Group tour to Italy

Dec 26th, 2005, 05:49 AM
  #1  
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Group tour to Italy

My wife and I escort group travel tours as a semi hobby. We've done 3 cruise tours and 1 land tour so far. It can be a lot of work and sometimes a hassle but we've come to love it and it makes it possible for a lot of people to travel who are afraid to go on their own. And we have met some wonderful people along the way. We have a Christmas/New Years cruise tour for 2006 and are now looking to do a Italy (probably southern) tour for sometime in 2007. We work through a travel agency for the bookings, but I really would like some advice if you have a chance, please. I traveled to Naples, Rome, and Sicily while in the Navy in 1978 and my wife and I have visited northern Italy as far down as Bolzano. Our normal group consists of people from about 35 to 65 in age. Usually 16 to 30 in number and mostly family, friends, and coworkers. I would like to do a Rome to Sicily tour of 8 -12 days. Our experience with tour companies is limited to an Ireland tour with CIE. Any advice as to what tour company to use or what to see or do is welcome. I'm also reading through a lot of the posts here and other sites for info.
Thanks for your time,

Ken
norrisken is offline  
Dec 26th, 2005, 06:48 AM
  #2  
 
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Ken, if you like escorted tours, you are more tolerant than most. I went on a Collette tour this past summer with my sister (we're 33/36) mostly because my hubby was worried about us going alone and also that I really wanted a tour and not a vacation, the difference being that the tour was about sampling as much as possible in a short vacation time. I recommend Collette for this type of travel, esp. since their travellers generally fall into the age group you describe. We took the Italian Vistas tour and enjoyed ourselves. It was absolutely no work and no hassle, and we were surprised to find our group to be comprised of a lot more people our age than we'd expected (even the guide was surprised). Collette books 3 star hotels, nothing too fancy, and decent restaurants (a bit cheesy with singers in Rome). They saved the best hotels for last (Grand Baglioni in Florence and the Belvidere in Stresa), which is good buisness sense I guess. As with any tour, the group had its "annoying guy" who earned a nasty nickname 3 days into the travel--typical ugly American who embarrassed everyone else his commentary. I digress; interestngly, it was beacuse of this moron that got the rest of us talking about tours (pros and cons). Besides Collette, I heard a lot of praise for Tauck Tours--more high end and better hotels, guides...etc. Here's the link for Collette in Italy: http://www.collettevacations.com/sea...h_type=Country
and here's the link for Tauck: http://www.tauck.com/tours/europe-tours/italy-tours
susanteach is offline  
Dec 26th, 2005, 07:23 AM
  #3  
rex
 
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You can read a sampling of the spsctrum of opinions - - of traveling with an "assembled" group of people - - that are typically expressed here on this forum,when the subject has been discussed in the past (there are many more message "threads" like this one; this just happens to be one of the more recent and lengthy ones).

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34644251

In six years here, I have never seen or heard of anyone seeking to do what you propose - - to assemble a group, but then rely on a commercial company to actually take you/plan for you.

Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Dec 26th, 2005, 07:35 AM
  #4  
 
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Rex, an update on my original travel club question from last summer: Several teachers in my school are interested in travelling together and one is French. She'll be a great resource while in Paris for local connections, family meals, language...etc. While I know it is not going to be a "club" as I'd first queried, at least we will be travelling together. I will be in charge of apartment rentals, train and plane tickets, another teacher has family in Slovakia (with U.S. Steel) who will arrange a car (my hubby and I already toured Poland, Slovakia and Hungary with her once before and trust her decisions), and the others will just come along for the fun. Our first trip will be Christmas 2006-07, visiting all of the markets and doing a bit of skiing. I will post a report if everything goes as hoped.
susanteach is offline  
Dec 26th, 2005, 08:02 AM
  #5  
 
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Dear Ken,

We traveled with a group interested in Italian cooking arranged by David Diliberto of Under the Italian Sun. Highly recommend his company and they do custom tours. Check out his web site.

http://www.italiansun.com

Best wishes in your planning, SusanEva
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Dec 26th, 2005, 11:07 AM
  #6  
rex
 
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Thanks for the update, susanteach - - if it weren't at Christmas (too important a family time for me to travel abroad), you might even find me interested in asking if I could join in!

