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Tour Scrapbooks-- Was Your BOE Tour as Good as Linda's?

I just finished reading a wonderful tour scrapbook by Linda Stedheim about her 2017 Best of England tour.

She does a great job but left me envious that she went in 2017 while I took the same tour in 2018. Same tour, same tour guide, same coach driver, but we did not have the assistant guide. Many similarities with our tour, but hers almost sounds like a different tour, they did so much more, had a better London plan, and definitely saw more in York, things such as the Rail Museum (or had afternoon tea if preferred). We did neither. She had three group photos, taken by the tour leader, we had none. So many more extras and goodies than we had. No walking tour of London for us, no bus tour of London, only two hours at the Tower, while Linda's tour went to the Tower in the morning and had until lunch. We arrived at lunch, had to eat in the cafeteria, and left at two.

Why would the 2017 tour be excellent, while our same 2018 tour with same guide be not nearly as good? The 2018 London itinerary was so different, as was York's, but the only other difference I can see is we had no assistant tour guide. Just wondering.

For those of you who have taken the BOEngland tour, read Linda's tour scrap book and comment please. Especially if you were on a 2018 BOEngland tour.

Posted by
2251 posts

Yes, her Scrapbook is wonderful! Unless you are planning on taking this tour again, why do you feel like you need to revisit what was obviously such a painful experience for you? I was not on your tour, but I have had Roy for a guide and he was terrific. Repeating what I said in your last BOEngland post, I will say I am sorry your tour wasn't all you hoped it would be and comparisons I would think would just make it all the more painful. I am sure many lessons have been learned by all concerned going forward.

Posted by
3096 posts

Maybe he just found out that his mother could no longer live on her own, or that his life partner wanted to end their relationship. For whatever reason, it sounds like your guide phoned it in for your Best of England Tour. Your group deserved better and I hope the RS staff apologized when they were apprised of the situation. A discount on your next tour would have been a nice gesture.

But, Linda's scrapbook was wonderful. I love that she went to Highclere after the tour. My kind of woman!

Posted by
9849 posts

I think they should do more than apologize; they should refund some of the money. Of course you looked at her scrapbook to see if your tour was par for the course. Finding out it isn't, makes it all the harder to accept.

Posted by
74 posts

I revisit, Andi, because I keep learning more and more ways in which our April 2018 tour did not measure up to other BOE tours. Linda's scrap book mentioned yet more things they did on her tour that were omitted on ours. Some small, some major. But they all matter. I paid what was for me a lot of money for this tour. Might be my only chance to visit England and Wales. Only by reading the postings of others do I learn just how badly our guide let us down. The same guide I might add, who did a wonderful job on the same tour in 2017. And I am not posting any opinions at all. Read my comments carefully and you will see I am only listing facts. We did not do this, we did not do that, these things others did were not done on our tour, things such as that. People thinking of taking a tour might want to know that there is a certain amount of "pot luck" involved in how their tour may go. And, yes, the more I learn about how we were let down, I get a bit perturbed.

Posted by
503 posts

Surfdog, I see nothing wrong with you reading scrapbooks from people who have taken the same tour that you have. I think it is normal to read them and see what others experienced. I have done so myself, not just to compare but also to relive the tour through the eyes of someone else who shared a common experience. As for the major/minor differences, I can understand the minor ones but really think there is no excuse for the major ones. Part of the appeal of a RS tour is that you know what you can expect, he markets his tours as an excellent value for the money and for one group to receive a sub-par (my words, not yours) tour is shameful.
As someone else said, perhaps the tour leader was not up to snuff for whatever reason but I see this as no excuse to deliver less than what is expected. The sign of a true professional is to put personal issues aside while working and deliver your best. I'm sure we have all had to do this in our working lives. Not saying this is what happened, just commenting on reasons other posters have suggested.

Posted by
79 posts

I have to agree with the group picture, really wish that one would of been taken for all to enjoy on our tour as part of the package. Only one person took one and it was not shared.

Posted by
294 posts

Just out of curiosity after reading these posts, why has not anybody from RS Tour Company addressed this post/question . Clearly, the poster has some reason to be concerned over the variance in tours. I guess, perhaps tour guides are just people after all, some have good days, some have crappy and some don’t truly love their job (opposed to what is said in the brochure) and It maybe shows up in the tour. We lov d both our RS tours, but it is something to think about.

