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onebuc Jun 28th, 2003 08:42 AM

to tour or not tour
My wife and I are planning a well deserved trip to Italy. We are both 33 and will be traveling without our young children (thanks grandma). We are considering taking a guided tour (possibly Perillo Tours), but are unsure if it is for us. We have not traveled like this before. I have read several bad experiences with some having an entire group of mostly older people no where near there age.
Those who have gone this route, would you do it again? Is it possible to see just as much if on your own? Help me make the right decision. Thanks onebuc

ira Jun 28th, 2003 08:51 AM


In my 30 years of traveling I have never booked a tour except for the orientation tours of a couple of hours.

Mainly because they are full of people my age and we don't share the saame interests.

Intrepid Jun 28th, 2003 08:57 AM

I think you can do the same things (as are done in a group) but it takes a certain amount of planning in advance. I've traveled both ways and now that I've become more adept at finding out info about places via the internet, choosing hotels, making reservations, etc., I probably won't do another group tour any time soon. I think that sometimes a group experience is good for the first time in a region, but not absolutely necessary. Depends on how adventurous you are. This board can be helpful in finding out particulars about how to do things, etc. Guess it depends on how adventurous you want to be. Perillo has gotten some good reviews here, I believe, but it doesn't change the fact that it IS a "group" and there may be others who aren't your age..that doesn't mean they don't share your interests...but being of similar age doesn't mean they will, either.
The drawback to groups is, I think, a certain amount of required "regimentation"..for most folks it probably isn't needed...but if you've ever taken ANY sort of group tour, even those 1/2 or full day local ones and had to sit on the bus WAITING for the two or three who couldn't seem to get back in time, well....Good Luck!

andy Jun 28th, 2003 08:59 AM

How many weeks off to travel have you allowed and how many cities do you want to see?

Can you list the Perillo itinerary for a comparison so we can see what cities you are interested in?

As far as tours go....they are good if you need someone to carry your luggage up to your room and back down in the morning...Hotels tend to be more touristy rather than European charming, if you catch my drift..Most of the time at least 2 out of 3 meals are included limiting you to eating with the rest of your bus at a restaurant that may lean more to tourism than Italian dining experiences...

Ok- those are some takes on Tours-

Here are the positives:
You don't have to worry about a thing.
You will always have a tour guide to ask for help.
All hotels and transportation between cities will be included
Most meals included....
All sightseeing will be included....

Since you both are young, I think you can take the Perillo Itinerary and do it on your own at a more leisurely pace.
(Tours tend to be a hurry up and see atmosphere as they try to cram lots into one day).
You can call Perillo and see what hotels they are using and research them on this board....
You need to also get a good guide book and see what really interests you mostly...

We have done it both ways --we did a Chateau Tour in France years ago and 1/2 the bus was young and 1/2 was older- but we never ran into any there was a lot of free time to separate from the bus....
Having all your museum passes etc paid for ahead of times meant never having to wait in line to see anything....
Our tour only included full breakfast daily plus 2 dinners- so we had tons of time to do great dinners on our own....
We had a blast.....

But Italy is really a fabulous place- and I like doing Italy on my own....If you are capable and can do a lot of walking, you really do not need a tour.

BUT ,you really need to plan this trip out if you do it yourself so you do not overspend what you were planning with Perillo (unless you want to)...Tours get better breaks on there hotel rooms- so keep that in mind when planning your trip...

Figure out your trip BOTH ways-for cost comparions- and then make your decision...

TNT Jun 28th, 2003 09:00 AM

onebuc - My wife and I are 35 and looked at Perillo when we decided to go to Italy. Once we started to do some research it became obvious to us that it would be just as easy, cheaper and more convenient to do it on our own. We went to Rome, Florence and Venice for two weeks last month and had the time of our lives. Have you decided which cities and at what time you are going? If you want any specific info from us just ask.

bobthenavigator Jun 28th, 2003 09:03 AM

At your age I doubt if you really want to ride the bus with seniors like me.
You can do it on your own, but it takes time and motivation. Go to and look at their PLANNING section for a good start.

Joelleinitaly04 Jun 28th, 2003 09:04 AM

I considered a guided tour when I first decided I was taking my kids to Italy next year but decided against it. Italy seems really doable on your own.