Best of luck on your (first such) trip (and all the other follow-ons after that)!
rex is offline  
Dec 27th, 2005, 08:53 AM
  #7  
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Thanks all for the info and time
susanteach:
Now thats funny! We usually have nicknames for some folks also. PITA is one of them. But in all we have met some great people.
Rex:
There is a local travel agency here that does about 50-80 group tours a year were we can pick a destination and assemble the group and the TA will make all the preparations. We just escort the group acting as the TA reps during the tour in case someone gets sick, loses someting, etc. The benefits are the group members get good pricing, someone to assist them with planning and help during the tour. My wife and I as escorts get reduced pricing. I don't recommend it to everyone, but we like it. The cruises are much easier than the land tours. I only carry luggage twice instead of almost everyday.
SusanEva:
That's sounds like a great trip. Cooking and traveling. I'm checking the site out now.

Thanks again
Ken

norrisken is offline  
Dec 27th, 2005, 12:57 PM
  #8  
rex
 
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I guess I just don't get what advice you are seeking.

You say...

<< Any advice as to what tour company to use or what to see or do is welcome...>>

and then, you have added...

<<we can pick a destination and assemble the group and the TA will make all the preparations. We just escort the group acting as the TA reps...>>

Can the TA not pick the tour company for you? Why are even using the TA at all?

And as a separate issue, you refer to this as "a semi hobby"... which means that it is also a "semi business", inasmuch as you have clarified that...

<< My wife and I as escorts get reduced pricing...>> (as compensation for your "services" - - even though, you too, would be customers of the tour company)

I took a lot of flak here when I was new, six years ago, with skeptics assuming that this was what I wanted to do - - in trying to "promote" the idea of self-assembled small group (now aka "Fodorites'") trips - - even though I have never sought to recruit anyone from this website to come on a trip where I would get some special deal, for having assembled the group.

It can't be alleged that you are actually recruiting others to participate in the group trips you seek to "lead" (i.e., advertising per se, but you should be aware that some may give you a cold shoulder for trying to "use" this website for a "semi-business" purpose (you wouldn't be the only one - - others are engaged in gainful activities, connected to Europe travel - - and do not advertise here, but do (mostly) give and (sparingly) take info from this website as a means of keeping "in the know").
rex is offline  
Dec 28th, 2005, 02:23 AM
  #9  
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If I'm guilty of anything its trying to be honest about the conditions in which I ask for advice. Maybe I should have not mentioned it. No I'm not looking for people to go with us. I use a TA because I'm good with people and they're good at making travel arrangements. The advice I seek is because I've not done much traveling in Italy in the last 30 years. Germany, Switzerland, and Austria is where we have traveled much. I have the flexibility to choose which tour company and which tour I use because the TA doesn't care. They make money off me regardless. This will be my last post mentioning mentioning my "semi-hobby" (I used that term to be as honest about it as I could) as I don't want to put anyone off. I greatly enjoy this site and I travel through other folks postings. Rex I've read many of your postings and I find you to be a great help and very positive in your replies. I feel bad that I've upset you in anyway and I do apologize.

Ken
norrisken is offline  
Dec 28th, 2005, 05:03 AM
  #10  
rex
 
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I wouldn't say that I am upset. I just have trouble understanding how to "pigeonhole" the kind of advice you seek. It would be easier for me to grasp, if you were planning to make all the arrangements yourself (whether you were paying the same as the others in the group... less... or nothing) - - and not using a travel agent.

In any event, perhaps I should have added emphasis to the principal part of my posting:

<< you should be aware that some may give you a cold shoulder... >>

... that's the main thing I wanted you to know.

By my responses, I think it's clear that I am not part of that "some"...
rex is offline  
Dec 28th, 2005, 06:16 AM
  #11  
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I take your advice and appreciate it.
I'd like to know what places I should go. Northern Italy, Southern Italy, include Sicily, Tuscany, and I'm not sure what else. I guess I'm looking for must sees. Off the top of my head I was thinking Rome to Sicily and whatever is in between. I'll look at the tours offered by the different companies and try to choose one that best fits what advice I get here and information from reading other posts. It'll never fit perfectly. I have one lady who wants to do operas while we're there, but I'm not keen on that. When my wife and I travel on our own we don't do a lot of planning. Thanks again for your time.

Ken
norrisken is offline  
Dec 28th, 2005, 01:09 PM
  #12  
rex
 
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Take a look at some of the very basic big picture info made available by
"bobthenavigator" here (but also many others), such as:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34679976

and

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34568596
rex is offline  
Dec 28th, 2005, 01:39 PM
  #13  
 
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GoAheadTours will let you travel for free if you bring 6 people. We have used them before. They use the same type of hotel as Collette or Insight. Not the best, but pretty good!
lindam is offline  
Dec 30th, 2005, 05:28 AM
  #14  
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rex, Thanks for the links. Much info!

Ken
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