Europe for my parents?

Mar 25th, 2007, 03:57 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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JenniferK, I suggest you whittle down "Europe" to something a little less expansive. My wife and I generally travel independently but we have taken tours.

My first trip to the UK was in 1948 between junior and senior years in high school and my wife worked for the UK Foreign Service and served in London, Paris and New York before we were married. We have been to Europe as many as 3 times in a year. We are both perfectly capable "of reading a guide book? Surfing for advice? Booking an Easyjet ticket?" to plan a trip but sometimes it is not worth the bother when someone else can do it for us much more efficiently.

We like to bookend our tours with more extended stays in a city than the tours generally provide. This summer we will take a university sponsored tour which begins with a few days in Switzerland before a Rhine cruise that ends in Amsterdam. We are spending a few days in London before the tour and finishing by taking the train to Paris for 8 days before returning to the US.

Your parents and you may find this the way to go.
jsmith is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 05:06 PM
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It's really sweet of you to do this for your parents. I don't have any suggestions on a good tour company for boomers because I don't know your parents.
I do have some questions that might be helpful in helping them have a great experience.
First do they really have any interest in going to Europe?
Why haven't they already been there?
If the only thing that's held them back so far is money, than you should keep planning.
BTW, is this a surprise? Have they ever mentioned how much they would love to go?
Are they city people? Would they love strolling the streets of Paris.
Or do they love exploring quiet backroads?

What interests do they have?
It could be that they are already seeing offers for tours via their local museums, clubs or church.
Would they be more comfortable going in a group that specialized in their lifestyle?

Age doesn't dictate interests. Many people on this board are boomers and our interests can be very different.

Are they cheapskates by nature who don't mind lugging their 22inch bag around? Rick Steve's might work for them.
Or does the thought of staying anywhere without an elevator and a view bother them?

Would they rather just have a guide book, some language tapes and a car?
L84SKY is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 05:13 PM
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Globus is a great tour company. Look through their offerings for the perfect itinerary. Your parents will have a wonderful time. Once they are in the city, they are perfectly free to wander about on their own or join in with an excursion.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 05:48 PM
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We went to Great Britain at ages 51 and 56 for our first trip. We used and enjoyed the Rick Steves guide, but did the travel on our own. We are going to Italy this fall on a Rick Steves tour. Sure, we're "cheapskates," but this is not a cheap tour. We'll be 56 and 62 for this, our second trip overseas. It's a fast-paced tour, with lots of walking, but I think we have part of every day on our own. His best of Europe tour would have been our second choice, but we decided on one country only, and everyone said Italy!
art5805 is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 05:50 PM
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Our very first trip to Europe was also a tour by Globus. In fact, I believe it was the same(!) as the one mentioned by crefloors, and it offered a lot to see and do, including free time. The only problems I had were with the really early pre-sunrise wake-up calls (and I'm a "morning person"). But we saw London, Paris, Switzerland, Venice, Florence, and Rome; and we've been committed Europhiles ever since.
Ginto is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 05:55 PM
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I would think Rick Steves would be right up their alley. It's not that kinda tour that your herded around and treated like a number. There is some flexibility and is the best out there I think.

pippy4tao is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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Gee, Ginto, I don't recall having to get up all THAT early...but....perhaps I've blocked it, ya think? I DO remember getting up literaly in the middle of the night to be able to catch the flight from Rome to Heathrow coming home. THAT was NOT fun!!!! LOL
crefloors is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 06:16 PM
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My DH made his first trip to Europe as part of a group tour in 1978 (I had to be at home). Since that time, we've done Europe on our own twice a year or more, each year, and know where we want to go and what we want to do when we get there.

That said, I think you are wise to be thinking about a tour for your parents. Tours can be as structured or UN-structured as you would like. I think your parents might enjoy something that offers them plenty of free time to explore on their own, while in the various cities and locations.

There is something very nice about NOT having to schlep your own bags all the time! I traveled on an organized tour plus Med cruise in 2002 and enjoyed every minute of it. Yes, we were up a tad bit early some mornings to hop on the bus and move on to our next stop, but we saw a lot, and the guides were really great.

