Tour group or Do-it-yourself

Old Feb 19th, 2001, 06:46 AM
  #1  
the morelli's
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Tour group or Do-it-yourself

Hi everyone. This is such a great way to get advice, and amazing to see the effort put into the responses. I apologize in advance for this lengthy posting, but I've see too many responses that seem to have more questions for the original posting than answers due to inadequate info. So here is goes....

We (ages 33 and 34, without kids) plan on going to Italy in late October for about two weeks. We are debating between taking a guided tour (specifically Insight Vacations Italian Escapade) or going it alone. I've seen postings that advise using one city as a base for a few days, and doing day trips from there; which sounds like a great idea. The must-see cities for us are Rome, Venice, and Florence. Optionals, but nice-to-see places would be Pisa, The Lakes (Maggiore, Como, etc.), and Milan. We don't know if we want to be herded around on a bus with what we expect to be mostly older folks (no intention to offend anyone!), but then also lose out on the details and benefits of guided tours.

So in a nutshell, we'd like to hear from anyone who has done both a guided tour and done it alone (to Italy or elsewhere) and give some personal pros and cons of each.

Thank you very much in advance for your time.

Greg and Lisa
Burlington, Canada
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 07:51 AM
  #2  
elaine
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Hi
You're young, presumably healthy, and traveling without kids, I can't see any reason why you shouldn't do it yourself.
I have not done a guided tour of Italy,
but I have done one guided tour.
Many people like tours because the tours handle your luggage and set the itinerary for you and get you from one place to another. The disadvantages include not being able to spend what time you want in places that interest you,not being able to skip what doesn't interest you, being tied to a schedule that someone else devised, and spending a lot of time on a bus.
You can get so much help on this forum, and I'm sure someone here if not several people will suggest itineraries for you that include most of the places you mention. Pisa for example is an easy daytrip from Florence, but I have to put a good word in for Siena as well.
I have files on Florence and Venice which I'd be happy to send you if you email me.
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 07:53 AM
  #3  
Debbie
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My personal opinion is that unless the area is third world or communist-do it yourself! Over 20 years ago, I went on a 2 week tour to Russia which was a must at that time to tour, However, I also did England,Scotland and Wales with my folks for 9 days on a bus...............can you say I DON'T THINK SO!!!!!!Reasons being-you really don't get a chance to see the cities,eat where you want,linger over a really great moment,etc.Tours tend to stop at the restaurants that are typically touristy,stop at gift shops that the driver gets a "cut" and the "drill" is usually getting your bags out of the door by 630-700am(decide your potty breaks?) with breakfast at 7am and then on the tour bus.There are cliques on the bus,people who refuse to ever swap seats,etc.
Most of the fun of a trip is in planning it and then taking time to smell the roses while there. In all of my years of traveling,its the unexpected that made the trip memorable!That said-do what you are comfortable with.Have a wonderful trip and enjoy the wine! Debbie
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 08:18 AM
  #4  
howard
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How about something inbetween that American Express and others offer? Amex calls it an "Independent Tour." They book the hotels, first-class train travel between the cities (Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan) and half-day tours in Rome, Florence, Venice (which we probably would have taken anyway). Otherwise you're on your own. We did it for our first trip to Italy and were very satisfied. It takes the worry and nervousness out of planning your first trip. Ours was a 10-day trip and we added on three extra days at the beginning in Rome. With Amex you didn't have to book the air tickets. (We used frequent flyer miles.) I know that Delta also has the same package. Of course, with them you have to book airfare!
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 08:44 AM
  #5  
Rex
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I think you have a pretty good handle on group tours. You will find a preponderance of people here, myself included, strong propnents of independent travel.

An in-between option is a _small_ group tour, designed to your specifications, traveling exclusively by car, plane or train.

Please feel free to write to me if I can provide further info about how such a trip can be put together.

