I am looking at booking the BOE 14 day tour as my first experience traveling to Europe. The price is at the top of my budget, so what would you suggest as an alternative tour that is a little less expensive? Thank you..
Have you considered one of the 7-day city tours? Our first RS tours were the Paris and London city tours done back-to-back. You can stay in one hotel, unpack, and get a bit more exposure to an area than you would on a tour that moves on every day or two.
I'm going to answer the question in your title and not the one about alternative less expensive tours. We took the 21 day BOE tour in 2003, and it was exactly the best thing to do for a first time in Europe....for both my husband and me. For him because he got to see the highlights of Europe, and he's not been back, and for me because I got the overview and decided I needed to go back to see more and do more in specific areas. It also gave me the travel skills, knowledge and confidence to go back alone 6 times since then, including 10 days prior to an 8 day tour of Barcelona and Madrid.
I totally believe the cost is well worth it, and you'll want to go back.
We did the Venice-Florence -Rome tour as our first. Chose it because we had been to Europe before, several times, and wanted to concentrate on the best of one country. No regrets. We enjoyed every minute of it. I will say that if you are comparing costs by only looking as the tour providing hotels, transport, and half your meals, you're not counting all the benefits. The tour saves you tons of time by having all the logistics worked out - parking, museum tickets, shortcuts, etc. That allows you to make the best use of your time. Not to mention the guides, who can explain everything, help solve problems, and help with recommendations for your free time, and the companionship of your fellow travelers. We figure the same level of experience done independently would have cost us more in money and time.
We've done another since, and looking at another this year.
I agree with what Stan wrote; on your own you can't duplicate what the RS tour covers in the same amount of time. On my first RS tour the guide told us that their goal was to deliver an overall experience that cost about the same as if you did it on your own. I don't know if they still say that, but for the RS tours we've been on I'd say to do it on your own would indeed cost what they charge or more.
But there is something else that concerns me. When you say "The price is at the top of my budget" are you taking into account the additional costs of going on the tour? Half the dinners are on you, as are all lunches, wine or other alcoholic beverages at dinner are not covered by RS at most meals, plus expenses during your free time. There is a range you can choose, from extravagant to ultra-budget, but know that the tour price is not all-inclusive.
You could go on your own accompanied by Rick Steves books for each country, a Eurail pass, and stay in people's homes for free who are found on www.couchsurfing.com which is what a young German student we know has done. Rick's books and the itinerary from Rick's tour can give you the itinerary and Rick's books explain and map where things are, great details about public transport in each area so you can use that (public transport is excellent in Europe), and even ideas on good places to eat. If you can't afford to buy the guudebooks, check them out of the library. Couchsurfing enabled our friend to travel all over Europe, Canada, the USA, and Central America with no hotel costs. You will stay in European homes with Europeans and most will feed you too. Choose people who are verified and contact them through Couchsurfing. Essentially, if you couchsit (not just couches but beds and spare rooms), you have no cost for your room and if you borrow the RS books from the library and use public transport, you can travel VERY cheaply using Eurail, local transport, and cheap but filling meals. You'd need to pay for meals, transport, and your Eurail pass plus entry into the sites you want to see. Rick's books will be your tour guides. Also, in many places there are free tours or you can hear what the tour guides are saying to their groups.
My first RS tour was Heart of Italy which was a lot of fun. I went with my brother, SIL and their 2 20-something sons and we chose this one because the older nephew could only take 2 weeks off work, so with the tour length plus a couple of days before this worked best time-wise for us. It was the first time we had all been to Italy and it was fantastic. The RS guide, Trina, was amazing. The other group members were interesting and fun.
HOWEVER, I took the 21 day BOE last Fall and it was unbelievable. Really, I loved every minute of every day. I think about that tour every day! It is hard to explain that I have really enjoyed every RS tour I've done, but this one was over the top fun. If you can swing it financially, go for the 14 day. If you can't, do another one and save the 14-day for later. You will love it.
I have read your postings on your 21 day BOE trip and they were very inspiring and informative. I have decided to go with the 14 day BOE trip despite having to squeeze my pocketbook a little. I remembered when I went to Thailand in 2013, I met my brother, who lives in Bangkok, and they showed me around but what I remember the most are the tours I went on by myself, and the people I met and how much I loved being with them. Very memorable. I feel that this is best way for me to be introduced to Europe, so I am inspired to return over and over again. I have to thank everyone who gave me their thoughts and input on my first adventure solo trip to Europe...it is so appreciated!
Linda, you can save some money depending on the time-of-year that you fly. Of course, weigh that against the number of hours of daylight to maximize your experience. Also, the price of your lunches & dinners on your own for half of the meals can vary a lot depending on what type of restaurant, menu items you select. We like to explore local grocery stores or markets for our lunch which saves both money & time.
You've selected an excellent choice as your first experience for traveling Europe!
Thanks for the kind words!
