Bus tours, are they so bad?

Old Feb 26th, 2000, 09:01 AM
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Bus tours, are they so bad?

We are traveling to Italy for the first time this fall. We are in our late 40's, and have never taken an organized tour. It seems that they have lots to offer though, accomplishing lots in a short period of time, and having a good idea of how much money you will really spend. Why does everyone seem to hate them so? Have you ever done the bus tour thing? And do you have any company recomendations? We are planning a 2 week trip in sept. or oct. Thanks very much, Jim
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 09:38 AM
wes fowler
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It's probably unfortunate that the first response you've received is from one who does not favor organized tours. No doubt you'll receive more favorable responses from devotees of organized tours. Why do I have a negative attitude? I think the word "organized" is the key that causes my dislike. Organized, indeed, down to the last minute: up at 6:30; luggage in the hall by 7:15, breakfast at 7:30, on the bus by 8:00. "Visit" a tourist site for a hurried hour or two; "See" a tourist site as you look out a bus window. Spend two weeks with strangers, some of whom you'll develop an affinity for, others for whom you'll develop animosity. Dine in restaurants geared to feeding hoards of tourists where "steam table" cuisine prevails. Never have the opportunity to spend a liesurely hour or two with a native; never have the unhurried delight of exploration of side streets, local haunts and restaurants and shops not geared to the tourist trade. All a high price to pay for the luxury (?) of having someone do your planning and thinking for you, haul your luggage from and to a bus and barrage you with information that may or may not be totally accurate or relevant.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 10:41 AM
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I'll give the other side! We travel on bus tours and believe there is a distinct advantage for Ist time visitors to go this way! 1. It can be much cheaper ,if you want Ist Class hotels. (If you want to "rough it" that's a different story) 2. If you go to a place that you do not speak the language, it is safer and easier to go with a tour company. They show you the safe places to eat, show you where to get your money exchanged, and a multitude of other services that would be hard if one does not speak the language.3. There is usually spare time to do a few things "on your own" with tours.4. I do not know your age, but if you are "older" travelers, tour companies certainly take the stress out of traveling! We plan on using Globus for a tour of Southern Italy & Sicily next year. We have traveled with them 4 times and are satisfied. Globus has a budget version of their tours. It is called Cosmos.It's a little cheaper. Happy Traveling! Guest J.J.L.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 10:47 AM
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Third opinion: a small group tour can offer many of the advantages with few of the negatives of the big bus experience.

Caravella Italia
and me, too

Best wishes,

Old Feb 26th, 2000, 11:02 AM
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Jim...It's me again! I looked back at your request and I see that you are in your late 40s. I still think a bus tour is less stressful. You might ask how many people the tour company puts on the bus though.We usually travel with 20 to 25 others. One time we went with only 13 others. By the way, have you been to a travel agent and taken several of their brochures home to peruse? Globus, Cosmos, and many other's brochures are at your local travel agent's office. Bye again
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 11:24 AM
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Jim, there is a sort of middle ground can take called the independent tour. Check out my (and other) responses on the posting titled "First tour in Italy."
My feelings about organized tours are pretty much the same as Wes Fowler's. And when we were in Italy, we were glad we hadn't gone on one after seeing some groups "in action."
By the way, the age factor is over stated. My wife and I beyond our late 40s and in no way felt stressed. And as for language, our Italian is very poor!
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 11:30 AM
Bob Brown
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Hi Jim. I usually freelance my travels, but upon occasion, if a tour is going where I want to go, when I want to go, and at the right price, then I have no reservations about taking the tour. Also, I would consider the type of people who might be on the trip.

One of the best tours I can recall was one we took to London. The tour provided the flight over, a bus to the hotel, good hotel rates for 7 nights in London at a 4 star hotel, baggage handling, and a bus back to the airport when it was time to go home.
Optional tours of London and southern England were provided by the tour operator under an agreement with another firm. We sent our son off on a day long bus tour with others in our group to Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury while we did something else. He also went to Stratford on a group tour while we again did something else.

As a general rule I find tours too regimented and too much into things I don't care about and too little into those things I want to do. But, I consider them frequently and have no hesitation about taking one IF meets my wants.

My dad was a veteran globe trotter, but when it came to a trip to the game parks in Kenya and a trip to eastern Europe, he went with tours because they fit his agenda and, in some cases, provided services that were not otherwise available. But England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain he did on his on because he felt like he knew the "lay of the land" in that part of Europe.

