Group Tours

Old Apr 20th, 2003, 12:58 PM
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Group Tours

We are planning to take another trip to Europe next year and was thinking about going with a tour group.

What are your experiences and suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old Apr 20th, 2003, 10:46 PM
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I usually travel independently, but I have also traveled with tour groups several times.

When evaluating tours, pay close attention to what the tour includes. Many times budget tours have low prices because so little is included in the way of meals and sightseeing. Once you add in the cost of "optional tours" and meals, the total tour cost could increase a few hundred dollars per couple.

Where are the hotels located? If being in the center of town is important to you and you don't want to have to take public transportion everywhere, make sure your hotels are not out in the boondocks.

Also look at the distances between cities and the number of nights being spent in each location. Some tours spend hours on the bus, with little actual sightseeing being done on those travel days. Also, if you are spending a different night in each city, packing and unpacking every night can get very old very fast.

If the brochure says you will "view" a site, you are going to simply drive by it or stop just long enough to take a picture of it. Only if it says you will "visit" a site will you actually do so. Your visit could be from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on the itinerary. If the brochure says, "Tonight you might enjoy...," or "free time on your own," you will almost always be offered an optional tour during that time.

Don't be tempted to buy all of your optional tours at the beginning of your trip. As the trip progresses, your energy and interest may wane, the weather may turn bad, or you may simply want time to yourself. I have never had a problem buying tours as I go along, although I have had problems getting my money refunded when I bought all the optional tours up front and later changed my mind.

How large is the group? On my trip to China there were only 15 of us; on my trip to Scandinavia, there were 60, which was way too large.

For more information, please type "escorted tours" in the text search box above, and you will see over 80 threads on this subject. Good luck!


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Old Apr 21st, 2003, 03:56 AM
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Another option would be tourless tours. These package airfare, hotels, transport between cities/sights, a few meals, and a host or hostess who travels with the group. But in each city you are on your own to do whatever you want to do. We did this once and it worked out great because we got the discount pricing of hotels and transportation along with a hostess who was very helpful at times, but we didn't have to go tromping about each city in a mob that required us to go where the tour guide said we had to go for only the amount of time the tour guide permitted.
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Old Apr 21st, 2003, 12:33 PM
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We just returned from a 16 day escorted tour with Globus and would do it again in a minute. Any specific questions, let me know.
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Old Apr 21st, 2003, 04:53 PM
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In general, I would steer clear oof anything that has the words "the best of..." in the title. Some years ago we foolishly took a two-week "Best of France" tour with Trafalgar. We should ahve realized that a country the size of France requires more than two weeks to see the best of anything. We saw the best of interstate-like highways, the best of accommodations often way outside the center of town, and so forth. It wasn't all bad, though because it taught us a lesson and introduced us to some general areas which we returned to years later to explore in depth. Group tours have many advanatages, especially if you are willing to pay the money for the more upscale operators...but I think all of them can relieve you from a lot of the stresses of major decision-making..although some would say that makes them feel constrained. I agree with above..try to find out just what is included, etc, as Walkabout has suggested before making a decision..and you can always compare itineraries and amenities between two or more operators and decide which seems best for you.
 
Old Apr 21st, 2003, 06:52 PM
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We took an absolutely wonderful tour to Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest with Grand European Tours (www.getours.com). I recommend them highly.
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Old Apr 26th, 2003, 08:03 AM
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Thank you all for your feedback! I will definitely be doing some research prior to purchasing.

I do have some time before traveling so I have some studying to do. We did our 6 day trip to Germany on our own and we had a blast. We were just thinking that maybe a tour might be a different approach for us to try.

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Old Apr 26th, 2003, 10:57 AM
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Since you have traveled independently in Europe in the past, you might appreciate the "low key" and "close to the ground" approach of the tours offered through Europe Through the Back Door (www.ricksteves.com). ETBD caters to independent travelers and people who like touring in relatively small groups. Both fully-guided and "Bus, Bed, and Breakfast" tours are available. The latter allow you to be mostly on your own each day.
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