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Thoughts on the provided trip packet

Recently on Facebook there has been discussion on the changes in the required trip packet. When we first started taking these tours the packet included the trip guidebook, a language dictionary, moneybelt and ear plugs. Then the packet changed to $100 spendable in one shopping experience in the online store. This year the packet has reverted to the original one minus the dictionary. There have been many suggestions for changes that might best be provided in the packet. My understanding for reverting to the original package was that travelers were not getting the guidebook which may have hampered them on the tours.

Let's put our own suggestions for what we'd like to see in the packet below. Thanks!

My first suggestion is as follows:
Reinstate the "free spending allowance" at some level but including the required guidebook(s). In lieu of the paper guide book a traveler could be provided with a voucher for an ebook version that could be spent only on that ebook guidebook. I don't know how that could be worked out, but I imagine it could be.

Posted by
99 posts

I am going out for my 3rd RS trip this summer so I only have 3 trip packets under my belt. I loved the 100 store offer and really don’t like the current offering. I have all the money belts I need, don’t care for foam ear plugs, but do agree having the tour book is a must. I tried to use the Ebook (Kindle) on my first trip and could never find the page our tour guide wanted us to follow. Tried to share a book with my wife but that did not work so well either. So bringing a book on this trip. Off to BO Eastern Europe this summer.

Posted by
28 posts

Mark G we are taking that tour in October please post some tips for us fellow travelers when you get back. I believe we will have 5 currencies to manage on that tour! Have fun; we are looking forward to it!

Posted by
646 posts

Perhaps the reasoning has to do with a little "belt tightening" within the RS organization.
The "guidebook/earplugs/moneybelt" offer is less costly to provide RS tour members.
At this year's RS "Test Drive a Tour Guide" expo, pre-lecture wine offerings were ticketed (limit of two per person) and the "Reunion Party" breakfast offerings were scaled back considerably from last year.
I was told there were fewer tour guides present at this year's expo, but I do not know if that is true.
Yes, I liked the $100 credit, too - but I think I can live happily with scaled down freebies - although, in this case, they would be scaled back to "nothing" as I have three money belts, the guidebook for the tour I'm taking (Basque Country) and earplugs...well, how many make up a "lifetime supply"?

Posted by
11496 posts

We're still indy travelers at this point but I don't know why they'd need to provide more than a guidebook? As folks might use methods other than money belts to keep their goodies corralled (we do) and don't like foam earplugs (I don't) then why waste these items? It doesn't seem like it would be a big deal to just go out and get whatever works for you. Dunno, maybe include a tip sheet of safety/security suggestions?

Not a fan of ebook guidebooks or maps on devices so that wouldn't work for me either.

Posted by
688 posts

I guess this could be a fun exercise, but it is mostly irrelevant. RSE will offer for free what it wants to offer. I was happy to have the $100 store credit, but honestly I don't know what I would buy for my 3rd tour. I prefer a kindle version of the guidebook that I can pull up on my smart phone, but getting a free paper version doesn't prevent me from purchasing the kindle version. I don't want a money belt (I have chosen a different solution for myself), so I just don't order one.

It is a freebie. Take it or leave it. Okieandy, I think you are just offering a fun exercise, but it was weird to see people complaining about this on other threads. "It isn't fair to families, it isn't what I want, they should offer this " : (

Posted by
145 posts

Okieandy, look at the thread titled "Money Issues for the Eastern Europe Tour". Your question is understandable (how to deal with different currencies in five countries) and apparently the tour guides provide good advice on entering and leaving each country.

We'll be on the BOEE tour that starts September 6, 2019.

Posted by
3355 posts

The essentials are the guidebook, and a money belt for new RS travelers. Otherwise, I don’t want a new suitcase, day bag, etc. so I would rather have the “spending money” used by the tour guide during the trip for a surprise lunch or other group perk.

Posted by
688 posts

I really agree with the suggestion of giving the money spent on tour packets to the guide for an extra experience. I can buy my own guidebook.