Norway and Sweden he also visited with a tour because he figured the cost was less, the schedule was better, and the tour took him right to the fjords, which were a primary objective.
I think you must weigh the gains and losses if you go with a tour, but I think too many people automatically dismiss them because of perceived regimentation. My suggestion is to consider the alternatives and take the type of trip that meets your needs and objectives.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 01:00 PM
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I have taken bus tours of Europe four times; it has its limitations, but there are advantages, as well. The cost, for one, is much less than making all arrangements yourself. It is nice to have someone else worry about where the hotel is or how to get to the next city. On the bus tour, you will meet some people you dearly love and others you cannot stand, but that's life.

For the first trip to Europe, I think the bus tour is a good idea. You will gain the confidence you need to make your own travel arrangements for future trips.

(My four trips have been with student tours; I'm going independently this summer, but the cost will be 30-40% higher.)

Have fun!
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 01:05 PM
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Hi Jim. I'd look at a couple of things before signing on for an organized bus tour-the average age of the other travelers on the trip to make sure the pace isn't too slow or too fast, and how many days/how much free time in each city so that you have a chance to see things that aren't on the tour.

The only organized bus tour we've taken was to Russia when we were in our 20's. Besides 2 people in their 40's, we were the only ones under 65. We spent a lot of time away from the group exploring on our own because the pace was for the remainder of the group.

I think a lot of the touring companies are realizing that people don't want to spend all of their time with the group and are allowing more free time with the packaged tours.

Another alternative would be to try an independent package-your hotel and transportation is arranged ahead of time and often there is a 1/2 day city tour included in major cities so that you get an introduction to the city. We've done several in Europe and prefer to travel that way when possible.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 02:02 PM
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Jim: Take a look at www.twenj.com/pkgtours.htm It will answer some of your questions, raise some you may not have thought of, and give you some idea of questions to raise as you evaluate tour companies.

As a general comment, if you take an escorted tour you're likely to find your ages are perhaps as much as 20 years below the average age on the tour.

20% of Americans visiting Europe take tours, and many are on their second or third or fourth tour, so they're obviously desirable for many. The flip side of that is that 80% travel independently, so it can't be all that stressful to arrange your own vacation.

Drop us a note if we can help with any questions on areas covered in our pages.

Old Feb 26th, 2000, 02:17 PM
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My daugher and I took a bus tour to Stratford Upon Avon, Oxford, and Warwick Castle...I don't believe I saw any of it! It was sooo highly organized and rushed that I promised NEVER to take a bus tour again. There was a constant amount of presure put on your to make it back to the bus on time under the penalty of missing the bus. Our lunch consisted of a 1/2 hour stop at a pub along the way to have lunch and a bathroom break. Oxford was so rushed...we had all of a 45 minute (if that) run through it. It was awful. This was a tour by a well know bus company in London, and by no means a cheap tour.
I would suggest to anybody who is travelling...you can't see it all in one week or two weeks. Take a l/2 day bus tour at your destination to get an overview of the area, then go back to see what interested you the most. Savor the area. Explore one area and do it well.
I vow I'll never go on another bus tour.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 03:44 PM
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If this is your first trip, you want to cover a lot of territory, you're going someplace where you're not fluent in the local language, you'd prefer to know pretty much what the entire trip will cost ahead of time, and so forth, take the bus! Going "on your own" requires considerable research. The tour companies give you better rooms for lower prices and do all the planning. You never need directions or find that the museum to drove 200 miles to see is closed or under renovation the day you're there. Having done one tour, you'll have sufficient experience to determine whether or not your next trip will be independent or escorted. When choosing a tour, make sure it's going where you want to go. If there's much free time and you'd like to go off on your own (rather than rest up), make sure the hotels used are well located and not half-hour outside the city. There are disadvantages. You're stuck with the schedule and typically have to be up, dressed, packed and ready to go quite early in the morning. You may find that not enough time is allowed in some places and too much in others. The tour companies do their best to adjust to everyone's preferences. However, planning everything on your own required considerable time, effort, and know-how. Sometimes I make the plans, other times we book a tour. If I were going to Italy for the first time (I don't know a word of Italian or anything about Italy), I'd shop for a tour, then read a few good guidebooks between now and departure.
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 03:44 PM
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My Aunts are returning to Holland after immigrating to this country in 1947. They want to see a little bit of Europe and asked about bus tours. I found a company called UnTours and just received their catalog. I don't know if its right for my Aunts but the idea is intriguing. You stay in darling chateau's in Switzerland, row houses in Amsterdam, etc., you receive a car and a guide as to where to go etc. The prices were pretty good.
I think its www.untours.com
Old Feb 26th, 2000, 06:01 PM
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There are so many pros and cons to this question. I will limit myself to a few personal experiences on both sides.
My husband is still griping because 20 years ago we took an organized tour to Italy and he was looking forward to seeing Pompeii, including the museum. We did get to visit Pompeii, albeit in a rather rushed manner, but not the museum. His complaint is that we spent an hour in a cameo factory that same day as the women on the tour pondered their jewelry purchases. That is typical of tours. We also stopped in a leather factory in Florence. But, remember, some of the people on the tour loved these "shopping stops" and were not upset that they did not see the Uffizi Gallery that day.
There were many things about this and other tours we have taken, however, that were positive--particularly not having to worry about baggage handling, driving, parking, etc., plus having guides to explain the sites. We met many nice people and a few obnoxious ones.
Two things have changed since that first trip to Italy: We can now travel independently because we are retired. Back then, we had only 10 days for a trip to Europe and the organized tour certainly allowed us to see more. Now, we have more time to travel, and I'm spoiled and don't like to get up at the crack of dawn to be on a bus. I'd rather linger over a coffee and contemplate the day ahead.
Tours can also be more economical (but not always). We took a Perrillo tour to Hawaii two years ago and, on our own, we could not have afforded to stay in the hotels they provided. They would have cost us more than $300 a day, and the tour company gets them for half that. We did 3 islands with Perrillo and we figured that on our own, doing the exact same things, we could only have done one island. For some people, lodging doesn't matter that much, but on this particular vacation, the hotels were a highlight of our trip. On our own, we could have done a trip to Hawaii cheaper, by staying at less expensive hotels or renting a condo, but I really liked these hotels a lot. But, on the other side of the coin, we added a fourth island on our own, and have to admit that we enjoyed going at our own pace and without a group.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there are good and bad points to a tour, and you have to decide what you can live with. I would not rule out doing a tour again, particularly to a place where the language barrier might seem formidable to me, or if I had to travel alone in a very unfamiliar place.

