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When do you get your hotel list for RS tours?

Hello everyone! I am considering making a reservation for my first group tour, and I am very interested in Rick Steves' tours of Spain. I think I've seen just about every episode of Rick's travel show, and I love his "no grumps" policy! I am a single guy in my early 50's and will be traveling solo (and paying the single supplement). From what I've seen and read I think I would get along really well with a typical RS tour group.

My concern is this: I have looked at several of the scrapbooks from past RS tours, and some of the rooms that solo travelers have gotten leave a lot to be desired, in my opinion. I remember seeing a room with a single bed that a tour member shared of her hotel in Venice. It looked like the type of room were a novice nun might sleep upon entering a convent. Not ideal for a 6'3" guy like me! Granted, some of the scrapbooks are from several years ago, and the hotels used on tour may have improved since then. I'm just a little worried that there are no hotels listed in any of the tour descriptions.

When do you find out where you will be staying on tour?

Posted by
929 posts

The hotel list usually comes out a month or two before the tour. The assignment of your room doesn’t happen until you’re arriving at each hotel as the tour progresses.

I think that hotel choices in general leave a lot to be desired for the most part on RS tours, in our experience on four tours. Although they are centrally located, etc - the beds, pillows, air conditioning and street noise aren’t priorities in the hotel selection. If I could combine the guides and transportation on the RS tours with better hotels and restaurant selections I think it would be golden. But we always know when we take a RS tour that these areas are going to be hit or miss.

Posted by
140 posts

The first and last hotel are provided with the tour confirmation email after paying the deposit. I recall the complete hotel list being released 30 days before the tour begins in the past and see it is the same for the 2022 tours I’ve signed up for.

I was on a tour a few years ago and a solo male let the tour guide know his room in one of the hotels wouldn’t work (similar reason you mentioned) and they were able to arrange a different room.

Posted by
206 posts

After many years of travelling in Europe as a single I always book a double or queen room for single use - gives you more space to move around aside from the larger bed. I find the extra cost is minimal. Maybe when you make your reservation with RS you could ask for this option, explaining why. I understand that generally hotels are now of a higher grade than some years ago but even so single European hotel rooms tend to remain on the small side.

Posted by
9821 posts

I have taken three RS tours and I agree that some of the hotels have a lot to be desired. I've also taken three tours with Odysseys Unlimited. Their hotels are wonderful and listed on their website.

Odysseys has a couple of tours in Spain. Also small group. On the tours I took, the groups got along better on the Odysseys tours than the RS ones.

You don't have to take the air/tour package with Odysseys. You can just pay for the our and make your own air arrangments. Just get in touch with them for prices.

Posted by
1006 posts

I've done 6 RS tours as a single and the rooms vary quite a bit. I think the percentage of actual single rooms with one smallish bed was pretty low. Some of the hotels/rooms were nicer than any I've even been in, a couple were adequate. I'm pretty low maintenance so I was good.

Posted by
5981 posts

Are you certain the tour you're interested in is available? I took a look and it seems like most Spain tours are "waitlisted".

I suggest you call the tour office and discuss your issues with them ahead of time. They dont always have the mid-tour hotels nailed down until late in the process. On the tours, the guides have been very accommodating, but they are somewhat limited by what the hotel has to offer, and that may not be known before each arrival. Rick says his primary criteria for selecting and recommending hotels is location near sights, not comfort.

Posted by
1167 posts

Rick says his primary criteria for selecting and recommending hotels is location near sights, not comfort.

I would also add that the ones on the tour are the less expensive places. We have booked our first hotel in Rome for the southern Italy tour and were advised by the hotel that we have chosen a nicer room than the one on the tour and will have to change rooms when we start the tour. That being said, having been on 3 RS tours we have not found the hotels particularly objectionable and some have been downright great. Odysseys stays at nicer hotels but sometimes some of the people on the tour are a bit more difficult to travel with.

Posted by
3426 posts

I’ve done 2 tours as a single supplement traveler. One in France and one in Switzerland. I always had a double bed in every room on the tour in France and almost always on the Switzerland tour.