I don't think it's the age thing so much on tours - because nowadays I think people of all ages do tours and a lot of the older people I know who take tours are people whose company you may enjoy more than your own age!

The question is, how willing are you to let someone else decide where you are going, what will you see and how long you will see it? Sometimes, that's not a bad thing. I did a guided tour of Israel shortly after my husband died, and it was a time when it was just fine to have someone else decide what I was doing that day. If you are in a real stressful job where you have to make a lot of decisions, maybe that could be a break. Also you get taken care of on a tour. It's very nice to get off the bus and know that your bags will be in front of your room.

But if you are going for adventure and want to be able to decide for yourself where to go, how long to stay, then skip the tour I'd say.


suze Jun 28th, 2003 09:31 AM

Why I have never taken a tour (& it has nothing to do with age, my own or others): the tour says when you need to get up in the morning and get on that bus, where to eat most of the time, where you will be going each day, what hotel you stay at, the sites you will see ...

A tour guarantees you will have a mid-range experience, not the best or most unique but not the worst - of any given region, city, town, hotel, restaurant, so may be the answer if you are timid about traveling.

The biggest drawback to me, I would absolutely hate being stuck as part of a group. Generally speaking Europe is fantastic, and quite easy to do on your own with a little planning.

Linda0515 Jun 28th, 2003 09:47 AM

You're going to find that most of the posters on this board are the adventuresome types that prefer traveling on their own.

I usually do, too, but just booked our first trip to Europe (Italy) as a tour. We'll have very little time there (I just started a new job and have very little vacation leave), and we didn't want to spend precious time dealing with train tickets, humping luggage, arranging tours on our own, standing in lines for admission, etc. Also, while I usually love researching hotels, museums, etc., I was unusually busy at work this winter/spring and didn't have as much leisure time as I'd like.

My husband and I figured that going to Italy first on a tour would ensure that we'd see the "big" stuff with relatively little hassle. We're sure we'll be back and, now that we'll be familiar with the lay of the land, we'll do things on our own next time.

Some things to check out carefully as you consider potential tours:

1. How much time is programmed vs. on your own? We picked a tour that gives us plenty of time on our own instead of constantly herding us through museums and the like.

2. How many meals are included? To experience good restaurants, you'll want to be able to eat on your own as much as possible.

3. How often does the tour stop at factories, shops, demonstrations, etc.? These are euphemisms for sales pitches. We didn't want to waste our time at such places, and we found that the low-cost tours had tons of such stops.

4. How many stops in how many days? You want at least 2, preferably 3, nights in each city, so you'll have a full day there. Otherwise you'll spend all your time in a bus. We added an extra night in Rome.

One way we saved a lot of money was to book the land-only package and book our own airfare. The only downside is you have to get yourself from the airport to the hotel and vice versa, but that's why God invented taxis.

We're leaving on our trip in a week and I'll report how it went when we get back.

Byrd Jun 28th, 2003 09:59 AM

Have you considered an "independent tour" as opposed to an "escorted tour?"

On an independent tour (I know Delta Vacations has one, and I think American Express does, too)airline tickets, hotels, and land transportation (trains between Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.) are provided, and usually half-day orientation tours of each destination. Other than that, you are on your own, to wander and see what you want, eat when and where you want. My husband would never have considered getting up every morning to get on a bus with a bunch of strangers, but he thoroughly enjoyed our first trip to Italy on an independent tour and we have been back (on our own) five times since.

onebuc Jun 28th, 2003 10:18 AM

The tour that intrests us the most is the 10 day Vesuvius (Perillo). This is fully escorted and includes most if not all breakfasts as well as most all dinners. 3 nights Rome, 3 nights Florence and 2 nights Sorrento. I guess The reason for intrest in a tour to begin with was I figured they know the place, and know where I really should concentrate on sightseeing and touring. My real fear is to go and not be as prepared as I could and end up skipping some of the better places. Thanks for all the help. onebuc

jaja Jun 28th, 2003 12:05 PM

We are going on our first trip to Italy this fall. At first we were going to take a Perillo Tour because my brother in-laws(age 69) took one and enjoyed it. But I started to research the internet and books and found many statements or comments about the tours that made me realize I didn't want to take that kind of tour. I set about planning my own trip but because I too wondered if I could do it myself, so I consulted a travel agent . She booked some things for us and I did some booking myself and I can tell you don't do that because now I would like to change a few things and am locked in to her bookings unless I forfeit money. I only discovered after I did some planning and I can tell you there is a wealth of information out there so you can plan your own trip successfully. It does take time and patience but do it on your own, besides it adds to the fun! Either way enjoy and look for my trip report coming Fall 2003!!!! Ciao

