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Your favorite tip for newbies!

Hi!
Have really enjoyed reading all of the forums the past few weeks as we prepare for our first Rick Steves' tour.
We are excited beyond words as we pack.
Do you have a favorite tip for us??
Thank you!!
Mary

Posted by
2426 posts

Pack your bags a couple of weeks ahead of time and spend time with them. Walk a couple of blocks, carry them up a couple of flights of stairs. If it's heavy start paring back. After 5 RS tours I've gotten it down and now carry less than half of what I did that first time.

Posted by
845 posts

As far as clothing items are concerned, just take your favorite clothes that you wear all the time, don't buy special travel clothes. And if you're not sure if you need it, you won't. Leave it at home. Make sure your shoes are comfortable, supportive and broken in, and that you wear good socks. Carry a couple of moleskin patches in your bag at all times - if your shoes start to rub, put moleskin on the sore spots so they don't become full blown blisters.
Which tour are you taking? More specific suggestions can be made depending on where you will be during your tour.

ETA: I see from your other post that you're going to Greece. It's likely to still be quite warm there. Are you from a warm-weather location or used to traveling in warm weather?

Posted by
8061 posts

Which tour are you going on? There may be different advice based on the tour.

Plan to sit with diffrent people at meals if you can. Take a copy of the tour roster with you to the first meeting and jot down some notes to help jog your memory on names.

Agree with the packing tips too!

Posted by
1791 posts

Wear comfortable shoes and casual clothes, do not stress about fashion. Bring basic items in neutral colors that can be coordinated and mixed and matched. I find scarves help me feel that I am well-dressed and not so bored with wearing the same items over and over. Packing light is essential and is not something that is first nature to me, I have had to learn on each trip. I suppose there is always room for improvement.
Have fun and savor the experience and don't sweat the little stuff. If you forget to bring something, don't worry you can find it over there.

Happy travels,
Judy B

Posted by
518 posts

Do a little homework on the destinations you'll be visiting, for example and at a minimum, look up the towns in Google Maps, maybe even check out the hotel location via the Street View function on that site. Learn a little about history and culture. Despite being on a guided tour, this bit of research will go a long way towards your own experience and appreciation of the destinations and also help you get around much easier during free time.

Posted by
3444 posts

Agree 100% with Pam regarding sitting with diffrent people at meals and on the bus. Her advice about having a copy of the tour roster and taking notes to help with names is spot on. Most importantly, stay flexible -- things don't always go according to plan. So just go with the flow.

Posted by
1047 posts

I recommend you down load the app "City Maps to Go Pro" by Ulmon. You can download every city you will be visiting. The app does not use any of your data. You can use it with your cellular data turned off. It accesses all the WiFi sites in the city whether they are locked or not. It then locates you on the map and places a dot on the map. As you move, the dot moves. You can enter any address on the map and it will place a star on the map at that location. I downloaded all the city maps for our tour and then addresses for the hotels. I always knew where I was and it allowed me to cover more distance as I didn't have to worry about getting lost and I always new the shortest way to get to where I wanted to go.

What tour are you going on?

Posted by
1044 posts

Bring a "Tide to Go" stick to instantly remove spots so you don't have to launder something if you drop a bit of food on it.
The Greece tour has a lot of WOW moments. Expect to have a really great time!
Pack light.

Posted by
208 posts

Arrive a day early if you can to get acclimated. Have really comfortable shoes - I like to have two pairs so I can rotate them. Comfortable, easy-to-take-care of clothes. Don't take too much! Walk a lot before the trip.

Be friendly with everyone on the tour - sitting with different people is a great idea. If you're going as a couple, ask some of the singles to join you sometimes. I noticed on my last trip (several couples, and a lot of single women either traveling solo or with a female relative) that the couples seemed to go off by themselves and the single women grouped themselves in various configurations. That's fine and we all had a great time, but mixing it up a bit more would have been fun too!

Think about what you might like to do during your free time. The guide will point out possibilities as you go along, but any research you do ahead of time will be worthwhile. In your conversations with other group members, see what they plan to do - you might like their ideas better than your own! One thing I liked about the two tours I've taken is that there was a good balance of group activities and free time.

