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Road Scholar

I am booked on the RS Best of Turkey in October and would also like to visit Greece while in the neighborhood. RS does not have a tour available but Road Scholar does have one two days after the end of BOT. Has anyone done a Road Scholar tour? I'd be interested in any reviews. I am a bit spoiled by the Rick Steves tour philosophy.

Posted by
7524 posts

I've met a couple of people who have done both and described them as similar.

Once we were on a RS tour, heading out for dinner as a group. Walking down the stairs from our hotel to the street, we ran into another group of people going up the stairs that looked so similar to our group (American tourist-looking 🙂) that everyone stopped and asked if they were on an RS tour. They said they were on a Road Scholar* tour, and were staying at the same hotel. Rather than a Jets/Sharks moment, we all had a laugh at crossing paths and "recognizing" each other.

*just realized the initials are the same.

Posted by
1991 posts

You may want to PM Pam. She has done several Road Scholar and several RS tours.

Posted by
2324 posts

I did a Road Scholar tour of France in October and I absolutely loved it. Great itinerary, good hotels, and the best guide!!!! The people on the tour were fun, well-traveled and open-minded. I sent you a Private Message on this site.

I liked my tour so much, I signed up for two more for 2022!

I’ve done one Rick Steves’ tour and one Road Scholar tour, so far. Philosophy seems similar enough. I actually prefer the Road Scholar because their pacing is slower - they tend to stay more nights in each city and don’t do many one night stays, which I really try to avoid, even on a tour.

Posted by
1788 posts

I've done 6 Rick Steves tours, and 2 RoadScholar. My preference is still Rick Steves, but RoadScholar is a good choice if it fits your time/destination better.

Posted by
11534 posts

Yes! I'm here! Valerie and I did the same program a week apart last Fall.

I've done 12 Road Scholar tours and 11 Rick Steves tours. I choose which program based on the itinerary and would not hesitate to take either one. I've got a Road Scholar trip for this spring to Belgium and Holland - have already done the Rick tour of this area but this is specialized on Art History of the area. I also have the Rick Steves Best of Italy scheduled for late September.

For myself, I find the Rick Steves tour members to be a little more independent. Some Road Scholar tour members need a little more hand-holding and are sometimes reluctant to go out on their own for dinner, etc. Over the years I've seen Road Scholar have fewer meals included which suits me fine but it does bother some who are used to every meal being provided. They still have more meals than Rick's tours generally do.

I find their tour philosophies similar - Rick focuses more on teaching you to be an independent traveler. Road Scholar sometimes has some hour-long lectures and as Valerie says tend to stay in fewer places and do more day trips. I have not looked at their Greece trip so don't know if this holds true for this location or not. Both have all tips included and do not include any shopping stops (you can shop on your own time). Both include local restaurants.

TBH, I do trust Rick more on being on top of Covid rules. I was thoroughly exasperated with Road Scholar for my Fall trip as they were not sending out information regarding the need for France's Pass Sanitaire with enough emphasis on how and when to apply. The guide on the ground in France had an excellent grasp on what was needed but the staff in the Boston office did not. I would recommend you keep up with Greece's rules for entry from Turkey so you can stay properly informed. This forum will give you good guidance.

I'd go for the Greece tour with Road Scholar!

Posted by
43 posts

I have taken 9 RIck Steves tours and 4 Road Scholar trips over the past 6 years, and agree with Pam’s assessment. Similar philosophy, with the focus on education. I have found Rick’s tours to be somewhat more consistent and that remains my favorite company. I think Road Scholar uses local tour companies for many of their international tours, hence my comment on consistency. But RIck doesn’t go everywhere, while Road Scholar does. These are the only tour companies I will travel with now.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you all for your input. It is quite helpful.
Pam, I am in awe of your travel resume. Good for you.
I will give Road Scholar's Greek tour a shot. I need to also spread my wings beyond Europe so this will be a good test.
Travel well and stay safe everyone.

Posted by
11534 posts

Deb, I'll also add to check to make sure of the group size for a Road Scholar tour. They used to include it on the Overview section of each program but have stopped doing that. Sometimes it will have a "Small Group" tag on it but ask to be sure. I signed up for a Garden tour for May and realized a few months ago that it was a 40 person tour. Nope, too big. Would have been too big pre-Covid as well. It takes too long to get 40 people fed, pottied and back on the bus/coach. I'm in the process of cancelling that tour.

I'll also say that the Road Scholar guides/leaders/instructors are awesome (as are Rick's). The Road Scholar office staff are undertrained and difficult to deal with.

I've never had issues with any Rick Steves office staff and in fact one time I called to ask a random question about a tour and the person said...wait a minute...let me look at something. She came back on and told me about a special exhibition at the Rijksmuseum that needed advance tickets and advised me on the timing for that. Awesome.

Posted by
5541 posts

I was just about to suggest you PM Pam, but she's already here!

