Best advice for going on a tour

May 19th, 2001, 04:53 PM
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Best advice for going on a tour

My husband, parents and I are going on Grand European Tours, Best of Italy tour in September. For those who have gone on tours before, what is the one piece of advice you would give to someone taking a tour for the first time. (please don't say,"don't go on one"- traveling on ones own is not alway right for everyone). Whether it is a particular item to take, or piece of advice on how to handle certain situations, etc. I would be interested in hearing what more experienced travelers w/ tour companies would advise. Thank you.
May 19th, 2001, 06:52 PM
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Try to find a tour that does as few countries as possible, and spends the most time in the stops it makes. The big cities, usually featured on the tour have so much that you can never exhaust them. Instead of spending a day or two in each place, and spending most of your time in transport, try and find one that hits the fewest cities. If you like it, the rest of Europe will be there next year. Go regional, and go back. Have fun.
May 19th, 2001, 07:53 PM
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no offense - - but the original question already mentioned "Best of Italy tour"! So the advice about as few countries as possible doesn't seem very relevant.

I would say that the number one important thing is to learn as much Italian before you go as possible - - you will be the envy of all, and you will get so much more out of the trip.
May 19th, 2001, 08:44 PM
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Dave said: >>>Try to find a tour that does as few countries as possible, and spends the most time in the stops it makes. <<<

Dave makes good sense, but one of the things that I found important about a tour is beyond your control. That is the tour manager.

Since I went on a few of those guided tours before I struck out on my own, I can tell you that the tour manager can make or break a tour.

I've had some good ones that would bend over backwards to give tips and information to insure that you had a great trip.

But then I've had some turkeys also. One guy was such an arrogant person, that he sneered at the passengers. He made smart alleck responses to any question. He would not do one thing to help the tour member. His main thing was to sell as many optinal excursions as he could sell.

I hope you have a good tour manager that will help you when you do want to strike out on your own.

At some point of your tour, you will want to get away from the rest of the group. Hopefully you'll have a good tour manager that will help you do things alone.

Most of these tours do a good job of giving you the most for your money. Be sure to take some excursions since they do provide you with a local guide that give you the historical information of that city.

Globus and Trafalgar tours often put the traveler way out in hotels out in no man's land. Make sure that if you do not want to sign up for an excursion, make sure he or she gives you the information on how to get into the city center.

One guide I had refused to tell passengers on how to get into the city center. This turkey wanted to sell as many optinal excursions as he could. So there was no way in heck this bozo was going to help anyone.

Anyway, you should have a great trip. You'll meet a wide variety of people on tours.
May 19th, 2001, 09:31 PM
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I've been on a few tour groups, including one just a few months ago. My advice is to make sure and meet your other travelers. Don't eat just with your own family and not mingle with the other passengers. I found that I met a lot of the other people by being up early in the morning and taking walks with others before breakfast. We got to explore the city areas while the streets were quiet and we met so many of the wonderful locals that way. Just pop in and say hi to the local butcher, post man, etc. I found that they were the most interesting way to experience the culture and hear about the every day live around the area.
May 19th, 2001, 09:33 PM
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Hi Donna,

Two things to take - a sense of humor and a lot of tolerance. With those two items, anything is possible!

