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Help!! which tour company is the best for group tours in Italy?

Help!! which tour company is the best for group tours in Italy?

Old Dec 19th, 2014, 10:54 PM
  #21  
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Funny, Justineparis, I am just on the links provided by Thursdaysd (THANX!) and wow, really, really loving the online scrapbook!!
wow, makes me want to go today!!
will definitely will do some more research on the RS tours!!
thanks!!!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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>>Guess this forum has officially turned into a counselling appt!<<

Yeah, that tends to happen here.
Apart from your marital relationship, the problem is in asking, "Which tour company is the best?" With tours, you tend to get what you pay for, but what's "best" for one person might not be "best" for another. For you, I think it's a simple matter of research.

Keep in mind, too, that you're asking the question in a forum where people largely reject tours and do their own planning -- and even enjoy it. I don't do tours, but I totally understand how making plans and getting yourself from point A to point B might be stressful and no fun. (For some others, it's all part of the adventure.)

As someone noted, there are tour companies that arrange transportation, accommodations, and sightseeing w/o putting you on actual tour (on a bus with the same group of people for the whole trip). Look into that, too.

Good luck.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 06:34 AM
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Erin222. I feel that our travel situation (and husbands) sound very similar. I also considered a tour, but ultimately have decided to go it on our own traveling by train through Italy. It comes down to time. Do you have time to do the research, planning, organizing on your own? If not then you are right, tour it up!
We looked into Rick Steve's (which was recommended to me by a friend) Globus and Cosmos... Unfortunately I have no advice since I took the other option of planning it myself.

I wanted to bookmark this post and wish you happy travels. You and your husband will have a trip of a lifetime.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 07:44 AM
  #24  
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Thank you all and cbgetaway.... perhaps you have convinced me to just plan our own trip. I have planned cruises, Disneyworld, Disneyland, Caribbean trips etc but I find Italy a little daunting because it is a big country with a language barrier.
I have time to research and ultimately, I just want to have a fantastic holiday with my husband who is my best friend and lifemate!. He just does not enjoy travelling and if he goes, I want him to enjoy it as much as me cuz we are a team!
I know once we are there, he will love it if we are not rushed around.

Perhaps you can suggest private or small group tours while in Venice, Florence and Rome that can fast track us into some of the attractions while allowing us plenty of time in each that are reputable?? as well as shuttle services to and from the trains?
guess I better get researching!!
thanks
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 07:59 AM
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Check viator.com.

They use local guides in most of the cities and stand behind them. I've used them a few times -- Doges Palace in Venice, Last Supper in Milan, others -- and always been satisfied.

If, when in Florence, you're looking for someone to take you on a tour of Tuscany, lost of people here, including me, have used Luca at hillsandroads.com. He's very good.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 08:16 AM
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Hi Erin,

I thought I would give my opinion (based on my own experiences traveling in Italy) on some of your "things I have read" "I have heard" "people have told me". Everyone has different opinions and perceptions.

Here are mine - There really isn't a "language barrier". Most Italians you will encounter as a tourist speak English quite well. Even if you try to practice your tourist Italian with them, they will just automatically answer you in English. I assume you are a reasonably intelligent person - if you study up on a few common travel vocabulary words and take along your smart phone or some type of translator, you will be fine. You should catch on quickly to the translation of common Italian words.

"People aren't nice and willing to help lost tourists." The most ridiculous statement I've heard in a long time. The vast majority of Italians are outgoing, hospitable, friendly. I have been offered help and directions many times without even asking! Once a college age young man offered to carry my small suitcase up and over the stairs in the Naples metro. Then a uniformed metro employee gave me a free return metro ticket for my ride because the ticket office upstairs had been closed. He refused payment even when I offered. Traveling last year in Sicily (first visit and solo), a lovely older man (who spoke no English at all) gestured for me to follow him in my car to the salt museum across the Trapani salt pan dikes. Many more instances than just these. If you are polite, friendly and respectful and try to use a few words of common courtesy - you will have no problems.

Safety - I have never felt unsafe anywhere I have traveled in Italy and 2 of my 4 trips have been solo. I use basic, big city common sense and don't worry about anything else. In the major cities people are out walking very late at night so it's not like you would be completely alone. Inform yourself of the common tourist scams, keep your wits about you.

Planning Italy overwhelming? No. Not with the help you have available here. I would personally not do a tour, especially with the 3 cities you have planned. There is just no need. However, walking day tours in a city can be very enjoyable. You can pick one according to your interests and enjoy! I used Context Tours (no more than 6 pp and sort of a walking seminar, very in-depth) and thought they were well worth the money. I used a private guide for a 1/2 day historical tour in Palermo. Wonderful!