Posted by
458 posts

Hello have you called the RS office? I have found them very helpful. As for the group picture I am not sure what the person meant by part of the package? I like to take pics & on our last tour most people were not photographers. I asked for a group shot and shared the pic on our group Facebook site. Why would someone take it & not share & why did you only take it with one camera or phone? I would always want a backup.

We have been on five RS tours. When we first started going there were many more surprise items but I think most things are now spelled out more.

I am sorry you had a bad trip. I hope your next vacation would is better.

Posted by
1450 posts

I and others have expressed empathy and understanding for your disappointing trip.
I and others have repeatedly asked you what is your agenda, without getting a satisfactory answer.
I and others have asked you if you have called RSE and voiced your complaints to them directly. I haven't seen an answer and apologize if I have just missed it.

So, again: I am sorry you had an unsatisfactory experience on your BOEngland trip.
Please state what you hope to gain by this thread. Do you want compensation?
Do you want continued expressed sympathy/empathy?
Do you want others to punish RSE by not booking tours due to your dissatisfaction?
Do you want a personal apology from the guide? Do you want him fired?

Best wishes to you in your future travels.

Posted by
7046 posts

I agree with vandrabrud's post. Once you get others to oblige you in pulling together this comparative analysis of indignations and slights, what exactly do you plan on doing with it? How are you going to make this wound finally heal?

Posted by
1894 posts

Reading your story, I think you have to decide what you want from RS Tours. Do you want monetary compensation-if so, how much? Or do you just want to provide feedback about this tour? Then write to them and explain objectively what happened on your trip, why you are unhappy and what resolution you think RS should take. And then the ball is in their court.

Then move on, plan a new trip or do something that makes you happy and stop reading about other reports. I had a horrible experience with a apartment agency in Spain, made even more worse by all the fantastic reviews I found on travel boards. I understand how you feel but going from experience the worst you can do is sit and stew about a bad experience. I wish you luck.

Posted by
3514 posts

I too am checking for a reply from the OP and wondering what the outcome will be.

Posted by
3036 posts

I think Surfdog gets to feel upset that her tour was not as good as Linda’s. I mean, what happened here? This tour has been around for awhile, it should run like a well oiled machine. I think Surfdog deserves some answers why it didn’t. An explanation is due. When you pay the kind of money RS charges, you deserve what is listed in the tour itinerary. That didn’t happen here.

Also, not everyone can afford to keep going back to Europe. 7 tours, thats great, but not everyone can do that.

Posted by
1290 posts

My apologies for not being as sympathetic as some responders, but back in May when you posted about your tour, you did say you enjoyed it and thought the price was reasonable for what you got, before pointing out some (legitimate) concerns. It seems that brooding on it since has made you less happy and you've forgotten your original enjoyment. Time, perhaps, to move on or at least recall the good aspects?

Posted by
3134 posts

You said in your first topic post:

First, let me say I enjoyed my BoE tour. Went places I could not have gone on my own. Met some really great people who were my traveling companions. Good folks. Didn't have to plan much of anything, other than how to get to Bath and how to get home once it was all over. Very convenient. I felt the price for what I got was very reasonable. We spent a lot of time on our coach (not bus) but one of the great things RS does is provide enough seats that each person has two seats to use. No scrunching up next to each other. The tour was sort of a "sampler" for me. Covered lots of ground and saw lots of things I didn't even know I wanted to see! When I go back on my own, I will probably re-visit some of these places and stay longer.

And then you have apparently forgotten the good things. In life, it is best not to compare yourself to other people or experiences. Your cup can be half full or half empty. You can look forward to the future or wallow in the past. I suggest you turn around and move forward as your continued complaints/sadness are only hurting you. I know this sounds nasty, but this ongoing anger is not good for you. You've said it (many times); now just let it go.

Posted by
914 posts

I replied to one of Surfdog's original threads (the be prepared to expect thread) because I thought it was painting RS tours with a broad, black brush, and I wanted others who'd not yet taken an RS tour to know that not every experience is like the one with this particular England tour. As I and others chimed in, many of us noted that we had better experiences than what Surfdog described.

