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If you're sick, please stay home!

My husband and I recently returned from the Best of Spain in 14 Days tour. Unfortunately, one traveler arrived day one with a terrible cough. She admitted that she wasn't well but didn't want to miss the trip. She became progressively sicker, and within days twenty out of our group of twenty-eight had fallen ill! At one point our wonderfully patient and compassionate tour guide escorted four people to the hospital. That one traveler's selfish decision negatively impacted what should have been a wonderful experience for so many in our group. I think there should be a statement in the Rick Steves' travel documents issued before a trip that the tour guide reserves the right to isolate any traveler who appears to be ill and to require a doctor's certification that he/she is not infectious before permitting the individual to continue the tour.

Posted by
93 posts

Wow! Hope you dodged the bullet. That would be an awful experience.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you, Kathy. I dodged it but my husband didn't. He missed three days of activities on the tour and he was one of the lucky ones! One traveler stayed behind for two days at one of our destinations because she was too sick to continue. Her husband stayed with her and then they rented a car to rejoin us.

Posted by
1236 posts

So sorry to hear that. I'd be interested to hear what RS policy is for canceling/postponing a tour due to illness. Perhaps that's why the woman still traveled. Just a thought.

I tell anyone who's really sick or has a broken arm or foot and still wants to take a trip, that it's better to stay home, get well and return to Europe when they are well then to try to push through. Touring doesn't allow time for body to heal.

Posted by
1649 posts

Gee Mettie, that's horrible. You and your husband and the fellow travelers had a right to be angry and disappointed.

I'm surprised the guide didn't suggest that she not join the group for a day or two.

A tour is a huge investment. Some can go only once, and this woman managed to take down most of the group. Wow. And a few had to go to the hospital? Double wow!

I don't know, that if she had trip insurance, could she have postponed the trip. Maybe not.

But, she could have taken greater measures to minimize infecting others - like wearing a surgical mask (or bandana.) Yep, it's not attractive and will cause attention, but at least it would contain some of the infection.

That must have been some determined germ/cough to take down so many. And some peeps have lower or compromised immune systems which makes them more vulnerable.

Did she have a roommate or travel partner she shared a room with? Blah. I pity her airplane seat mates too.

I think she could have stayed in her room for a day or two to nurse herself. Who knows if her strain of cough or bronchial infection could have been minimized with antibiotics.

That's why it's very important in the preceding two weeks or so before travel to keep your own self healthy - hydration, good sleep, minimized stress, keeping organized, getting some exercise, eating good, taking Zicam at the first sniffle, take Vitamin C - it helps many.

Posted by
7205 posts

On a side note...this is a very good example of why organized tours can be so bad. Same group of people in a bus traveling together for too many days. Of course you’re going to be Shari g everyone’s germs.

Posted by
3789 posts

It's misery, I know, to be the recipient of thoughtless people's actions.

I have rarely heard of a tour company actually actioning their ability to punt off a traveler either for illness or bad behaviour. It seems easier to ask forgiveness from the rest after the complaints come in that actually nip it in the bud at the getgo.
The other challenge is did the traveler even have travel insurance, and will insurance pay out for the beginnings of a cold or illness that is not yet determined as to severity? Can a doctor actually certify (remember, for insurance purposes) that the traveler is unable to travel at the beginning of an illness. Otherwise, the traveler is out of pocket for the trip. That risk is going to put most travelers onto the plane.
We have had a number of posts from people with valid injuries that will affect their travel trying to salvage it - because they have no insurance.

Sadly, interest in travel doesn't mean responsible actions.

Posted by
7254 posts

I have gotten this on the plane over sitting next to a passenger coughing. Now I wear surgical mask

Posted by
16941 posts

Maybe the rest of the tour could have unselfishly contributed $100 each and bought the sick person out?

Posted by
5998 posts

I guess to play the Devil's Advocate, the person with the "cough" may not have even been the issue. If they were mobile and able to keep up with the tour, they would have been past the worst of a contagious stage to pass on something that took others out for a few days. It would be more likely that one of the individuals who went sick first and was bed-ridden was the culprit for the rest of the group, and who knows where they picked it up from.

Regarding the issue of the RS Tour and implementing policies, that is fine, but likely would mean that they would have to allow liberal cancellations or refunds.

Bottom line, illness happens. Yes, one should be considerate of others, but some things are just not under anyone's control.

Posted by
3789 posts

@Paul, in this case, OP states that the ill woman got progressively sicker - which means she was most likely still contagious. And if she arrived in early stages of illness, she could well be mobile and still contagious.
However, the flip side of a story should always be considered - as everyone travelled on public conveyances to get to the tour and could have picked up anything from anyone.
Maybe a hand out of masks and bottles of sanitizers with a full required use policy for 48 hours is what's needed.....but who wants to play that game?