Fodorites here can give you suggestions and answer literally any question. As you can see we are an opinionated bunch, but you can usually find some regular posters you identify with and who's travel styles sound like yours. It's worked for me. I've planned 4 completely independent trips with help here. They have all been wonderful!

Get your home body husband to participate in the planning so you can show him you care about his enjoyment. If he really doesn't want to go, leave him at home and have a wonderful time!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:02 AM
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Viator is a terrific compromise. You travel at your own speed city to city for as many days each as you want but take Viator tours w/i each city/region. They are very good (there are other good ones like http://tours-italy.com/venice-tours/...FQ1ufgodXbQAAg )

Walking tours or half day coach tours -- then you don't have to plan all your sightseeing. Let them do the heavy lifting.

And re the comments above about not knowing what tours are really like -- I do. Been there/done that.

There are definitely exceptions - and if you do decide on a group tour some Rick Steves are good and there are also higher end/small group tours that are very good (but also pricey)
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:23 AM
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A couple of notes:

Someone has been giving you very erroneous info:

The people in Italy (by and large) are VERY friendly and welcoming, will help with language problems and do their best to support tourists and tours

Large scale tours are VERY regimented. The only way to get 35 or 40 people to do/see everything on the list is to move them quickly along - typically with very little free time - except after dinner.

There is also usually also a substantial amount of walking (I have never been to europe - 2 tours - never again) or independently when we didn't walk miles every day (unless it was a day just in a car getting from one place to another)

Also the places you are going are definitely cities and they are OLD cities (not like NYC) - so expect to need a map to get around, lots of people (yes, you can get advance tickets to minimize lines) but expect all major sights to be crowded

The benefit to going on your own is that you can make days busy or more relaxed, decide to spend an hour just sitting in a cafe watching the world go by (not possible if you have to make the group bus for the next stop).

Based on your posts I'm not at all sure that this trip will be doable for your husband (he doesn;t sound like the type to keep to someone's very strict itinerary from 7 am to 8 pm every day - and if the tour is moving on you can;t just say you wil catch up later - how - get a cab for hundreds of euros or find a train to the next town?
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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Viatour is not a tour company. Viatour is simply a middle man agency that sells other companies tours. Problems arise you will not be able to deal directly with the tour company as they have sold the space to Viatour and Viatour has a record of not intervening. I would look at Viatour for ideas.. but book the tours directly with the tour company.

There is also the matter of price difference.. while occasionally a tour sold by Viatour can have a competitive price ( due to their ability to buy blocks of tickets) most often the case will be that purchasing directly with tour company will get you a better price.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:41 AM
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The point was viator is a single point of contact if the OP doesn't want the hassle of searching for individual tours. But yes, they are a broker/middleman.

For someone w/ the time/inclination to search out the best deals -- that is always best. But for simple get in/get it booked - viator is a good source.

I think the OP's main concern is not having to do too much legwork and to make things as easy as possible . . .
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 10:25 AM
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Thanks all....
yes I actually used Viator this summer while touring Montreal and the tour was fabulous!! It was a great experience and was exactly as described and I was thrilled with it!
And thanks to all the posts here, I have decided to book the trip independently minus the tour group idea!! sounds like too much of a stretch for my husband and lets face it...I want this to be a trip of a lifetime!
I love the idea from Vincenzo and having a more private tour of Tuscany!! sign me up!

I guess I could have certainly worded things differently about "locals being rude or short with tourists" It is just something I have read from other reviews etc.
One of the things I enjoyed most about NYC was the local people who were fabulous in helping out my friend and I and getting to chat it up with dozens of people!
I even had one man walk me from my hotel(alone as my friend was tired) in Times Square to Grand Central Station as he was heading that way and we had a fabulous talk along the way and I learned a lot from him! he was an angel!

I took a level of Italian and my husband has even bought the Rosetta Stone course, so I am sure by Sept I could be somewhat fluent!

Still researching!
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 06:16 AM
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I'm going to give a pitch for Grand Circle Travel which was how we saw Italy some years ago. This was Sorrento area and Tuscany (Florence etc) plus Rome. They continue to offer a similar trip. Although GCT is more into river cruises now which we have also done. We have enjoyed group tours even though you are indeed traveling with others and luggage is out at 7 etc. But for one thing you really learn about what you see. Yes, traveling on your own can be fun though you do need to plan where to stay each night and make your reservations.

