Tour Package vs. Do It Yourself?!

Old Oct 13th, 2003, 12:31 PM
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Tour Package vs. Do It Yourself?!

A friend and I are planning a trip to Italy next Spring. We are overwhelmed by the hotels choices. We finally narrowed down our cities to Florence, Rome, and Venice. Then came the hard part - where to stay.

Is it worth it to let someone do all the work for us and go through a travel agent and do a package?

What experience has anyone had with doing it "on their own" versus using a Tour Package? If you used a Tour, would you recommend and if so what was the name?

Thanks for any help you can give us!
whoissamantha is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2003, 12:54 PM
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To my mind, a package isn't the same thing as a tour.

A package is when you are quoted one rate, usually per person but based on double occupancy, for a combination of air plus hotel, plus occasional features like airport transfers or breakfast at the hotel. Except for an occasional included orientation tour, your itinerary is your own.

A tour often implies that it is escorted. That means the itinerary is set, the sightseeing is scheduled, occasionally there is free time but you know before you leave home what you will be doing each day. Sometimes meals are included, sometimes not. Usually intercity travel is by bus.

You can easiy have a travel agent book a package for you (or a tour, for that matter) but I urge you to do the advance research on your own.
Even the best travel agent (and there aren't too many of those it seems) can't know every hotel, or perhaps won't realize that if your one day in Florence is a Monday, some museums will be closed.

You need to verify which hotels are choices within the tour or package, and where they are located.
Often large hotels that are near convention centers or airports or train stations are used, and they are not necessarily centrally-located for someone who isn't there on business but who wants to sightsee. Some budget-minded hotels don't have a/c or elevators or private bathrooms; some offer showers but not bathtubs.

If you do a search here on <tour> (use the text box above) you may find recommendations. Some companies are better for some countries than for others. Some take smaller groups. Some specialize in low-budgets; others emphasize fine dining or educational aspects.

And read the brochures to learn tour language: a sentence like "and on our way to Florence we'll pass the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa" may mean that you literally pass it without getting off the bus. "We'll VISIT" is something different.

Once you have your facts, you can have a travel agent book your whole trip, or just pieces. Nevertheless, I would contact each hotel on my own to confirm my arrangements, including any special requests like two beds in the room vs one, etc.
elaine is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2003, 01:21 PM
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I traveled to Rome with my friend for a few days and then a year after with an escorted tour to Rome, Florence and Venice with my family. So far I've been to 3 escorted tours to Italy, France and Spain (Trafalgar tours) and very satisfied with it.
Actually going on your own is like watching a silent movie and it can be stressful (if you don't do your homework) and with an escorted tour it focuses directly on the highlights of that particular city and let the tour director do the job and you just follow. There are pros/cons to both independent and escorted tour. To me if you want to go to a particular city you can explore on your own with thorough research. If you want multi-city/multi-country with less time, I would prefer an escorted tour so you don't have to worry about the logistics of going from point A to B - although it is a regimented, not really a vacation it's a tour!
I am working on my 3rd trip to Italy (with TT); planning to explore more on Tuscany region this time.
You might want to check with Globus, Cosmos and Trafalgar as they have these itineraries that you want to visit and then compare it while doing your own thing. If you choose an escorted bear in mind that you can either go few days before the start of tour or stay extra few days after and just make the necessary arrangements with the agent.
good luck!
enjoylife99 is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2003, 01:56 PM
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Hi who,

As written above, there are packages, tours and independent travel. You still have plenty of time to decide which you would like to do.

Since you have chosen Plan A, why not do a little research here before deciding. I think that you will find that all of us together are better than a single travel agent.

To start, See


ira is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2003, 02:19 PM
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I tried an escorted tour of Ireland in September and came away with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the transportation was essential for us.
The Irish train system is poor at best and mostly a hub and spoke out of Dublin. The hotel choices were indifferent; some good, others lousy.