Posted by
684 posts

I also prefer the store credit, and would like the credit available earlier in the planning process. On our 2015 trip, the guide book/packet was sent close to the trip starting date; I needed the guide book immediately after I booked the trip, so I could plan before/after RS trip activities and lodging. On a later trip, we received the credit, but I again I wanted to use the credit earlier than it was made available.

Posted by
3227 posts

The "trip packet" has undergone multiple changes since I took my first RS tour.

The first change was reducing the number of guide books to one per reservation instead of the previous 1 per person. There was much complaining about this.

Then they changed from the much nicer silk money belt to the not so nice polyester one. This change seems to have slipple past the complainers.

Next change was when it went to the $100 shopping credit. There was much complaining about this that it should be $100 per person instead of per reservation.

Now it is back to the one guide book and money belts and earplugs. And there is much complaining about that too.

The dictionary was limited, I did not get one on every tour where English was not the primary language of the countries being toured.

So you just never make everyone happy.

Is there a cutting back on expenditures by RS? Possibly. They probably took a hard financial impact when they had to cancel all of their Turkey tours a couple years ago. Rebuilding their presence in Turkey has also most likely been costly. I have not taken a tour in a couple years so I don't know if the tours are as packed as before or what may have changed there as it relates to expenditures on extras or food and hotel quality. There have been reports here of surprisingly bad hotels recently. It would be disappointing to see RS cut back too much as it would impact future interest in tours.

I do like the suggestion of giving the tour members the option of getting the ebook version of the guide if that is their preference.

Posted by
1085 posts

Mark, on my Ireland tour last year all but one of the hotels was outstanding. So I don't think there is a general lessening of hotel quality. I do wish though they would quit sending those ear plugs which are useless. I always use the guidebook and the dictionary was very nice when in nonEnglish speaking countries. If you are a frequent tour goer I agree you just end up with a supply of moneybelts. One can last you a long time. For me the perfect solution would be a guidebook and a small credit ($25-50). I would think that would cut down on shipping costs also.

Posted by
741 posts

I like Laurie Beth’s idea of a guidebook plus a smaller credit. Since RS is so big on money belts, maybe they could send the current package to first-time tour members, then the guidebook/credit option for repeat customers. A little more office housekeeping but doesn’t seem like it would be that hard.

I also liked the $100 credit but there was much complaining and I understand them wanting them to be sure people have the guidebook. I always thought $50 per person rather than $100 per booking would have been fair, but I guess the guys in Edmonds didn’t want my advice. 😁

Posted by
4947 posts

Just my opinion. Part of the RS tour goal (I think) is to help educate people on traveling comfortably on their own, not just chauffeur them around. I thought the reason they gave a trip packet was to help prepare inexperienced travelers for the trip by providing things that they might need, but weren't recognizing. By reading the guidebook on the places they were going to be ahead of time, they would be better able to enjoy and appreciate what the would see. Maybe to head off some of those questions to the tour leader of "what should I see and do in my free time, where should I eat, and how to find a restroom". Or spark some more interest and questions on the sights on the tour. The phrase book was intended to encourage people to learn those basic words and phrases that help communicate on their own. The earplugs to make up for the somewhat less than noise-free hotels. The money belt, to help avoid one of those trip-ruining events that would disrupt the tour. If they provided you with earplugs, for example, and the warning in the fine print that some hotels might be noisy, then you can't complain about it. And yes, I've needed them in some of the hotels. Seems like many people just didn't bother to bring the stuff.

What I've seen on the four I've taken, is that the majority of people are repeat RS tourers, so some stuff is redundant or they've already bought the guidebook, etc. So having choices is good.

Posted by
844 posts

We have taken 7 RS tours. At first we got "the provided" trip package that worked for us. Then they changed to the $100 credit that we could choose what we want. That worked for us because we took more than one tour in Italy and more than one in France.
We didn't need the language books again. (Although many of my friends have been grateful for my extras!)

On many of the tours Hubby and I have been surprised about how many of the people that got guide books had never read them and didn't bring them. The guide would refer to a certain section and many of our tour mates would admit that they hadn't read or brought them.