That aside, it is disappointing to hear that this tour had issues. It is disappointing when you look forward to something, are paying a good sum of money, and are then let down. The description of what happened in London just doesn't seem right, and I agree with others that I would contact the RS company to detail what happened and to ask for whatever it is that you want. No guarantees of getting a credit, shop gift card, refund or other, but at least you let them know, and they can react how they see fit.

But I also think that there has to be some good that came out of this. You saw England and Wales. Two great places, and surely there are still good memories to be had. We all have different priorities. A group photo is not a priority for me. Honestly, could care less. A mediocre meal will not ruin my trip. Food just isn't my priority. Now, not seeing the number of sites, not going on or at least receiving a voucher for a site/boat trip/walking tour, not receiving a transit pass, or not receiving the number of meals in the itinerary would be an issue for me because it's what I paid for. If I were Surfdog, I'd write down what I saw/did and compare it to the itinerary. If it comes up short, then yes, put that in your letter to the company.

Posted by
75 posts

Hi Surfdog
No one else has mentioned this so I just wanted to add that it's difficult to compare tours between different years because they change the itinerary slightly from year to year.

Also from my understanding restaurants and minor stops between larger sites are at the discretion of the tour leader.

Posted by
4077 posts

One of the advantages of taking lower priced tours is that you have lower expectation. One of the reason I don't take RS tours is that I think I would feel that some of the hotels are not of the quality I would expect at that pricepoint.

Posted by
74 posts

Thank you for all of the thoughtful comments. For those who feel I am belaboring the point of shortcomings of our tour compared to other BOEngland tours, I am just trying to learn from others if my experience was unusual, or if it is normal for different editions of the same tour to vary a lot. The purpose of this thread was to praise Linda's scrapbook, and to solicit input from others who have taken the BOEngland tour after reading her report to determine if it was her tour that was unusually good, or just mine that was an anomaly.

True, Nick and Wray, when I posted my original report I began by praising the good points of the trip. It would have been unfair of me not to. There was a lot to like. Further into the report I mentioned what I felt were shortcomings. It was only after reading what happened on other people's BOEngland tours, however, that I learned just how much was omitted from our tour. And as another poster in another thread commented, the London itinerary of our tour was "an epic fail". Someone else said that, not I. Rachel is correct, there are great memories of great places seen and great people met. Diveloonie, you hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

Now for those who wonder if I have contacted RS headquarters and what, if anything was said. We have communicated. I expressed my disappointment in some aspects of our tour. The response to me was that feedback about my particular tour has been heard and led to much discussion internally. They assured me they take these things seriously and want me to trust that they are taking the right steps to address. I have asked for no concessions, rebate, future discount, nor have they offered any. None was expected.

Vandrabrud asked valid questions about just what I hope to gain by bringing the trip up again. I want nothing from RS. I do not want anyone to be fired. I do think someone should be talked to and queried about why our tour was shortchanged. I would like feedback from others who have taken the same tour to compare thoughts and experiences from the tour. Fewer people who have taken the same tour have commented than I had hoped.

Posted by
2445 posts

i would encourage you to state in your post that you are requesting only tour alumni of the Best of England in 14 Days tour to write on the thread. I was only trying to help promote understanding and will try not to engage in threads like this in the future. I have not taken this tour before so really my posts are irrelevant to your purpose.
Good luck, Surfdog!

Posted by
5311 posts

I do think someone should be talked to and queried about why our tour was shortchanged.

It sounds like you have communicated with the RS office, but I cannot tell if this was only via written communications. I would suggest that you should ask to speak by phone to one of the managers in the tour department and discuss all of your concerns and let them know what you think they should do in the future. If you want some sort of compensation, you should also be prepared to let them know.

I would not expect them to reveal whether or not they have discussed this with the tour guide or what actions they have taken. HR matters are between the company and their employee. If your performance at work were subpar, you certainly would not want your employer to share that information with other parties or post it on a discussion forum.

With regard to a couple of your concerns,

  • Are you sure Linda’s tour had more time at the tower than you did? I see no indication of the amount of time they had and it does not sound like they had a lot. The Tower opens at 9 or 10. She states, ”Today we toured the Tower of London and saw the Beefeaters, all retired military. Then on to a cruise on the River Thames. The afternoon was free ...”. I know that on many RS tours, I would have liked more time at a particular sight; this is definitely one of the downsides of taking a tour versus traveling independently.