Best wishes,

Rex
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 09:11 AM
  #6  
Mags
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Obviously you are comfortable with using the internet. I have done both... in recent years!!! We did the guided tour28days, in 1999 and at the time we thought it was great!!! BUT It was our first time in Europe and my husband not being the adventurous type thought it was the better thing to do.Last year 2000 we decided to do Southern France and Spain on our own with the help of this very forum as well as some very good guide books 'Eyewitness" as well as various websites to book hotels, car rentals etc. There was no comparison!!! Unless you are in some way incapacitated it was MUCH more enjoyable. Tours are too regimented and planned. Of course the areas that we covered were no way as hectic as Rome or Venice when it comes to driving!!!and you m,ust take your itinerary into consideration also. There are also websites like Michelin who would help you to plan the route and they are excellent. We did this and NEVER got lost. Have fun planning. That is exactly what I am doing now, and how come I saw your posting.
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 10:24 AM
  #7  
jena
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We are going next month and have decided to do-it -ourselves. However, we are looking for a walking headset tour when we are in Rome. This way we figure we will still get the history of the city, but at our own pace. Has anyone been on one of these, and if so, where do I go to rent the headsets?
Thanks!
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 01:54 PM
  #8  
CARL
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MY WIFE AND I ARE PLANNING A 9 DAY TOUR OF ITALY WITH BRENDAN TOURS WHICH IS OWNED BY GLOBUS TRAVEL. THE IS ALL INCLUSIVE WITH DELUX HOTELS, ROUND TRIP AIR VIA ALITALIA TO ROME. 3 DAYS IN ROME, 3 DAYS IN FLORENCE AND 3 DAYS IN VENICE. WE ARE SENIOR CITIZENS & FEEL THIS IS THE BEST KIND OF TRIP FOR US.
HAS ANYONE HAD ANY EXPERIENCE WITH BRENDEN TOURS? THEY HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS 45 YEARS AND WERE RECOMMENDED BY AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAVEL.
THANKS
CARL
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 03:11 PM
  #9  
Amy
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For a great compromise between the two, may I suggest Untours? They do the major organization for you and then leave you on your own in an apartment, with assistance nearby if needed. They've got a website (www.untours.com) that tells you the whole story. I've done both guided and independent to Europe for 17 years, and this place definitely has my vote. Happy travels!
 
Old Feb 19th, 2001, 05:57 PM
  #10  
the morelli's
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Thanks for all the great advice everyone. We'll certainly take all this into account as we grapple with which way to go, and hope some of the suggested (semi)-tour companies offer something out of Toronto. More stuff to check out, but it'll be worth it.

So much to do, so little time.....

Greg and Lisa
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 08:38 AM
  #11  
George
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I was wondering the same thing about the best way to see Italy. Any other personal accounts of tour groups and/or on-your-own trips would help.

Thanks.
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 08:45 AM
  #12  
Jessyca
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Lisa,

I went on a tour of Italy last year and found that touring is not for me. I really did enjoy the people I was with and the experiences I had however, I am independent and DID not like traveling around in large groups of 50. I went all over Italy... (Something that would be difficult to do in one trip ) but I am going back this year alone to spend more time in 2 of my favorite places. One simply cannot see or experience Rome, Florence and Venice in a 9-5 day. I was horrified at the short lengths of time we were in each city. Not to mention I don't like to be a tourist or do really touristy things.. I would much rather sit and read in a Piazza or talk to the locals. I wanted to Experience Italy.. so I'm going back in two weeks to do it.
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 09:02 AM
  #13  
BOB THE NAVIGATOR
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Lisa, You are too young to ride the bus. You can do it yourself but it does take some time. Here are some samples trips to get you thinking. Let me know if I can help. Late Oct. will limit some of the northern destinations.

BOB the NAVIGATORSí FIVE FAVORITE ITINERARIES
_______________________________________

MAGICAL FAIRYLANDS:
* Arrive and depart from Munich--14 nites--May thru Sep.--car travel
* ITINERARY: Salzburg, Dolomites, Venice, Lake Garda, Bavaria

=======================================
BELLA ITALIA:
* Arrive Milan, depart Venice--15 nites--car & train travel--April thru Oct.
* ITINERARY: The Lakes, Ligurian coast, Tuscany, Florence, Venice

========================================
CLASSIC ITALIA:
* Arrive & depart Rome--12 to 14 nites--car & train travel, all year
* ITINERARY: Tuscan & Umbrian hill towns, Florence, Rome

