture of each place you visit, that you probably won't be able to absorb it all.
  • Did I mention the food? You will EAT well on these tours!
  • I can't offer any tips on the aspect of "roomates" as I've always paid the single supplement. Based on my observations on eight tours, most of the time this seems to work out well, but on one of the tours some of the ladies that were rooming together did not get along well.
  • The RS tours have always used very nice hotels, and I don't recall any of them NOT having A/C.
  • Have you seen these videos.....

http://www.ricksteves.com/tours/tour-experience

Posted by
11263 posts

" I have always traveled alone but have some hesitations with the reputation Italy has with pick pockets and crime."

If you have traveled alone in other parts of Europe successfully and haven't had any problems, you will be fine in Italy. None of the scams, pickpockets, etc are unique to Italy.

Of course, you can take an RS tour for the other reasons you mentioned. But you don't "need" one just to be safe in Italy as a solo female.

Posted by
8247 posts

I did a trip report from my BOE last Fall. It's now on pg 4 of this forum and if I were not on my phone I would provide a link!

I went solo and had a wonderful time. I do choose to pay the single supplement.

I didn't feel there was too much bus time in fact it sometimes was great for a rest. This is a very busy tour with blockbuster sights every day. Amsterdam and Rome were the biggest walking days...10-12 miles each place. So yes, plenty of time on the ground for sightseeing.

I went the last week of August so we were in Italy the first week of Sept. All the hotels had AC but it is usually not as cold as out AC. Fine for sleeping though.

More positives: The RS guides are terrific and you will learn so much! Bus drivers are pretty awesome too. Food was quite good and plentiful. Wine provided at many meals. Suggestions for sightseeing in your free time you might not have considered. Transportation lessons in every location with public transport. Fun people to travel with.

That was just a few right off the top of my head!

I loved this tour!

Posted by
5 posts

Just got back from this trip (may 12-June 1) and it was the best 3 weeks of my life. First time traveler so I had some of the same questions as you, although I'm male and I shared a room with my sister on the tour the whole time, so I can't help you with the solo part.

Did I feel like I was on the bus a lot?
Never. After some of those long days (and nights) the bus rides were mostly a welcome sight where I could relax, catch up on some sleep, rest my feet, learn about the next place on the tour, etc.

Did I get enough ground time, walking?
Absolutely. Amsterdam and Rome I was dead after walking so much. I never got the feeling of being "cooped up" or anything like that. In fact, most of the bigger cities you'll want to take the metro/bus to get around because it's a nightmare to try and walk back to the hotels.

Hotels were good, always centrally located and most of them had air conditioning. The ones that didn't I think you had to go down to the desk and ask them if they had it or not because sometimes you will think you have it on but it's not really on until someone down there "unlocks" it for you. But that was only like 2 places. If you're a light sleeper, earplugs are a necessity. Since the rooms might be a little (or a lot) warmer in August as compared to May, your window(s) will likely be open all the time, in which street noise can be a hindrance to some. (Thank goodness I sleep like a rock)

Also wifi in the hotels is usually good, only a few the signal wasn't very good in our room. Just be aware most of them have passwords and such.

Something I didn't know before the trip. Almost everyone on my tour either had been in Europe on their own or with family/friends somewhere prior to the tour, or extended their time in Europe after the tour was over. I think only like 6-7 of the 28 of us actually left Paris for the states after the tour was officially over. Don't know if you have time or money to do something like that, but I wish I had. After gaining several travel skills along the tour, many people booked extra nights in Paris in order to go to Versailles, see more of Paris, etc. Some had rail passes and left to go to other places in Europe, and a few extended on to do 2-5 days in London or something like that. Now that I'm back I really wished I would have sucked it up and gotten more days in Europe out of my airline ticket! So if you have that freedom I would highly encourage you to do so.

Otherwise, you'll have an absolute blast on this tour. You'll learn so much and just be amazed at some of the things you eat, see, and do. Hope some of this helps you! Happy travels!