Your parents are lucky to have you thinking about a nice vacation for them! Good for you! (I'm their age.. do you want to adopt a new set of parents??? LOL)
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 06:33 PM
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You might consider an English speaking country to make them feel more comfortable and allow them to do some thing on their own.
Mar 25th, 2007, 06:37 PM
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JenniferK, another option if your parents want "structure" might be a cruise. We've done a Scandinavian and a Mediterranean cruise, and enjoyed them both. Cruises offer relaxing days at sea, a nice change after frenetic touring and/or shopping on land.

crefloors: LOL, the best way to stay optimistic in life *is* to block out the negatives. "Memories... it's the laughter we will remember..."
Ginto is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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Have you considered a private tour? That way, they can decide what to do, but have someone to show them around and translate when required. I love travelling that way when we can afford it.
christabir is offline  
Mar 25th, 2007, 11:44 PM
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As people the age of your parents, we have done both tours and independent travel. We like planning, so now we plan trips for groups of friends who like to travel, but find the planning too frustrating or time-consuming. Based on that, unless your parents would enjoy getting into the planning with you, your idea of some kind of tour might be fun for your them. Someone else asked some very important questions concerning your parents' interests. Would they enjoy an hour tour of Pompeii or an afternoon? Would they like to squeese in as many sights as possible or see a few and just walk and explore some on their own? Do they prefer cities or country side?

Watch for tours that have too many hours on a bus in one day. Also, tours that let you stay at least two or three nights in one hotel are usually easier on us "slightly" older people. For countries, unless one of your parents has long dreamed of a particular place, I'd probably say Italy or France to start. It is so personal though.

Just to start looking for tours, stop by a AAA office (you don't have to be a member) and get a couple of catalogues -They have Insight and Trafalgar. Someone else mentioned Globus and Vacationstogo also. Some web sites let you compare similar tours from different companies. There are also some companies that do really small groups. The catalogues from Overseas Adventure Travel looks great. I've not used them. Perhaps someone else on this site has and could judge the quality. Another person suggested a cruise tour. That is a great idea.

You are doing a wonderful thing. Why don't you go with them?
Sassafrass is online now  
Mar 26th, 2007, 08:53 AM
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We would like to second Suspaul's recommendation of a river cruise. All of the logistics are taken care of, with no changing of hotels, finding hotels, etc. All of our river cruises have been with Grand Circle. Although their target audience is 55 and over, with many much older,it is a pretty active crowd of experienced travlers. We have been traveling with them since we were 57 and have never been the youngest. The pace is more relaxed than bus tours with time to explore on your own, and activities on the boat while underway, generally including lectures on the next days activities. Generally language lessons and lessons on the local culture are given. The meals have been excellent, and the cabins small but comfortable. This mode of travel also gives you a great opportunity to get to know for fellow travelers. We have found them to be a great value with pricing including airfare.

If you are interested we would be glad to answer any questions either in this forum, by Email or over the phone. We will be leaving in two weeks for a trip to China with Grand Circle (our 7th trip with the), so we won't be replying between April 7 and April 27.

Jack and Ann
jackandann is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 12:53 PM
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I would pick up a couple travel magazines. Budget Travel and Conde Nast are the ones I subscribe to. There are all kinds of advertisements from all different types of tour companies. Everyone has websites these days. So you can take a look. Often they use terms that show which ones have less formal structure and more free time or slower pace.

This will also give you a feel for a typical tour itinerary. And if they would want a whirl-wind to see lots of different countries a short time each, or go for a more in-depth look at fewer places.
suze is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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check out
once you determine your parents'destination (for or with your parents help) you can look up so many tour companies on line.
I too have traveled Globus with no problems. For us it was stepping stone to independent travel.

I would particularly recommend the "Spain at liesure" tour as it allowed a bit more time in one spot.
I see other companies at affordable have that too. Gate 1 also has packages that are "planned" but not escorted.

