to tour or not tour

Old Jun 29th, 2003, 12:12 PM
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One major plus for going with a tour is the information you get from the tour guide. I don't know several thousand years of history for all the countries I want to visit, and a good guide can really make that history come alive. With the internet, anyone can plan an itinerary; but will you know what you've seen after you have seen it? I'm not talking about brushing up on the Vatican; it's the local slant that visitors just can't know.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 01:01 PM
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After taking a bus tour for 2 weeks I decided that I would not take another escorted tour again. The itinerary looks fine when you read it but what actually happens is that you spend much of your time traveling on the bus. When you do reach your destination it's a quick drive-by or a quick stop for photos or souvenir buying. Sure meals and hotels are all included with the tour but you are stuck to stay in the types of hotels your tour provides and the meals are the same. You do not have any time except for maybe one or two days on your own to sample local restaurants.

Also you are thrown together with others taking the same tour and although it's rewarding to get to know your fellow tour members, some are just thoughtless and delay the whole group either by getting up late or ignoring the allottted time to see a sight. One guy on our tour would be late every morning and we had to wait until he was ready.

I find that we did okay by traveling independently and making our own itinerary, travel arrangements, etc. It is challenging because you have to do research but it is rewarding in that you have the freedom to see what you want, spend as much time as you want, and eat what/when you want.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 01:23 PM
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Man what a great site. You guys/gals? passion is really amazing. I have no idea why it took me so long to find this wonderful place with all my Internet travels. Probably a little too much time on, but I am getting better. First off thanks to everyone, for the wonderful ideas and experiences. But I must say I really am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this.

TNT, I just finished reading your trip report, dude you are amazing. Now I am really feeling incompetent and even a little more nervous about the thought of doing this on my own. How did you find enough time to plan all of that out? I am a pretty busy guy and really am intimidated after your report, thanks a lot! Jk I don?t even know where to start. How did you figure out what tours to do? Does the hotel recommend and book appropriate tour prior to you arriving? If you are still up to having your brain picked I think I could use ALL of your insight for this vacation.

I did I say this is a vacation right? I am not supposed to nervous about this am I?

Ira, Yes I know that Venice would be the next logical stop, but I really have a desire to visit Capri and the Amalfi coast. All the tours have had Rome, Florence, and Venice or Rome, Florence (with day trip to Venice) and Sorrento. I visited Capri while in the Nave and I swore I would go back.
Can I truly get a knowledgeable tour guide that would be with a guided tour by going on my own? I have been on vacations and visited places that to this day have no clue about the history of what I saw. I just don?t want to make a similar mistake on such a long trip that could or could not ever happen again. TNT had Rahul, on his trip, and he sounds about what I could use.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 01:47 PM
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Although we all went to Rome but one month apart, my relatives did this: they took a day trip that included both Naples and Capri. But it looks like you wish to spend some time in Capri instead.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 02:09 PM
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Please calm down. This is not rocket science. This is your vacation. It can be whatever you want it to be. And Italy is great and easy to figure out. If something goes wrong, oh well, it will become a great addition to your trip report. No one will mark you wrong for mistakes.

Personally, I don't think your need an escorted tour but might appreciate an independent tour as mentioned by a previous poster--hotels and transport between cities arranged. Don't worry about "missing the best places." Who knows what would be the best places for you? You, not some tour company.

After 10 days of seeing all the best museums in Italy, you may decide "enough with Madonnas" and spend the day in a park or at the local supermarket. Independent travel gives you the freedom to change your plans with your mood. ("It's raining today...let's visit the Forum tomorrow instead.")

You can plan and plan and plan, but you don't have to do so. Skim a travel guide or this Forum to help you decide which cities to visit. Make your reservations. To keep things simple, as late as on the plane, look at specific sites in your guidebook, noting opening days and times, so you can think a bit ahead. After you arrive, museum and train tickets can be arranged a day or two ahead to avoid lines. Change your plans as the weather dictates. Choose very few "must-dos." Leave plenty of time for your own personal discoveries.

Relax. And have a great trip. (You will.)

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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 02:28 PM
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We are old enough to be your parents and travel to Europe at least once a year. We would not even consider a tour. You would miss the charming inns and hotels and dining could be extremely limiting--tour groups are just too large for those wonderful small restaurants and cafe dining. And independent travel is so much cheaper! Purchase some travel books and maps and plan your own trip. Every trip is an adventure and learning experience. Do try to travel light. Excess luggage is a hassle. Our daughter in law (26) planned a trip to Italy for herself and our son --going to Rome in 2 wks and I have no doubt that they will have a fabulous time. Good luck!
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 04:28 PM
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onebuc - Step one: Decide how long are you planning to go.
Step two: decide what cities you and your wife would like to see and how long you want to be in each city(go to a bookstore and buy a travel guide on Italy. We used Frommers-Italy 2003). Step three-Book your airline tickets. Step four-research hotels on Fodor's and book them. Once you have done the above the rest is easy.
Step five - Decide the major things you want to do and see in each city.
Step six - Use the text search function here to help with planning. You can email me at [email protected] for any specific questions.
This was the first major trip we did on our own(we have been going on cruises) and had no problems so stay cool onebuc, I know you can do it.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 04:47 PM
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Hubby and I have done both (32 & 40ish-in depth tours-7 single ctry tours 2) and prefer tours.

