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14-18 day highlights of Europe which tour company is best

14-18 day highlights of Europe which tour company is best

Old Dec 22nd, 2015, 01:02 AM
  #81  
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thank you all so much. My Rick Steves, Europe through the back door, should be arriving today......I think thats the title... Janisj, you make train travel sound so easy. thanks
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Old Dec 22nd, 2015, 02:19 AM
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train travel is far easier than car travel in large parts of Europe
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 01:46 AM
  #83  
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I hope i don't upset anyone after all the great tips you've given me, but....there is a 21 day guided tour starting in Amsterdam and ending in London that really covers a lot of ground and sounds really neat. Its a Rick Steves tour. Should i start a new post or is anyone on here familiar with this.
Still up in the air about how I'm going to do my first European trip. This Rick Steves tour really intrigues me though, thanks!
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 02:19 AM
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I think this thread is fine, anyone who knows about RS will have followed your original heading
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 05:14 AM
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It sounds like you are still a bit nervous about independent travel. If so, and if you can afford it, a Rick Steves tour would certainly be the one I'd recommend. The small size, reasonable amount of moving around, etc. is good. You would get a taste of the 'highlights' without having to think too much about it, or worry about logistics. However, the price, while not bad, is at least twice the per person per day price I spend traveling around Europe (and I often stay at hotels he uses for his tours). Moving at that pace on your own I don't think is a good idea so you'd get to see more different places - though in much less depth than if you picked half those countries and did it independently. Then you could (for just the cost of airfare) go back and do the other half on your next trip.

It would be interesting if we could ask Rick to read this thread and then advise you - would he say take my tour as a good introduction, then do independent next time, or would he say, no, with my guidebooks and your Fodors forum friends you can totally do it yourself. He is the guru of showing people how to travel independently in Europe.

BTW the only 21 day RS tour I know of starts in Amsterdam but ends in Paris, not London. Do you have a link for that one.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 07:30 AM
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Right, there is a 13 day Family Best of Europe tour that runs London to Florence, but the classic 21 day Best of Europe starts in Amsterdam and ends in Paris - although no reason you shouldn't add London to the beginning or end.

I don't have the current, heavily revised, edition of "Europe Through the Back Door", but my 2007 edition says: "For many people with limited time and money, tours are the most efficient way to see Europe." But he then goes on to devote hundreds of pages to telling you how to do it yourself. Since he sees himself primarily as a teacher, I suspect he might lean to DIY, and he also says that anyone who reads the book can certainly DIY. But taking the Best of Europe tour for your first trip and then going independently can be a good approach. I did that with Asia - tours first, and then solo.

There are a number of "scrapbooks" on the RS website produced by people who have taken the Best of Europe tour (and the others), and if you ask for the tour catalog it will come with DVD of an actual tour, so you can get a good idea of what it would be like.

I have taken five RS tours, although only country-specific ones. I have always enjoyed them, and have found the hotels comfortable (well, aside from one room in Palermo) and well located, the food good and the guides excellent. I prefer smaller groups, but have enjoyed meeting the other people, and am still in touch with some of them.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Martoon, I hope you are still reading your other post. I posted more general travel tips there.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 09:41 AM
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Several of our friends have been pleased with packages arranged by AAA; you might look into those.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 10:45 AM
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I would not look into AAA. They simply resell other companies' trips. Companies like Insight and Trafalgar - I wouldn't take their trips if they were free.
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Old Dec 28th, 2015, 01:49 AM
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you are right , it ends in Paris. Thank you all, and thank you Sassafrass i will make sure i check the other post.
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 11:09 AM
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Ok Fodor friends, this is my latest idea. Please tell me what you think.
We would go on our own. We would follow the itinerary that rick steves has for the "Best of Europe in 21 days" although we would do it over one month. Starting sep 1st 2016 thru oct 1st.
I have an appointment with a rick steves consultant next friday over the phone. Im thinking we could follow the same route, and stay at the same hotels that they stay in. Not sure about how to travel that route though. If there is a public bus system that we could take or if there are trains along that route that we could book. Our entire budget, for the two, of us including airfare would be $12,000. What do you think? Is this realistic?
Really appreciate some feedback. thanks
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 01:30 PM
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Honestly, if you want to do the tour route, I'd take the tour, and then I'd add on to the end.

I checked my 2007 "Europe through the Back Door", which has the tour route re-done for train travel.