The rigid schedule was not to my liking.
We had time for shopping but only a few minutes at scenic wonders such as the Cliffs of Moher.

I much prefer to do it on my own.
It takes time to do the searching and learning about what to see and where to stay, but in the end it is your trip and not one that someone else said was good.

If I go back to Ireland, the same problem will present itself, however, I am not at all confident I could drive on the left side of the road. Some people adjust quickly; I seem to be a laggard.

For Italy, I think it is a toss up.
Italy is not easy to drive in; in fact, it is dangerous in my opinion.
But others will have another point of view.
bob_brown is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2003, 06:33 PM
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I look at it this way: anyone I know who has taken an escorted tour never really knew what Europe was like until they they came on their own.

On escorted tours, from what those who've gone have told me, you are highly unlikely to eat anywhere "authentic", your tour guide will translate your menu for you , so you never get wonderful discoveries (or unpleasant surprises on the other hand) and you will never, at any time, mix with locals or use the language at all.

I personally never feel like I've visted a city til use the metro. I know that's odd, but there it is. I think the best part of the trip is standing on a street cprner with a map and figuring out what to see next. But if you just want to "see" the Tower at pisa but never interact with any Italians, by all means do an escorted tour.

A package, on the other hand, can mean a packaged tour or just a hotel + airfare package. Check out a hotel + air package for any trip you take--they are often much cheaper than separately, although there may be conditions that apply. Hope this clears things up. Good luck with your planning.
allovereurope is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 06:40 AM
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Neither tour or independent is perfect you just have to figure out what works for you. That said, we have gone on 4 independent trips to Europe. Italy is usually the most stressful, since we drive and their road signs leave alot to be desired. However, we truly enjoy setting our own schedule and pace.

Regarding hotel rooms, we definitely like picking our own but first set parameters, ie we prefer our own WC and shower, located within walking distance of sites, smaller inns and at most 3 star (usually would not use room service,etc), clean, friendly staff. From that we usually try several sources - 1. Rick Steves (very opinionated which helps) 2. Fodors recommendations 3. Kathy Brown guides and 4. This talk forum. Most will have web sites which then helps also. Yes it does take some time, but half the fun is in the planning.

The internet has so much available from hotels, talk forums, etc. that the planning is made a lot easier.

Once reservations at hotels are made, we also use them to help finalize planning - such as a dinner reservation at a particular spot or a site tour (reserved a cave tour on our last trip with the hotel's assistance, parking and laundry facilities.

We do plan each day what we would like to see, much like a tour package, for a couple reasons.
1. It makes us aware in advance of what may or may not be available (hours or days open).
2. Avoids the pit fall "What are we going to do today" when no one decides.
3. Provides alternatives if weather does not cooperate.
4. Incorporates cafe time, shopping time, etc at our own pace.

Obviously we can add things if we find something else or delete things (weather, time, circumstances change).

So figure out what you like the best. It is helpful to get a guide book or two to help you figure out what is available and what you really want to do (this is good for tour or independent). The more knowledgable you are about where you are going the more you may enjoy the trip!!!