Posted by
267 posts

I have been on only one Road Scholar tour (Cuba, in the very early Obama era) and 5 with Rick Steves. I am a solo traveler and pretty introverted by nature. I also, pre- Covid, traveled extensively and independently because I move at a pretty fast pace (or dawdle forever if it's something I have always wanted to see/experience). I also get frustrated with group meals- I am on a fairly restricted diet and just really prefer doing my own thing.
For safety, though, I really value a tour if there are locations where either the language or concerns about being alone could be problematic. I also so appreciate the deeper insight gained with the excellent guides of both "RS"-s.
Because I only experienced the one Road Scholar tour I would never want to generalize. I was at least 20 years younger than my tour mates and definitely the most "spry". I found it so inspirational to spend time with older travelers with a wealth of life experience and insight and still deep curiosity about all we saw. It definitely was not a "tick the box" type of vibe.
I actually suggested to the guide that she use the Rick Steves "buddy check" and "leave without you" methods! Each and every time we had to assemble to get on the bus was excruciating. Between waiting for people to be checked off the list of names (taking attendance as in school) and just waiting for people to get back ON the bus (after disembarking at a site) we lost so much time that could have been spent seeing things. I don't know if that was unique to my experience, but it would make me think twice for a post- pandemic next time. The point about making sure it's a small group is an excellent one- I think we were about 20.
The last caveat is your own travel "style" and physical abilities. This was advertised as "moderately" active but it was nowhere near the level of activity of a Rick Steves tour. For me, were I to use Road Scholar again I would choose an itinerary at the "very active" level!

Posted by
12600 posts

Each and every time we had to assemble to get on the bus was excruciating. Between waiting for people to be checked off the list of names (taking attendance as in school) and just waiting for people to get back ON the bus (after disembarking at a site) we lost so much time that could have been spent seeing things. I don't know if that was unique to my experience, but it would make me think twice for a post- pandemic next time.

Karen, whoever was leading your Road Scholar tour was inexperienced. It takes the same amount of time for people to get on the bus regardless of how a count is made.

I worked as a tour director. Most times, my count was done before everyone was even settled in their seats. If not, it took no more than 30 seconds to count everyone. (Not exactly wasting a lot of time.) In most cases, they didn't even know I was counting.

Other tour companies don't use the "buddy system" because the tour director is resonsible to make sure everyone is there. What if someone's buddy is pre-occupied and when a "buddy count" is done they don't respond and their "buddy" isn't there.

I saw it happen. One person was so pre-occupied putting her souvenirs in her bag she missed the call for the "buddy check." Their buddy wasn't on board. The bus started to pull away--early-- and I realized that person wasn't on board. I yelled out and the bus stopped. There was the missing passenger running for the bus.

So, if had not noticed that person missing, who would have been responsible for getting that missed passenger to the next stop? The missed passenger who was actually on time? The buddy who was so preoccupied she missed checking for her buddy? The tour company?

It sometimes takes longer to do the "buddy check" than a quick count by the tour director.

Posted by
2324 posts

I’ll chime in as well to say that for our Road Scholar France tour the 18 of us got on the bus quickly - no buddies, no checking off names. It was quick and easy. The same has been true for my Gate 1 travels and my Smartours.

Posted by
11534 posts

Regarding the Road Scholar activity level: They re-did the activity levels in about late 2016 or 2017 and they are more accurate now, perhaps a little overestimation on pace but not bad. They, in general, are not quite as active as Rick's tours and part of that is because they porter your bag for you so no pulling your suitcase over cobbles and hills, lol. I am pretty sure on the date because I'd done a walking program in England in 2016 that was WAY off - most days called for 5 miles and we did 8 solid, hilly miles most days. That program's level changed a good deal after they re-did the activity levels and separated out the Outdoor based hiking/walking/activity programs from the rest of the programs.

Since I usually choose based on the itinerary, if the pace is too slow, I just walk early in the AM or in the evenings after activities are finished. This last trip we stopped for a photo op in Rocamadour and I noticed a paved path signed to the Old City Center. I checked with the guide and told him I'd just walk back and was joined by another couple who wanted another mile or so for the day. Although the guide had not walked the path, the bus driver was a runner and had run it on previous tours so confirmed it was no problem to walk back on.

I'd agree with Frank about the guide having a bearing on how quickly the "count" is done. This last trip Laurent was very quick - usually came up 2 short which was the same couple every single time. By halfway thru the trip I could look and see who of the 21 of us were there and who was not. I will say if it had been a Rick Steves tour the guide would have pulled them aside and had a talk about being on time. This guide, although experienced with Viking, was new to Road Scholar and apparently didn't feel comfortable with that kind of intervention.

Posted by
9204 posts

We did the two-week Cuba Road Scholar tour, the length of the island west to east. No trouble with dawdlers. Great guide and driver. Very, very experienced, down-to-earth travel companions.