  • Everytime that I have gotten a group photo on a RS tour, it has been initiated by a tour member. Someone passed a sheet around to get email addresses and the person who took the group picture sent it out. Sometimes tour members have handed a dozen or so cameras to a someone and asked them to take a group picture.

I am sorry that your tour did not meet your expectations; I just think that you probably won’t get closure until you completely air your concerns with a manager in the RS office. The result could be that you decide RS tours won’t be in your future and you find another way of traveling that is more fulfilling. Good Luck.

Posted by
978 posts

Everytime that I have gotten a group photo on a RS tour, it has been initiated by a tour member.

Ok, so this is a complete tangent, but on every RS tour I've been on the guide told us early on in the tour that she/he had a spot in mind for the group picture. When we were at said spot the guide said "we're taking our group photo here" and everyone who wanted piled their cameras by the person taking the shot. As I think back they were at places where we had local guides or a group lunch and so everyone including the guide was in the picture because someone not on the tour handled the cameras.

Posted by
914 posts

For group photos, I’ve experienced the email list described by Laura or the guide grabs bystander tourist to take a photo with a camera and she has prints made for everyone or guide says “you all take a photo here and give George your email if you want a copy.”

I don’t think there’s one single way it’s handled. So, yet another example of how something differs slightly tour to tour.

Posted by
470 posts

Not responding just to fuel the fire, but Surfdog is spot on in pointing out the discrepancies in tour experiences. Compared to the 2017 tour, our 2018 tour really was an epic fail. For example:

  1. No visit to see the training of fox hounds.
  2. No cricket match
  3. No Pudding Club
  4. No guided Cotswold walk
  5. No slate mine tour
  6. No Theater by the Lake. Time dependent. Do NOT take the first tours of the season if you want this.
  7. No leader- led excursions to a Railway museum and/ or cream tea
  8. No walking tour of London
  9. No group photos. On our 6 tours this has been initiated by the tour leader and 2 or 3 different locations/ photos were generated. Usually the tour leader gives us a copy at the final dinner. Sometimes it is emailed after the fact. Whether you think this is a big deal or not, it is part and parcel of the tour PR.

I commend Surfdog. As 2019 tours have opened and people begin to book, it is critical that you realize that “ not all tours are created equal”. RS tours are expensive, and you should probably view the scrapbooks and forum reviews as advertising instead of guarantees about what you will receive for your travel expenditure. I think the key is in the fine print you receive once you have paid for your tour.
“Tour itinerary is subject to change.”

Posted by
5311 posts

Travelingmom, I understand that you and Surfdog were both dissatsified and there were differences from prior tours. I just think that the only way to get closure on this is to talk to RS tour management. No one on this board can explain why there were differences.

Posted by
2445 posts

Given that a small percentage of RS tour participants even know about the forum much less write or read the posts here, these warnings are not reaching them. It has always been up to the buyer “caveat emptor” when making a decision to purchase something. I believe “itinerary is subject to change” is the key here. Apparently you have reported your disappointment to the RS office so I wonder why you keep picking at the scab on your wounds? They have had a lot of discussion internally in the office which may lead to more lengthy disclosures about the tours and what people can expect.

While I haven’t taken this tour, I have a friend who loved it.

My point here is better said with the words of Bob Dylan: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” if you continue to post here with the same issues about this tour. I recommend you move on and hopefully you can find another way to travel. Maybe an independent trip that you plan yourself?
Good luck!

Posted by
978 posts

They have had a lot of discussion internally in the office which may lead to more lengthy disclosures about the tours and what people can expect.

just curious about how you know this?

Posted by
13189 posts

Compared to the 2017 tour, our 2018 tour really was an epic fail. For example:

No visit to see the training of fox hounds.

”No cricket match

No Pudding Club

No guided Cotswold walk

No slate mine tour

No Theater by the Lake. Time dependent. Do NOT take the first tours of the season if you want this.