I am quite confident that if you inform RS tours in advance about size concern they will do their best to accommodate you. The guides have quite a bit of leeway when assigning rooms and keep the needs of the travelers in mind. For example, in one hotel with a steep staircase, the couple with more mobility challenges was given a room on the lower floor.

I only had one occasion when I was not satisfied with my room. The hotel changed my room and the problem was solved. I have stayed n some very nice hotels on tours.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies! You've given me a lot to think about.

stan - the specific Spain tour I'm looking at for 2022 is Best of Barcelona & Madrid, which I believe still has open dates.

LIZinPA - your comment made me laugh out loud! I would say I'm an easy going guy, but now I'm Googling "Am I high maintenance?" Haha

mln - thank for sharing this! Glad to know that RS will try to accommodate their guests when they are able to.

lanlubber - thanks for the info! I like your idea. If I book a tour I'll reach out to the RS office and see what they can do.

Frank II and Mary - thanks for sharing your experiences with Odysseys Unlimited. I have also been looking Spain tours with Tauck. My concern is that if I go with a luxury tour company like Tauck - just for the fancier hotels - will I regret not having the RS "backdoor" experience? (Probably so.)

April - it's like you read my mind; if I could book my own hotels but still opt in for the RS sightseeing and meals I'd have my dream trip! But I suppose that would defeat the purpose of going on a group trip in the first place. Decisions, decisions!

Posted by
11 posts

Carol now retired - thank you so much for sharing this! You've put my long-bodied brain at ease!

Posted by
9821 posts

I am familiar with all three companies. I've traveled with two and have friends who were tour directors with Tauck. (I have also been a tour director so I see tours differently when I'm on them.)

Tauck is an excellent company but the average clientelle is older and gets the most pampering/handholding. A completely different animal than the other two. There will also be more people on the tour than the other two companies. They will have more "manufactured" experiences.

As for "backdoor" experiences, this is a marketing phrase. Here's a difference I noted. For a couple of tours, the places we went to overlapped. One was Siena. On the RS tour, our tour director, or as RS calls them--guides--was an American living in Italy and not licensed. She was not allowed to give us a city tour. Instead she suggested we follow the tour in the guidebook or on the RS app. We could listen to Rick Steves tell us all about the Paleo.

On the Odysseys tour, our licensed Italian tour director, was joined by a local guide who was born and raised in Siena and told us about her own experience with the Paleo.

On the RS tours I was on, the groups were friendly but seemed to break into cliques. On Odysseys, everyone got along and everyone mingled. I will say the people on the RS tour probably did more research about the area we were visiting than the people on the Odysses tour.

About hotels.....let me ask you a question.......after a long day of sightseeing.....do you want to return to a hotel where the mattress and pillow were both less than two inches thick (as I have experienced) or a hotel where you will get good rest?

You probably won't go wrong with the actual tour of either company. It really is individual as to your preferences. Look at both companies in detail and decide which described experience you might like best.

The other option you have, since you are looking at a tour that involves only two places, is to make your own hotel arrangements and take local tours.

Posted by
1006 posts

I think Frank ll's Siena experience on his RS tour is unusual.

My understanding is that Italy has strict guidelines for licenced guides, and I don't think it unusual that the main RS guide would not be licenced to give tours of every city/town visited. That said, I can't think of any city tour in 6 RS tours which was not given by an experienced local of the city.

Posted by
745 posts

" The specific Spain tour I'm looking at for 2022 is Best of Barcelona & Madrid."

I have taken that tour, although not as a single. As you know, that tour has only two hotel stops. When I was on that tour, we booked two extra days prior to the tour start in Barcelona and two extra days at tour's end in Madrid - at the same hotels the tour used. As time goes by (get the "Rick" connection?) hotels change. On our 2018 tour, the single supplement rooms were identical to the doubles as both hotels were of the "boutique" style. By the way, there is quite a bit of walking on that tour....and generous portions of wine. Que Bueno!

Posted by
1006 posts

And, as said above, there are only 2 hotels on the Barcelona/Madrid tour, so you will get the names as soon as you sign up because the first and last hotels on any tour are shared.