Posted by
1955 posts

Oh my gosh........so sorry to hear how this negatively affected the experience for so many. I would not be happy either.

But, this really is a very tough, subjective issue for a tour guide to try to monitor when someone should be removed from the group activities and for what reasons. Tour guides are not medical professionals. Often someone is contagious before symptoms even show up!

Years ago, when we took our first Silversea cruise, the ship doctor took the temperature of every single passenger before being allowed on the ship. I did ask what would happen if someone had a fever....depending on how high, the person would at least be quarantined until no longer feverish.

But, on the other hand, I remember being on the Rick Steves Heart of Italy Tour, and a serious forest fire in the Cinque Terre caused me to have respiratory issues (no fever, but very bad coughing and nose issues). Was I sick? Technically, the smoke made me that way....but not infectious at all. Ditto for when we were on a Tauck Tour in Hawaii when the side of a volcano crater collapsed and VOG was not being swept out to the sea because the tradewinds were not blowing. And each night, the local drug store sold out of sinus meds....it affected many more than just us....locals, as well.

A courtesy thing........absolutely........if you are truly sick, make an intelligent decision before choosing to go on a group tour, on an airplane, to work, or to a party. You have to ask yourself, (if you were someone else), would you want to be near you?

Posted by
932 posts

I deliberately purchased a good (relatively expensive) travel insurance policy so I could recover some of my prepaid expenses if I became ill or was injured.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but I use a saline sinus rinse twice a day to help prevent bugs from settling into those moist tissues and the post-nasal area.

Posted by
1649 posts

Maybe the rest of the tour could have unselfishly contributed $100 each and bought the sick person out?

A version of a "go fund me?" I don't think so. The traveler admitted she was sick at the beginning of the trip but didn't want to miss it.

Yes, getting sick cannot always be controlled, but preventative as well as post measures could have been exercised by the sick person. She laid up almost the whole group. So, she did not want to miss the trip, but many on that tour missed good portions of their own; so should she be responsible for reimbursing those who missed out? And as a parting gift, got to visit the hospital.

Posted by
6876 posts
  • What was the diagnosis of the woman who was sick? What was wrong with her exactly? Anyone know?
  • What was the age distribution of your tour group?
  • What was different about the 4 folks who needed to go to the hospital? Were they older, exhibit more symptoms, or did they just go as a precaution? That sounds like a pretty severe outcome.
Posted by
1944 posts

I've been flying forever, and nowadays I try to avoid the sick season of late fall through early spring. Yes, I know that's no guarantee of avoiding a nasty virus, but from my experiences I'm much less likely to contract something in the May-October time frame.

It's the same at work. Few people want to waste a PTO or sick day when they're actually sick.

The thing is, what constitutes too sick to travel? Sometimes I'm way over a cold but still have a persistent cough. Would I be excluded? Also, should someone with a common cold not be allowed on the tour? What's the standard?

Posted by
166 posts

Would like to see the response from the Rick Steves people on this, and their policy.

Posted by
2927 posts

I'm sorry this happened and I understand how you could be upset. Did anyone complain at the time?

Sickness is always a risk, right before or during any vacation. I dread this potential. And, I agree it is maddening to catch something from a fellow tour member. Also, initially, the sick person could have opted out of activities to rush the healing, but, obviously, not the bus. I travel with face masks incase I am sitting next to an obviously sick person or incase I am sick. I also take Emergen-C in hopes I'm better protected on a trip from others, whether in a tour or traveling solo.

That being said, unless I was sick enough to be treated by a doctor, I would have a hard time giving up my trip for a cold or other type of non-serious illness. It would be a costly decision to opt out at the last minute. Why didn't someone buy her a mask if they were so concerned? Or wear a mask on the bus themselves...that's a message as well. Did anyone complain to the tour guide about hygiene or air circulation in the bus? Or did everyone just sit quietly and get sick? One can speak out and be compassionate as well. Shit happens.

Posted by
2434 posts

Well said Wray!

Didn't the second through twentieth persons to get sick have the same duty to isolate themselves for the good of the herd?

