Looking for group-tour recommendations

Nov 22nd, 2010, 06:30 AM
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Looking for group-tour recommendations

We have 9 relatives who are going to Italy for the first time. We suggested, to make life simpler, they go on a tour. We've never been on one, and can't recommend. So, if you have been on a tour, would appreciate your recommendations, warnings, etc. Would prefer info about specific tour companies, rather than general comments about tours.
k9korps is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 06:58 AM
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My first trip to Italy we went with Go Ahead tours - a mid-range tour company. We were pleased (altho now we do prefer to go on our own). I have not done a Rick Steves tour but my IMPRESSION is that is also a good option - smaller tours, no stress on the "optionals", maybe better food, and maybe more included free time. I know many people bash tours but for covering alot of ground, seeing the major sights, its not a bad way to go esp. if you are aware of and willing to deal with the downsides ie: a push to buy optionals, early wake ups and probably a fair amount of bus time. But for a group - a tour is a good idea so no one has to organize (and try to make happy) a diverse bunch of travelers. I've heard that Tauk tours are more high end - better hotels, better food but we were happy enough with Go Ahead.
suec1 is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 07:02 AM
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Thanks. I hadn't heard of Go Ahead. (Of course, I haven't heard of a lot of tour companies.) The people in question probably would be happy with something mid-range.
k9korps is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:00 AM
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How old are the relatives?
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:10 AM
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I would decide where these folks are going and then choose a tour that takes them where they want to go. You can book regional or city guided tours and have a car service meet them at the airport and take them to their hotel. From there a local guide can escort them to the sights of interest and recommend restaurants for dinner.

I really think for a group of 9 people you'd do better with private guides as the cost per person could come out to be less than that of a package tour group.

If you prefer a canned tour where you have to go with the tour on the tour schedule I would say stick with the high end tours that offer good guides, good food, and centrally located hotels. Some of these tours would be:

Abercrombie & Kent
Elder Hostel (now called Road Scholar)


What to look for in a guided tour:

- where are hotels located
- how early do you have to be at the bus
- how many nights in each location
- will you get to go inside a sight (visit) or will you do a drive by in the bus
- how many dinners will be on your own
- tour companies offer base rates and then tack on optional tours. do not be lured by a low cost tour as the options and meals you have to pay for will add up. the low price (low end) tour companies do not really give value for the money
- what are the group's interests; does the tour go to these places or does the tour take you to places you don't care about seeing.
- how long is the tour and how many locations are covered during the tour. if a tour is 10 days and you're seeing 5 different cities/towns during the 10 days it's going to be exhausing
- tours add 2 travel days to their itinerary so a 14 day tour is really 12 days
adrienne is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:10 AM
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Ranging from 35-70.
k9korps is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:17 AM
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I'm going to disagree about the private guides vs. "canned," partly based on my knowledge of the people involved. (For instance, they're a lot better off being told what to do and when to do it, rather than trying to decide on private tours or what all nine should be doing at one time.) I'm aware of all the "should haves" of a tour -- location of hotels, etc. What I'm interested in are the companies that do it well. Thanks for your recommendations.

My guess is that they'll end up going to the Big Three in Italy -- Rome, Florence, Venice.
k9korps is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:19 AM
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If you choose GoAhead, know that they are part of EF student tours. If one person chooses to organize the group (you?), they can get a free trip. I think the ratio to earn the free trip is a bit higher for GoAhead than for EF (one free spot for every six people signed up).
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:28 AM
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I didn't understand what you meant by warnings.

Here's my warning for Globus from personal experience. Bad food, hotels outside of city center, poor tour guide. I have a friend who also took a Globus tour and said the guide was lacking in knowledge. I told her that she should have asked me about Globus.

Many people like this company but they aren't looking for in depth history and don't mind running around and seeing very little.
adrienne is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2010, 10:08 AM
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Actually I would look for a tour that at least had some optionals and not included meals - that will give the travelers opportuinity to explore / eat away from the group. In most cases the optionals are overpriced and probably should be declined (like the ones with "elegant" dinners and entertainment)but if a good sightseeing opportunity is offered that might be time-consuming or a bit tricky if done on their own, then that might be worth it (for example going to Pompeii from Rome or to Siena / San Gimiano from Florence). Many companies offer a Rome / Florence / Venice option with around 3 nights in each city - this would give them a nice exposure to Italy and hit alot of the "must-see's" without having to move around too much.
suec1 is online now  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 02:05 AM
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If you haven't done a search, here's a thread about Globus that may interest you:


I suggest you look at affordabletours.com for discounted prices on tours. They offer up to 10% off on tours by Globus, Trafalgar, Insight, Tauck, Perillo, and others.

I don't have a specific recommendation for a tour to Italy, but one I definitely do not recommend is the Cosmos tour. Even for a budget tour, it wasn't worth the money.

I travel independently now, but when I first started traveling I took several tours. Of the 10 or so tours I took, the Cosmos tour to Italy was by far the worst. Hotels in the boonies, long days spent on the bus, very little included in the base price, convoluted itinerary--very poor value for the money. Please do not be fooled by the low price of this tour--it is very misleading. By the time you add in all of the extras, you could have taken an upgraded tour that let you stay in more central locations, and in nicer hotels with more included sightseeing. I have taken other Cosmos tours that I really enjoyed, but I do not recommend the Cosmos Italy tour.

I have never taken a Perillo tour, but a friend did and really enjoyed it. They specialize in Italy, so you may want to take a look at them:


Good luck, whichever you choose!
walkabout is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 05:32 AM
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adrienne: From your post, I think you understood perfectly what I meant by "warnings." Thanks to you and walkabout.

BTW, If I wasn't clear on this, I'm not going on the trip or doing any of the arranging. Just helping out with recommendations.
k9korps is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 05:58 AM
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With 9 on the tour, it may be worth your while to have your own tour arranged. You could start with a standard tour as a template, then customize the tour to your exact specifications.
travelhorizons is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 06:18 AM
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travel: I'm not understanding your suggestion. How would one go about doing that? Contact a travel agent? A tour company?
k9korps is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 06:28 AM
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Go-Today and Gate1 have air/hotel (you choose your hotel from a list) packages. You can add on rail, tours, etc. Click on one of the vacation such as Florence/Venice and you will see the build your own feature.



Airlines also have group reservations (check the websites). It's usually for 8 or more.
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:53 AM
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I have used Tauck multiple times in the past, two of those times on different tours to Italy (a 10-day Venice, Florence Rome & the Lakes and a 2-week Classic Italy). I would highly recommend them, especially for first timers or for those who don't want to bother with logistics. They use high-end hotels that are centrally located. Their tour directors are also very good. Many, but not all, meals are included. Breakfasts are always buffet, usually fairly lavish, often even with champagne or prosecco. Other meals are usually a la carte. There is a lot of included sightseeing, but there is also free time. And, if there's something you don't want to see or have already seen, you don't have to go and can either do your own thing or just rest.
Delaine is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2010, 10:06 AM
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I recommend the Rick Steve's tour. It is the only tour company that I have used, but I enjoyed each trip. They are on the higher end of the price range. There are no optionals, but you still get plenty of free time. The tours do require a lot of walking. If you call or email their tour desk they will tell you the hotels booked for next year and if they don't have that info yet they will tell you what hotels they used this year.
nwtraveler is offline  
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