That was my first RS tour, and a great introduction.

Posted by
9821 posts

My understanding is that Italy has strict guidelines for licenced guides, and I don't think it unusual that the main RS guide would not be licenced to give tours of every city/town visited. That said, I can't think of any city tour in 6 RS tours which was not given by an experienced local of the city.

According to EU rules, as long as you are licensed somewhere in the EU, you can give tours anywhere in the EU. You don''t have to be licensed in every single city.

Posted by
912 posts

We've been on 2 tours and had no issues with the rooms, on top of which we aren't in there that much. My MIL single rooms were just fine. You could mention your height needs to them though.

Posted by
652 posts

Just my two Euro: I’ve camped and backpacked in every kind of weather and terrain. I don’t care what the room is like for one or two nights, it’s going to be better than a hail storm at 10,000 feet in the White Clouds of Idaho. Pay for the single supplement, enjoy the peace and quiet of your own room. You’re going to spend very little time in it anyway. On my Scotland tour, we had a young lady going no singl e and her accommodations really were substandard. All it took was asking the guide to check out her room and a better one was quickly found.

Posted by
1956 posts

I’ve been on 7 RS tours and never once did our guide tell us to use Rick’s audio app to tour a city or town. Frank II is reporting a highly unusual experience based on my 7 tours. I hope he reported it to RS in the post tour evaluation: Rick himself reads every one.
I have found the people on Rick’s tours to be very friendly even if there are some groups traveling together, they tend to mix well with the rest of us.
I agree with the comment to call the office and let them know of your needs.

Enjoy!

Posted by
9821 posts

I did report all of the problems on my evalution--the ridiculous mattresses and pillows, the mold in the shower, the bathroom so small I couldn't fit in it, the B & B owners who turned the heat off at night so the room went down into the 50's and they then overslept and forgot to turn the heat on so I had dress and shower in 50 degree temperature, and so on. I thought this would be useful information to get some hotel owners to raise their standards. Most tour companies want to know this information including the ones I have worked for.

Nope, all I got was banned from taking RS tours. But that's okay, I found Odysseys. They take the best of RS tours and then offer more. All for about the same price.

I realize I hit a nerve among those who are devoted to RS tours. If you haven' experienced another tour, how would you know if it was really the best.

Everyone's comfort level is different. If you don't really care, then fine accept what they give. But if you feel for the money you're paying it should be a little better, look elsewhere.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences; I really appreciate all the helpful info!

Of the tour companies I've looked at I like the RS Barcelona/Madrid itinerary the best, so that's probably the one I'm going with. Now I just need to pick a date. I'm an RN and I spent many months last year working on a Covid unit, I need a vacation!

Posted by
1294 posts

We are booked on the same tour September 2022 and I hope it isn’t canceled. Ours (9/25) is waitlisted the last time I looked. This will be our 4th RS tour. We only had one bad room out of the 4 tours. The room was a great room with French doors out to the garden. But, the shower ceiling was covered in mold. We should have asked for a different room but didn’t for some reason. When checking out I showed the room to the guide and he said we should have told him. I called the office once we were home and told them which room it was so they could alert their guides. We were not banned from future RS tours for doing so.
I’ve had single rooms in various countries and found them small but adequate.
My 6’ son traveled with us and his rooms were great on the 21 BOE tour. Hopefully you will be fine!
I agree that you should call the office about your needs and see what they can offer.
We already have our hotel list which we got with the tour confirmation email.

Posted by
77 posts

You don’t get banned simply for reporting a problem with a hotel room. Frank II care to share the rest of the story? Enquiring minds want to know?

Posted by
9821 posts

I wish I knew. All they said, when I tried to sign up for another tour, was that RS tours were not for me. Now, they did say I could take their city tours. But they wouldn't elaborate on anything else.

I wasn't grumpy and I got along with all my fellow tour mates.

