Europe - tour or organise yourself?

Travel Forums Europe Europe - tour or organise yourself?

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1. Posted by fredfang (First Time Poster 1 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!


hope this isn't too general a question, but my wife and I want to go to Europe next year. Thinking to go for about 15 days. Paris and Rome are must-haves. Also would like to see some of Gernany and Spain. Thinking London might be good to include, and if so, could fly to London then go to the Continent from there.

Going on a tour seems attractive from the point of view that everything's taken care of, don't have to think about how you're going to get to places or where you're going to stay. On the other hand, is it really much hassle to find your own way? And have heard stories of tour companies cutting costs by using hotels that are a long way from anywhere, etc. Also, organising your own trip is likely less expensive.

I'd just like to hear people's views. Never been to Europe, and have been researching a bit on the web but am a bit lost ATM.

thank you in advance

2. Posted by Andrew Mack (Travel Guru 974 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

You don't mention where you're from (A little info in your profile really does help) but your proficiency in English suggests to me that you wouldn't have a problem organising it yourself.
The only thing I'd say is that you could split 15 days between Paris and London only and still leave both of them knowing you haven't seen it all. So don't try cramming too much in, and if you're travelling across a few time zones then make sure you've allowed enough quiet time to get over jet-lag.

London is expensive, so is Paris and Rome (but less than London).
Pick the dates carefully (weather, sporting events, political events etc)
Research where you want to stay in each city (close to the underground/public transport as taxis can be slow and expensive in such traffic bound cities), check all the accommodation options (Airbnb and a few hotel search sites... Hostels if that's your thing).
Allow a day for each city to city journey, as getting in/out of cities is time consuming.
Use flight search sites like skyscanners but then check the best deals on the actual airline sites (so much easier dealing directly with the airline if it goes wrong).

Don't forget to check if you need a visa!

Have fun.

[ Edit: Edited on 03-Aug-2019, 17:42 GMT by Andrew Mack ]

3. Posted by littlesam1 (Budding Member 38 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

Personally for me I am not fond of group tours because I always feel like I am held prisoner by the tours agenda. And I like to play it be ear. I pick out an area I want to visit. Do my research. And then each day decide what I want to do. If I am tired I can make it a slow day. Or if I am energetic and ready to roam I can make it a long day. . But for a first time traveler to Europe it might make it easier for you to book a tour. The tours do efficiently get you to many places with no headaches of your own to worry about. And you know in advance what you will see and do each day.

I don't usually drive when I visit Europe. I find the trains and public transportation to be work very well and for the most part are not terribly expensive depending on where you are. And there are inexpensive flights you can find between some destination also.

I am not the most social person. So I would not want to spend an entire vacation with the same group of people every single day. There is always that one that will get on everyone;s nerves. And with my luck they would always be next to me.

Have fun planning your trip Let us know later what you decide to do.


4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 1677 posts) 2w 1 Star this if you like it!

If you're just sticking to these major cities then you can do them perfectly well independently without needing a tour. All a tour would add (other than cost) is some people to do it with, which can be fun but then you haven't said who you're travelling with.

Tours usually compete to include the most things in a packed itinerary. This usually means they're rushed and tiring.

You're being too ambitious trying to see Paris, Rome, London, Spain and Germany in 15 days. After the time spent getting between them you've left around a day in each. Where are you coming from? Jetlag may eat into your time too. I'd attempt two or three places in that time, and if they're big interesting cities like these then that would still be a bit rushed for most people.

5. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 845 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

>Going on a tour seems attractive from the point of view that everything's taken care of, don't have to think about how you're going to get to places or where you're going to stay.

Tour downsides are being tied to a set agenda regardless of weather and/or personal preference, not having the opportunity and/or enough time to see what *you* want to see or do what *you* want to do, being stuck with the same group of people with whom you may or may not get on, being herded around as a group and not at your own pace, having to accept whatever hotel & meals are included or spend more money, having to go on to the next place when you feel tired or not very well and would rather have a lie-in and then spend the time chilling with a cold beer or a coffee.......

>Thinking to go for about 15 days. Paris and Rome are must-haves. Also would like to see some of Gernany and Spain.

Even if you spent 15 days seeing just London, Paris and Rome you'd only have scratched the surface of each city. So don't try to cram in too much. As you're including Italy a bit of Germany *might* be feasible but don't try to add Spain as well unless you want to include another set of flights. Also remember that visiting the capital city does not mean you've really visited the relevant country. Rome is not Italy, Paris is not France and London is certainly not representative of England, let alone the UK. So perhaps think of those three plus an additional city in each country e.g. London + York or Edinburgh, Paris + Lyon or Marseille, Rome + Turin, Florence, Venice.......

>tour companies cutting costs by using hotels that are a long way from anywhere

I've only ever taken one tour but know that's pretty common practice (in the US too). The tour company obviously gets cheaper rates for non-central hotels, there's easier parking for the coach/bus/minibus and the hotel gets additional benefits from tour guests eating at the hotel because there isn't anywhere else to eat nearby and/or because they'll need a taxi.

>is it really much hassle to find your own way?

It really, really isn't (I speak as a late-middle-aged female who almost always travels alone). As Littlesam says (*waving to Larry* :-) ), European public transport is safe and effective and there is a very extensive (and safe) railway network.

The places you've mentioned, along with many more European places, are well-used to millions of English- and non-English-speaking visitors every year so you really don't need to worry about that aspect.

We can certainly help with transport links and options once you've decided on an itinerary. :-)

6. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1342 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

I think it's fair to say that most regular members of TravellersPoint are advocates for independent travel; we're a very biased sample. That said, of all the places in the world, western Europe is probably one of the easiest places to travel independently. Public transport is excellent between the major (and not so major) cities and there's so much to do.

As everyone has already stated, cramming too many places into fifteen days might be your biggest mistake - five days in each of London, Paris and Rome would give a taste for each but you'd only be scratching the surface. Fifteen days for the UK alone (or just France or Italy) is barely enough for a first visit.

My suggestion would be to get a tour brochure from a travel agent and look at a European tour and see what they do in fifteen days. Then use that as a basis for designing your own, independent trip. It'll give you a start and then you can ask more specific questions once you have some idea of a route and itinerary.

7. Posted by 55vineyard (Budding Member 43 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

I might consider doing a tour someplace like Asia where there can be language difficulties, but Europe is pretty easy. I did a tour many years ago and it was OK, hotel quality was very good but the schedule was very rushed. Second trip we rented a car and visited 3 countries in 3 weeks and had so much more fun, even visited a place we never heard of that was recommended to us by folks we met in our hotel that was very enjoyable and off the beaten path.

8. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1154 posts) 2w Star this if you like it!

When I went to Europe for the first time (I was 12 with my family), we had a travel agent plan the tour and do a lot of the trains and hotels. We did 10 countries, but we were there for two months. The travel agent tour is not really possible anymore. The closest equivalent is the bus tour. I've done a bus tour around Ireland and it worked out pretty well. I did it because I was traveling with a teen and I didn't want to drive on the "wrong" (for me) side of the road.

Personally if I were your travel agent, I would advise you to pick three places and spend 4 or 5 days in each.
Day 1 - Fly to Paris
Day 2 - get over jet lag by taking a city tour
Day 3 - 5 spend some time in Paris seeing the things that mean Paris to you
Day 6 - Day trip to Reims or take the train down to Lyon
Day 8- Fly to Rome from either Paris or Lyon
Day 9 - 11 tour the Vatican and see Rome
Day 12 - Pompei, and Almalfi day trip
Day 13 - Fly to Cologne or some other German city
Day 14 - see that city
Day 15 - fly home.

9. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1173 posts) 1w 2 Star this if you like it!

On our first trip to Europe we booked a tour. Then I started researching and discovered we could pay half the tour cost and spend twice the time if we took care of it ourselves. My husband called the tour company and explained this very politely and they concurred and refunded our deposit. We then booked everything ourselves including a leased car and we did spend twice the time for half the money. I think tours are great if you don't have the time or inclination to do the work of booking yourself, but if you have the time and don't mind the research, you can see and do more if you skip the tour. It's is entirely your choice. We're all different and only you know what works for you. If your time is limited, you will at least save money that you can spend on souvenirs, entrance fees or spectacular meals . . . or save for the next trip.

If you decide against the tour, you really do need to think about cutting your itinerary though. With 15 days, plan 4 in London, 4 in Paris and 4 in Rome and the other 3 days to get back and forth between them. You'll need to book airplane tickets from home (USA?) to London and then return from Rome to home if you do this. I'd go from London to Paris by train because it's fast and very comfortable but I think I'd fly from Paris to Rome to save time. People here on TravellersPoint can help you with trains and planes in Europe.

If you decide to do it yourself, feel free to post questions here and you'll get lots of help from members. It is much easier to plan today with the Internet than it was when we first did it using snail-mail and fax. We have a 9 hour time difference with Europe so using the phone is problematic and we did get at least one call at 1 in the morning from Europe. Texting might solve that problem though.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Post 10 was removed by a moderator