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Best tour company for a couples first trip to Italy in April 2013

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Dec 27th, 2012, 08:21 AM
  #1
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Best tour company for a couples first trip to Italy in April 2013

Planning our first trip to Italy and believe that a tour would be the best way to see the most on a ten day trip from Boston. Can anyone recommend a good company based on their personal experience. Thanks!
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Dec 27th, 2012, 08:56 AM
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If you are able bodied, why not plan a trip that is specific to your budget and interests? Participants in this forum are mostly DIY travelers and can offer great advice about that, but aren't generally expert advisors re canned tours. Most would say that with only 10 days, you should limit yourselves to two (three at most) cities to avoid spending half your time checking in and out of hotels. Happy planning.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 09:00 AM
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No, don't do it. There are several previous threads on this forum where posters have been persuaded to go it on their own (I hope.) For instance

First Italy Trip: tour versus independent?

Put "tours" in the research box above.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 09:00 AM
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We don't do tours but anelderly couple we know do them sometimes to avoid hassles with luggage.

The key to finding the right one is to read the brochure with a very critical eye andknow in advance what YOU want to see.

Typically the more expensive the better the location of the hotel, the fewer the meals that are poor quality americanized versions of local food and the less time wasted on "shopping" that no one really want to do.

Tauck is a reliable upscale company. Pricing down from there you are making sacrifices at each step.

Learn to read the brochure:

View - means you see the sight out of the bus window as you drive by

Stop - means a 5-minute photo op out front

Visit - is the only time you go inside - and often this includes only part of the sight - for instance, the indoors but not the gardens

Look VERY carefully at the hotels used (check on tripadvisor), especially the location. You want to be IN the city center, not the suburbs or god forbid out on the highway. Either of the latter make it very difficult for you to take advantage of free time or find a decent restaurant. Be especially careful with Venice - when they often try to pawn you off with a hotel in Mestre (an industrial city on the mainlaind.)

Also be prepared for early starts (bags at door at 7 am and on the bus at 8 am) and very long days sitting on a bus.

Look for tours that give you at least 2 nights - and preferably more - in larger cities.

Better yet, buy a package versus a tour. That will giv eyou flights, hotels (you pick for as many nights as you want) and a rail pass or tickets to get you from one place to another. But you go where you want when.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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hi travelfan,

Planning our first trip to Italy and believe that a tour would be the best way to see the most on a ten day trip from Boston.>>

what is driving you is your wanting to see the most, but the question is, the most of what? the most of the inside of a bus? the most of a hotel on the outskirts of a city you barely get to see? the most of crappy restaurants chosen by your tour company for their reasons, not yours?

10 days gives you 9 nights, and you can't fit anything like all of Italy into that. Better find 2 or 3 places that you are really attracted to, and see those properly, along with the odd day trip or two. read guide books, research here under destinations, make this your trip, not some tour company's.

if you decide to go it alone, you could fly "open jaw" into one city, depart home from another, and use the train in between. [on the airline website, hit the "multi-destination or multi-city" button. it should cost no more than a round trip ticket].

an example itinerary might be to fly into Venice, spend 4 nights there, then get the train to Rome, spend 5 nights there, go home. lots of people here can help with how to do that.

have a great trip, whatever you decide to do.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 11:25 AM
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I took the 10 day Rick Steves Venice, Florence, Rome tour as my introduction to Italy a few years ago. Similarly, I travelled with the British company, Backroads Touring Company, for a brief introduction to the west of Ireland.

I enjoyed both experiences, though the RS tours provide for more independent time, plenty of opportunity to investigate, eat, get lost, etc. on your own.

Reasons I decided on a tour for my introduction to Italy: I was very inexperienced with the language, and, especially because of this, I welcomed the guided tours we did together, along with the companionship (I was travelling solo). I was happy to leave the arrangements of hotel and transport primarily up to the tour.

When I have travelled with RS, I have always spent solo time either before or after the tour in areas like the UK, Germany, or Austria, where I am more comfortable with the language. There, I enjoy picking and choosing lodging, location, transport, and activities. I relish putting time and detailed planning into travel in countries with which I am somewhat familiar (or where I am not totally linguistically challenged). Then, when I connect with a tour in a more unfamiliar area, I can kick back and spend my energy in learning and not on the travel logistics. Sometimes, if I have travelled on my own first, when I connect with a tour, I feel as if I am on vacation from managing my travel.

Using tours as an introduction to an area has worked for me. On the next visit, I (more) comfortably navigate on my own.

In addition to the two companies I mentioned above, I also enjoy reading about "tours" or group travel experiences that have been mentioned at Slow Travel.