========================================
LA DOLCE VITA:
* Arrive & depart Rome--12 nites--car & train travel--March thru Oct.
* ITINERARY: Amalfi coast, Tuscany hill towns, Rome

=======================================
OF ALPS & LAKES:

* Arrive and depart Zurich--12 nites--train travel--June thru Sep.
* ITINERARY: Berner Oberland, Lugano, Lake Como, Luzern

========================================
BOB THE NAVIGATOR [email protected]
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 09:07 AM
  #14  
Laurina
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Hi Greg and Lisa!
My husband and I are in our early 30s and went on a group tour with Perillo Tours. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, though group tours are not for everyone. We are "adventurous types," but luckily on our tour, there was a lot of time to yourself to do some exploring. Before we left for our trip, we planned what we were going to do on our times alone. We were in a group with an older clientele, but thoroughly enjoyed their company. As a matter of fact, the couple we hung out with the most are in their 70's, and we still keep in touch with them. Everyone on our tour was cooperative with switching seats and very friendly with us.
With group tours, you must be aware that breakfast is served at certain times, and you do not always have enough time to see the sites when you are on a tour. You have to set priorities in what you want to see and spend more time there . You can always break away from the group if you want to.
The tours do handle all your baggage, transportation, and most meals. Also, you do have a guide who can give you an indepth history.
My husband and I are planning a trip to Paris and Lourdes this summer. We will be going on our own. Although I look forward to the independence, I will miss having a group of people to get to know.
I hope this helps. Have a great trip!
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 10:24 AM
  #15  
hamlet
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I've been to Italy with a tour package, such as what Howard described above, and I recommend that. I was travelling totally on my own, but with the package you book hotels and buy intercity train tickets ahead of time and you get a 3 hour or so bus tour of each city. That way you may have the opportunity to learn from a great tourguide and make friends, if you are lonely. And the rest of the time is yours to spend as you wish. I think all the airlines offer these types of packages, in addition to tour companies. Buon viaggio!
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 10:50 AM
  #16  
Karen
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Tours simply add expense to your trip without adding value (unless, as an earlier poster mentioned, you are going into a "difficult" country). With so much information available on the Internet and in tour books, you can easily map out what to see and do, without the interference of a tour.

 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 01:12 PM
  #17  
Anna
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I am in the same situation you're in and my current delimma is which is cheaper. It seems like the tour group can give you better value for your dollar - because they can get better discount rates on hotels, etc.? I'm planning my trip to Italy and France now and many of the hotels I've seen are in the high 100's to 200's dollar range. Just looking at the numbers, it seems hard to beat the rates on the package tours like Brendan's or Trafalgar. Any one have recommendations on how many stars a hotel should be rated and approximately how much you have spent on 2 week tours to Europe? Thanks!!!
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 01:56 PM
  #18  
Karen
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No WAY are tours cheaper. I've tried pricing several tours at different times of the year, for my parents and their friends for their first trips to Europe, and I was absolutely shocked at how much more expensive the tours are than putting the trip together yourself (or with a travel agent). Just to see exactly how much more one tour was (which was the cheapest tour group I found), I priced the flight, same hotel, airport transport, estimated meals, other transport, and found that the tour was $1,000 more than what I came up with (and I was generous with my estimates).

Tours offer no deals. You are paying for the tour guide and the convenience of having everything booked ahead for you.
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 02:51 PM
  #19  
Alice
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Also, the tour's price for their hotels might beat the 'rack rate' price you would get at that hotel, but you can find a quality hotel on your own for less money as a way to gain savings over a tour. My first trip to Europe in 1996 was thru 6 countries (17 days) and we enjoyed our Trafalgar Tour; we took one more tour of France in 1998. Other than that, I have planned our trips myself and am discovering my preference in the 'home base/daytrips' philosophy, because it does seem less tiring and stressful.
 
Old Mar 5th, 2001, 06:29 PM
  #20  
Greg and Lisa
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Just wanted to thank everyone for their postings and excellent advice.

Happy travelling.
 

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