In addition to what Jean says about time of year, day of week can make a difference. I don't know if the 14 day always leaves on the same day of the week, but if you can work it so you fly on a Tuesday it may be less expensive for you, but that adds an extra night or two to your overall costs. I do recommend you get there a couple of days ahead of time.
I think Rick suggests you figure $50/day for meals not covered by the tour plus other expenses. I did figure this in to my budget, but I wound up spending between $35 and $40 a day total (I think it was $37 but don't remember for sure). I did every extra my guide offered including chair lift/cog train transport in Switzerland on our free day, some extra dinners and the gondola in Venice and that was included in my total daily expenditures. I hope you can add those in to your budget! I also found I could eat pretty cheaply for lunch in many places and a time or 2 I was so tired I just had left over fruit and rolls for dinner.
The wonderful thing about the RS tours is that the guides are so good about teaching you how to get around! It will be a great foundation for future travels. You are going to have SO much fun!
I'm not trying to be a naysayer here, but I think you can indeed experience the sights of an RS BOE tour for less money.
That being said, if this is your first trip to Europe, I think the RS BOE tour is a wise investment. I took that tour about 8 years ago, and learned so much about the ins and outs of European travel that I've since been there many times on my own (to Ireland, England, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Ukraine) and have done so very economically, while staying in accommodations that are slightly better than those offered on the tours.
The RS tour gave me the confidence to realize that independent travel is my preference.
My first RST was Turkey. Why? Low price and exotic.
Maybe a my-way tour would fit into your budget better. We went on the BOE 14 days, and it was fantastic!!!!!!!! We would 100% recommend and it is worth every penny. www.RIcksteves2013.weebly.com
I will say that we budgeted for 100 dollars a day (combined for the both of us 50 US dollars a person) We came home with about 100 euros left. This included our meals, souvenirs and additional costs. So you can still stay on a budget. On days we didn't spend much we spent on other days! Enjoy!!!
Well, I haven't been YET....but in 46 days we will be leaving for our first ever RS tour (BOE 21 day) and actually our first European trip ever. We chose this tour because we felt it would give us a good overall exposure to Europe. I hate to say it but I'm already looking into what our next tour will be and we haven't even left the country!
We have been on two RS city tours. These are less expensive, and they fit our travel style better. We like to get to know an area and not travel around too much.
Glad to hear you are taking a BOE tour. My first trip to Europe was in 2001 when I took RS 21 Day BOE Tour. A very quick overview of many countries and not stopping any one place long. The guide said that the tour would be providing us with a quick overview and we should be making good notes about what we were seeing so that we could come back later to see those places that interested us the most. I remember him also saying that lots of us will be coming back. Well, I have gone back 12 of the last 13 years and have taken 12 RS tours, one each year. I am currently signed up for #13 this coming June. Happy travels. aloha charlie
My first tour was the Rome city tour. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I must admit that it spoiled me. The guide had at least one little extra a day. Sometimes it was a break at a gelato shop or a special lunch treat, or sampling Italian liquors. The people were just fun to be with and the discoveries and accidental goofs were a learning experience.
My first Rick Steves tour was quite a while ago-7 day Prague City Tour. We took it for the same reasons Ilja took hers-a week in an "exotic" destination and the price was right! Sadly, they aren't offering that particular tour any more. It was an eye opening and absolutely wonderful experience! I have more recently taken 2 different off season RS tours-Nice (Feb. 2014) and Sicily (Feb. 2013). Those prices can't be beat.
I booked my BOE 14 day tour for Sept 28th-Oct 11 and I'm so excited! I do have a question about flying out of Rome. The tickets are super expensive. Do most of you fly out of another airport? I am going to spend a few days in Amsterdam coming in on Sept.23rd and taking a train to Paris to meet with my tour group. I was thinking of flying back to Amsterdam from Rome because the flights out of Amsterdam are so much cheaper to Portland, OR. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on these plans? Thank you.
I'm responding to your question just above, the original post. The advantage of flying from PDX to AMS is that it is non-stop. I believe it is the only flight from Portland directly to Europe so we try to use it. You could book round trip PDX/AMS and then add a flight from Rome to Amsterdam, but based on my minimal research just now it won't save money over flying open jaw PDX to AMS outbound, and Rome to Portland on the return. Have a great trip.
I have decided to go PDX to AMS and have a flight booked round trip. I will get a flight from Rome to Amsterdam on Oct 11th and fly out on Oct 12th to Portland. It was much less to do it this way rather than Rome to Portland. I have stop overs but I'm okay with that considering the price difference. Thank you for reaffirming my choice.
We usually do what you're doing-non-stop round trip and then have flights within Europe. Actually, this year we are doing an open-jaw for the first time. It sounds like a great trip.
I did a Paris city tour solo and really enjoyed it. I travelled off season and that was a bit cheaper which helped out. I think it was February or March and we had some really cool days but I was prepared for that. I have returned to Paris may times since then by mysrelf and with friends.
Go for it.