Trafalgar tours

Old Apr 11th, 2013, 04:37 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 12
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Trafalgar tours

My mom and I are almost 100% sure we are going on a Trafalgar tour this summer in Italy. I have read a few reviews and want to get more input on them. What are your thoughts and/or experiences. I read a few reviews where they would just drive by certain sites and not stop. I want to make sure I am getting the most out of my money. Any other tour groups out there that you have done?

p.s. we are look at the 14 day Best of Italy tour
kris11 is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:16 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 36,811
Likes: 0
Received 14 Likes on 11 Posts
Most people on this board plan their own trips. You'll find a few that do tours.

You do need to know tour lingo:

See - drive by
Visit - actually enter
kybourbon is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:34 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,937
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
>>I read a few reviews where they would just drive by certain sites and not stop<<

That is true w/ a LOT of tours. They couldn't manage the number of cities/sites if they actually let you out of the bus to dawdle.

That tour gives you essentially one full day in Rome, one full day in Florence, one full day in Venice, - the rest of the time you are on the move. Ho old are the two of you? That makes a difference both re the tour's demographics and your stamina.
janisj is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:35 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,937
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
That should be >>Ho<B>w</B> old are the two you?<<
janisj is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:41 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 4,606
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I think a tour for your first trip to Italy can be a good idea. It will probably be exhausting and there will be times when you feel rushed but you will see ALOT. And most tours do VISIT the main sights, not just drive by.

Even tho most of your time will be "guided" do some homework. There will probably be some free time and you will be presented with the "optionals" - usually high priced extra excursions. This will be your opportunity to break free from your handler and do some exploring on your own. Italy is full of lovely inexpensive restaurants that will be better than a high priced optional. Take a seat, get a carafe of the house wine, people watch and dream about coming back!

Hopefully by the end of the tour you will have seen most of the iconic sights with the help of a guide to give you good information and usually ease your entry without the long lines. You will have an idea of where you can go next time at a more leisurely pace, on your own. Alot of posters here are very biased for planning and going on your own but to cover alot of ground and get a feel for foreign travel, a tour can be just fine. Enjoy!
suec1 is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:54 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 945
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I took a couple of Trafalgar tours years ago, and enjoyed both of them. I briefly looked at the Best of Italy tour, and it seems like a pretty good tour. You only have a couple of one-nighters, which is good because packing and unpacking every night can get very old very fast.

I suggest you look at the hotels and see how far they are from the city centers. This can be important for strolling in the evening or venturing out on your own.

Here's a link to tripadvisor reviews of this tour. 26 replies, and overall the reviews are very positive.
http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTo...our-Italy.html
walkabout is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 07:04 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,937
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
It is true there are several 2 night stays but except for the single days in Rome/Florence/Venice - even the two nighters are entirely given over to full day coach excursions. You'll sleep in the same bed two nights in a row -- but be on the coach both days.

As tours go it is sure better than a lot of them out there - but it is still a lot of 'see' and not enough 'visit' IMO. There are several 'visit's' in Rome so that is good.
janisj is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 09:54 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 465
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Here's a link to a review on another forum by someone who took this tour. http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTo...our-Italy.html
tom18 is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 04:08 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Everybody has their own opinions to which they are certainly entitled. I did a Trafalgar tour of Italy a few years ago but not the one you're doing.

You will see the ain sites depending on the exact itinerary. What you will visit is pretty much spelled out in the day by day descriptions. Is 1 full day in Rome enough? Of course not. But when you're finished, you may well have visited the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, the Trave Fountain, the Coloseum and have some idea of the lay of the land (in the 1 day you won't have time for inside visits of all of those, I agree on that). Some people have bad things to say about the optionals. They are standard prices for evening (and sometimes day time) organized excursions with your tour mates. They may be dinners, they may be touristy shows, they may include Rome at night, and so on (although as you get more into summer, it gets dark later and later). Are they worth it? I say yes but others disagree. Oh well. In venice, if a trip on a gondola is not included (again depends on the itinerary, then it will be an optional while there as an example.