Pros: Very relaxing, can nap on the bus (esp recovering from jet lag), food is usually very good on higher end tours, most importantly the guides are well informed and you will learn much about the country's history, meet very nice people, can be social when you want. Do not have to drive.

Negatives: sometimes you must wake up early, sometimes you VANT to be alone.

Sometimes hubby & I will skip dinners to be on our own. Was going to take Perillo for Italy but decided on another w/ Maupin. We are still keeping in touch with former tour members via e-mail and photo sharing.
Please let me know if there are any specific ?'s. Have fun whatever you decide.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 05:00 PM
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I'm the same age as you, and would never consider one of those large group tours...not at this age, anyway. I took one at age 18 with about 60 other highschoolers. I didn't feel like I got much out of that trip, except a desire to come back without all those people and that awful coach bus!!

However...I have traveled on SMALL group tours with REI Adventures. They have about 8-12 people and are led by someone who lives there (who knows how to speak English very well too, of course). These are all "adventure tours" so they are based on hiking, walking, bicycling, etc. (many diff. intensity levels are offered- all mine were "moderate") and usually hit lots of smaller towns with less time spent in the larger ones. You NEVER eat at touristy places, only very, very good local joints. You stay at small pensions or B&Bs. The three trips I have taken with them have all been superb! I have gone to Europe several times on my own too...both ways have been fun but doing it yourself DOES take a lot of work and can be very stressful, esp. for a lazy-butt like me!

Hope you have a great time whatever you decide to do!
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 06:40 PM
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Most guided tours I've been on have had 15-20 people, I suspect Perillo will be the same as travel is not as high, also many tours are operating once per month.
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Old Jun 29th, 2003, 10:27 PM
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Nataliemm, I'm glad you posted. The only tours I've been on have been with students, but as miserable as some of them were, they were so much easier than the ones we ran on our own.

I've often thought that for the first trip to Europe a tour is a good thing, just so you can get an idea of how things work and what you want to come back to see more of.

I think the main thing to look out for is that you spend 2-3 nights in one place, and have some free time. Check out the hotels (ask about them here) to be sure they are in ciity center. Then research what you might do in your free time (here and in books) and places you might dine on your own, to begin to dip your toes in the self-planned waters. I think a big plus for tours is exactly what you stated. You don't waste time getting oriented, finding maps, etc., and the pesky details are taken care of.

That said, if you were in Italy in the Navy, you do have some experience and may want to attempt it on your own.
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Old Jun 30th, 2003, 04:10 AM
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Onebuc - you are getting great advice, and I agree that you don't need to be overwhelmed. Buy a guidebook, pick your cities, pick some hotels, and come to this board and ask people for help as you have already started doing.

I did a tour of Italy with Central Holidays in 2000. I am 34 and I went with my aunt and she wanted to do the tour. I LOVED Italy, and there were some benefits of the tour, but I would NOT do it again.

You get stuck with a bus load of people (some of whom were very nice), and all it takes is ONE person or couple to make you DREAD having to get on the bus again for a few hours. Plus, you are stuck on their schedule - I felt this even though my tour did give us quite a bit of free time.

You can do this on your own. TNT gave some great advice about how to break down the research, and I say go for it! It is part of the fun of traveling!

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Old Jun 30th, 2003, 04:37 AM
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onebuc, I know you're feeling overwhelmed by our suggestions for further research, but I've got one more. Have a look at Karen Brown's book for Italy (Italy - Charming Inns and Itinaries). While her hotel/inn recommendations are sometimes a little too rich for my tastes (beautiful hotels with character are often expensive), she provides very detailed descriptions of proposed itineraries (with route, hotel and some basic sightseeing recommendations, plus tips on train travel etc). If you followed one or two of her routes, you'd benefit from someone else's experience, receive an itinerary for the cost of the book, avoid having to follow the crowd on a tour, and derive some satisfaction from making your own plans. Her book would also be useful as background reading against descriptions of escorted and independent tours.
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Old Jun 30th, 2003, 05:16 AM
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TNT has offered excellent advice with his "Step" program. And, if you are mainly concerned about having some information on the sites you see, even if you travel on your own, you can take a 1/2 or full day tour in the city once you are there. In Rome, for example, you'll find a wealth of information on walking tours. Scala Reale is my personal fav, and they offer more services than just the tours, but there are many options.

You have the luxury of time in getting this trip set up. If you follow TNT's steps, you'll have it made! Either way, relax & enjoy.
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Old Jun 30th, 2003, 06:05 AM
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I think half the fun of traveling is the research i do before I go. I personally do not like escorted tours. I like going it alone, to see what I wish to see, when I want to see it, and for as long as I want to see it. If I want to stop and have a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe, I can do it. I have taken orientation tours for 1/2 day as stated, these can be useful. Have a great trip. I just returned from Rome, Venice, Bellagio, and Paris. Had a great time.
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Old Jun 30th, 2003, 10:05 AM
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Hey Onebuc, Don't let the hyper-micro-planners scare you off~ haha. I've done 4 trips to Europe, 3 of them solo (female, american, 40ish).

My method: Figure out how long your trip will be, buy plane tickets, and book your hotels using recommendations and internet or fax.

That's ALL I do ahead of time. Buy a guidebook or two to read on the long plane ride over! My advice: Stay at least 5 nights in each place (to avoid rushing about, packing & repacking, train travel time) and pack light (for ease of moving around).

You can make it simple or you can make it hard. If planning is not a joyous endeavor for you, maybe a limited type tour is OK for your first trip. Is this your 1st trip?
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