Just checked the latest catalog and they offer a Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast similar to our trip...with an extension to Venice.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 09:55 AM
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Group tours can be positive and negative. We have done both group tours and travel on our own, depends upon what you are looking for. We did a combination cruise and land tour one year and enjoyed it immensely. The driver/tour guide we had was absolutely the best ever! However, on the negative side we had to have our luggage outside the hotel door by 5:30 am and we were on the road early as we had a lot of territory to cover. These tours are generally very rigid as far as time is concerned, they have so much to show. Sometimes you only spend one night in a town/city and that is another negative. I like to have at least 2 nights so you can relax a bit.

You mentioned Gate One Travel. If you google you will find a lot of negative reviews on their tours. Can't say from experience tho as we haven't taken one. I recently spoke w/ someone that did their river cruise and she said it was fine. It might be the hotels that they use that generate the biggest complaints.

Having been to all 3 of your destinations, I think that it would be fairly easy for you to visit on your own. You can travel at your own pace and your husband can get a real sense of the city and its' people. We have found the Italians to be very warm and caring.

Take your time planning your trip, come up w/ a proposed itinerary and get back to us for fine tuning. You just need to put your transportation in place from city to city. Touring on your own is easy. There are many excellent resources to help you plan. You can download tours to your ipad, iphone, etc. Get a good tour book guide and read, read, read. Browse on the travel boards and see what others have done and recommend.

It is difficult planning your first visit to a foreign country but once it's done and you've been there, you will say that wasn't too bad and start planning your next trip. Don't worry about your husband, just tell him the date he needs to have his suitcase packed! LOL I do all our trip planning, my husband doesn't have a clue where we will be going and how we are getting there. It all comes out in the wash!

Enjoy!
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 10:40 AM
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Ozarksbill: I personally would never ever take a Gate 1 / Grand Circle tour. Not because of the quality but because of their ploy of asking customers to register all over the net and post glowing reviews of their products.

Not a week goes by that Fodors monitors delete posts from first timers who register simply to flog Gate1/GCT and one or another 'amazing' tour guide.

But the OP has decided on a more leisurely, independent trip w/ maybe some day tours along the way . . .
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 10:42 AM
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Thanks Luv2travel!!
even your name is me to a tee~ I love to travel and end up doing all the planning. It is like I just get home from a trip and I am ready to go again!

I think you hit it on the head when you said "planning your first trip to a foreign country is difficult" , it kind of sikes me out!

I think that at this point, I have decided to plan and book the trip myself on our own vs. doing any kind of touring bus. That just sounds a bit exhausting knowing my hubby!
I do have a few travel books, done some research regarding hotels, transportation and daily tours to attractions and I think it sounds exciting and full of adventure!
Thanks for all of your great suggestions!!
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 10:52 AM
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Don't worry -- you will get just tons of help here. About anything you need . . . Hotel recommendations, how to get in from the airport(s), how to book train tix, local tours . . . just anything you want.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 03:59 PM
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janisj, you may know more than do I but I have never been asked by GCT to be a booster and would be surprised that others have. I know of no ploy. And I've been a satisfied customer on nine of them. Yet I do realize group tours aren't for everybody and there is fun making your own plans and exploring on your own. Most Fodors folks are individual planners. On the other hand I recall some problems...like when good friends got to a Paris hotel at midnight to find they had no record of any reservation.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 12:58 AM
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<< I personally would never ever take a Gate 1 / Grand Circle tour. Not because of the quality but because of their ploy of asking customers to register all over the net and post glowing reviews of their products. >>

Grand Circle does NOT ask for endorsements. They never mention posting reviews for their company nor for their tours.

I've seen lots of pseudo trip reports on this board for Gate 1 but never for Grand Circle.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:04 AM
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jsutine: >> Viatour has a record of not intervening. <<

You know this because ...?
That's not my experience with Viator. In fact, most times you're dealing directly with the local company once you get to your destination. And if you pick a local tour company at random, what's your guarantee of quality, performance, punctuality, etc?

>>while occasionally a tour sold by Viatour can have a competitive price ( due to their ability to buy blocks of tickets) most often the case will be that purchasing directly with tour company will get you a better price.<<

Again, not in my experience. Viator's prices tend to be very competitive because of the volume, I assume.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:31 AM
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Erin, you are welcome! Hope that we all have given you some good suggestions for planning your trip. I can already see that you are less stressed about planning and doing on your own. Once you get a sense of what you want, where to go and how to get there the rest is easy. Your husband will be fine and will say what a wonderful trip you had! LOL

These boards are great sources of information, and as janisj has indicated, you will get plenty of ideas here. I have a few sights that I use to book hotels.

As I noted in a previous post, we took a GCT river cruise and it was wonderful! No complaints about anything. However, everyone has a different concept about travel. We were not asked to write a review either.

Happy holidays to all. I will probably not be checking back in until after the holidays. Off to bake some more cookies.
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