On travel days, you are asked to put your bags out by about 7 AM, go down for breakfast (usually pretty lousy in Italy unfortunately), on the road by 8 or 8:30. In two hours there is a rest stop probably at an autogrill on the highway. (You'll get used to them). Lunch may be some small town. Rest stop middle of the afternoon. Arrive at your hotel by about 5 PM usually. They give you the key and the porter delivers your luggage. If not in a big city, dinner may be included. It will be edible but not much more.

But a nice thing about Trafalgar is you will meet people from all over the English speaking world and of all ages and usually will bond very well with several other people. Seats on the coach rotate (if you want to have some idea, the way they usually rotate after you choose your seats on the first day is you move up two seats every morning on the left side of the coach till you get to the front and slide across and two seats back each morning on the right side so on your first day you can sort of plan where you'll be each day and choose your first seats accordingly.

That's about it. Enjoy.
xyz123 is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 04:47 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
You need to understand that tours do some of the work for you - but also that their are certain problems built into tours:

You will be on a bus many hours per day
Starts are early - often bags outside the room by 7 am and on the bus by 8 (they will NOT wait)
In reading the brochure understand how much time you will have at the sights you want to see:
- View (see out the bus window as you drive by)
- Stop (5 minute photo op in front)
- Visit (you will go inside, but perhaps not see everything you want - if something really matters to you ask them if you spend an hour somewhere or 2/3)

There are usually stops for "shopping" for tscotkes that nobody really wants - but where the guide gets a cut of sales.

Understand where the hotels are located - often they opt for more modern american style hotels - but out by the highway instead of in the town center - so it's hard to do anything in your "free time"

Also food tends to be american versions of local food with few choices in hotel dining rooms - not authentic local food in restaurants (If you are used to real Italian food in your town you very likely will be disappointed)

All of this is not terrible if you have decided it outweighs the work and time needed to plan your own trip.

Caveat: I have been on 2 tours - 1 free and one no choice - and while I enjoyed the cities I HATED the tours. On one we had an incredibly irritating honeymoon couple who were LATE for everything - not 5 minutes - at times 30. Eventually the guide order the bus driver to leave when he saw them heading towards the bus - again holding everyone up for 20 minutes. They started running and screaming - and the bus kept going. The rest of the guests applauded. The bus stopped around the first curve - but even that scare didn't make them keep to schedule. Totally inconsiderate, rude and clueless.

The other was to Russia (and parts of Scandinavia) when that was the only way you could go. I loved the cities but were haunted/hunted by several people who wanted a super budget trip although they had bought a mid priced tour - and constantly complained of the cost of everything (reasonable for major european cities but much more than a small town in the US). They were also terrified to leave the hotel in their free time - and wanted someone to tell them where to go every moment.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 04:56 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi - we returned March 17, 2013 from a fantastic "Simply Italy" tour with Trafalgar (myself, hubby, adult son, teenaged daughter). We have travelled a lot, but had never been on a guided tour before. We really enjoyed seeing the sights and not having to worry about the logisitcs of transportation, language, which hotels to book, internet searches of sights to see, all the planning etc. It really was a worry free and stress free vacation and we loved the planned itinerary. We also learnt a lot from our excellent Tour Director Antonio. We have taken local city tours in our travels, but what set Antonio apart from tour guides that we previously encountered, were his genuine efforts at teaching us - not just a description of the facts or the attractions we were visiting; but the events leading up to the history and the current situations; the Italian language, customs and culture, the meaning behind the colours of the Italian flag etc. This transfer of knowledge and Antonio’s passion and love for Italy and Europe is something we have taken home with us; and he has therefore enriched us for the rest of our lives. I know we can read facts on the internet and in books, but it was much more meaningful and left a deeper impression on us coming first-hand from someone who is so passionate about his country. Some of the people who were on our bus were repeat Trafalgar travellers and they told us that most of Trafalgar's Tour Directors are excellent! We had budgeted for and attended all but one of the optional activities - the local tour guides were also very good; we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our holiday. We met a couple on the tour who had done the exact same tour with Trafalgar the previous year and had returned one year later to have the same experience! We also have friends and relatives (who have travelled extensively) who have gone on various tours of Italy with Trafalgar - the reason we went is because they all highly recommended Trafalgar to us. If you haven't already decided, we would say go, give it a try and hope you have as great a time as we did!
Michele_P is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 05:12 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,937
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Michele_P: Welcome to Fodors. I'm sure the <i>excellent</i> Antonio appreciates your kind words . . .
janisj is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 05:53 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 6,134
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes, interesting comments for a first time poster
historytraveler is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 06:07 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 24,994
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
Here's the Trafalgar itinerary:

http://www.trafalgar.com/usa/best-of-italy-2013

Some people love tours, including some people in my own family, because they just have to show up and everything has been planned and booked for them. These types of tours don't work for me, mostly because I'm not an early riser when I'm on vacation, and I tend to sightsee slowly, so I'd hate being shuttled quickly through a museum, church, whatever.

Another issue for me is the number of hours sitting on a bus. The Trafalgar tour involves: Day 4, 4 hours. Days 6 and 7, nearly 5 hours each. Day 9, 4 hours. Day 11, almost 5 hours. Day 13, almost 4 hours.

Tour hotels are almost always rather far from the historical centers of cities (because the tour bus needs to be able to pull up to the front door). If you don't mind walking a couple of miles or spending money on taxis, it wouldn't be an issue for you. However, your hotel in Venice is on Lido which is not a simple walk from the sights (unless you walk on water!). Also, your last hotel is not in Rome; it's 30 minutes outside of the city.
Jean is online now  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 09:22 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I don't want to start an argument with the last poster or others who have pointed out the cons, and many of them are there, with the typical Trafalgar (or Globus) one country tour say of Italy. Yes the hotels in somke of the big cities will be somewhat out of the way, true enough. Usually they are conbvenient to local transport and in almost all big cities, there will be an optional excursion to take yo into the city for some group activities. Are they overpriced? To a small degree but even if you travel independently when you start adding u taxi fares to the fancy restaurant or whatever, you'd be surprised at how much the night out can cost as compared to the optional. And you don't have to take the optional.

I've heard the shopping complaint too. And it is true. Many of the places they stop there is an agreement between the tour company and the merchant to give the td, the driver and the company a piece of the action. Simple. Just say no; Most tours, for example, which spend a day in Rome, do the Vatrican in the morning and then may give you an optional in the afternoon but they will drop you in central Rome in this case and give you a pick up time or you can go back to the hotel in most cases by public transport.

In venice, yes you stay in Lido virtually on all tours. Nobody questions that. But in the morning, they take you into Venice proper, you get a tour of a glass factory (hokey) which you don't have to take as they try to sell you glass and explain why red is more expensive than other colors and then yu're either left on your own (I climbed to the top of the tower in central Venice) or walk around or shop or whatever. Or they might offer an optional of a ride on a gondola. Or they may offer an optional of a side trip to one of the nearby islands with lunch included. And in the evening they pick you up and bring you back to the hotel and you will have spent a full day in Venice.

Yes the included meals are bland but that has been explained to me as that's what most people want. Just as many people are put off by some local specialties (it was true of my tour in Spain btw) and prefer something nice and bland. The optional dinners, yes you pay, are usually very good and do feature local specialties as well as unlimited vino or the only thing I can drink these days which is diet coked (which is actually coca cola light which is not the same drink but we've discussed that here too).

Look, again please, I'm not saying this to be dogmatic or say anybody else's opinion is wrong. With the exception of the tour I did to Spain (there's something about Spain perhaps the languge perhaps), I've done Trafalgar tours to Great Britain, Ireland, Germany & Austria, the Alpine (a fantastic tour by the way),Scandinavia, the Soviet Union when it was the Soviet Union, the central European ex satellites such as Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy as well as some if it's Tuesday it must be Belgium that some here hate and laugh at. The tour directors were always locals and knowledgeable.

One gets used to the routine of packing every other day. One gets used to the Italian routine of ordering at the cash register and taking the ticket to get your piece of cake (even if it's the same person), to the Autogrills (an experience in themselves). The worst part of Itlian tours, at least to this humble reporer are the absurdly non appetizing Italian breakfasts with red orange juice but does taste like orange juice. As compared to Germany where the breakfast spread in most hotels is fantastic almost always with smoke salmon and even sometimes shrimp and cold cuts. Amazing but it's all part of the learning experience I suppose.