Posted by
11 posts

It's a bit easier being a tall traveler these days, thanks to most airlines now offering Premium Economy and extra legroom seats. Now I'm just worried about beds. On my first trip to England back in the early 90s I had a room at a country inn that had a bed with a headboard and footboard. I practically had to fold myself in half just to get into it. My ex, whom I was traveling with, took a picture of me sleeping and called it Attack of the Dollhouse Furniture. :)

Posted by
4605 posts

TravelNurseNY, when we took this tour some years ago, the hotels were very nice. Now, we had a double room, and we're definitely low maintenance, but the Barcelona hotel is one of my favorite RS hotels ever - and we've taken 14 tours. We were at the HC Portal de l'Angel in Barcelona, and the Hotel Ópera in Madrid. We spent the pre-tour time at the Portal de l'Angel, but post-tour we moved to a smaller, funkier (cheaper) hotel. The Opera was nice, but didn't impress us as much as the Portal de l'Angel. That wasn't why we moved, though; I had made the reservations at a second Madrid hotel long before the tour started. We did end up eventually moving to yet a third hotel in Madrid; our funky, gritty hotel was a bit too ... ummmm ... commercial? Like, very friendly ladies on the sidewalk under our window being really really friendly to male passers-by?

And as LIZinPA said, you'll get your hotel list as soon as you're confirmed on a tour, since there are only two on this tour.

And I concur with those who suggest you get in touch with the folks in the office. They'll probably already know the hotels for any given tour date, and can steer you to a different date if the tour hotels can't handle your special request.

Posted by
263 posts

In our 6 RS tours, we have not had substandard rooms on any tour. Have we had ones that I wasn’t happy about? Sure, but not substandard. The one that took the cake was at the top of 4 flights of stairs and yet had another staircase to get from the bed to the bathroom. In the middle of the night, it was a challenge. Especially since the staircase wasn’t against a wall but floated in the middle of the room, curving up and out. Carved wood that was quite creaky and made me fearful of falling off it in the dark. A real experience!

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Jane. Thanks for sharing this info! Both of those hotels look great. If those are the type of hotel that RS is now using for the city tours I will be very happy, I'm sure. Thanks again!

Posted by
380 posts

We have had plenty of substandard rooms on our 7 tours (2015-2018). I define these as rooms which are dirty ( mold, rodent droppings), dangerous ( trip hazard holes in floor, steep spiral stairs with no hand rails, iffy electrical outlets etc), and/or too uncomfortable to get a good night’s sleep ( beds with mattresses so thin you can feel the wooden base and so narrow/ short that each of us could only fit part of our body in the bed, chain smokers right below the window you have to keep open because of the heat).
Having said all that, we will continue to do RS tours until we aren’t physically able to keep up.
We have always had local guides who shared from a personal perspective, found folks that weren’t part of the inevitable cliques, and often had a richer and more comprehensive experience than on our independent travel.

Most importantly, we want to support business models like RS that support inclusion and promote a global citizenship perspective. More now than ever, we are committed to “ voting with our dollars”, and RS truly “walks the talk”.
My best advice? If you have a problem, find a private time to talk to your tour leader. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, talk to the hotel front desk staff. We have found they will often give you a different room if they can.

Posted by
11 posts

TravelingMom! What a post! Thank you so much for your candid review. I was very impressed when I read how Rick had kept his staff employed during the shutdown last year. I think it's the inclusiveness that you mentioned that attracted me to RS tours in the first place. Thanks again for sharing!

Posted by
19 posts

What an interesting thread. Lots of info. My husband and I are scheduled to take our first ever trip to Europe with a RS tour next spring (fingers crossed). We are active and We really like Rick’s travel philosophy. But now I am a bit skeptical about what I’ve read about the thin mattresses in some rare cases. I wonder what if any precautions I could take to ensure a good nights sleep knowing that my lower back gets cranky from time to time. Ps I’m already working out in an effort to thwart off any back issues while traveling. Any advice would be appreciated, even air travel tips for an aging back.

Posted by
2466 posts

After 9 RS tours I can honestly say I’ve never had a mattress that interfered with a good nights sleep. These tours are active! Most nights I was so tired I could not get through one paragraph before falling asleep. I have a bad lower back, spinal stenosis, multiple discs, so I know about back pain. Many mattresses were stiff which I prefer. The rooms-some better than others. Overall the hotels have improved over the years. Most tours we took our daughter and she had a single room. We got to see all of those and they were fine. If you don’t like your room immediately speak up and they will make every effort to accommodate you.