Posted by
64 posts

I cannot speak to the roommate situation on Rick Steves tours, as I travel with my husband. Personally, if financially possible, I would pay the price to have my own room. However, I have encountered a few women who opted for roommates they did not know & none of them seemed unhappy. Rick Steves travelers tend to be easy-going, friendly & interesting, so you will be fine with or without a roommate. Don't overpack, so you can manage your own luggage. This is a casual trip without formality. Our first Rick Steves tour (& my first trip to Europe) was "The Best of Europe in 21 Days". I, too, was nervous about the group, the bus, the hotels, the possibility of sharing bathrooms etc. However, my concerns were dispelled immediately. This is a wonderful itinerary, with enjoyable meals (not touristy) & mostly very full days. Plan on walking a lot, visiting plenty of important museums & other significant sights, & experiencing a nice balance of major cities & more rustic settings. Prior to this trip, our guide contacted us & recommended that we bring light hiking shoes, which I would not have purchased without her suggestion. If you are not "into" that look, just be sure you have some kind of serious walking shoe. If your preference is high-end hotels, you will need to lower your expectations in this area, as the tour will feature smaller, often family-owned hotels....Most (if not all) will be charming, friendly & comfortable, providing a real feel for the countries you visit, complete with fabulous regional breakfasts. Having been on seven or eight Rick Steves tours, we have stayed at dozens of "Rick Steves style" hotels. Only twice did we have to share bathroom facilities with a few fellow travelers from our group. Although my personal preference is higher end hotels, I was comfortable enough after our first Rick Steves tour to do several more. The company pays attention to customer feedback & does not return to hotels or restaurants that are deemed unacceptable. You can expect a clean, comfortable, modern bus with plenty of space & a friendly driver. The driver is required to stop every two hours. You will have a wonderful, well-informed Rick Steves guide throughout the trip, as well as local guides in some locations. Although this is definitely not a shopping trip, your guide will always be prepared to answer questions or make suggestions regarding things to do in your occasional free time...Where to find the best gelato, where not to shop, where to locate the cleanest bathrooms etc. You will learn & experience so much on this trip. I recommend it highly!! Italy gets an unfair rap regarding theft & crime & is no worse than anywhere else. I have been to Europe many times & was robbed once (through my own carelessness) in Berlin, not Italy. Since I was wearing my official Rick Steves money belt, the teenage thieves (who saw me struggling with luggage on a subway escalator) got my purse & a few dollars, but nothing else. Bon Voyage & have fun!

Posted by
118 posts

WOW, lots of positive responses.

I think the extra days in Paris is a must, will do that.

Some people I know have had issues in Rome with pick pockets and the gang robberies, so not sure I want to go without a wing man by myself. Most of the robberies were on busses and the trains. Purse snatched off shoulder by guy in car driving by, 3 people crowded my guy friend on bus and got his money belt, fellow photographer was on train and was simple told to give up his back pack by 2 guys, and 2 girl friends had their pockets picked at different times on buses. (I have alot of friends that travel too for work, so maybe out there abit more then most for problems).
Plus, 3 weeks can get a bit lonely on your own.

Still on the ladder about solo or a group trip. I have a month off between work assignments so something is going to happen and will decide in the next few days.

Room mates, one lady told me she had the room mate from hell, she didn’t like air-conditioning, she snored and drank like a fish and was a mean drinker. My friend is the sweetest lady and it ruined her trip. So that was where my concerns came from.

Enough with the negatives, thanks for all the advice. I will go over the itinerary and see what I can squeeze in on free time if I decide to go.

Posted by
8247 posts

If you are interested here is the link to my Trip Report now that I am back at a keyboard.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/21-day-best-of-europe-8-26-14

I've done 5 RS tours, 3 with my brother and SIL and some assorted family members, 2 solo including this one. On one there was one other solo woman who had not paid the single supp but got a single room as I had paid the supp. She was thrilled ( and actually very sweetly took me to dinner as a thank you! Fun!). This was in late Sept so your group composition may be different in the summer. I would have been Ok sharing with any of the other women on the RS trips, but I've done 4 Road Scholar tours and would not have been happy with any of the potential roommate assignments on those trips. It is worth it to me to pay the supplement and I liked having some private time away from the group. Do know that a single room in Europe sometimes means smaller and not as nicely situated as some of the double rooms but on this tour you are not in the room much!

One other thing I suggest is to take the guide up on ANY optional things offered. This includes optional activities on the Switzerland day as the cost for going up the Schilthorn is not included in the tour. Our guide also arranged a couple of extra dinners if people were interested as well as the gondola ride in Venice.

There is some free time in Rome, but I went to another museum on my own and then walked back to the hotel so was not on public transit in Rome alone.

DO plan to spend extra time in Paris if you can! If you have the ability, consider adding the RS week-long Paris tour on to the end of it. You will be SO comfortable in Paris then! If not, then I think at least 4 extra days in Paris is good.

Have fun!

Posted by
524 posts

Your story, about the room mate experience, sounds more than vaguely familiar. I believe I was on that tour. This person managed to verbally attack more than one tour member, myself included. Her room mate would stay out of the room as much as she possibly could. This was very stressful for her. The guide, finally discovered the situation when she chastised one young teenager for sitting on "her seat" on the bus. Yes, she had made a nest for herself and no one bothered her during bus time. Upon learning of all the trouble she had caused, he mentioned that, if he had known, he would have addressed the problem. Knowledge is power, even if one doesn't want to be a tattler, if there is any problem take it to the guide. That said, I have since been on 10 other tours and have never, not once, had any other tour member to act in this manner.

