Group Tour Suggestions?

Old Jun 1st, 2008, 10:02 AM
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Group Tour Suggestions?

Hi Everyone
Know there's some great travel experts out there, so hoping you all can help me out!

Hoping to take my mom to visit several countries in Europe in March/April/(maybe) May 2009, and since she hates flying and is very organized, I'm thinking that a group tour would be the perfect touch (she hates to fly so the group buses, etc, I think, would be better - obviously we'll have to fly from the US to Europe).

Which countries to visit are rather open - BUT Berlin and Krakow are "musts". Any suggestions on group tours that I could look into? Any great/bad stories that you all have? I'm grateful for guidance/responses! cheers,
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 10:11 AM
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hi, i_s,

There are many companies. It depends on your budget.

People here might point out that this is a do-it-yourself forum, but more detail might be helpful.

-e

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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 10:55 AM
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Sorry - I don;t understand why hating flying and being organized means you need to take a tour.

You have to fly to europe either way. And you can easily travel independently by car, train or bus - without being stuck with a tour.

And I would think someone organized would prefer to organize what they want - rather than just take whatever least common denominator the tour decides to provide.

It would help if you tell us how much time you have and why Berlin and Krakow are musts. (If you want to spend a couple of days in each place a tour probably won;t work - since typically they move too fast for that.)
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 11:11 AM
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Trafalgar Tours...Bohemian Highlights...a superb tour with two night stays in Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, Prague

(www.trafalgartours.com)

They also offer, for slightly less, almost the identical tour staying in the same places but in less expensive hotels and therefore a bit cheaper

Highlights of New Europe

Same web site

Both are outstanding tours and don't let the naysayers on this board, many of whom have never been on a tour disuade you. Trafalgar is a very reputable company, runs excellent tours and the two tours kindicated above are outstanding.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:16 PM
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hi everyone
hope to go for approx 1-2 weeks, and budget is fairly open (i.e., under $4k a person or so...).

The reason for the group tour is that my mother would not want to fly between destinations, and I think would be much more comfortable traveling on other means (e.g., bus, train) as part of a group. Organization-wise, she'd like the tour because everything is organized and laid out. She's getting up there age-wise, and her mindset would be congruent with an organized tour.

The length of time can be ok - xyz, your suggestion was excellent..I checked it out and that sorta seems to be the type of thing.

Sorry to upset anyone if I am discussing a group tour in this forum - I can move it if it's more applicable in another forum. I just figured others would be able to recommend some things that they've encountered along the way. This would be a first big trip for my mom.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:54 PM
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Absolutely no need to apologize...it just so happens many people on this particular board are convinced that the only way to go is independently (they are entitled to their opinions of course) and put down people who go on group tours despite the fact they can be an excellent way to accomplish a great deal.

Check out the tours I suggested; they are awesome tours.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:56 PM
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This forum is fine for your thread - it is just that most people posting on here are more in favor of independent travel. But several have taken group tours too.

Just a couple of comments:

You cannot see several countries in your 1-2 weeks. A guided tour may take you through "several" in that time but 1 week = a teensy part of one country. 2 weeks may = more of one country or a teensy part of 2 or 3 countries. If you need to see Berlin and Krakow - then you can easily see those two cities and a bit of Germany and Poland in 2 weeks. But that is about all.

And you seem to be saying the only way to avoid flying between locations is on a guided tour. You can easily take trains just about anywhere in Europe on your own.

One thing you might consider is flying to Berlin. See that city and take guided day tours from there to surrounding sites. Then take the train to Poland and visit Krakow and another city or two. Then fly home from Poland saving you backtracking.

If the tour xyz123 mentions is too expensive or too long or something - you can definitely do it on your own.


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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:58 PM
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If you'd prefer a smaller group and some free time, check out Intrepid. We went with them to central Europe (although not Berlin) about 3 years ago and enjoyed it very much. About a dozen people and a fair amount of free time. It's more of a budget tour, so not deluxe lodging, but well organized. It depends on what you like.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 04:55 PM
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I took the Bohemian Highlights tour and believe me there indeed is free time in each of the cities mentioned as they are 2 night stays...also to be considered in pricing the tours are optional excursions that enhance the value of the tour although some consider them a trifle prices...one difference between BH and Caps of New Europe is the BH tour includes a stop at Auschwitz, it is optional with the other tour.

Many meals are included (all breakfasts...few if any lunches (all these cities do have branches of McDonald's if you don't want to fool with local food) ...do bear in mind that in this day and age, with gasoline prices going through the roof, that affects Europe too (although Idon't think you were interested in renting a car) and coach tour prices will never be as low as they are now....
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 05:14 PM
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About a year ago, I posted on this forum an excellent post (all my posts are excellent BTW) detailing what goines on with a coach tour...be aware that particularly on these tours with 2 night stands, there are two kinds of days. On eday for lack of a better term we will call a travel day..many of the distances say from Berlin to Warsaw are pretty long...the way it works you will get a wake up call say around 0600, be told to have your bags outside your door at around 0630 (they pick up your one bag at each hotel and bring them to your room, these tips are included)..you go down for breakfast sometime around 0700, and the coach usually departs at 0800....the coach will stop every couple of hours for nature calls..sometimes these stops are at a border (these countries still have border controls) or in some small town (there are not many motorway type places in these countries..)...there will be a lunch stop again probably in some small town (for example on the day you travel from Berlin to Warsaw, the tour stops in Pozan where lunch is on your own)...then the afternoon drive has a nature stop and arrival in around 1700...dinner may or may not be included...if included it will usually be at the hotel..if not included, there will usually be some sort of optional activity planeed including dinner (these are a trifle pricey but you get some type of entertainment included)..the next day they let you sleep a bit later (no baggage), after breakfast you usually have a departure sometime between 0830 and 0900, you get a local guide and they do an orientation tour...leave you in the main part of town for lunch..suggest lunch stops and then either you have free time for shopping or they arrange an optional tour...they gtive you instructions of where the coach will be for the return to the hotel for either an included dinner or an optional (you pay extra) dinner..next day will be a travel day as above.