No leader- led excursions to a Railway museum and/ or cream tea

No walking tour of London

No group photos. On our 6 tours this has been initiated by the tour leader and 2 or 3 different locations/ photos were generated. Usually the tour leader gives us a copy at the final dinner. Sometimes it is emailed after the fact. Whether you think this is a big deal or not, it is part and parcel of the tour PR.

I took the Best of England tour in 2015 and acknowledge things change from year to year. I did not look at this scrapbook ( I have tons of my own pictures that I like to go thru) but thought I’d compare this list to what I found on my tour.

-Fox hounds
—>Did not do this on my tour

—>Did not do this on my tour

-Pudding Club
—>Have no idea what this is but we didn’t do it

-Guided Cotswold walk
—>I would characterize this as a led walk rather than guided. Guided to me means the guide does a spiel and really he just led the way on the footpaths and we went along with. We chatted with each other and Tom, the guide.

-Slate mine tour
—>Did not do this on my tour. I DID do the slate mine tour in 2013 on a Road Scholar tour of Wales and was glad not to repeat. I do understand that industrial heritage is part of a country but I, personally, find mines/woolen mills/quarries/ etc. boring. I know others find them fascinating so I either go along or find something else to do.

-Theater by the Lake
—>Did not do this. I traveled in Sept.

-Leader led visit to Railway Museum and/or cream tea
—>Did not do this

-Walking tour of London
—>I honestly don’t remember if we had a walking tour or not. I’d done a previous Road Scholar tour to London for about a week plus I’ve visited on my own a number of times and done a bunch of London Walks tours so things have sort of run together on this score.

-Group photo
—>I don’t remember on this either. What I do know is that on 10 tours I’ve never had a guide pass out photos at the Farewell dinner. I have generally had them emailed by another tour member.

One thing mentioned on the 2018 tour Trip Report is that your guide took you to Castlerigg Stone Circle. This was not an activity on my trip. I had researched ahead and knew I wanted to see this. I got directions from someone on the forum plus I went to the Keswick Tourist Information office and got a map and additional directions. On our free afternoon I walked up there on my own (it was before the flood that washed out the old converted railway line walking path), enjoyed the site and walked back to town in time to get to the Pencil Museum before it closed.

I had been reading the itineraries for several years before I booked this tour. In years prior to my trip there were stops at Blists Hill Victorian village or Ironbridge. Either would have been OK but my year we stopped at Stokesay Castle which I liked. Oh...just realized the tour provided scones and tea at the small Stokesay cafe which I guess might have been a cream tea? Since I’m vegan this was not of interest to me so I continued with the castle, gardens or shop -don’t quite remember how I used my time. (Also skipped the cream tea at Corfe Castle on the Southern England tour.)

Anyway, I treasured every moment on my tour. I learned so much and had an exceptional time even though my mix of activities differed from other years.

Posted by
16893 posts

A good reason for none of these listed items to be included in either 2015 or 2018 examples is that they're not part of the promised tour itinerary, which is spelled out before booking. Hopefully, everyone understands that. The theater is mentioned as a free-time option, but of course depends on the theater's schedule. Other free time options and extras can depend on factors such as availability (of dog trainer or cricket gear), weather, the mood of the group, the individual guide(s), and whatever else does or doesn't have to be dealt with on a particular tour. Our tours aim for consistency but also allow a level of personalization and testing different ideas. The suggestion to have tea together in York may have come from Liz or from the group, but it's not the type of thing I'd normally expect a guide to facilitate during free time in a city that offers so many options, including an awesome, free railway museum. "Free time" mostly means just that.

Linda's scrapbook has a very upbeat attitude and frankly not a lot of solid detail. She mentions some things that she did on her own without necessarily separating them. The Pudding Club implies that she had lunch or tea at a particular restaurant. The Slate Mine also could have been on her own. That's fine - it's her scrapbook. One person's "walking tour" could be another person's basic orientation, e.g. to the London Tube.

Of course, the London reservations and logistics were a planned change in 2018 versus earlier years. I expect this is the area where the 2018 tour member feedback has been most useful to the discussions the tour planners are having.

Posted by
4077 posts

Given that there were at least two tour members in 2018 that were dissatisfied with this tour, why do the reviews for 2018 include no reviews with less than 4 stars?