Oh, and don't forget the camera and film.
May 19th, 2001, 09:37 PM
Meg Lomania
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Be as conformist as possible. Don't express any original ideas & especially keep a very low cover if you happen to be politically liberal. This is particularly true if you have to eat a lot of meals with your tour mates.
May 19th, 2001, 11:06 PM
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I'd also recommend choosing a tour that spends 2 nights minimum at each place, that way you will get much more out of the tour and remember where you've been!
Two tips - I'd take clothes that wash and dry quickly and easily (definitely non-iron), that way you can rinse out last thing at night and hopefully things will be dry by morning. You don't want to spend half a day at a laundromat or a fortune on having the hotel do it for you.
Also, your luggage will probably get collected from outside your room early when you are still getting ready for the day. Keep things like your toothbrush, cosmetics etc aside and put your bags out in good time so they don't get missed by the porter.
May 20th, 2001, 07:00 AM
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While I've not taken any tours friends and neighbors have and this is what they say. Don't feel guilty about missing some "included" activity (deep down you know you have paid for it so most people feel compeled to go). If you are tired, or just not interested, or want to see another site instead go do it if at all possible. Also, keep a good sense of humor at all times! Take an alarm clock (never rely on hotel clocks, set both ... you will have to get up and out early usually). Carry a water bottle, umbrella & sweater in your day bag, toss in a granola bar or two as well. Wear VERY comfortable shoes, well broken in ones, ALL the time. Glamour is not an issue for feet when you walk long distances on cobblestone, etc. Try not to eat all your meals with the group - venture out into the city/town and eat in local places. "Tour" food tends to be hotel food geared for the masses according to my neighbor who went to Italy on a tour by herself last year. She said she and a new found friend from the tour tried to venture away from the group to eat, turned out to be a lot more fun (and tasty). Just relax and go with the flow, but be open to options along the way.
May 20th, 2001, 07:12 AM
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Just remember that you're not a prisoner. If you want to shop while the group eats lunch, or if you want to visit the church while the group shops, let the guide know, and go ahead. Just know where the bus is, and what time it's leaving, and be back on time.
May 20th, 2001, 07:30 AM
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I've taken tours and there are many positives about them. Take time to mingle with the other members ASAP. You'll get to know them and also you'll learn right away who to avoid. Even though you're on a tour, don't rely so much on your guide that you feel unable to strike out. Read up ahead of time, bring along a good guide book, (eyewitness Italy is heavy but a good one, oops! so is Fodors ) It amazes me how reliant members get on the guide. You'll get more out of your trip if you take initiative to learn about where you're going and strik out on your own in the towns you visit. If you're on a tour that has extra cost excursions, don't be afraid to see some of those sights on your own.

When you have free nights for dinner, take some time for yourselves away from the group.

Be accomodating on the bus. Its the one place where I've seen the most of the worst in people.

And while I beleive we should ask for something that we want, I let small things go by so that if I have a big request of the guide I get it.

Finally, the one people the rest of us talk about in our rooms at night? The one who thinks he knows it all, the one who is always complaining and the bickering couple.
May 20th, 2001, 07:46 AM
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Betsy said something about seeing the worst of people. Wheeewww. I had a man try and pick a fight with me on the tour bus as the other 35 members sat and watched in total shock.

I *quitely* told the guy that when we stopped at the next bus stop, that he and I could have a nice little talk in some out of the way place if he still wanted to pursue that option.

Once we stopped, he ran like a little rabbit.

Anyway, there is a wide group of people on these tours. Most are congenial, but there are always a few sour pusses on these tours. Count on that. Avoid them like you would avoid a nuclear meltdown!

There easy enough to spot. They usually complain about everything. The food is lousy. Their rooms are too small. They didn't shell out all this dough to get lousy service.

I saw one woman from my tour group throw a scene in a Vienna restaurant because her steak was not cooked enough. She threw a fit! She said: I"M AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!!! That was what I guess people talk about when they mention "The ugly American".

But most of the tour members are nice enough though. I don't mean to scare you off, but be aware of some of these things and your trip will go better.
May 20th, 2001, 08:00 AM
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Here goes my advice-try to sit close to the front of the bus and get friendly w/the driver-they know more than the tour guides who can be from anywhere in Europe!You will see that the group will stake out their seats from the first day so get your own plan in place early!
Buy water,snacks,etc whenever you can.If you truly cannot eat what is served ,ask for a salad-my groups found that salads and bread at the end of the day were great especially laste at night.
Finally do not feel pressured into giving tips to the driver or the courier if they did a lousy job.Many of us feel guilt ridden even if we were abused during the trip.They depend on these trips and that is your only way of getting the message across.....
May 20th, 2001, 08:22 AM
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Two things you can do to enhance your travel experience while on an escorted group tour are to:
1) Prepare ahead of time; learn about what you'll be seeing.
2) Get off on your own.

Travelers who do nothing to prepare for their experience get (much) less out of it than those who spend time learning about what they'll be seeing. Especially important considering many tour guides are charming, personable, glib, charismatic ... and dead wrong about their facts. So much of your experience is dependent on your tour guide ... preparing for what you're going to see makes you a bit more independent of whether the guide is excellent or not, and also puts you in a position to push the guide a bit if that's needed as well.

More importantly, I find folks who spend no time preparing have little retention, or appreciation, for what they've seen after they get back. It can all be overwhelming unless you're prepared.

The second point mates with the first ... getting off on your own. If you're prepared, you'll be in a good position to do this. If not prepared, you'll find it difficult at best, and less rewarding.

