Rick Steves Tour. Pro/Con

Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 07:07 AM
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Rick Steves Tour. Pro/Con

We had planned a week in Paris on our own in 2020. Didn’t go obviously, so thinking of doing a Rick Steve’s Paris and Heart of France tour in early June 2022. We have never done a group tour, but the idea of not doing sightseeing on our own will be much easier. We will stay a few days extra in Paris to see places not covered in tour. My question is have you done a Steve’s tour in France lately and what was your experience? To restrictive? Decent hotels/meals? Well planned use of time? To many people? Any information will be appreciated. Thanks, Pat
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 07:40 AM
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You might find it helpful to read scrapbooks written by people who have taken the tour. These are the most recent:

https://duane-birkey.wixsite.com/heart-of-france

https://owl2vandy.wixsite.com/francetrip

You can find more by browsing the scrapbook page: https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/scr...lum-scrapbooks

According to his website a lot of people are signing up for next year already.

I have taken five RS tours, although the most recent was Bulgaria in 2011. I did a French tour back in the late 90s. However, I can report that I have always enjoyed the tours. The hotels are central and the included meals very good. The tour leaders have been great, and all but one of the local guides (who was a last minute substitute) very good as well. There is plenty of free time. I travel solo, and have found the other tour members friendly.

The tours are energetic, I'm not sure I could keep up these days, and at 24-26 people a bit bigger than I would prefer. However, it's few enough people that you can have a double seat to yourself on the bus.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 08:15 AM
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Hi Momburd,

I follow a tour guide for Paris & France on YouTube, "France with Véro." She led Rick Steve's tours in Paris & France in 2019, before the Pandemic. I know she is looking forward to doing more with Steves in the coming year. You may want to look for her on YouTube and see what you think of her friendliness, knowledge, enthusiasm, etc. You can follow her on Facebook, too, and ask questions.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 08:09 PM
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I have not been on a Rick Steves Tour. I went on a tour with a different company in my 20s with a girlfriend and absolutely loved it. I plan to return to tours after I am finished hosting my young adult kids on European vacations ;-) haha!

I found it easy -- plenty of tour time, see the sights time and downtime to hang in a cafe. I assume you have been on the Rick Steves Travel Forum. Probably lots of details over there... lots of fans as well.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 09:35 PM
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Cannot delete my post....

Last edited by swandav2000; Jun 2nd, 2021 at 09:48 PM.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2021, 10:54 PM
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For those confused about all the Covid restrictions, a guided tour might be the way to go. The idea of remaining in Paris afterwards to see the extra sites is fantastic.

Look at the itinerary and think about the time allotted to each sight....is it enough for you? Do you feel comfortable with the pace?

Whatever you decide, good luck and enjoy!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 02:24 PM
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Excellent advice from all above Momburd.
Good luck with continued planning.
I am done. the beret
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Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 04:37 PM
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One thing I would consider is whether you want to spend your holiday with people from the USA (your home country?). Many tour companies gather their participants from one or two countries and I imagine that Rick Steves would appeal almost exclusively to those from the USA. Being in a group tour naturally limits your opportunities to engage with local people or people from other countries, even at a superficial level such as buying tickets, asking for directions, eating in restaurants, meeting other travellers, etc. On the other hand, being in a tour group shields you from having to manage the practicalities of travel, which can be more relaxing.

For myself, I would only do a group tour if I felt unable to manage the practicalities/logistics/safety of an unfamiliar country. Or perhaps if I wanted to do a special interest tour.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2021, 04:52 PM
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@dreamon - RS tours do not schedule every minute (or even hour) of the day, nor do they provide all meals. There are plenty of opportunities to "do your own thing". Read a few of the scrapbooks on the page I linked above and you will see that that is true.
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 09:03 AM
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Side note.
On our most recent trip, we returned to Aix, Provence, where an exclusive tour group once passed us in the market. The members were all black Americans, each wearing a custom t-shirt advertising that they were all part of a black-focused organization.
That was a first.
I am done. the African Americans
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 04:12 PM
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I took a week-long RS Paris tour in 2016 and would do so again. The real value was the in one-off tour guides they hired for specific sites. And there are big blocks of free time.
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Old Jun 4th, 2021, 09:09 PM
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I appreciate the way his tours list the number of hours on the bus. Can anyone share their experience regarding what time the bus leaves each city, whether they felt rushed during the day, if they liked the hotels (as well as their locations), etc? His tours sounds interesting, as do the people who book them. We’ve never been on one, and am not sure if they’re targeted to people like us, in our early to mid 70s who like to linger a little bit. Thanks!
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 04:40 AM
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Again, I highly recommend reading the scrapbooks linked from his web site. One of the ones I linked above has copies of the daily schedules, which should help answer some of the questions.
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 04:47 AM
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Those of us who have been following RS for decades remember his original theme to tourists - tours are unnecessary, you can easily travel independently without them. It was as an advocate for self initiated tourism that RS gained his footing in the travel advice arena. How interesting that he has now come full circle.

