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What About Your Tour?

Saw TMJ's thread regarding "Did You Train For Your Tour". There were lots of good responses to that but, I have another question along with that thought. I posted a thread a couple weeks ago similar to TMJ's. Just wondered if you have been on a RS tour where you had one or more tour members that were not able to keep up with the tour. How was that handled by the tour guide, and also by the other tour members? I'm sure there are people who think they are fit enough to do a tour with several strenuous days (8 miles plus) but, soon find out they can't keep the pace with all the hills, steps, etc. Just wondered how it affected your tour. Did it slow the pace of your tour and then cut short time at some sites or cause any other problems?

Posted by
10344 posts

Perhaps the RSE folks that kindly monitor this forum will share with us some of the guidance given to RSE tour guides for dealing with this kind of situation?

Posted by
14157 posts

Oddly, the tour where people had the hardest time keeping up was on the Best of Paris week. There were several people who opted out of activities as they felt they were too much. They took a cab back to the hotel or just opted out of the whole activity (Versailles). I was sort of surprised as there were also a number of people who were sick on that tour and stayed in the hotel for a day.

On the Best of Europe tour I fell behind as we walked up the hill to the castle in St Goar. Some took the tram up. I chose to walk and went uphill slower than the walking group. I felt really bad because they stopped about halfway to wait. I suggested they go on, but Dimitri, the guide said no problem we had plenty of time. (and really I could not have gotten lost!) Going down hill afterward was no problem and we were on free time by then anyway. I did not fall behind any other time. Some people on the tour had problems with stairs and I noticed the guide was speaking quietly to them when we were going to encounter stairs. In touring the Roman Forum a couple of people went ahead while we listened to the local guide so they could have more time to climb the stairs at the end. I don't think most of the group noticed but I happened to be standing near the stairs and noticed. The guide was so excellent in managing this unobtrusively.

On my first tour, Heart of Italy, my SIL had been sick the days before the tour started and was still feeling yucky the first evening we met up. This was the walk from the Parthenon to Piazza Navona and back then on to dinner. The guide saw SIL was flagging and pulled her aside and suggested she sit in a sidewalk cafe as we were coming back that way and could pick her up. She and I took a cab home from the restaurant instead of walking and taking the Metro home with the rest of the group.

In my experience with the RS tours, mostly people are able to keep up and have a pretty good grasp on their abilities.

I did NOT find this to be true on the Road Scholar tours I have taken. On the international ones there were people in both groups that underestimated their abilities. On those tours there is an instructor who does the guiding and there is a leader who is the organizer/assistant. In both instances the leader would stay back with the people who were really too slow for the group. In one group, one person was so unable to participate that finally the leader would find a bench for this person to sit as soon as we got off the bus and then the group would move off to continue the tour. I could tell the leader was very exasperated with this person altho she tried very hard for it not to show. It would literally take 10 minutes for this person to get down the steps to get off the bus which did slow things considerably as she did not wait until everyone else got off the bus before she made her attempt. It was also upsetting to the bus driver as there were some areas he had only a short amount of time he was allow to stop and off load passengers.

On any tour people pay quite a bit for their experience and want to get the most out of it possible. To me, I felt embarrassed the time I was slower than everyone but realized when we got there we had a timed entry so I did not make the walking group miss out on anything. I would say they waited for me for 5 or 6 minutes. I guess perhaps that was 5 minutes they didn't spend in the gift shop! It was aggravating in the extreme with the person on the Road Scholar tour.

Posted by
2252 posts

I'm agreeing with Pam's assessment about the way this issue could be handled by the RS guides and the other tour participants. A tour member opting out of an activity is ALWAYS an option (so to speak!) and as far as a guide suggesting a member has taken on something beyond his/her capabilities, if it happened on any of the tours I have been on, it was handled privately, unobtrusively and successfully. None of those tours were in any way adversely affected by a member who was unable to "keep up" or otherwise participate in the activities. I like your suggestion, Kent......

Posted by
1579 posts

I realize you asked about RS, but I thought I'd chime in about my experience on my China tour. We were the youngest couple on the tour (42 that year) and wondered how it would go.

There was really only one woman who couldn't keep up (and it was an exhausting itinerary). She ended up in an argument with her friend she was traveling with who had begged her to do some training prior to departure.

There was a 78 year old who nobody could keep up with! She did laps around the bus at every rest stop. The funny thing was that on the plane over she had taken a pill and was still out of it when we landed in Beijing. She left a bag on the plane, so we all had to wait for the entire deplaning so she could retrieve it. We were all grumbling thinking this was the way it would be for the whole tour. Nope, once that pill passed her system she was a live wire.

The guide was really kind to the woman who couldn't keep up; really treated her as if she was his grandmother. It didn't impact our touring all that much.

Posted by
2453 posts

On our RS tour last year, a member of our tour group took a bad spill a day before the tour started. Our tour guide got her medical help on the first day of the tour. It turned out that she had broken her hand and her foot. The local doctor put heavy plaster casts on her hand and foot. As her hand was injured, crutches were out of the question. She had an option of leaving the tour or soldiering on until the next city where airplane transportation was available. She chose the latter. This lovely lady managed to keep up with our group, did not slow us down one bit and actually completed the entire tour. Whenever we were on foot, the group was always on the lookout for places for her to sit whenever we stopped walking. She only opted out of one walk on the tour as it was raining and the walk was slippery. This lady and her husband were awesome and the tour group, guide and bus driver really stepped up to the plate. Kudos to all who were on that tour.