Posted by
65 posts

I've been on 3 RS tours (paid the single supplement for all 3). On my VFR tour, I was assigned the attic room in our Venetian hotel which was awesome (but if you're 6'3", it would have been problematic as the roof sloped in certain areas and I had to stoop). On other tours, my room was more than adequate. I did not receive my mid-tour hotel information until about a month before my tour or so, but the joining and ending hotels were provided immediately. Overall, I would say that RS hotels tend to be average-above average, with some providing more amenities than others, but they all seem to exude great hospitality in general. I've only toured with G Adventures on previous European trips and PacSet on my Japan trips and I would say that the RS hotels were on par with them.

Posted by
28 posts

@cobiejacks - Of course I can only relate our personal experience which mirrors that of @Alan. We've been on 5 tours, all were multi-city, so maybe 20 different RS hotels? We have never had a problem. Some rooms were small, some were large, all were what we would judge more than acceptable, to even amazing. In every single case it really was location, location, location. Of course preferences are going to vary for every individual traveler, but in our case, the only deal breaker for us would be some Marriott/Hilton type hotel that felt like we were back in the states. (And we've never had one of those on a RS tour)

Posted by
1006 posts

The first of my 6 RS tours was in 2016.
I've heard that the hotel quality has improved since Rick and his customers have aged, so perhaps some of the thin mattress/dirty room complaints are from a while ago?

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks Alan I appreciate your feedback. My stubborn back does benefit from a harder mattress so your comment about firm beds helps me. Also you’ve confirmed our thoughts about the fact that most likely we will be so spent from a wonderful/active day of touring that we will effortlessly fall into bed and get rested before our next day’s adventure. We are getting excited about our upcoming trip!

Posted by
4705 posts

I've stayed in ten hotels over two RS tours as a single, and never had a bad room. Some better than others, all smaller than what we're used to in the US. I'm 6'1" and I don't recall any too-short beds or moldy bathrooms or secondhand smoke. Some required a flight or two of stairs (but not to the bathroom thank goodness). All very well located for sightseeing. I second Jane's praise for the Portal de l'Angel in Barcelona, you'll be lucky if you get that one.

Posted by
1956 posts

I’m adding my experiences with rooms on 7 RS tours, all average or above average in comfort and quality. Never a room with unacceptable conditions mentioned above in other comments. For 3 tours, I had a private room and the other four times I shared a room with friends twice and twice with strangers RS assigned me.

The hotel in Vienna on the Berlin Prague Vienna tour did not have AC and we melted in the 95+ degrees in July. We had a fan in our room which helped but I do hope RS removed that hotel from their tours. This hotel likely would have been fine in the days before climate change as the summers in Europe have become so much hotter.

I would say this is the only negative experience I’ve had with the hotel rooms on the tours.

Posted by
75 posts

Like a prior comment said you get the first and last hotels with your tour confirmation after posting the $400 deposit, which by the way is fully refundable through 12/31/21 this year. The tour office might be able to tell you what tour departure dates, if any, they could put you on as a single. Then you could research those two hotels to see if they look good to you, or if not cancel. On a tour you have no control over the specific room, the tour director will just hand you a key and room number. I've had a mix of great, good, and disappointing rooms, but the hotel location is always good. In Barc we slept at a good hotel in the Gothic Quarter, and in Madrid at a fair hotel at the Puerta del Sol. Both were very centrally located, in neighborhoods loaded with bars/restaurants, and perfect to spoke out and explore each city during the day(s). But if you end up doing a DIY trip, you can more easily control your room selection on booking.com or similar website by reserving an upgraded room or a room with a view or balcony. Good Luck!

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences! I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys reading these first-hand reports. Much appreciated!

