Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

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charleshugh
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Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by charleshugh » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:20 pm

My wife and I are planning a 14 to 20 day vacation in France to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Three years ago, we ventured outside the U.S for the first time on a Rick Steves tour of Venice, Florence and Rome. We had a very good experience. This past year we did a Baltic Sea cruise via Holland America. Our instinct is to do a Rick Steves tour again but I was wondering if I could get advice/opinions from folks who can compare Rick Steves with other tour providers. Our thought is to spend 10 - 13 days with a tour group and then spend another 7 days in Paris on our own.

Your recommendations and opinions would be very helpful. Thank you.

davec004
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by davec004 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:33 pm

I don't have any experience with Rick Steeves tours, but I used to work for Grand Circle Travel and they had some great European group tours. They are mainly river cruise tours now, but they also have a sister company, Overseas Adventure Travel, that has more land tours. You can stick with the group and also arrange personal breakaways as far as I remember. Might be worth a look. Bonne chance.

https://www.gct.com/
https://www.oattravel.com/

mariezzz
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by mariezzz » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:33 pm

The thing with tours is you pay an awful lot for what you get. But some people prefer them over using the train & paying for cabs.

My sister went on a Rick Steves tour in Italy.I think overall, the company is pretty reliable. The tour itself had a lot of good reviews, but her group happened to get a pretty bad tour guide. Many people in the group were quite upset with him. That's something that's difficult to predict.

jayk238
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by jayk238 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:35 pm

i use rick steve's books because we are cheap. We have used it for the mediterranean cruise we took and for munich.

Definitely diy is a lot harder and requires a lot of effort on your part- but thats part of the fun. I think both experiences were great but I would recommend a cruise if you are willing to pay such a premium

You would probably be better off doing a viking river cruise that stops in paris tbh - it gives the quality of a luxury cruise ride and the convenience of it and also the tour guides and educational experience of a rick steves tour.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:08 pm

I’m following Rick Steves travel suggestion for the Dordogne area this year, no tour is necessary. I can take my time, instead of 2 tours of the art caves, I can do 4. I like to take my time and wandering around. Eat and stop anytime I want. Might have to rent a car in France too.

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celia
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by celia » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:53 pm

We recently watched a Rick Steves show on PBS (likely a re-run) where he strongly encouraged folks to arrange and travel on their own. The anticipation and planning yourself is a big part of the experience. It was a shorter version of this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jax-4S ... 5CMAmQuf3F

For example, if you are thinking about seeing things in France, here is a proposed do-it-yourself itinerary:
https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/france/itinerary
The books fill in the details and lists restaurants and hotels that he has already checked out. But you could customize the trip if you want to stay longer in one place or take a detour.

Here are his generic travel tips: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips

See if you can borrow his book(s) from your library.
Last edited by celia on Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Watty
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by Watty » Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:12 am

mariezzz wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:33 pm
The thing with tours is you pay an awful lot for what you get.
+1

I have never taken a big tour like that but when I have priced them I can usually travel in Europe for a lot less and often stay almost twice as long for the same price. Part of our savings is that the the Rick Steves tours seem to stay at higher end hotels then we do. When traveling in Europe we spend so little time in the hotel that as long as it is clean, safe, and in a good location we don't need anything fancy since we mainly just sleep there.

One thing they can be good at is having everything choreographed so that you get a lot into each day, but we enjoy taking our time so we don't really need to move fast.

You should also check out the Road Scholar tours which have more of an educational focus. They used to be called Elderhostel.

https://www.roadscholar.org/

I have not do an international trip with them but we did one in the US and we had a good time.

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GerryL
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by GerryL » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:43 am

Until 2015 I never had taken a tour to go to Europe. When I was younger I always traveled independently. But when I returned to France after more than two decades away, I decided to go with Road Scholar. I did the 2-week Provence to Paris trip which was mostly a river cruise along the Rhone, with a few nights in Aix-en-Provence and a couple of nights in Paris. (This is not a luxury cruise, like Viking. More mid-market.) Stayed on in an apartment in Paris for another two weeks.

Last September I returned to France and did a Road Scholar foodie program in Lyon, a city I had only discovered on the previous trip. We ate in fabulous restaurants and did half-day cooking classes. I stayed on in Lyon on my own for another nine days.

Now I am considering signing up for another Road Scholar trip in France. Maybe a barge trip. (And maybe a return to Lyon!) I enjoy the educational aspects of the Road Scholar programs and the fact that all costs are included. I speak French and can get around on my own, but on the tours I learn so much I might never learn when I travel independently. I've looked at the Rick Steves programs, but I want off-the-beaten track tours when I go to France and his tours tend to be designed more for first-timers to the destinations, from what I can see. Road Scholar offers for intro-style programs and more themed programs.

Congratulations on your anniversary! A trip to France sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate. My bro and sis-in-law are taking me on a Viking river cruise for my 70th birthday.

Radjob4me
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by Radjob4me » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:34 am

I haven't done them, but my parents (now in their 70s) have done a few Tauck tours and loved them (I believe they are a bit pricier than Rick Steves, but not sure). They won't travel to Europe any other way. And they have made a number of friends on the tours, from all around the US, and still have get togethers with these folks even years later.

So much of this depends on your willingness to do the research and your comfort level in navigating the unknown when doing DIY. Of course DIY costs less money (and is what my family and I tend to do) but to many folks, like my parents, don't want to have to worry about anything other than seeing the sights, so it's great for them and worth the extra expense. And if you are social, being in a group can be a big plus.

epictetus
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by epictetus » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:41 am

we have used Globus tours several times and have always had a good experience.
they are a bit cheaper than Rick Steves' tours.

we really like Rick Steves and always take his guidebooks on the trips we take.
Focus on what you can control

Nearly A Moose
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by Nearly A Moose » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:37 pm

Not what you're asking, so feel free to disregard, but consider just doing a diy tour based on a couple Rick Steves guide books. Get the whole France one, get one for Paris, and if there's a particular region you're super into, see if he has one for that too. I find his stuff well curated pretty on point. Yes, its a bit more work on your own, but not that much. Read the chapter of the book, decide on a hotel, go online and book, then repeat. There's a risk you can get overwhelmed with the choice if you diy, but remember, you're not going for perfect, and you'd have even less choice on a tour.

I also found it very easy to get around, both with city to City trains and driving. Take trains between major urban areas, rent a car for a couple days in more rural areas, and you'll be able to get around well. I literally can communicate nothing in French other than a desire to have wine and cheese (and I don't know to say enough!) and I was able to drive through Provence while my wife was asleep.

If you're worried about pacing, just plan two activities a day - one morning and one afternoon, and the rest will fill itself in organically. Perhaps try to make one of those activities physical each day. Alternate between really nice dinners and more modest ones. Every fourth or fifth day, make it a "recharge" day - plan a spa, or leave it open so you can just sit in a park and read.

If you book with the more boutique hotels, they'll be able to help you plan activities and get things lined up.

And ask folks on this board for suggestions - everyone loves to give suggestions based on past trips.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

Nearly A Moose
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by Nearly A Moose » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:41 pm

Nearly A Moose wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:37 pm
Not what you're asking, so feel free to disregard, but consider just doing a diy tour based on a couple Rick Steves guide books. Get the whole France one, get one for Paris, and if there's a particular region you're super into, see if he has one for that too. I find his stuff well curated pretty on point. Yes, its a bit more work on your own, but not that much. Read the chapter of the book, decide on a hotel, go online and book, then repeat. There's a risk you can get overwhelmed with the choice if you diy, but remember, you're not going for perfect, and you'd have even less choice on a tour.

I also found it very easy to get around, both with city to City trains and driving. Take trains between major urban areas, rent a car for a couple days in more rural areas, and you'll be able to get around well. I literally can communicate nothing in French other than a desire to have wine and cheese (and I don't know to say enough!) and I was able to drive through Provence while my wife was asleep.

If you're worried about pacing, just plan two activities a day - one morning and one afternoon, and the rest will fill itself in organically. Perhaps try to make one of those activities physical each day. Alternate between really nice dinners and more modest ones. Every fourth or fifth day, make it a "recharge" day - plan a spa, or leave it open so you can just sit in a park and read.

If you book with the more boutique hotels, they'll be able to help you plan activities and get things lined up.

And ask folks on this board for suggestions - everyone loves to give suggestions based on past trips.
Should mention: in my experience, the hardest part with diy is planning the train travel. This website (https://www.seat61.com) is a great resource for European train travel, and RS walks you through it well too. And I'm sure there are European Bogleheads who could help and spot check train itineraries with you.
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

renue74
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by renue74 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:57 pm

My wife and I took a RS tour (Italy) in 2015. We're in our mid-40s. I think we paid about $7K for 10 days.

I haven't traveled much in Europe and the only reason we chose to go on a tour is because I wasn't familiar with the mechanics of it.

After the tour, I whole heartily concur one should travel on their own. Not because the tour was bad. It was really good. The guide was good, all the people in my group were nice (about 25 people) and we got along fine.

After doing the tour, I feel like I know exactly what to do next time. Here are the big things you need to worry about when you travel w/o a tour:

• Find a good local tour guide for the major attractions. That's what the tour people do. RS hired local guides to meet us at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, etc. You can do that own you own.

• Research CityPass type cards for your cities of interest. Many times these cards get you in the door faster.

• Buy the RS books. But keep in mind hundreds of thousands of these books are in the hands of other travel folks. So RS suggestion for a quiet restaurant may not be a big secret any longer. BTW, Rick Steves is the sole reason the Cinque Terra region of Italy is so big now. He did that. :)

• Internet searches are your friends. Find travel blogs, view rankings and reviews. Make an itinerary...but be flexible. Don't do too much in one day, but also if you LOVE a region, you have the freedom to spend more time there. (Not so much in a tour group. There's a definite time table!)

• Get to know the public transportation system. It's great and easy to use. This was one of the reasons I did the tour...because I didn't know how easy it was to use. After 2 train rides, you're an expert.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by oldcomputerguy » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:13 pm

No advice concerning Rick Steves, but you should be very careful in France about pickpockets. DW and I took a tour through Paris last spring, and the tour leader warned us in advance about them. Young men or women target obvious tourists, and approach them pretending that they want to take a survey. While the victim is busy interacting with the survey-taker, their cohort approaches from the back and picks the mark's pocket. Sure enough, in our one day there we had two or three of these "survey-takers" approach us. Forewarned is forearmed.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

AmericaninParis
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by AmericaninParis » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:37 pm

I live in France and would encourage you to create your own tour. France is the kind of place where you will want to linger and walk around at your own pace.

In the cities, you can always find an organized tour for a museum, wine tasting, basic language lessons (which I very much encourage!), cooking etc... France is the most visited country in the world and there are a lot of resources for tourists. You can mix and match to your own taste.

I would get one or two good guidebooks (I always like Lonely Planet), figure out the 3-4 cities and regions you want to see, use the train system to travel between them ( https://en.oui.sncf/en/) and then rent cars for the country side. Stay in smaller, more charming BnBs and boutique hotels. You should be able to figure out almost all the activities you would want from the guidebooks. And you will get new ideas once you get on the ground.

Bon courage!

LaraZP
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Re: Rick Steves - France (or some other tour company)

Post by LaraZP » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:52 pm

+1 for diy

I have found that the part I remember most fondly about most of my trips is when something unplanned happened.
Even last year when the bus to the airport "forgot" to pick me up in Karlsruhe, the $100 taxi ride was quite an experience going well over 100 mph.

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