MGB Jun 28th, 2003 12:58 PM

We have toured independently 3 times and are now planning our 4th for this Sept. Our 1st in 1984 did not have internet and we were 36 at the time. We have spoken with people who were on tours and based on that and our research this is what I have learned

Here is what I see as the minuses for group tours:
1. Group meals with only a couple different offerings or Buffet in places that can handle the group. (How big is the group you are looking at?) Plus we like to do a picnic now and then.

2. Hotels - we like to stay in centrally located small Inns, 2 and 3* hotels or B & Bs. Many with history such as 600 year old pubs or 13th century farmhouses. With a tour you may not be in the city or at a larger facility that can hold the group.

3. Places of interest - We are not big on lots of in door museums. We like walking tours, sidewalk cafes, etc. On a tour you generally go with the group at their speed. That said, I know when we were in Rome (on our own) we did spend almost a whole day in the vatican museums, the chapel and the vatican. We ran into someone on a tour who was coming back on their own because their tour only spent 2 hours there and they felt they missed alot.

4. Flexibility - especially with weather! In the Swiss Alps the mountains were fogged in for the 2 days we were there. Then the day scheduled to leave it cleared up. Instead of leaving in the morning, we delayed and left in the late afternoon having seen what we came to see. This trip we are going to the D Day beaches one day and the D day museum another. The weather will determine which day we do each.

Pluses for a tour and related alternatives:
1. All hotels booked - I have learned to do this well on the internet for our last 2 trips and now the 3rd. We like having it organized in advance. It is nice to be able to email them for help on where to do laundry, dinner reservations, parking etc. I usually use 2 or 3 sources for whether or not the hotel is a reliable one that we would like (Rick Steves, Karen Brown, Fodors, and this forum) So far only 1 out of 12 have asked for a 1 night deposit in advance.

2. Transportation is arranged - Since we are going for 25 days, we are leasing a car with another couple. For 2 probably by rail is more economical. A little adventure may be needed here but the European system is better than ours and you are only doing 1 country.

3. Luggage is taken care of - Pack light and you should be okay.

4. Guides are there for you - We went on a day tour and the guide spoke terrible english. Now we do a lot of walking tours with our books or in the case of say Shoenbrun castle use their headsets. We did take a 1/2 day tour in Salzburg that was just wonderful. We have now learned that our guide books usually recommend good 1/2 to full day tours in some cities.

Guided Tours provide organization, less worries and regimen - Independent travel is more casual, provides adventure, and can be more unpredictable with a little worry at times to be honest.

I hate to belabor Rick Steves but his books will tell you if you need 3 days for rome, etc. Michelin also does a good job of rating sites to see. Many recommend restaurants are in most books.

Obviously it boils down to what you are comfortable with. You do not say when you are going and how much time you have to plan. Good luck with what ever you choose.

Linda0515 Jun 28th, 2003 01:42 PM

I just thought of something else to check as you consider a tour...find out exactly where the hotels will be! Every reputable tour company lists in their materials the hotels they use. Check them out (just do a search for them on the Web) and look them up on a city map.

The big difference between less expensive and more expensive tours is location, location, location. Some tours put you up in the suburbs...and in Venice that can be the mainland--not where you want to be! Our mid-priced tour has hotels within walking distance of the sights in every city except one. They aren't right in the heart of the action, but close enough.

ira Jun 28th, 2003 01:58 PM

Hi Onebuc,

I would recommnd aginst a fully escorted tour.

You are still young enough to enjoy the adventure of visitng a new place, even if you get lost.

If you check the fodors mini guides, guides and do a few searches here, you will find all of the major sights to see. Plus you will learn which hotels and restaurants are best for you.

Do it on your own. You will learn more than if you go with a tour.

You might not want to eat dinner at the time/place scheduled for your tour.