Starts out with Harlem and Amsterdam, as for the tour, then skips the Arnhem museum, going straight to Bacharach.

Says to take the train to Rothenburg, but it looks like that takes over four hours and three connections.

A bus to Munich. You would skip Dachau, and it suggests a bus tour for Ludwig's castles. Then a night train to Venice.

Venice, Florence, Rome and Cinque Terre are straightforward by train.

Train to the Swiss Alps - suspect this would be a long day. Night train to Paris.
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 01:40 PM
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thanks thursdaysd I have to tell you the reason I'm thinking of traveling this way is that I've had a knee replacement and although i can get around fine, stairs and being on my feet etc... I am slow and i know i wouldn't be able to keep up with a tour group like that.
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 01:58 PM
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Ah, that makes perfect sense. It also suggests that following that exact route is probably not the best idea. The London and Paris trip we had going for a while would work better, and with extra time you could easily fly to Venice and then train to Florence and Rome. Fitting Switzerland in between Paris and Venice would work too, but I don't think you want to spend much time on buses, or on routes that require three changes of train. Plan to fly into London and home from Rome.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 11:59 AM
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You really can't plan on using buses to get around Europe. Other than tour buses, the main buses are for schoolchildren and workers, not tourists. There simply is no bus network for tourists in Europe.

If you want to follow the RS tour route, you're going to have to find alternate means of transportation, meaning either car or trains or flights.

Also, if you have any choice, and you do, I would never choose to stay in the hotels Rick Steves stays in.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 12:59 PM
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Of course there are long distance buses in Europe. I much prefer to travel by train, but that's a preference, not a requirement. In the UK, there's the National Express network, which I have used on occasion. On the continent the first place to start is Eurolines, but there are others. When I was worried about the German rail strikes last year I found two excellent bus alternatives. In Spain I used Alsa buses for a couple of routes. Any Lonely Planet or Rough Guide will have long distance bus listings.

I have no idea why StCirq would not stay in the hotels used by RS tours. I have done so, both on tour and traveling independently, and generally find them well located and comfortable. On my last trip I happened to overlap with an RS tour for one night in Varenna. Perhaps StCirq would care to explain what is wrong with the Villa Cipressi?
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 04:56 PM
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"I would never choose to stay in the hotels Rick Steves stays in."

On behalf of everyone who stays in such places, we thank you.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 05:16 PM
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The main problem with trying ti do the RS itinerary on your own is you simply can't do the same route. There are no buses connecting some of the destinations, and trains don't go to some of the small p,aces - the RS coach can go wherever, not relying on public transport routes.

Work out your own itinerary, not one defined by a coach tour.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 06:09 PM
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The RS tour is, I think, in some ways, about the small coach, small group, experiences with pubs, cheese places, etc.

You cannot duplicate that experience on your own, so unless every stop on the itinerary is exactly what you would choose for yourself, why follow such a pre-made plan when you can Tailor one to suit you personally?

Also, that trip kind of hops all over the place. That costs more money and you do not see as much as when you spend less time in the travel part. You never see everything, but a day here and there may leave a lot of places where you feel you skipped so much you must return.

This is just my opinion, but you are planning on future trips. My strong suggestion is to try to thoroughly see some of the places highest on your wish list, so you will feel you really saw them and can go on to new places the next trip. That doesn't mean you won't return to some places a second time anyway, but you wouldn't feel cheated if you didn't.

Even RS's tours are groups. As such they require a hotel to accommodate them. Because RS uses the same places frequently, his groups probably get special extras, which you may/may not get.

On your own, you can pick really small, interesting, personal places or big places with luxuries that suit you exactly. Some great places simply do not take groups. You could also do apartments in some places. I have stayed in luxurious little hotels with only 4 or 5 rooms, an old stone fortress, a tiny, two story, hundreds of years old stone house, a cave, a private studio apartment, an old palazzo where the big rooms had been divided into little ones, so each had only a part of the grand ceiling fresco-still lovely and very interesting. So many more choices on your own. No need to be stuck with something needed by a group when you can choose something wonderful just for you.

You can do this, you really can!
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 06:25 PM
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Going back to the beginning of this thread . . . You really do have an enormous budget. P,ease don't waste it dashing from place to place to copy RS. Use your time/money wisely with easy trips to one or two countries at a time. That will let you see more and better meet your physical limitations.
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