Posted by
469 posts

I have a stupid question about the walking part of the tours: what if it's raining? I know, the guy from Seattle is worried about rain, right? But I'm curious what happens if it's pouring.

Posted by
2453 posts

If it's raining, the walking part of the tour goes on as planned. We encountered biblical rain at Plitvice National Park where the pathways were completely flooded and we had to walk through deep puddles and streams that were overflowing the pathways. Needless to say, we had very wet feet and had to use the hotel blow dryer to dry our shoes after the walk. Luckily for my husband and I (and a few others on the tour), we brought rain ponchos with us so were able to stay pretty dry.

Posted by
7389 posts

I'll answer the rain question - funny, since I'm from Seattle, too.

Just the same as when you're traveling by yourself. During the RS trip, the guide usually gives you forewarning at breakfast that it might be a rainy day. You put on a raincoat or carry an umbrella, and the tour continues. We noticed when it started raining that several umbrella sellers would suddenly show up.

Posted by
31 posts

I'll chime in regarding rain. On our Eastern Europe tour our group walked across the Chain Bridge in Budapest during a horrific electrical storm! We were all pretty well prepared with rain gear, but most of us got wet to some degree. The wind was blowing and it was raining pretty hard. A couple of ladies opted out of that walking tour, but I was glad I persevered, as the sun came out after an hour or so and it turned out to be a beautiful day.

We have done 6 RS tours and have not encountered any serious problems with people not being able to keep up. On one tour there was a man who walked with a bad limp. He would often fall behind, but not so much as to hold the group up for more than a few minutes. We have been on tours with people who have had sprained ankles, back, foot or knee issues, and those who at some point in the tour have been sick. They all just seem to keep on going,
with few complaints.

Posted by
8586 posts

Tony, we had one person who could not manage all the walking. Our stops were all in cities, so she often chose to stay at or near the hotel rather than go on the scheduled sights that day. No impact on the rest of the group.

Posted by
2788 posts

We have been on 12 RS tours (soon to be #13-Bulgaria next month) and we can not remember any person who we would have considered to be "unable to perform". We have had several folks who have chosen not to participate in some days activity, including me once skipping out of an all day hike. I tend to stay near the guide since I am hard of hearing and wear hearing aids so that keeps me from ever falling behind. During the first days get-together on one tour we saw a tour member who was short and round and we commented that they may have picked the wrong tour. Well, turns out that person lead the group time and time again so we no longer make those judgements any more.

Posted by
180 posts

I was on one tour where we had an older couple who never should have been on a rick steves tour. They were just physically not able to keep up and not sure why they took it. It could have been worse and luckily we has an assistant guide who was at the end of the group who could wait for them as we walked. At some places the couple wouldn't go through the place and just wait at the entrance.

I remember one day the wife stayed at the hotel.

The only good thing is we were walking to the train station but the guide had gotten two taxis to deliver our luggage and he used the older couple to ride in each taxi with the luggage so at least one person was with each taxi and the pile of luggage. They wouldn't have been able to walk to the train station anyway.

The assistant guide told us you can't go by age. She said she and the main guide were going through the list of tour members and one man was older and the main guide was worried. The assistant guide knew him as he had been on a lot of rick steves tours and said the younger people had trouble keeping up with this guy

Posted by
2252 posts

Here is a part of an email I received from Rick's office this morning in preparation for my upcoming tour to Italy:
"We fill each day with an exciting plate of activities to give you maximum value for what you’ve paid. (It’s my philosophy that a Rick Steves tour should leave its participants happily needing a few days to rest after the tour is over.) One problem you’re likely to face is that your guide is so good, you’ll want to take part in every activity he or she offers. Pace yourself and get plenty of rest. You have my permission to opt out of any anything that’s beyond your comfort range. Be open and proactive with your guide, and he or she will happily accommodate your needs.

I have always found this policy to be the one under which all the guides operate.

Posted by
21 posts

I've only done one RS tour, but the email above is so true! Your days are full even with "just" the guided tours. I'd be resting post-tour if my kids would let me. :)

My experience is that the guide does a wonderful job of accommodating those who might not be able to keep up on their own--looking for elevators or alternative entrances, doing perhaps more frequent buddy checks, and suggesting someone take a taxi if they prefer. And, of course, making sure everyone knows the activities are optional, save getting from one city to another. As far as I know, none of our agenda was affected by those who had a harder time with the activity level.

That said, I would not book a tour knowing that I couldn't keep up. The better shape you are in, the more you will enjoy the tour. I wrote elsewhere that the walking turned out fine for me (up to 12 miles a day, since I did a lot of exploring during my free time), but I wished I'd worked more on steps at home. The sights weren't a problem, but it was a bummer being winded every time I wanted to get to my room--once, seven flights of stairs up!