Whatever you decide, enjoy your trip. D
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Dec 27th, 2012, 11:50 AM
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Tours have some advantages: you don’t have to worry about most of the advance planning; you don’t have to worry about transportation issues, finding your way around, or hotel accommodations; you don’t have to worry about carrying luggage around a city or between train/car and hotel room; you don’t have to worry about buying tickets to attractions you visit, and you often bypass the line and go right in; you usually get a lot of good information from your tour guides; some of your meals are included; and you meet new people and have somebody to share your experiences with. In addition, tours generally allow you to see a lot in the time you have available (as opposed to experiencing fewer things in more depth). Of course, tours also have disadvantages (many of which have been noted in previous posts). The point I want to make is that only YOU can decide whether a tour or a do-it-yourself trip is best for you.

If you do decide to take a tour in Italy, you have a number of choices: upscale tours (such a Tauck or Insight); first-class tours (such as Trafalgar or Globus); or budget tours (such as Trafalgar Costsaver or Cosmos). All of these companies are reliable and generally offer a good product. The three types basically differ in things like how much is included in the base price (as opposed to extra optional excursions for which you have to pay extra); the location and quality of the hotels; and the quality of the included meals. But aside from those things, an upscale tour is not necessarily a higher quality tour than a first-class or budget tour. Much depends on the quality of the tour director, which is not knowable in advance – the best TD we’ve had on a tour has been on a budget tour.

Nytraveler provides some good advice about what to look for in tours.

As others have said, have a good time in Italy no matter what you decide to do.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 12:44 PM
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<< believe that a tour would be the best way to see the most on a ten day trip from Boston >>

A tour will probably take you to many towns/cities but you won't see "the most" that way since a lot of bus time will be involved rather than sightseeing time.

Take a look at some tour companies and see if their itineraries include places you want to visit. If the tours include towns that are of lesser interest to you then a tour is not the way to go.

Do you have 10 full days or are 2 of the day travel time leaving 8 days in Italy? With 8 days I would do 2 locations; perhaps 3 locations if you have 10 days.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 01:26 PM
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Other than the quick visits to major cities and the poor included meals (although in Italy, the included meals will be better than most "average" meals anywhere else), this type of stuff is the worst thing about tours: ". . . Then take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art."

That's the marketing crap you have to put up with and which cuts valuable time out of your day. Even Contiki, which sucks less than most tours for this type of nonsense, lopped off nearly the whole morning of our day in Venice for two stops: a glass-blowing demo and lace seller (and every male on the trip was zombified at the latter stop). Two friends and I all but ran out the door at the lace place when the demo was over (I just popped up and said "I'm going to the Doge's Palace, who's with me?") and they let us "shop" the showroom. They don't list those stops in their current Simply Italy tour - too many complaints or too few sales, perhaps.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 09:31 PM
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My SIL and BIL prefer to take guided tours, and they have a great time. But when they describe their trips, all I have to hear is that they needed to be packed, breakfasted and ready to board the bus at 7:30 nearly every morning to know that guided tours would never work for me. That, and lots of bus rides.

FWIW, SIL/BIL like Globus Tours.
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Dec 27th, 2012, 09:34 PM
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If you've done your research and you really believe you cannot plan your own trip, then consider what nytraveler said.

Book a "package" instead of a tour. This way, your flights and hotels are taken care of, but you have the liberty of seeing what you want to see.

If you have 9 days, I'd fly into Venice. Stay 3 nights Venice, train to Florence. Spend 2 nights Florence. Train to Rome. Spend 4 nights Rome and fly home from there.

If you definitely want a tour, please read the fine print carefully and do locate your hotels on a map. Many tour companies park you way out of city center and you have little opportunity to explore after your evening meal.

Buon viaggio! Italy is a magical place.
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Dec 28th, 2012, 01:03 AM
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Contiki is totally awful, seems cheap up front and then nickels and dimes you to death, my nephew found them to basically be a booze tour with lots of extras you had to pay for.

Rick Steves does good tours, go on the website and read the reviews. but they don't carry your luggage for you, this is not a tour for prima donnas or those with real mobility issues, you will walk, you will be taught to take public tranpsort, and you are never on the bus more then two hours or so without a stop.. and you do get free time, which you can enjoy as they stay at central smaller hotels( none of their tour groups are large, usually never more then 24-26 people.

Check out the website and look at selections. There is no nickel and diming, they have a no tipping policy and they mean it, and you get quality guides and a more relaxed pace then some tours.

They also have some more go on your own tours, they are a bit cheaper , but they are not escorted , you get bus transport and hotels arranged but you do your own sightseeing. Look into those too maybe, a good compromise.
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Dec 28th, 2012, 09:29 AM
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Jean - I took 1 Globus tour and know that I would never take another. Most of the week was spent on the bus and checking into and out of hotels.

This was my first tour so I didn't know what to look for. Twice I went off on my own (after letting the tour guide know). The first time almost everyone on the bus was envious that I had the "courage" to do this. The second time half the group asked me what I was going to do and followed me.

There are tours that do not have a lot of bus time and do not have early starts. I've taken a couple of Grand Circle Travel tours and they are leisurely with city stays of several days; few 1 nighters.

I believe Road Scholar is also more leisurely.
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