Two reasons you'll want to get off on your own. You won't be interested in exactly the same things as your guide or your group. Free time is best used to fill in the areas in which you're especially interested.

Second, unless your budget is unlimited, you'll find that the "optional" excursions and add-ons are both expensive and plentiful. Many tours are priced at or below cost. Sales of options turn them into profitable ventures. Second, the guide may get paid as little as $30-50 a day. The commissions on options are quite high and make the difference between living in poverty and high on the hog.

So give yourself a chance to pass up some of those expensive options and at the same time dig into things that you're really interested in.

May 20th, 2001, 08:36 AM
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The above posters have covered most of the bases very well. Our experience tells us: be a team player. The non-conformist whiner, the know-it-all, and the overbearing and demanding person will soon be spotted and by the third day will become the tour group's "goat."
We had a woman who browbeat her husband from one end of the tour to the other, even insisting that "Arthur" be sure "to use the bathroom like a good boy." Wow! Did that ever bring down the house...or the bus!
May 20th, 2001, 09:45 AM
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It seems that Betsy and Al were on the same trips as me.
We were lucky that the tours I was on was not full, what a joy that would have been>
Remember, you do not have to shop nor eat at the places you are brought to. Just be at the bus when it is scheduled to leave. Please don't be late! I had a couple who believed that 8AM meant anywhere between 8:10 and 8:30!
Just be your normal considerate self anf you'll do fine. Have a great time!
May 20th, 2001, 12:57 PM
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Sorry, I was writing quickly and wrote "countries" when I meant cities. Same princple applies.
May 20th, 2001, 02:24 PM
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1. In the unlikely event that the tour is truly terrible or doesn't include enough excursions, feel free to explore on your own, on foot, by bus or train, or through other day tours. Just make sure you're not left behind when the tour leaves for the next destination.

2. If you're on a tour with all people from your own country, find some opportunities to do some little things on your own, e.g., buying stamps, talking to the hotel cleaning lady, that will give you an opportunity to try speaking Italian.

3. Keep an open mind about your fellow tour members. Sometimes people who complain or show off and seem obnoxious in fact are not. Some people just have odd ways of dealing with their anxieties and loneliness and can become very likeable once they feel comfortable. (I wrote a true account of my experience withone of these types in the thread called "Difficult travel companions." I think I called her "Susan" in the story.)

4. Even though you'll be on a tour, prepare as if you were going alone. That meay mean, e.g., learn or relearn a bit of the language, take a dictionary, research the places you'll be visiting, maybe see movies or read novels set in the areas you'll be visiting.

5. Sometimes it helps to be a squeaky whell, just not too, too squeaky.
May 20th, 2001, 07:42 PM
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1) Don't feel compelled to go to all the included demonstrations (glass blowing, lace, porcelein or leather making etc) which are basically marketing spiels which provide a kick back to the tour director when you have limited free tome & could be out seeing the sights.
2) Don't be last one on the bus in the morning or else you will be forced to sit in the only spare seat next to the 'pain in the butt' ...every tour has one!
3) Consider skipping included bland hotel meals & go out & 'discover' your own authentic little restaurants...your fellow tourers will be very envious they didn't think to do likewise!
4) Be sure to take with you a healthy dose of tolerance, a smile & sense of humour!
May 21st, 2001, 02:01 AM
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Iíve only been on one tour (Globus) so my experience is limited but I did learn a few things about tours. In addition to what has been stated above, here are some things I learned from that experience. There were people on the tour who arrived a day early and were refreshed the first day. They also wanted to avoid problems if their luggage was misdirected and didnít arrive at the hotel in time. You might want to consider this option if your flight plans havenít already been made.

Make sure you have local currency before you get on the bus for your first excursion or youíll spend valuable sightseeing time looking for a place to change money.

Third, head for the bathrooms as soon as you get off the bus. You wonít be late getting back to the bus because you had to stop and you wonít focus on your bladder during sightseeing. Also, since youíll be going to Italy make sure you have a bunch of 500 lire coins (I think itís 500 lire) for the rest room attendants. One of the things that irked me on the tour was that the women who were traveling with their husbands had no money of their ownÖnot even a coin for the bathroom!

The coins are also used to light up portions of churches, such as frescoes and sculpture. Thereís often a box you insert the coin into and a light comes on so you can see better. Church often have dim lighting.

Have a great trip. Adrienne


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