Is there free time...yes. Will you see the main sites..yes of course....will you have time to shop...yes...are the travel days relaxing...well the coaches are air conditioned and fairly comfortable but they are long days as noted.

But these tours are awsome considering what these countries once were and have become...and really given their history not much different than most other western European capitals...you wouldn't believe how far they've come since the fall of the Iron Curtain 20 years ago...also believe it or not, and this nearly floored me, the second language among the young people in these countries has become English...go into the museums and explanations will be in the local language and in English...

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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:21 PM
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We went on a tour with Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org) and thought they were wonderful. For 20 people, we had three guides, in addition to using local guides in several places.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:42 PM
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We've taken 2 group tours - both with globus. we booked via affordabletours for a 10% discount. We took a 6 nite tour thru The Netherlands & a 12 nite tour thru Italy. We liked the Italy trip, but only parts of the other trip.

Best of Italy - usually only 2 hours on the bus between sites/cities. longest was 3-4 hours. great diversity of sites; covered most of the best sites/cities in Italy; never felt like we didn't have enough time; great tour. But days started early & ended late. We were worn out.

Netherlands - too rushed at many important places; wasted time at small uninteresting towns; I think just so Globus could claim there wasn't a lot of bus time without stopping for sites; days started very early - sometimes breakfast at 6am; days ended very late - 10pm; 5am to 10pm was too tiring for us.

On both trips the hotels were of good quality, but not centrally located. The food was excellent to poor; usually average. Saw Brendam & Trafalgar buses following the same route; I think those 3 companies are about the same.

Good luck with your travels & enjoy.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 07:04 PM
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Look up Grand Circle tours - the Best of Eastern Europe. I have taken two GCT trips and was completely impressed with the service and the guides. The price is good and you're not racing around too much.

All the people I met on the tours I took were happy to be there and intrepid travelers.

You may research opinions on this forum re GCT tours and some are negative but I've had very positive experiences. I would definitely book with them again.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 11:20 PM
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Read JulieAnns post carefully. I think she gave a great account of a tour with Globus.
My MIL took Globus tour of Italy.
She enjoyed it but said it was exhausting, she came home tired and sick.
Also a lot of walking and standing in lines.
Really research and find a good tour(there ARE some) , you may have to spend a bit , but it would be worth it for your mom to really enjoy the trip.


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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 07:21 AM
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Also check out Globus tours. They have a Best of Eastern Europe tour that starts in Berlin. It is a 15 day tour (including fly days) But you could arrive in Berlin a day or two early if you had special things to do there.
I have checked out this tour for myself but picked something else this year.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 07:31 AM
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Globus tours are generally about the same price and level as Trafalgar tours...some say they prefer globus but I don't see much of a difference...globus' sister operation, akin to Trafalgar's Costsavers, is Cosmos.

One thing I am told about Globus (not Cosmos) is that clientelle tends to be very American (I don't even know if they advertise in Australia and New Zealand; Cosmos does)..Trafalgar seems to attract a much more international and varied clientelle.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 09:27 AM
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I would agree with previous poster who rec. Grand Circle (GCT.com). I took the Best of Eastern Europe a couple years ago and enjoyed it immensely. Each city had 3 or more nights, so there was time to relax. This trip does not include Berlin on the main trip but can be added as a pretrip option. These trips include airfare, so keep that in mind when comparing costs. Hotels were all very nice. This trip also included 4 "Dine around" tickets which you could use at your choice.
In each city there were three or four restaurants where you could eat with a choice of two or three set meals. So you could use your tickets on the nights when nothing was planned for the group and go on your own or with friends you met on the tour.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 04:34 PM
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There are group tours that are semi-independant, which would eliminate the exhausting early to late daily hours. These tours transport from city to city, but while in the city you are on your own or you can take optional tours for additional price. I think that type of tour would be better for your mother. Go to affordabletours & in your search, select "independant tours".

good luck
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Old Jun 3rd, 2008, 02:15 PM
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excellent - thanks everyone for the encouraging options and positive responses. i'll check into these avenues and with luck, we'll be group touring. thanks again!
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Old Jun 12th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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I'll add my "two cents worth" even though you have already received many good comments. First of all, don't feel bad about preferring a group tour. My wife and I have done Europe quite often both independently and with a group. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both forms of travel. I would say overall, considering everything, we have enjoyed the group travelthe most. Currently our favorite tour company is Insight Vacations having done 6 or 7 tours with them; one thing we really like about them is the comfort of the coaches they use - they have removed a couple rows of seats to provide more leg room; this also reduces the size of the group from 50 or so to 40 or so. If your mother is able to walk longer distances and climb stairs, you might look into Rick Steves tours. We like their tours also and they are a bit less "group tour oriented" in that they are likely to stay at local "mom and pop" hotels in the center of the city rather than a a 5-star hotel further out, and you will probably see more of the local culture than you would when traveling with the typical group tour. The Rick Steves tour will also have a smaller group - maybe 20-24.
Also remember, that most of the tours will have free time where you can go and do things independently. We always do the research and study prior to the tour and use free time to go off on our own, ususally, rather that take all of the "optionals" that are offered.

Enjoy and have fun, Jim
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