Posted by
1545 posts

Chiming in to offer the names of the Spain hotels from my Best of Spain tour, in case they're helpful (not sure if they're even still used) - NH Duc de la Victoria (Barcelona) and Hotel Europa (Madrid). Both had normal sized beds, but I'm more than a foot shorter than you, so...grain of salt :) I have been on four RS tours as a single (sometimes sharing) and have experienced the occasional tiny room, but even the couples at those hotels had very close quarters.

I ditto the suggestions to tell the RS people when you sign up for the tour that you are a tall person - the guides do their best to accommodate you. And if you go early and reserve at same hotel, sometimes they'll keep you in the same room for the tour if you ask politely. Just tell the hotel when you're booking (and again when you arrive).

Posted by
57 posts

Travelingmom, sounds like you stayed in a certain hotel in Bath I stayed in. Nice staff, great kitchen, but paper thin beds. I understand that hotel is no longer used by RS.

Posted by
1 posts

Just a note about Hotel Europa in Madrid. First of all, their front desk staff is great. Having said that, we arrived from Los Angeles truly jetlagged and in need of some sleep. The desk staff seemed to think that we wanted a front room with a view of the Plaza del Sol. If you are a light sleeper, or are enough past being a "Madrid cat" (clubbing and drinking till 3a.m. or so) you probably DON'T WANT a front room there. The view was great, but the street entertainment goes on very late and loud. This is frequently followed by groups of university students and/or other folks on their way home under the misapprehension that their singing will get them on "Spain's Got Talent.". During the week we were there there was also one fight in the Plaza necessitating the policia. After 2 nights the front desk staff took pity on our bloodshot eyes with the blobby bags underneath them and found us a room in the back. Although somewhat smaller, it was quiet, cool and the bed and linens comfy and spotless. The restaurant is good and the location great: Plaza del Sol is centrally located and has a metro stop right there. They LIKE RS travelers there. I've been on 2 RS tours after actual years of hubby and I using his books to travel independently. I've never had a bad hotel room. What I have had is a Cinque Terre room whose shutters opened out to Mediterranean view. A gorgeous room in Volterra. A fun and funky room in Florence where the hallways led you up and down with plenty of objets d' arte to look at on the way. A delightful room in Rome with some of the best coffee ever for breakfast. Portugal with guide Fatima Bugarin had us in a cosmopolitan hotel in Lisbon, and one in another city that was practically built into a wall around the city with a key that looked medieval, with a huge tassel to boot. I wasn't so much worried about the quality of the sheets, for example, but instead remember this hotel putting out a buffet for us on their rooftop terrace, playing music for us as Fatima came out dressed in Renaissance costume and got a lot of us dancing, even the awkward single guy who became much less awkward after this breakthrough. On the day we visited the cork farm I remember having lunch at the table with the farms owners mother, who coincidentally was the one who cooked our lunch. In an out building they converted to a dining hall just because Rick kept sending so many travelers their way. Rick and Company have spent so many years and so much effort establishing relationships with places that often they will offer his tours things that cannot be had by other companies. With these things may come an occasional "oops" room. But previous posters have stated--and I agree-- a word to your guide during the trip is better than saying nothing and getting nothing fixed. But even some inconveniences don't compare with--for example-- getting to paint your own tile in a Portuguese pottery factory that has been around hundreds of years and RS &Co has formed a relationship with them so his travelers get to do this. This type of activity/insight is why I enjoy his tours, in addition to appreciating his travel philosophy. I'm taking my goddaughter to London on one of his tours next September and know we'll have some unique times there. Kudos to Rick and his lifetime of work from this former AFS foreign exchange student now on Medicare. I get it, Rick.

Posted by
11 posts

Snuzequeen! What a delightful post! Thanks for painting such a wonderful picture of your RS Tours; I can almost feel that tasseled key in my hand! After reading your post I was ready to pack a bag and head to the airport. Is it 2022 yet?! :)

Posted by
30 posts

We have signed up for our first RS tour for next March. Reading some of the descriptions of rooms that everyone has offered I realize that accommodations may be homey. That said, I'm not too worried. It's all part of the travel experience. Besides, we don't spend much time in our rooms when we travel since I always have a list of things to do/see.

Of course, we are not tall.