Posted by
13189 posts

"Given that there were at least two tour members in 2018 that were dissatisfied with this tour, why do the reviews for 2018 include no reviews with less than 4 stars?"

When a tour member does an evaluation they are given the option to allow it to be added to the online reviews or not. Perhaps they did not choose that option.

I have read lots of reviews for many tours and yes, I've found 3* reviews. I do see a 3* review on the first page of reviews for Best of England altho it is a more recent date than when I think this particular tour was.

Posted by
74 posts

Cala, I gave the tour 4 stars. Trying to be most fair because, after all, this IS the Rick Steves Forum.
Here is my criteria:
5 Stars- Great, fantastic, loved everything about it.

4 Stars- Lots of good, but some things could have been better.

3 Stars- S0 so. Some good things, about as many bad things. Probably not worth the price, but of some benefit.

2 Stars- Did not enjoy the trip. Bad outweighed any good. Definitely not worth the price.

1 Star- Do not waste time or money on this trip. Better off staying at home. You'll be sorry if you go.

Since I was just back home from the trip and still a bit "star struck" by the big adventure. Being fair, I still give it a 4 because I have many more good memories than bad. Its just that looking back on it from here I can see many things that could have and should have been better. But I wold never suggest anyone not take the trip. I would suggest, however, that the RS Team tweak this tour bit and improve it. I believe the post above from the Office Staff indicates that will indeed be done. That's all a person can ask for.

Posted by
4077 posts

Surfdog, thanks for answering my question.

Posted by
232 posts

It doesn’t appear that any of the “Extras” were things listed in the intinerary.
Did you miss out on any of the activities in the itinerary? Did you pay for anything you did not receive?
Do you know that all the extras she had were organized by the tour guide or were those things she did during her free time?

I’m Facebook friends with the two guides from our tours. This spring one posted a picture of his tour with little lambs. I showed my husband and said “We didn’t get to feed baby lambs!” He replied “It’s May. We went in late August. I’m no shepherd but I think lambs aren’t a year round thing”. Which is a long way of saying there might have been things that could be done on her tour that couldn’t have been done on yours because of the time of year, the day of the week, maybe they were available in 2017 but no longer are etc

Another possibility is the assistant guide. RS sends out folks from the home office to tag along on tours. Either for brand new guides or for guides who have been with the company for a long time to give them some connection to the home office. When we were on the HOI tour it was our guides first tour with RS. Someone from Edmonds came along to help her out and make sure things went smoothly. On our first afternoon in Cinqueterre he took a couple of us up to a little church overlooking the harbor. He’d been there before was going up to see it again and said people could tag along with him. It wasn’t a planned excursion just a casual thing. Now the people who went with our guide on that same trip the following year would not have had that experience.

Both tours I have been on had group photos that were taken by members of the tour and emailed to each other. Their group may have been a group that bonded faster than your group so they took a lot of group pictures. Our Italy tour had two serious photographers. They organized photos of the group a couple of times. Our Ireland group threw a picture together mid tour and didn’t take another.

As others have said, if dwelling on what you didn’t do is preventing you from enjoying the memories of what you did do you need to reassess.

Posted by
74 posts

Gretchen, yes, many of the things mentioned by others were extras provided by the tour guides out of the goodness of their hearts, or abundant enthusiasm or something. You also asked if there were any things paid for but not delivered. I did a copy/paste of things spelled out in the official itinerary or trip description which did not happen for us.

  1. In the Cotswold's, "join your guide for a leisurely country walk past cottages and sheep, through fields and kissing gates. " Nope.

  2. "Snowdonia National Park for a walk through some of the most gorgeous scenery North Wales has to offer." Went to Snowdonia, but no walk.

  3. "Tower of London (the first "skyscraper" of its time), where you can join a tour with a witty Beefeater and get a close-up look at the UK's majestic collection of crown jewels. " Sort of. We were given a total of two hours at the tower, including lunch if you wanted anything, which I did since I had last eaten an early breakfast in York. No way one can see the crown jewels and do a Beefeater tour in that amount of time, not to mention all the other amazing sights and collections available at the Tower, especially when you consider we arrived at Noon, peak tourist time, and had to meet outside at 2:00.

  4. "London panoramic bus tour" Nope. Look under "What's Included" for this.