Relax and have fun!

Posted by
1068 posts

For a RS tour, I'd say "Relax, go with the flow and be open... you will enjoy it!" To someone traveling for the first time not on a tour, my advice: It takes a lot longer to get between places than you imagine, so plan accordingly (for the "I'll spend a day in London, 2 in Paris, then to Barcelona for a day, followed by 2 in Rome, Berlin then home.... all in a week!" person)

Posted by
2353 posts

Relax & enjoy every moment - and remember this is a FIRST trip and not a last trip - if you miss something - we call that a reason to return!

Posted by
2426 posts

Ah, it's Greece. My favorite RS tour so far. Take much less clothes. Do take a bathing suit. Good shoes are essential as you will be doing some climbing on rough paths. You will have a great time! Get ready for the best tomatoes of your life!

Posted by
93 posts

I agree with Pam take your tour roster. I take a journal and on our first tour shrunk it down and taped it to the inside cover of the journal. Then on the first page shrunk the day to day intineray and taped that on. It's nice to refer to on the bus. On the roster as tour mates introduced themselves I jotted home towns and states.. And tips to remember them by. It was so helpful. On our first tour I was not very good at writing in my journal.. So on the second tour I used the same journal and skipped a couple of pages and started tour 2. I love it.. Some day one of the grandchildren might read and say look what cool stuff nana and papa.. I started writing in it more on the second tour..I hope to fill it with many more tours.

Sue

Posted by
6 posts

Wow!
Ask and you shall receive!!!
Such amazing tips! Thank you to everyone. We are processing each one!!
Good idea to pack weeks before and practice with suitcase! Wish I had asked earlier! We leave Friday. Tour begins Monday evening!
We are seasoned travelers, but thought Greece may be the place to take a tour. Husband is looking forward to enjoying the scenery as someone else drives. I am looking forward to someone else doing the navigating.
We love to research! So feel prepared!
Always live to chat!! And I promise to keep grandchildren pictures to a minimum.
And the thought of great tomatoes!!!!! I am smiling!
So many great tips!! Thank you, everyone!!!
Counting the moments.
Thank you!

Posted by
308 posts

Feel free to skip a tour activity for any reason. It is your vacation and you are not required to do everything the tour offers. Just be sure to tell your guide and buddy!

Posted by
1068 posts

Greece is a great tour, I had a blast and likely you will as well. Lots of hills but great views when you get to the top!

Posted by
1 posts

Be aware that your RS tour guide has so many responsibilities as your leader. He/She may make certain requests of the group...our leader liked some private time during his breakfast and we all respected that wish. Small talk/a million questions wasn't his thing as he was getting ready for the day's events. He was also very firm about being on time for the good of the group...know that won't be a problem for you! He also appreciated others not jumping into a conversation he was having with a couple about their plans for free time. His feeling was that the couple he was speaking to may not really want some of the gang to join them during their time away from the group. You'll soon learn your guide's expectations!
Remember: Happy Guide + Happy Travelmates = Fantastic Adventure

Enjoy every minute!

Posted by
3491 posts

Internalize the Daily Activity Key under Itinerary as well as the Physical Demands for your tour. Be prepared clothing and footwear-wise to keep up with the group.

Posted by
34 posts

I'll also recommend the City Maps 2 Go app - download maps while still in the States, and also agree with looking at hotels and sites via street view on Google. I spent some time using the street view to locate metro stations, sidewalk landmarks, and the first hotel in Paris before I did the Best of Europe in 14 last year. You'll feel good when you begin to see familiar sights.

For packing, make sure you have sturdy shoes that are broken in. Nothing can ruin a trip quite like sore feet, particularly with the walking that is required. Err on the side of leaving things out if you really don't plan to use them.

From an electronics perspective, I felt that paying the $20 or whatever for a month of international access was smart. Also, if using a smartphone for pictures, make sure you get them backed up a few times during the trip when you have WiFi. If using a camera, take a few memory cards so that all your eggs aren't in the same basket!