I do think that the language books are VERY helpful. As soon as we get ours, we get them (we each want one) out at dinnertime
and practice talking to each other and questioning each other. Gets us in the mood for the trip.Rick has included some funny sayings like "to tell a taxi driver if he doesn't slow down we will throw up". Hubby finally got to use it in Italy early in the morning and the taxi driver was surprised, looked in the mirror and saw we were laughing. He laughed all the rest of the way!!
I think everyone needs/wants different things, I'm not sure how the RS group could make everyone happy. Maybe offer a choice of the "original" packet or offer the $100 credit.

Posted by
2760 posts

I have taken 16 RS tours during the last 18 years. When I first got the tour package I had a big use for its contents. But now, at least for the last 5 years or so, there is nothing I need that is sold from the RS store. I have 3 RS suitcases and too many money belts which I take back to his headquarters in Edmonds, WA. Since my wife is in Seattle and I am in Hawaii most of the year, the reduction in the number of guide books forces us to buy an extra one. We always get our guide books as soon as we book our trip so that we can start reading them. We booked this June's tour last November to take advantage of the early booking discount. I have had several conversations with the folks at RS headquarters about my general displeasure with the current tour package but have yet to receive an explanation that is satisfactory to me. I went to the reunion in January in hopes of getting a conversation with RS but his time did not allow.

Posted by
3 posts

I wish we had the option to go thru the RS checkout page and click something like, "RS alumni, donate the moneybelt to a homeless shelter." I'm sure some street people would like to keep their limited, precious valuables safe too. In the meantime, I'm going to practice what I preach and put my extra moneybelt in the donation bag today!
(repeating myself from the Facebook post)

Posted by
182 posts

I have been on 3 RS tours and had the guidebooks for each. But I've never had a tour guide use one with the expectation each person would have their own copy for a group reference.

Also, as I am in to packing light, I will have read the guidebook, but will not carry the additional weight of the whole book. On the first trip I brought the book and didn't use most of it. Second trip used the ebook, and the third trip brought only the pages I might need.

And yes, I think they should send the guidebook as soon as the refundable deposit period ends.

And to digress but still relevant to tour changes: What about the tour size? I think the maximum was 24 when I took my first tour.

Posted by
100 posts

I really like the suggestion re: donating the money belts to the homeless. Also, having the ebook option would be fantastic. My last tour was during the $100 credit era, so I bought an ebook elsewhere. It was so easy to just search for what I wanted on my Kindle or phone, and the weight difference was nice, too.

Posted by
3 posts

I'll be taking my 7th RS trip in the fall. I too do not need anything more sold in the RS store, but I have kept up with ordering multiple backpacks, in various colors. These I have given to fire victims in my local area (Sonoma County, and Paradise fires). Luggage and backpacks make very welcome gifts to those who have lost everything. As to the homeless, and money belts I have given out. Unfortunately, one came back into my workplace (ER in a trauma center), securely strapped to the waist of an overdosed man. Inside the belt were his heroin fixings. On talking with him after we revived him via Code Blue - "they are just the right size to keep my stash safe, so no one else at the creek camp can steal my "H". He gave his RS "money" belt two thumbs up.

Posted by
406 posts

Does everyone realize they don’t need to offer anything? They also don’t need to lower the price of the trip by $50 or $100 if they stopped? I view these as nice gifts. We love the books and use them often for planning our free time. No other tour company does this. I don’t think you are forced to take the items. You should be able to opt out.

Posted by
8 posts

My one and only complaint about the trip packet is that they only send one guidebook per reservation. We are taking our 8th RS tour this year, and like others have said, we have more than enough moneybelts. The guidebook situation is another story. I personally don't know any couples traveling who only use one guidebook between them (not saying they don't exist, but I'm betting they are in the minority). At one time, you could request a second guidebook, and they would send it to you. I don't know if that is still true.

Posted by
11496 posts

I personally don't know any couples traveling who only use one
guidebook between them (not saying they don't exist, but I'm betting
they are in the minority

LOL. My husband and I have shared the same single guidebooks since we've been packing a suitcase.
(We're not RS tour takers but use guidebooks for our indy trips.)

Posted by
4947 posts

Yes we share ours too since we share a room. Mostly I use it, anyway. Not a hardship.