Thanks, everyone! Your responses have been very helpful!!
Based on all of the input that we have received, I have just booked the July 17, 2016 tour. That will start us out in Stockholm on July 17th and end in Bergen on July 30th.
We are still working out how many days to go early and how many days to stay late depending on the ‘must sees’ for Stockholm on the front end and the ‘must sees’ for Bergen on the back end.
I don’t mind splitting things and spending 3 days up front and 4 days on the back end, etc. The determining factors will be what we want to see in each of those locations. It looks like Stockholm has a lot to offer beyond what has been included in the tour. One option we are considering is to spend all the 7 extra days up front, rent an AirBNB in Stockholm for a week and just live like a local until our tour starts on the 17th. Another option would be do just go 3-4 days early in Stockholm to allow us to have more time in Bergen at the back end. That second option would allow us to do the Norway in a Nutshell tour as a multi-day event via a round trip tour from Bergen — storing our luggage at the last hotel or train station. (We live in New England and have traveled many times to islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. On trains and ferries it is even more important to travel light and keep your hands free so I appreciate the advice to take only a backpack. We had the same advice on our Rick Steves BOE in 21 Days tour when we went to Venice due to the canal journey and all of the stairs for the walking bridges. It was smart to be suitcase free!)
I am a huge photography buff and am going to bring my DSLR camera on this trip. I left my ‘big camera’ at home for the BOE/21 and really regretted it. In fact, I just bought the new Nikon D810 as a present to myself for completing my Masters. I wanted to get used to that new camera before our trip so decided to buy it now.
I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts regarding the pre- and post-trip itinerary. We bought our Rick Steves Scandinavia guide early and are reading it from cover-to-cover to help point us in the right direction. But, I find people’s actual experiences the most helpful!