I am of the original RS mindset - you really do not need a tour for Paris or for a lot of France. There are times when a guide can be almost essential: special museum exhibits, historical sites, access to wineries, and Paris Greeters can add greatly to one's appreciation to the city. But I believe many on travel forums such as Fodors organize their own vacations and there are many contributors here who help them do just that.
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 05:06 AM
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A family member in his mid sixties did "Loire to the South of France" and enjoyed it a lot. However, that doesn't really tell you much. What feels rushed and what feels slow or boring varies according to individual differences in personality type and of course interests.

What does tell you something, is Kleeblatt's point about covid-19 restrictions. The Rick Steves company displayed a lot of professionalism - they refunded literally every tour cancelled in 2020, What is more, they posted regular bulletins on their site to let people know which tours were the next ones to be refunded (there was, as you can imagine, a lot of paperwork to be done and they had to have a systematic way of doing it.) Contrast this with people who were just left hanging with neither information nor refund from travel arrangements.






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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 05:15 AM
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Those of us who have been following RS for decades remember his original theme to tourists - tours are unnecessary, you can easily travel independently without them. It was as an advocate for self initiated tourism that RS gained his footing in the travel advice arena. How interesting that he has now come full circle.
Actually, the tours started at the same time as the guide books. Originally they were Rick and a mini-bus and eight people, just as the first guide book was self-published. Just as his guidebook business has expanded (dramatically) so has the tour business. "Europe Through the Back Door" is still all about travel skills, and the tour guides help members with how to get around on their own.

There are travel skills videos here, along with one on the beginning of his business: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-rea...o/travel-talks
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 10:22 AM
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....opportunities to engage with local people or people from other countries, even at a superficial level ..... That is one of the most over rated statements. Buying tickets at a window from a local residents is hardily interacting. Some of our best interactions with local citizens has been on European cruise ships especially at dinner. Some of that interaction has been very informative and worthwhile. The other has been booking local tours through the local TI. Often will encounter other European tourists.
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Actually, the tours started at the same time as the guide books.
Perhaps but RS did not start with guide books. He taught self travel classes in Washington state in the 70´s with the mantra of organized tours were not necessary, one could do his own travel preperation. I lived in Washington during this time and his philosophy of self travel really appealed to me. The tours did not come until much later.
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 07:55 PM
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If you're interested in how Rick Steves started writing guide books and leading tours, and don't want to watch to his "Irreverent History" that I linked above, try listening to this:

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/05/97409...pe-rick-steves
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Old Jun 5th, 2021, 08:11 PM
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Rick Steves should be in the Travel Hall of Fame. There's no such thing yet. A couple years ago, I pitched a few of our city authorities about establishing such a hall/tourist attraction here. Tried to point out that some folks originally laughed at the idea of a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, til finally Cleveland ran with that (how'd that work out?) but got nothing but lip service. Would not a Travel Hall have the same narrow focus, but one with plenty of potential if properly marketed?
Such a Hall might feature:

-historic travelers such as Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, Xien Fui Song, Therese Chmura et al
-the first trans-Atlantic flights
-an ancient Map Room
-famed female travelers
-monthly special presentations i.e. travel writer authors promoting their new books
-digital digital digital everywhere with heavy emphasis on Interactiveness
-parrots that can sing
-the evolution of travel photography including a special National Geographic room, with rotating presentations eg. Steve McCurry
-the first guidebooks such as those original turn-of-century Baedekers
-???

*Wouldn't it be great if some outfit somewhere, say like a guidebook company with an already-established brand, base and forum, were to be the ones to finally construct a dedicated Travel Hall of Fame?
They could put annoying grey ad box shapes above the entrance.

I am done. the potential
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