Happy traveling, Mary Ann
MGB is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 07:31 AM
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Hi, who - you've gotten some WONDERFUL excellent advice from these folks. You don't say if this is your first trip abroad or to Italy. Often a package is useful for the first time in a new country. There are many different packages; mine have gone from total "take me here and take me there" to get me there and leave me alone. You are likely to be happier when you arrange your own hotels, and less happy with travel agent choices if you don't get seriously involved in the selection process. In Italy I took a Perillo tour inside of a vacation to Rome, going to Florence and Venice via bus; good group, all ages, a couple of dinners together, 2 great hotels, fair tour director, expensive side trips which I didn't take. If you need a lot of company, which I don't but my best friend did, a tour meets that need. And if you haven't traveled with your friend before, having other people around takes pressure off you both. Tours also help with avoiding lines at popular sites. When it comes to "mixing with locals" remember you're a visitor - your chance to mix will be mostly limited to those who provide service to you. It's not as if you're going to meet a fascinating university professor who takes you to the family villa out in the country for the weekend of good food and wine where his mother falls in love with you - and so does he. (Now you know MY dream.) You will interact with desk clerks, shop clerks, although in Rome, we took a local night tour and met an artist who did the tours to make a living. The only other person was a State Dept employee on his way back from Indonesia. Since there was just the three of us, we threw the itinerary to the wind and went to the places the artist wanted to show us. And once on a day tour to Loire valley, I was on a bus of people from all over the world with a fantastic tour director who was a retired cab driver, spoke several languages, and a had dramatic flair for acting out the history. What a fun day that was. Sit down with your friend to find out what would be the ideal vacation - what you want to see, how you see it playing out. For example, Venice conjures up certain images that I would want recreated; canals, gondolas, villas on the water. A hotel on the mainland won't do; I want to look out the window and see what Venice means to me. Some people, however, think the hotel is "just where you sleep" and doesn't have to do more than have a comfortable clean bed and good plumbing. There will always be compromises and surprises; and with a tour you can blame whatever goes wrong on the tour and credit yourselves for the good stuff! Have a great time in Italy.
Shanna is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 07:35 AM
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"I think that you will find that all of us together are better than a single travel agent."

That's what this forum is really all about.

You will get polite and informative answers about various aspects of Europe travel if you decide to choose a package or tour.

But you will get enthusiastic answers, in-depth advice and ideally a sense of camaraderie and joining "family" if you become part of the "countless convinced" that traveling on your own is the ONLY way.

Best wishes,


rex is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 07:49 AM
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I encourage you to do the research on this and/or other boards and enjoy the knowledge that you are in command of your life. There is a difference between being a tourist and being a savvy traveler.
DRJ is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 08:06 AM
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do it on your own. the planning gets you in the mood for the trip and while on your own, you do get to see things that are not usually on the usual tour schedules. if you do make a mistake in booking hotels you have a story to tell. we have always planned our own trips and have never regretted it. just go and have fun. integrate yourself into the culture.
jay is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 08:22 AM
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Hey who,
Very sage advice from previous posters - this is typical of the help this forum can provide. If you are willing and able to make arrangements yourself, your trip will be far more enjoyable and memorable than any tour package. A good travel agent is worth their weight in gold - however they are few and far between IMHO. With the advent of the internet you can make these arrangements yourself and become a very savvy traveller in the process.
Shanna. "his mother falls in love with you and so does he" Sounds kinky!
JoeG is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 02:46 PM
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We do all our trips on our own but were nervous the first time. Once I got Rick Steve's book Best of Europe and tried his hotels recs, etc.....we much prefer it on our own. I can't imagine having to be with a tour group and be forced to do what they want.
donw is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 04:26 PM
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Hey Who,
Do it will be a blast! My best friend and myself did it last year and it was definately an adventure. As a matter of fact we picked the exact same cities you will be visiting. I did all of the research online, made our airfare, hotel and train reservations myself and I wouldn't do it any other way. It's a adventure just go for it! Feel free to ask any questions, I would be more than happy to help out.
tizmiss is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 06:57 PM
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We have friends who have used a company called Untours(I believe)...they are totally on their own with loose plans made for might check them out on the web, our friends have done at least four of their trips.
desertduds is offline  
Old Oct 14th, 2003, 09:32 PM
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You're more likely to remember all the places that you've been to and more...if you book it all yourself instead of going with a tour group. A few of my friends can't even even Piazza Navona (no kidding!) when I asked whether they liked Pizza Navona or not. Another friend remembered going to Capri but didn't remember Anacapri or anything else. I think the best thing about doing it on your own, is you get to really enjoy the 'experience' and not just the sightseeing. Especially, small places like Florence and Venice, where it's best just to wander around and getting 'lost' and discover places...Also, you'll really know the place, how to get there, and where is where..
tetrabit is offline  
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