Old Mar 6th, 2000, 04:01 AM
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I mostly travel on my own because it's easier for 2-3 people to get around than groups of 20-30. I do like to take little mini tours for the day or a 2 hour tour. Those can be fun.
A friend of mine, from Wales, took a tour and part of it was to see Hampton Court. He had only 3 hours and back to the bus. My sister and I went on our own and spent the whole day there and had a wonderful time. I don't like the rushed feeling of tour groups or being slowed down in travel time by them.

I guess it's a matter of individual preferences.
Old Mar 6th, 2000, 04:53 AM
Mary Ann
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We have taken 3 independent driving tours of Europe. Most of the comments cited above are the reasons we did. You have the advantage of setting your own itinerary, staying where you want, when you want. Our first trip was in 1984, our last, last fall. We are in our mid 50s. The key factors are that significant research, which I enjoy is required. Cost to plan is not a factor. MCI for $3 a month had 9 cent Sundays to Europe, with Fax, e-mail and web sites, plus a good travel book or two, most planning costs are minimal (maybe less than some of the zone call costs we pay locally). With web sites for trip tics that give you milage and driving times, city webs providing ideas and alternatives, accomodation webs, and attraction web sites (Versailles, Eifel tower, etc)where you can make reservations on line, you become a better informed traveler. You know what you want to see. Some of the best times are the quiet cafes and out of the way Pubs. Language is generally not a problem (our last trip covered East and West Europe, including France and Italy)and we are only fluent in English. Lets face it, there are not too many ways for people to be adventurous (we've done the white water rafting and do not plan to mountain climb). A driving tour enables you to see a more everyday Europe that is just wonderful. And lets face it, some times when things are not just perfect, they are more memorable. The people you meet are priceless. I think there is also a sense of accomplishment that you did do it on your own. Cost can also be minimized. We stayed in Pubs, B&Bs and small no more than 3 * hotels. With 600 year old pubs, a view of Chamonix, and one of the Mediterranean, to a room on the Venice Grand Canal, we averaged about $80 a night for 20 nights. And every place was friendly, clean and had a bathroom. So it basicaly boils down to what you are looking for and how much time you want to spend in advance. For me, planning has always been half the fun!! Good Luck!
Old Mar 6th, 2000, 05:47 AM
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Jim, I think that the key here is a matter of preference. Both independent and tour travel involve compromise. In our early years, when we worked overseas, we did lots of independent travel. Now that we are in our 60's we like tours. The compromises involved in tours have been adequately cited. There are also compromises in independent travel: more concern and time put into basics of where you will stay and where you will eat; how you will get there; where are the sites you want to see located; dealing with a foreign language; struggling with usually heavy bags; feeling isolated if health problems occur; getting from the airport to the hotel; and dealing with unforseen difficulties that might happen. Some people deal with these easier and better than others; in fact, they like the challenge of dealing with them. Others want to be relieved of the concern for these in order to concentrate on the actual sight-seeing. One type of travel gives you a more in-depth experience; the other gives you a more superficial but broader experience. Both have their pros and cons. Try it both ways; see what appeals to you. One is *not* better than the other; it depends on personal preference.

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