Good luck!
amsdon is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 10:04 AM
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Hope that you are still checking responses!
Choose a country (or two), they greet a bunch of Untourists at the airport, shepherd them onto the right trains to their chosen hometowns, where they are greeted by the respective landlords for a two week stay in their own apartment (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, often a balcony or outdoor seating).
"Orientation" is the next day in a nearby town (directions how to get there given in advance), where you meet up with similarly minded Untourists for lunch, get specific info on festivals, area happenings, etc. There is a farewell dinner included the night before departure. The rest is ON YOUR OWN...reams of suggested trips/sights are provided in advance, and there is an Untour rep in each little town for problems. Info on english-speaking docs, services, other tips is provided.
So, its independent travel with a frame, for those who need a bit of guidance, or, skip the 'framework' if comfortable without it. Make friends withother "local" untourists, hook up for day trips (or not). Shop in local grocery markets to cook in the apartment or to make picnics, get to know the local flavor and ambience in town cafes, be recognized by your neighbors while strolling in the evenings, great for first-timers!
rachw is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 07:54 AM
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I'm your parents age and have only gone to Europe as an independent traveler with friends or my x-husband. The end of December I will be taking my first group tour, the Spain 10 day trip with Globus.

Like others have mentioned, I looked at the affordable tours website, decided how much time I could spend and when (I wanted to go only a specific week). Not sure how much time your parents have to spend---a friend of mine did a Vantage tour trip but was the youngest at 60. I have liked what i have been reading about Globus, recognizing the pros and cons of group travel....

Biggest decision would be where and how much to try and pack in. On my own, I much prefer a week or so in a small area where you can really focus. Not sure that would be the case in a group tour---maybe a sampler trip would be fun. That said, I would not do more than 3 countries unless it's a really long trip!

If I didn't have to go a specific week, I would definitely consider Smithsonian tours as well as AHI which does college tours (they have a website). I have googled university travel and many options come up---I think there is also a tour operator out of Chicago that does a lot of trips. These are mostly 10 days.

If they have never been to Europe, whatever you decide will be wonderful!
kathrynj is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 07:58 AM
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Rick Steves
any of many river barge cruises
... are all great suggestions imo
suze is offline  
May 2nd, 2007, 10:06 PM
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You make me feel like and old woman...hahahaha..
Try Peter Deilmann's Passau to Passau Germany river boat cruise. They start there and end there, but go down the Danube to Budapest. It is a wonderful cruise and every day you go somewhere different. You unpack and for a week you stay in a beautiful cabin --203 sq ft-- with a huge bathroom and maid service twice a day. They serve six meals a day, morning, midmorning snack, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late evening lunch. Really, the meals are first class, five star and wonderful. The tours we took were great, although, you are better off to buy the package before you leave as it is cheaper then paying for each one individually when they are on the boat. We took this trip last Fall and loved it so much that we are taking another one with Peter Deilmann on the Rhone river in France this Fall. Yes, they are expensive, but worth it as you are pampered to death. There is a doctor on board also, but he only takes Euros... I can't say enough about the meals and the service. It was great. At the end of the trip they recommend that you leave the waitstaff who served your table during the trip, bar staff, maid and boat staff a tip. We left the two waiters, water and wine girl, bartenders and maid a tip in individual envelopes that we picked up from the desk. It isn't required, but the service is so impecable that they will want to leave the staff something. The average age on the boat was from age 55 to upper 70's, but you never ask a lady their age. Your parents will love it. If they do take the tours, they are thorough, very informative and there really isn't time for shopping. Some of the places that you stop in are small and others such as Vienna and Budapest are long tours. The tour guides all speak English and you only go with the language guide that you are familiar with. There are a lot of Americans on the Danube trip, some French, Germans, Italians and Brits. The wait staff and everyone on board is bilingual and speaks perfect English so no worry there for your parents. Most Europeans speak very good English as a second language.
mrsgilly is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 11:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 191
Jennifer. Do you know which country or countries would be most interesting to your parents? That should be your first decision. Then, do they want to do a quickie tour where they spend a short time in a lot of locations - with lots of time on the bus, or would they prefer to stop in fewer cities for a longer time in each?

I personally prefer at least three days in each city so that we have time to explore on our own, while having the structure and details of the tour taken care of.

Another consideration is the size of the tour group. Some tour companies have 40 to 45 people on their tours, while others limit the group to 16 participants.

Our favorite tour companies are Grand Circle and Overseas Adventure Travel. They offer very good value for the money. (We have traveled in the past with Globus, Trafalgar, Insight, and Pacific Delight.)
sandys is offline  

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