Nothng wrong with doing it yourself and hitting a new town at rush hour and trying to figue out where the hotel you booked is or taking trains and schlepping your luggage to the cabs to the hotel. You might even be able to save a fvew euro by doing it yourself. And yes, it will allow yo unlimited time at those places you want to be although places like the Vatican have it set up that the tour groups get preference and individuals wait on long queues.

As I said and believe me I don't want to get into a debae with anybody nor am I a shill for Tranfalgar, they do offer a quality product on the whole and the opportunity to meet new people and make lots of friends. Does it always work to perfection? No, of course not. Is it possible there will be some bore on the coach who can't get it through their thick skulls the rotation system on the coach or who are late a lot at the start. Yes and that's the job of the td and most of them do it well.

But in the end you get what you pay for and if I were to rate Trafalgar and all the tours I've taken with them on a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give them 8.7 but remember I'm a tough grader.
xyz123 is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 09:53 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Te fact is that with most tour you are lucky if you get what you pay for. Don;t know much about Trafalger.

The ones I did were no name (a free tour because I worked in the promotion for it) and American Express (To Russia and a little Scandinavia).

Friends of my mom now often take tours - since in their 80s they don;t want to deal with luggage. But they usually do Tauck (better hotels and meals, often slower-paced) and also stay in the first and last city on their own before and after the tour.

It all depends on the experience you want. I don't trust other people to make decisions for me (I am particular and KNOW what I want), I value time more than money, and I do NOT get up at 7 am while on vacation.

And I have only encountered a very few tour guides (usually on small walking tours and they were local professors) who really knew more than I did (but I do have a degree in european history).
nytraveler is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2013, 10:36 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 24,994
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
xyz, I think you pointed out more negatives than I did...

kris11, the point of my post (and others, I think) was not to bash Trafalgar, the company, or this particular tour. I mentioned the reasons why it wouldn't appeal to me in the event some of these things might not have been apparent to you and would make a difference in how much you enjoyed your trip. In the end, only you and your mom know what kind of trip you want and whether this Trafalgar tour fits the bill.
Jean is online now  
Old Apr 12th, 2013, 04:48 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 393
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Since 2002 my wife and I have taken 6 escorted tours with Insight Vacations with our 7th tour (Treasures of Turkey) booked for this Fall.

The main difference between Insight and Trafalgar or Globus is the fact that Insight only has 40 peoples on their buses rather than the normal 50 on the other 2. Being 6'3 I appreciate the extra leg room.

Another major difference is that Insight's hotels are more centrally located so it is easy to venture out on your own to explore.

Escorted tours are just that tours not vacations. Anyone taking a tour must first accept that there will be early morning departures and some long days on the bus. If you can't get past these 2 matters than an escorted tour is not for you.

There are a lot of benefits to escorted tours as some have mentioned....don't have to concern yourself with transport between cities/countries, your luggage is handled for you, you meet some amazing people from other countries (Aussies and Kiwi are fantastic companions), no lining up to get into some of the busier sites (Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's). Yes there can be draw backs....inconsiderate members of your tour, buffet breakfasts or dinners that are not all that good at some hotels.

The Italian Escapade tour offered by Insight is quite similar to your Trafalgar tour. We did this tour in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have posted a trip report on this tour should you wish compare with the Trafalgar trip reports linked above.
DaveJJ is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2013, 06:18 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,271
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
BTW...although some may know this. Insight and Trafalgar are sister companies and outside the large cities you might find an Insight tour and a Trafalgar tour using the same hotel but of course more is included as noted with Insight, in general the meals are somewhat better, the coach as mentioned but you still have the long days on the coach, the early departures the autogrill stops on the highways. The tour directors come from the same pool. A tour director might do a Trafalgar tour for a 10 days and his or her next tour might be Insight.

Bottom line and I didn't add up my pros and cons, there are pros and cons to every decision regarding this.
xyz123 is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2013, 07:34 AM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 12
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for all the feedback! I have been busy and this is my first time checking back. I am 22 and my mom is in her low 50's. We are going to talk to an agent about other options too. My biggest fear is just driving by places and not being able to see what is there.

this is so stressful to figure out, haha
kris11 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -