Traveling alone for the first time.

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Sep 16th, 2000, 05:08 PM
  #1
Alma
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Traveling alone for the first time.

Help! I will be going to Europe the end of May 2001 by myself. I'll be 57 then and I would like to see England,Scotland & Wales for about 12-14 days and would like to visit Paris for a week or so also. I can't decide if I should take a escorted tour or do both myself. (I'm not from the great walkers!)
Some questions I have regarding tours are:
1-How early do you have to get up?
2-How casual can I get?
3-Will I have free time for shopping and wandering around myself?
4-How many people on these tours?
I have researched some tour groups, but no one I know has been on one,so I have no input other then those tour books companies.
I have looked into: Trafalgar, Collette, Insight,and Globus Tours. The price isn't the problem really, but I want to see and do as much as possible without feeling rushed, if possible. (I love to shop!)
I have been reading all these chats and trust the experiences you all have had. Help please! Alma
 
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Sep 16th, 2000, 06:42 PM
  #2
Shirlene
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Hi Alma: good advices for you too in the post Single Female: what kind of vacation is that? You should think carefully what is better for you, what kind of trip will make you feel more confortable. If you donīt want to worry about hotels and trains and luggage, then it is much better to take a escorted tour. But it gives you less freedom. If there are many places to go, usually time to get up is 8/8:30. Not much time to walk around doing nothing - and lots of time waiting for everybody to get ready in the lobby. Charters in general are late. Waiting time in airport too. Time to go shopping in almost all the places, usually two hours depending of the place. Sometimes in the main cities there are free days - and you can do what you want, with or without the group. When you travel on your own, you have to think about EVERYTHING. Including going to the small toilet (no space) with all your luggage if the cheking line is long and you canīt wait. Noone to take care of them for you. And many small things that we never remember before doing it for the first time (and second, and third, there is always something new...)Dress casual, I donīt think you will have problems - dress the way you feel confortable, unless you are taking a first class milionary tour. I canīt help you with tours companies in USA, but probably you will find good ones doing a search here in the forum. Good luck!
 
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Sep 16th, 2000, 07:10 PM
  #3
Rmd
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test
 
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Sep 16th, 2000, 07:14 PM
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rmd
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Hi Alma, I think I can answer most of your questions. The tours in England start a bit later than the continental tours because the daily travel time is less. Expect to meet on the bus at 8:30am or thereabouts. May be earlier if you're travelling to Scotland that day. So you'd have to be up at around 7-7:30 to take advantage of the breakfast offered, and pack your bags. The tours are pretty casual, there's usually a night out - a nice jacket over your usual attire would be fine. Some women take dresses, but I find then you need to pack all of the acutraments to a dress: shoes, nylons etc. They say lots of free time but really it's 2-3 hrs here, an hour there, etc. The tours you mentioned use a bus with a capacity of 50 people, so expect 49 other people to be travelling with you plus the driver and the tour guide, and you won't meet many locals while in a group of 50 people. Be sure to watch the extras on tours they can add up to about $500 to the cost of the tour. Best way to compare tours is to do up a chart and list all of the sights, museums, stops, etc down the far left of the page, with the travel co's names listed across the top of the page. Then review the brochures and tick off what is included with each tour you're looking into. This can be an eye-opening experience. As a rule, Insight offers more that Trafalgar in their tour price. Also, watch for statements like "drive by" or "view" which means just that, or "why don't you", "perhaps take" which means an add-on. Make sure they stay in the city center or you'll find yourself in the boonies, as many travellers can attest to! The lower cost tours say they stay in the suburbs, don't believe it, you're farther out than that and probably won't be near any public transportation. Also, some of the 'free time' is 'drop you at the hotel time' so that's another reason to make sure you're in the downtown core.

Okay, so I've shown the downside of tours, now for the upside: they do all of the planning and driving. All you really have to do is show up in the morning. The hotel meals are not imaginative, but they fill the belly, and if you're in the downtown core you can blow off the dinner and go out for your own meal. Tours will help you orientate yourself in a new town or city, and as a single traveller, there really isn't a cheaper way to see an area than on a tour. And for a single woman, there is the added advantage of security in numbers.

In my past travels, I have taken a tour of an area, and then added-on some time alone. For example, I took a tour of Great Britain 10 days (my pub and castle tour) and then on 7 days to see London, and go back to the areas that I wanted to see more of. You'd be surprised at the amount of tour people who stay on for at least a few days extra in London at the end of a tour, assuming it stops there. You then could take the Chunnel to Paris (something that is on my own personal life's To Do list), and explore Paris and surrounding area for another week.

The prices for Trafalgar and Insight are about $100 apart, so if you're in this range, I suggest Insight tours simply for the extras included. Trafalgar and Insight will link you up with a same-sex roomie, more info is at the back of the brochure. Globus will NOT set you up with a same-sex roomie and will automatically charge you a single supplement for your own room. If this is not an issue to you, then check them out as well. If money is really not an object try the higher priced tours such as CIE and Tauck. Try a search on this forum for more info on the higher priced tours, since I, alas, have not been able to afford them.