Posted by
5730 posts

Don't leave your guidebook behind. Its good to have on the tour.

Posted by
1 posts

Watch the Travel Skills Video for packing light. I watched the one geared more toward women by Sarah Murdoch. I had been on 4 previous RS tours, but watching that video made my 5th tour the lightest yet!! Makes a world of difference on the tour and I had everything I needed!! Have a few options in mind for 'free days' (the tour books and videos can help with this). As others have said, arrive an extra day early. Bring double camera batteries and plenty of photo storage (I took 1000 photos on my last trip). Call your cellphone company to find temporary international plan.

Posted by
644 posts

Learn a few words of the local language and then USE THEM. I've been a little disappointed on some of my tours when people don't even make an effort to use a few words.

Posted by
2 posts

Understand from the beginning that things will not be like home. You have paid a lot of money and travelled a great distance to experience things different from home. The grumblers on my recent tour wanted all the comforts of the U.S. They had a bad time because they couldn't get beyond questionable air conditioning, small showers, and bad pillows. It's a shame, because I took the same trip as they did and for me, it was the trip of a lifetime!!

Posted by
518 posts

Ditto the above...

The same trip can be two completely opposite experiences for two travelers. European hotels are typically much smaller than American hotels. Not to mention, the room layout/shape can also be non-standard. We are accustomed to standardized hotel designs here in the U.S., that's why in say a Motel 6, all the rooms are the same size, shape, and layout. The building was specifically built as a hotel. In Europe, hotels are often situated in older buildings, some were former apartment buildings or maybe offices or something completely different. Buildings might not have originally built for a hotel occupancy. As a result, rooms might come in all size and shapes, often with odd layouts.

Posted by
2672 posts

@kwolps, Was that a Rick Steves tour? I'm hoping not. I am really relying on the RS 'no grumps' policy. I'm used to traveling independently, but I am taking my first RS tour next spring, so I'm really hoping I'm with happy, flexible people, otherwise...I guess I'll go off on my own as often as I can.

Posted by
644 posts

Budget your free time on the tour in advance. You can always change on the fly but have a pretty good idea of your sightseeing priorities before you leave. A two night stay isn't very long.

Posted by
644 posts

Pack a "don't tell Rick bag" for the books and souvenirs you acquire along the way. Keep it in the overhead storage on the bus until you depart from the bus on the last day.

Posted by
905 posts

This advice will be too late for the OP, but for others who may be reading later on -- your guide will post a page daily with the schedule, usually posted in the evening before. Use your phone or camera to take a photo. It's useful during the tour and also useful later on when you are trying to organize your photos day by day.

Posted by
6 posts

Well, we are home from our amazing tour of Greece! Everything was perfect...the history, the guides, the food, the wine, our fellow travelers, the hotels, the bus!
Just fantastic!
We found our tour mates to be extremely personable and well traveled!
Our guide, Colin, was a professional. He could quote dates like no other person I have ever known! He had amazing relationships with locals in every town!
The tour was busy, busy, busy! Saw so much! Loved it!
Thank you to everyone for the tips! They were all so helpful!!!
Happy travels!
Mary

Posted by
500 posts

Travel with an open mind and flexibility. Read up on your destinations a bit and have an idea of what you may want to do doing the free time portions of the tour. Your guide will be of assistance but will be easier for them if you have a clue of what you want to do.
Do travel light, you'll be enlightened in more than one way. Have fun!

Posted by
1599 posts

fyi, this is an old post. The OP returned from her trip in September.

Posted by
59 posts

Get a really good haircut just before leaving home.

Posted by
1 posts

Arrive early to avoid jet lag -- 2 or 3 days. Buy the RS guide for the city where your tour starts. Check to see what you are going to see on the RS tour in that city, then check the guide book for other things that appeal to you. There is so much richness of culture and experience that there will many rewarding adventures that you can have before the tour starts while you are adjusting to the time change. When the tour itself begins, you will be fresh, rested, and ready for a great time.