Posted by
556 posts

Pndldy,

I thought you would find this thread interesting, in terms of thinking about sharing a room with a roommate or not. In particular, note the post from CL in Salem, Oregon. By the way, I have taken 4 RS tours solo and had roommates on the first three ( you can read my experiences too on that thread)..

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/single-travelers

I defintiely think you should take the tour! Whether or not you go with a roommate will be up to you!

Enjoy!

Posted by
8247 posts

Fun! I'd love to know how you enjoyed it when you get back!

Posted by
118 posts

I'd love to know what free time you have exactly to set up some tours, etc... Its probably hard to narrow this down due to unforeseen events, traffic issues, closures, or what ever. Staying an extra day in Paris.

Posted by
469 posts

Hi -- My family took this tour last summer (it was great!). You are correct in that free time may vary, because of traffic or special add-ons by your guide, etc. We got to the Netherlands early, booked tickets ahead for the Van Gogh Museum (first thing in the morning, before the crowds!), and also visited the Resistance Museum that same day....before meeting up with our tour group for the first time. Do not expect to have time to see the Van Gogh Museum after the Rijksmuseum on your BOE tour full day in Amsterdam! You won't have remotely enough time (I'm not sure why they even suggest this in the itinerary) and you will be exhausted by the time you're done with the Rijksmuseum, since this will be one of your two most intensive touring days (the first day in Rome being the other). Most of our group either rested in the area outside the museum or recharged with a cappuccino during the small amount of time after the museum visit and before the canal boat ride. We also planned a visit to Versailles for the day after the tour ended. We had planned to book Eifel Tower tickets for our free time in Paris, but they were sold out way in advance. So we got there at about 9:00 p.m. (the beauty of long summer days!) and walked up to the second level. No lines whatsoever. We weren't able to go all the way to the top, but as it was a during a heatwave and very smoggy, I doubt we missed much. It was magical being on the tower as the sun set, and climbing down with the lights twinkling. We also planned to climb the dome in Florence first thing in the morning on our free morning there. We didn't need to book anything in advance. It was much less crowded and much cooler first thing in the morning, so I'd recommend this. You'll have free time in the CT and in Switzerland, but since your options are hiking, riding to the top of the mountains with your group, etc. there's nothing to book ahead of time. Other people in our group booked ahead for special tours at the Doge's Palace in Venice or at St. Peters in Rome. Some people did research and booked restaurants in advance. Mostly, we just had lists of things we were interested in seeing in each of the locations, and decided what to do based on those lists, the weather, and the actual amount of time we had. It is an amazing trip -- I'm sure you'll love it!

Posted by
657 posts

Do not expect to have time to see the Van Gogh Museum after the Rijksmuseum on your BOE tour full day in Amsterdam! You won't have remotely enough time (I'm not sure why they even suggest this in the itinerary)

I was on the BOE tour a few years back and we had 2 hours after the Rijksmuseum tour free for ourselves. I went to the Van Gogh Museum, so it is possible (although perhaps they've changed the itinerary for that day).

The trip itinerary lists the bus travel times for each day. Because of the distances to cover many times the bus departs earlier in the morning than on other RS tours. It isn't that bad, though; have breakfast, finish packing, and once you're in a seat on the bus your part is done for several hours.

The tour was a lot of fun and I bet you'll enjoy it too!

Posted by
697 posts

I would recommend seeing the Van Gogh museum pre-tour. I know there is time to see it after the Rijks museum but honestly......you WILL be tired. It's also a big museum (Rijks) and it's a lot of information to take in. Van Gogh museum was almost my favorite museum of the entire trip (my first favorite was The Orsay in Paris, which we saw POST tour). If you enjoy Van Gogh, I highly recommend seeing it pretour and buy your tickets online and print it out at home!

Posted by
7 posts

pndldy, glad to see you decided to go on tour! I am taking the BOE tour starting Aug 16 and can't wait! I am also a solo traveler and chose to pay the single supplement. This will be my third trip to Amsterdam (my son lives there) and if you don't have the time or energy to do the Van Gogh, I recommend a visit to the Rembrandt House, the Willet-Holthuysen House, or go to Dam Square and tour the Royal Palace! Have a great time!

Posted by
118 posts

I am pretty high energy so going to try and get in as much as I can. Looking at Paris too, I am staying 2 days extra.

Posted by
118 posts

If by chance after the RStour day I don't have time to do these great places, Van Gogh museum, a visit to the Rembrandt House, the Willet-Holthuysen House, or go to Dam Square and tour the Royal Palace, I will be back to AMS in Oct for 4 days on my way to Egypt for a dive trip. For the RST we are only in the area for 2 nights, and one is the arrival day so not much time to do anything then. The other day is full too. Didn't realize the days were so filled, nice I am returning.