If you are doing Rome and Florence, the next logical stop is Venice, not Sorrento.

jimcolorado Jun 29th, 2003 05:59 AM

I didn't see it mentioned above, so I feel compelled to say it. Read the fine print in the tour brochure carefully. I noticed in many Italian escorted tour brochures the wording something like "with stops at....." or "seeing along the way....." Ask the tour company just what this means; do you actually get off the bus and GO INSIDE or does the bus slow down long enough for the 400 guy from Cleveland to lean over you to take a picture. I have done a few one-day escorted tour excursions, like a one day Rome-Pompei-Sorrento tour with Carrani tours. As good as they were, I was nonetheless glad to get off the bus and get back on my own. Being on your own provides so much more flexibility. Sleep a little later, no problem. Get up early for a quiet walk around Venice, no problem. Linger over a glass of wine with your wife, who all of a sudden looks just like she did 20 years ago, no problem. Go to bed early, also no problem. With the incredible amount of expertise that exists on this forum, you could virtually throw out any number of questions, have your itinerary planned, and I bet find at least a few people who will practically arrange your whole trip for you.

jimcolorado Jun 29th, 2003 06:12 AM

I forgot to mention the price. Wife and I went to Italy last year for two full weeks and together spent less than the cost of one person on the "10 Day Vesuvius" tour Perillo is currenty advettising on it's website. And our cost included airfare, virtually gluttonous eating, a couple of first class Eurostar trips, lodging, museum entrances, souvenirs, etc. We weren't backpcking or staying in hostels either.

Kate_W Jun 29th, 2003 09:02 AM

At your age, the only kind of guided tour I'd consider doing in Europe is an active one (e.g. walking, cycling, multi-activty), or a very specifically focused cultural tour (e.g. cooking, art), where you either get to go or do something you otherwise wouldn't do (e.g. the activities noted above, with the benefit of having them schlep your bags while you walk from town to town) or you're getting specialized expertise and access (e.g. to chefs, vineyards, galleries). Otherwise, I think the suggestions noted by other Fodorites (independent tours) would be a better value. In addition to the suggestions noted above, have a look at (and similar agencies that offer active vacations). You could probably find an Italian tour that combined easy walking for 3-5 days with several days in interesting cities (where you'll get a half day tour and then time to do your own thing).

Shanna Jun 29th, 2003 10:28 AM

Hi, onebuc - I've done both - tours and independent. Both have their advantages but if you don't generally like to be around strangers, don't go with a tour. If you're easy-going, you'll have a good time with any age group. Most of the older folks (I'm whistling in the dark here as "older" comes rushing at me with increasing speed) I've met with tours are fantastic, friendly, great company, solicitous and not at all the whiney type. I have met some younger people who were dumbfounded that they weren't the center of attention and changes made to suit their whims, so if I had my druthers, I'd travel with a senior crowd any day. Besides, they have an abundance of information, stories, and ideas that make a trip more interesting. I think I got my best impression on my first tour at age 23 when an elderly lady walked everywhere uncomplaining, even though her toes were curled with arthritis. She was great fun. Just make sure the tour is what you're interested in doing - mine have been leisurely, not 27 countries in 15 days, so I have never felt rushed, and the hotels have always been perfectly fine. The Perillo tour I took did 3 cities in 10 days and had half a day tour each city, then the rest we were on our own or they arranged side trips. Whatever you decide - have fun. Italy is just so fantastic!

liverpool26 Jun 29th, 2003 11:26 AM

I'm your age & have recently been to Italy twice. Don't try to do it all in one trip - save something so you can have an excuse to go back. We have a shorter flight from UK, but trip could be:Fly to Venice, drive to Florence, then stay in countryside around Tuscany (It's where Tony Blair goes on holiday). Going on an organised trip would destroy the whole reason of going in the first place. Make it an adventure, and your wife will thank you. It was our first wedding aniversary when we left Florence. I told my wife we were going to some boring place, whilst I drove secretly to Venice. Can you imagine what it was like when it finaly dawned on her. Last tip: if driving to Venice, park on a cheap car park around lagoon, then take waterbus to Venice. To see it's majesty steadily come toward you from the distance over water, is something that will stay with you forever. Believe me friend, it won't be the same on a coach tour!

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