Other tips I can give you is to go to the Library and read, read, read. The more you know about Great Britain/Paris before you get there, the more you'll get out of the trip. I prefer EYEWITNESS guide books, they go into incredible detail. It'd be worth your while to buy the Great Britain volume.

 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 08:41 AM
  #5
Alma
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Thanks so much for the info. You have helped answer some of my questions. I mentioned traveling alone, but I am married. My husband can't go due to his asthma. He won't fly for a long period of time and I know that with perfume, smoke and just all around smells, he won't have a good time. He also hasn't the interest to travel anymore. (He did the Europe trips 25 years ago.)Anyway, I know I'd have more fun without having to worrying about him.

As to the early morning traveling, I was under the impression that you had to get up at 6:00am and rush to eat & get on the bus. 2 or 3 hours should be plenty to shop. Worrying about luggage, buses/trains, hotels & resturants would certainly put a damper on my vacation, at least this time. Has anyone been on Collette Tours? They seem to have most optional trips included.

When they say "view", I know it's only a drive by, but it may be enough as long as most of the trips I want to see are visited.

Also, a quick question, my passport picture is over 5 years old. My hair was darker and I was of course, younger. Will I have any problems? My drivers license looks like me now (if that's at all possible!).

Again, thanks for the great info and if anyone has more for me, I can't wait to read it. You can even email me if you want. It is all greatly appreciated.
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 09:05 AM
  #6
elaine
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Alma
Don't worry about your passport picture, as long as your passport has not expired.
You've already received wonderful advice.
I would suggest perhaps the tour for the UK, and then with that under your belt, Paris could easily be done on your own.
I have files on Paris and London, if you would like to see them, email me.
good luck
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 09:16 AM
  #7
Betsy
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Hi Alma,
Tour groups as pros and cons. There are 2 I would suggest. One is Tauck, if money isn't an issue. Their travelers will be around your age and they have a thorough tours of Great Britain, (however,not with paris included). They're are more upscale, have great accomodations and aren't as must cattle movers as Tragalgar and Insight. Another tour company that offers great tours is Rick Steves, Europe Through The Backdoor. Their tours are not cheap, but you will see places other tours miss and your group will be no bigger than 26. There is a lot of walking, and they don't haul your luggage for you. (The website is under Europe Through The Backdoor).
Have fun,
Betsy
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 10:16 AM
  #8
Karen
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I can speak for the quality of Tauck Tours. We have taken seven, three foreign. The great things about this company is the superior quality of the guides, hotels, itinerary and the inclusive meals. The hotels you stay in are usually five star, so meals are a consideration and almost all are paid for, although many are not in the hotel where you stay. We have had the MOST fantastic tour guides, easy going, accommodating with loads of knowledge. This tour group does not get you up at the break of dawn, always has time for breakfast and, unlike many tours, you don't put your luggage in the hall for pick up. It is delivered to your room and picked up from your room while you are eating breakfast. There are no optional tours, it is all paid for. We had more than plenty of time for ourselves and received plenty of options when we did have meals on our own. I would not take any other tour group, although I am sure there are plenty of others. I am surprised Tauck does any advertising as most of the groups seem to be repeat customer having done up to 15-20 tours and planning more. As for clothing, I wear what I wear at home, casual, somewhat dressier at night, although many times I have worn what I've worn all day. The UK tends to be a bit dressier than he US, but I wouldn't worry about clothes. I think, as a group, our members were dressed casually and very well.
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 11:34 AM
  #9
rmd
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HI Alma, I just checked out Taucks website, and found a tour of Britain and Scotland for $4,400us for 14 days.
See www.tauck.com. If money really is no object check it out. I wish I could afford it! Collette also has a website, they seem similar to Insight with one more "evening out meal" and theatre tickets in London. They're pricing is in the range of a standard tour price. I haven't heard much about Collette, you may want to post a query simply on Collette tours and see if you get a response. Or try typing 'Collette tours' in the Fodors text search and see what pops up. Before booking be sure to read the brochure's fine print so you don't have any surprises. Happy Trails!
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 01:50 PM
  #10
Alma
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Thanks everyone for the great info. I was really considering Collette Tours but I can't find anyone, even Fodorites, that have been on any Collette Tours. How Come? The brochure is really great. They include most everything that would be options on all other tours and the price is less than Tauck,more than Trafalar, but around the same as Insight. I can't believe that out of so many travelers, no one has info on Collette!

Well, thanks anyway.
 
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Sep 17th, 2000, 08:39 PM
  #11
LEANNA
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Hi I can only vouch for Collette tours 2nd hand but from what I've heard they are super. My mom used them for an east coast tour, and was happy and I have pals who have used them for Ireland and for Great Britain...and they were happy! I've almost used them myself...but then used Grand European but only because the itinery suited me more. Anyway...check out some more sources..but I'm sure you'll be fine. Vaya con Dios!
 
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