Posted by
276 posts

Stay home? You paid upwards of $4000 on the tour. Another $1000 or so if you’re lucky on airfare and your advice is to throw that money away and stay home? Would you honestly? What did the tour guide do? She arrived with a “terrible cough” and the guide did what? I suppose the guide could have segregated her, made her sit at a table by herself, put her in the back of the bus with as many empty rows between her and the group as possible, made her exit the bus through the back door while everyone else exited via the front door, made her walk behind the group by at least 20 paces. All these steps could have potentially helped keep others from getting ill. A good guide with good people skills could have done some, if not all, without making the woman feel bad unless of course she was unreasonable. The woman got progressively worse. Did the tour guide take her to a doctor? Did she refuse? Did she ever get well or was she sick the whole tour? Some on the tour didn’t get sick. They must have taken better precautions, washed their hands, didn’t put their hands to their faces, kept a wider distance from Typhoid Mary or maybe their immune systems were better. Travel insurance is important but I never thought to see if a simple cold or bronchitis would be covered because quite frankly that wouldn’t keep me home. I do agree, and I would, if you are sick you must take every precaution to not spread your illness. During the tour separate yourself as much as possible, good hand washing, wear a mask in the company of your tour mates, stay behind for a day or two to rest if you are not getting better and not wear yourself down further and before your tour go to a walk-in for a prescription if necessary or pack cold remedies that help speed up your recovery. Even if you aren’t sick you should pack cold remedies and immunity boosters. I do feel bad for those who got sick. I’ve been in that boat. It’s a part of the not so fun part of traveling.

Posted by
3493 posts

Not a good way to spend a tour. Must have been some seriously powerful bug that person had.

I got sick on the second day of one RS tour I took. I was fine with no symptoms at all when I arrived. By the second day was coughing, running a mild fever, and just felt like crap. I continued on with tour activities as best I could, avoiding close contact with the others. I got over whatever it was by day 7. Only one other person on the tour became ill with the same symptoms a day later. She and I shared a flight over to start the tour. I didn't know her before the tour and was no where near her on the plane. So we both must have caught our bug on that flight or somewhere in the airport. We survived due to the generosity of one of the other tour members who brought what can only be described as a full pharmacy with him (of course we could have gone to a pharmacy on our own and gotten what we needed too). Should I have hidden in my room until all symptoms left me? Should I have worn a mask? Maybe.

I think that RS is very generous with rebooking tours. If you called them even nearly last minute and told them you were too sick to go they would happily rebook you on another tour. But this isn't really the problem. Most people have limited vacation available to them and some employers are not very flexible as to when you can take your time off either due to the type of job (teachers for example) or just strict company policies requiring advance planning of vacation time. Also, airlines are not very nice about rebooking, especially if you have chosen the more restrictive tickets. All of this drives people to push ahead and take the tour even when they may not be feeling the best. Of course insurance can provide financial relief for some of the lost money paid for reservations and tickets if you cancel, but not all of it.

Unfortunately, even shunning a sick tour member does not guarantee the rest of the group will not pick up some bug along the way especially when ridding packed public transit or shuffling along through the crowded museums and other sites. It is unfortunately one of the less enjoyable parts of travel.

Posted by
2212 posts

Ugh, Mettie, so sorry that happened. Just a raw deal all around, I’ve been on both ends. The sick one and the one who got sick from another (on plane).

Not sure there is a good answer or solution, just the way it goes sometimes like natural disasters etc.
I used to get sick a lot. Now, with monthly accupuncture treatments and yearly flu shot, I rarely get sick. I remember a trip to London once where I carried a tissue box with me the whole time. Got sick on the plane on the way over. It sucks.

Posted by
2574 posts

On our Best of the Adriatic tour, during our initial meeting, our guide said “if you wonder which one of you has a cold they will give everyone else, it’s me”. Most folks did fine but my wife got it and felt like hell for a week. We are leaving for Rome next week. We caught cold a month ago and both have persistent coughs. Long past the contagious stage. Hope our tour mates understand. If you travel enough, organized tour or not, you are going to get sick. The main culprit is being bottled up in an airplane for soo many hours with poor air circulation. Just takes one fellow passenger and they might not even be symptomatic yet. Should the person on the OP’s Spain trip have stayed home? Easy to say yes in hindsight. But, like most of us you tough it out hoping it will get better in a few days. I doubt I would have canceled unless I felt too sick to travel.

Posted by
1649 posts

Also, airlines are not very nice about rebooking, especially if you have chosen the more restrictive tickets. All of this drives people to push ahead and take the tour even when they may not be feeling the best. Of course insurance can provide financial relief for some of the lost money paid for reservations and tickets if you cancel, but not all of it.

Well, that is true too and the very well-known down side of traveling.

Posted by
5741 posts

Surgical masks, people. If you travel in east Asia, you will see people everywhere wearing these on the streets. It's not for their benefit, it's for yours - it's considered to be polite. A good surgical mask is tiny, and weighs nothing. Toss one in your "personal item" bag.

Posted by
1261 posts

I think it would be putting a tour guide in an invidious position to expect them to be an unofficial medical officer deciding when to isolate a tour member or even just expecting them to decide when to demand a doctor's certificate. Cruise ships can do it or even staff at airports, but they can call on on-board or port medical staff to decide if you're fit to travel.

Posted by
1424 posts

invidious

I got so excited seeing this word in use I peed just a little.

Posted by
9885 posts

I've been on 11 RS tours and 10 Road Scholar tours. Of those I maybe have picked up a cold twice. Was it from someone else or did I get it on the plane/metro/train/etc?

I will also add last year when I was flying to Paris I sat next to an acquaintance on my outbound flight from Lewiston Idaho. She is a physician. As we were landing in SLC she mentioned that she had tested positive for Influenza B on Saturday (and told me which nurse gave it to her as she knew I knew her) and this was Tuesday. I could have strangled her. WTH? Flying with Influenza B and yes, she was still contagious.

I did not get sick from her. I do get a flu shot religiously but often that is only 30-40% effective. I also do what someone upthread mentions which is using a neti pot (with goldenseal) when traveling. I also take Airborne daily or twice daily if I feel something coming on.

Sorry this happened to your husband. I have had guides ask people who were feeling ill to sit in the back and had some rows separating them but I'm not sure that really would have helped. Sneeze droplets can go.. what....20'?

Posted by
13659 posts

I learned a new word today! Can't wait to use it.

Better warn FastEddie before you do so he can don the Depends.
He's sort of excitable. 😆

Posted by
5691 posts

You have been looking forward to a tour for ages and paid a fortune for it, then you get a cold/cough. You seriously expect people to give this up, not knowing if they are over the worst or if it will get worse whilst away? If it had been you, would you have cancelled? Most would cross their fingers and head to the airport.

Most travel insurance won’t pay out for a holiday cancellation due to a cough, assuming you have insurance unless you have expensive cancel for any reason cover.

People are as likely to have picked up germs on the plane as from a fellow guest. It’s the risk you take when sitting for hours on flights and in groups on a tour bus.

Tour guides aren’t medical people, so how do they judge who needs to be isolated? How do you isolate someone on a bus tour?

Posted by
16941 posts

Exactly Jennifer! There are risks in life and you have to be prepared for that.

Posted by
1179 posts

Rick Steves tour guides already have the right to remove people from the tour. It’s in the contract. They also have the right to restrict people on the tour and suggest a time out. Sometimes it’s because the person can’t do big hills or stairs. Sometimes it’s medical.

This was a major fail by the guide. They had the ability to tell that person to stay in their hotel room. They could have arranged for alternative transport to the next town.

The person that was sick was exceedingly selfish. But Rick Steves guide bears responsibility too.

Tour forms, obligations, and risks: To travel on a tour, and to qualify for cancellation credit, all tour members are required to review and accept a Release and Waiver Agreement prior to the beginning of a tour. Omitting important information, or altering the Release and Waiver Agreement, will render it invalid, and could result in expulsion from a tour at your own expense.

Participation: Although we want everyone to have a good time, it sometimes happens that someone participating in a tour can misbehave or do things that are incompatible with the safety, comfort, or convenience of other members of the tour. In those circumstances we have the exclusive right and discretion to expel someone (even you) from a tour at any time.

Posted by
3239 posts

My takeaway: take a few masks with me for myself or to share if need be. And yes, I'm obnoxious enough to nicely offer one to another person who is sick.

Posted by
141 posts

This is why I will never do group tours or cruises. I’d rather take my chances with random short term exposures on my own, versus prolonged exposure to a known sick person that won’t at the very least wear a mask.

Posted by
349 posts

So how many of you cancelled a several thousand dollar vacation because you had a cough? We’ve been on a tour when one person got very ill in the middle of the trip. The person and spouse did not continue. Others caught the bug at the end or when they got home. Stuff happens. You try your best not to spread germs. A big deterrent is hand washing but I see many people skipping that step in public washrooms.

Posted by
1236 posts

Hopefully have sanitizer handy and tell everyone to wash their hands and have the sick person cover their mouth when they cough. And while I agree that tour guides aren't doctors, when the guide has to escort 4 people to the hospital(?!) something is very wrong and it can be traced to patient X. As someone who got life threatening pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for almost a month from a co-worker who didn't want to stay home sick, I feel for the people affected.

Ultimately, it was the tour guides responsibility and while illness can't be prevented, the fact that 4 people had to go to the hospital should have set off major alarm bells.

Posted by
1179 posts

It would be a costly decision to opt out at the last minute. Why didn't someone buy her a mask if they were so concerned?

I’m fairly sure the other tour members also paid big chunks of money for the tour. Is it right to ruin their trip too?

There’s also trip insurance. Or you eat it. Sometimes that happens. That’s how life works. Rick has a good article on trip insurance.

And the sick person was an adult. That means they should bear the responsibility of isolating their illness. That doesn’t exclude the kindness of others buying her a mask.

There were lots of missed opportunities for constraining the sickness.

Posted by
1805 posts

Same tour, different company, several years ago. The originator didn’t appear sick until about 3 days into the tour and then wiped out several people. Since then I make sure to bring Zicam rapidmelts and Coldeeze cough drops and then offer them to symptom sufferers. I will follow the suggestion to throw in some masks as well. On a flight yesterday from Las Vegas there were a number of people coughing- not sure if it was from smoking, allergies or ?, but it reminded me to take precautions.

Posted by
478 posts

it's interesting because we're talking about a COUGH. No one's actually identified the illness - bronchitis? pneumonia? SARS? Ebola? Common Cold? Lung Cancer? COPD?

How would any one person with a 'cough' know what they had, its future course, and how communicative it is?

Posted by
1179 posts

How would any one person with a 'cough' know what they had, its future course, and how communicative it is?

Well I know how my own body works. I can tell when I have a cold Vs allergies. I know the difference between allergies and wildfire smoke problems. My body responds differently for each issue. Indeed, even my breathing capacity is different for each issue.

True sickness is almost always accompanied by either a sore throat, achiness, fever, runny nose, extreme tiredness. I’ve never seen an asymptotic cold.

In this case it was a “terrible cough”. You can have them at the end of a cold, but you know that you’ve already had the cold. If you haven’t had the cold yet you know it is a precursor to sickness, not an after sickness residue.

Posted by
11432 posts

You can't expect a "guide' to tell someone with a cough they can't participate. They are not a doctor. The cough could be for many reasons and if excluded could open up the tour company to a law suit. If someone is disruptive and annoying, or holds up the group, then the "guide" can act. If the passenger has obvious signs of a contagious illness--like measles-- then they can act.

Posted by
1179 posts

You can't expect a "guide' to tell someone with a cough they can't participate.

It’s in the contract that you agree to. The guide has the rights to do it.

If the passenger has obvious signs of a contagious illness--like measles-- then they can act.

The guide can also interview the participants. They can’t diagnose specifics (only doctors do that) but they are allowed to take precautions. From the original post:

She admitted that she wasn't well but didn't want to miss the trip. She became progressively sicker

In this case the sickness took out a full 70% of the participants. Lawsuits are a bogus reason. Wouldn’t failure to act for the safety of the group open up the company to lawsuits too? FOUR people ended up in the hospital.

Posted by
1179 posts

What happens if the customer refuses to be removed? Is the RS guide just going to throw them off the bus and abandon them by the roadside? What happens when the customer then reports the guide to the Spanish police for assaulting them and the tour stops whilst the guide is taken in to be questioned?

This is a straw man fallacy. It is based on hyperbole.

Rick Steves guides are trained professionals. They know how to negotiate the sticky stuff. They also have the ability to contact the home office and work it through them. That’s one reason Rick Steves has a great reputation.

Posted by
381 posts

Weird - we went on the Best of Spain tour last April/May and I got sick with a bad cold during the tour... the tour guide had what he said was an allergy cold to start with but those aren’t “catching” to my knowledge. Several people on the tour besides me also fell ill. Stuff happens on tours and you just deal with it the best you can. Our first RS tour a member broke their collarbone!

Posted by
1955 posts

Okay everybody.............

We clearly do not have enough information to solve this issue.

Did ALL participants (who got sick) have flu shots? pneumonia (sp?) shots?

Who can prove the person who was sick on the tour is THE ONE that made them sick? Who made that person sick to begin with? Could it have been something going around anyway, and a certain percent of the traveling public likely picked it up on a long airplane ride with recycled air (from other sick people)?

We will never know.

And, for most travel insurance policies, one has to have a doctor's note to say the person was not fit to travel.....and a diagnosis....common cold likely (I am guessing) would not pass as a reason for many travel insurances. And, of course, just like people who drag themselves to work, thinking they will feel better as the day goes on, how many people (on vacation or on important business trips) will do the same thing?

Media here up until a couple of weeks ago were still airing stories of how this year has been a prolonged flu season, with reminders to wash one's hands, not touch one's eyes/nose, etc. Did all the people who got sick religiously follow those cautions?

Going out in public is a risk....going to a doctor's office can be a bigger risk.

Posted by
1236 posts

I still wonder what RS staff do about multiple people going to the hospital. One or two persons, I can understand stuff happening but four is out of the ordinary and not the "stuff happens" crowd. I gather it's more a case of the guide doing what they feel they should do. One of the many things that make me glad I'm not a tour leader.

Posted by
6876 posts

In this case the sickness took out a full 70% of the participants.
Lawsuits are a bogus reason. Wouldn’t failure to act for the safety of
the group open up the company to lawsuits too? FOUR people ended up in
the hospital.

Ok, could the internet warrior please step back a bit and critically evaluate this post before drawing conclusions? There is simply not enough information to judge one way or another how 20 people got ill and why 4 went to the hospital. This post presents a correlation and invites everyone to jump the gun and infer causation just because "it sounds like....". Making easy, convenient inferences is a type of bias reinforcement, so it's worth backing up a bit and thinking it fully through. There could be a host of confounding variables that haven't been ruled out. What does "fallen ill" mean? It isn't specified (degree, severity, duration, etc). They could have "fallen ill" from food poisoning or something else related to their common experience for all we know, having nothing to do with a person who happened to have a cough. Four people could have been taken to the hospital because they asked to go, they were more at risk due to weaker immune systems, or the guide was taking extra precautions, or whatever. Maybe the trip was a precaution but not medically necessary. Maybe it was only two people, but their spouses joining them made four. Who knows? There are too many gaps in the post to draw some kind of strong conclusion one way or another. I also agree that this is not at all some cut and dry case where there are clear criteria for guides to use, so they probably just use their experience and best judgment. Why put the blame on them for not doing something when not knowing all the details? I say, give them the benefit of the doubt. They have a hard job and have to approach everything diplomatically and with a soft touch.

If I were the OP, I would not write this knee jerk post to get a rise out of folks. Instead, I would contact the RS office and have a realistic dialogue with them as to what criteria guides use in ambiguous and complex situations like these. Maybe something can be learned from the experience. The internet is not meant to adjudicate things like this especially when all the facts haven't been presented.

This message "If you're sick, please stay home!" may be applicable for the office, but it's too simplistic for pre-planned expensive trips (and that assumes that the coughing person was in fact the source of the problem).

Posted by
4370 posts

Coughs, even bad sounding coughs, can continue for up to a month after the illness when the person is otherwise quite well. For most illnesses, people are most contagious at the very beginning of an infection and sometimes even before symptoms occur. Some coughs are not contagious at all. Its possible that the person got out of bed day of the trip feeling just a little "punky", and got progressively worse during the day of travel.

In addition to wondering if the ill traveler was really the source of the infection, I wonder what the illness was to begin with. It seems like it was a rather virulent infection like influenza. In that case, people should have been protected by a flu shot. It is quite bizarre that so many got sick. I'm hoping people used common sense hygiene practices like hand washing, not sharing food/drink and keeping their hands off their face/nose and eyes.

Too many unknowns to judge anyone. I feel for those people on their highly anticipated tour that became ill. I also feel for the "cougher". She probably was made to feel like "Typhoid Mary", when there was little she could do after the start of the tour and may not have actually have been the source of the illness in the other travelers.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have taken 16 RS tours, soon to be 17, and on only one of them did a tour member show up obviously sick with what appeared to be a bad cold. After several days of that person getting worse, the bug had spread to most everyone in the bus. It was not a bad cold but some kind of flu. My wife did not get it but I did and had to spend a total of 3 days in bed in two overnight stops. I sent a critical reply to the RS folks but never heard any replies that indicated that the guide has the power to remove a sick person. I have not seen any replies to these post from the RS folks. You all watching?

Posted by
1179 posts

Ok, could the internet warrior please step back a bit and critically evaluate this post before drawing conclusions?

I did. I’m a senior staff engineer with a specialty in Risk Analysis and Management. That’s why I turned the facts into percentages. It shows the degree of the problem.

A 70% sickness rate with 2.5% in the hospital is a serious problem.

Having 28 people in your sample is a bit small for a true statistical analysis. A good sample is 30 or more data points. But it’s mighty close.

It would be interesting to know if RS has operational protocols for situations like this. If not, perhaps it’s time for one.

Posted by
1179 posts

The original post only says the "tour guide escorted four people to the hospital". It doesn't say they were kept in for treatment.

That’s a fair point. That’s said, a huge amount of people had their expensive trip negatively impacted.

Posted by
487 posts

As others have mentioned, not all coughs are contagious. I have had a chronic cough for 12 YEARS. Every. Single. Day. And No, that is not an exaggeration. I have been to many doctors, many tests, many medications, and am very lucky to have the means to try many therapies. Yet it remains and it is not contagious 99% of the time. I am not going to forgo traveling or riding on airplanes or other forms of public transportation, I have to be able to live my life too. I do what I can to make it less obtrusive and cover my cough, be aware of others, eat cough drops like candy, etc but I still cough, sometimes frequently. I bet there are people that have heard me on a plane, got sick later and blamed it on "that girl that kept coughing", but they most likely blamed the wrong source, because otherwise my coworkers, friends and family would have been ill many times over. But I can't give my life story to every person I meet on the street. Compassion and not making assumptions go a long way as not everything is as obvious as it may appear.

Posted by
1179 posts

I think people are making false equivalency here. A cough that you know about isn’t the issue.

The sick person, by her own admission, said that she was sick.

She admitted that she wasn't well but didn't want to miss the trip.

Did she try to separate herself from the group? Stand away from the group? Ride in the back of the bus to stay away from the group?

This wasn’t some chronic condition that she knew about. And that is a key difference.

Posted by
2434 posts

All we know is that a first-time poster to this forum said "She admitted that she wasn't well but didn't want to miss the trip." For all we know, she caught something from one of the other people on the bus.

Posted by
1179 posts

For all we know, she caught something from one of the other people on the bus.

Except that she exhibited symptoms on the first day.

one traveler arrived day one with a terrible cough

Posted by
6507 posts

Except that she exhibited symptoms on the first day

Except that we don't know if the first day of the tour was the person's first day in Europe. Could she have come a couple of days ahead of time? Maybe she caught whatever ailed her on the flight over, when it was too late to not go through with the tour. And we don't know what may have been done by this person to combat whatever ailed her before deciding to go through with the tour.

There are still too many things we don't know about this particular situation. It can be very dangerous to express opinions based on a one sided explanation of the issue. Every conflict has more than one side and without the whole story all we can do is make assumptions which may or may not be appropriate when all the facts are known.

Posted by
1277 posts

Ok. Two thoughts that have not been masicated excessively thus far; (that's for you, Fast Eddie)
1) I get a flu shot every winter since the mandatory lineup in my first hospital internship in 1992. Only two times have I gotten the flu since ( once in April when of course the disease had mutated since October inoculations). YET many adults in my life have all of these excuses about why they won't get the flu shot. Freakin' free will.
2) wipe down the tray table and armrests of yr airplane seat. Peace Out.

Posted by
1649 posts

She is a physician. As we were landing in SLC she mentioned that she had tested positive for Influenza B on Saturday (and told me which nurse gave it to her as she knew I knew her) and this was Tuesday. I could have strangled her. WTH? Flying with Influenza B and yes, she was still contagious.

Geez. Never mind a regular person, but it's shocking a doctor knowingly would fly while definitely very contagious and not tell a seatmate until they are about two feet from landing! The doctor was barely inches away from Pam and took no precautions. I shake my head.

  • The OP never returned to further explain. Maybe they are not following the thread.
Posted by
28078 posts

65 posts after a first time poster opens the door and throws in a hand grenade - with no follow up or detail. Lots of jumping to conclusions. And I'm sure that the entire account is completely factual with no exaggeration.

Posted by
1649 posts

I just thought to check the reviews from the Best of Spain 14-day tour.

Most recent ones are from October 2018. I scrolled down a couple of pages and read only good reviews.

OP doesn't state exact dates; only "we just got back from..."

Looks like the OP drove by, vented, and left to start an opinion avalanche.

If it happened as she says, it would have been nicer if she explained in better details.

Posted by
1944 posts

At times a person knows they're sick with a fever. The question then becomes self-interest vs the well being of others.

Being "sick" is not always ambiguous. Most of us know when we're really sick.

Posted by
2 posts

First, I would like to say how sorry I am to hear your tour was ruined by an illness.

On the other hand, most of the people I meet on RSE tours are of retirement age and as such have less than the general populations exposure to common viruses. There is nothing better for starting a good cold than spending a day on crowded airplanes, crowded airports, and multiple queues for baggage and security. Add to that sleep deprivation with Jet Lag and voila! A virus takes hold. If there is a variant that our flu shots don't have, I am confident LHR, MAD or CDG do.

Another thought is that we in the US are not used to hiking hills in the levels of air pollution often present in cities like Madrid and Toledo which can greatly magnify the discomfort.

I'm no germophobe but pack hand wipes to clean surfaces I touch, cough into my sleeve, use hand sanitizer, and wash frequently and still got ill while on an RSE tour. I look at colds and flu on tour as a cost of doing business. Lucky for me on my last tour one of our "family" (tour mates) had packed enough mega dose vitamin C to share.

Safe travel, good rooms, good food and amazing sights are quite enough for me. I can think of no reason for RSE to take on the added responsibility of certifying a "germ free experience".

Posted by
1649 posts

Ok. Two thoughts that have not been masicated excessively thus far; (that's for you, Fast Eddie)

Ha! Here I thought supercilious was a great word to to describe certain behavior.

1) I get a flu shot every winter

Me too.

Posted by
4370 posts

I agree with the importance of a flu shot. I usually get it in October or so. But when I'm traveling to Europe (or really anywhere on a plane) in late August or September, I get one a week before I go.

Posted by
16883 posts

Hi, all.

While we can’t prevent someone from joining a tour if they are not feeling well, keeping the group healthy is a priority on RSE tours. At the first night’s meeting, the guide shares tips for staying healthy, and encourages frequent hand washing, the covering of coughs, and the use of hand sanitizer. The guide will also encourage our groups to look out for one another like a family, including getting enough sleep to avoid getting run down, and opting out of activities if they are not feeling well.

Once the tour starts, if the guide notices a tour member is ill, or if a tour member tells the guide they are ill, the guide will support them in accessing health services by either directing or accompanying them to a pharmacy or doctor. In some cases, depending on the type of illness, a guide can request that the Tour Member (TM) opt out of group activities. If a TM refuses to seek medical treatment, the guide can then exclude the TM from participation until the TM obtains certification from a doctor that he/she is not contagious.

Posted by
21 posts

I think that switching seats on the bus every day contributes to people catching whatever the bug is that is going around. We had that experience on a past bus tour of Europe(they finally sanitized the bus). On our RS tour, we tried to sit near our original seats on the bus. The ones who were sick seemed to stay in the back of the bus. At group dinners, we tried to sit at the end of the tables, hopefully reducing our exposure to the coughing and sneezing. I also used hand sanitizer and saline nasal spray and stayed well for the whole two weeks despite several tour mates getting sick. These simple steps seemed to help us avoid getting the respiratory problems others incurred.

Posted by
7977 posts

And this points out the importance of covering your tour and flights (at least the change fees) with trip insurance.

Posted by
1944 posts

Considering sick days, I've known people who didn't want to waste a sick day when they were sick. Better to save it when you feel good and can do something fun. Nowadays it's all PTO so you can use your off days however you want. A teacher might use an occasional sick day as a "mental health" day. I get that.

Posted by
58 posts

It's an interesting topic. I was recently on a RS trip and someone had a terrible cough on the bus. It was a little disconcerting because the person kept hacking away continuously, not even covering her mouth. Normally I am just a little annoyed at such behavior but I was especially concerned because I was going to run my first marathon when I got back to the States. I think the person that posted about surgical masks made an excellent point. I have been to Asia and I was curious to see people wearing surgical masks. When I was told that they wear them when they are sick to prevent spreading their illness to others I was impressed. I wish we would adopt such a policy in our culture. It makes a lot of sense.

Posted by
1880 posts

No.
Paper surgical masks are only effective for about 9 minutes, due to your saliva and warm breath on them.
Don't waste your money.
You'd need about 40+ boxes of them with you for a one week trip!
Or you'd need to buy industrial N95 -type, or similar, masks that are worn for intense hospital isolation.
Cover your mouth, wash your hands, and stay home or far apart from others when you are really sick.

Posted by
130 posts

I also got sick on a Southeast Asian trip after catching my traveling companion's cold. Before the trip I got a flu vaccination, as well as hepatitis A, and yellow fever vaccines. I was also taking malaria pills. Of course, it was the common cold that I got and I did wear a surgical mask in Nepal where it seems half the people are also wearing them. I have heard of a product which is zinc and Elderberry gummy bear type meds that are supposed to boost the immune system so I am taking those when I travel now. Has anyone heard of the technique of applying Neosporin to the outside of the nostrils to prevent colds due to air travel? I saw that recommended on a travel blog for flight attendants. Someone will always have something on an airplane that will be recirculated.

Posted by
9885 posts

"Has anyone heard of the technique of applying Neosporin to the outside of the nostrils to prevent colds due to air travel?"

Neosporin is an antibacterial ointment. Colds are viruses and not killed by antibacterials.

I do use the product Airborne which is a homeopathic remedy that is supposed to boost your immune system. I start taking it a week or so ahead of travel then on the travel day take the chewables every 8 hours or so. I am not sure if the protection is physical or mental, lol!

Posted by
55 posts

The tour guide said he had an alergy cold? I hate when people sneeze and say "dont worry it is just an alergy". It may be -but not fair to allow people to lower their defenses and not stay away. What I read about catching colds on airplanes is it is not the air it is the hard surfaces you touch. Wipe down the entire tray and seat. Use hand wipes after using the rest room. Same on a bus. I always take zpac antibiotics with me on a European trip as I got sick from the plane a few times. At least this lessens complications if you do get the cold or flu. I think the tour guide should issues rules at the beginning of the tour asking people to cover their face when sneezing, then use wipes after blowing their nose. Ask people to request a single seat if they have a cold. The guide should have a surgical mask to give to the infected person to wear on the bus. Be careful of buffets. dont touch the same server implements the last person in line touched, use a napkin to hold the implement, then use a hand wipe before eating. Rick's tours are very expensive, I think they could afford hand wipes and masks.