I recently read and participated in an interesting conversation on the Internets about package deals for traveling with a tour to Italy. The person who had requested advice was going to Italy for the first time.
First of all, holy mother of WOW. I love it when people are going for the first time. You just know their lives are going to change. I love love love when friends come to visit that have never been – there’s just naked awe and wonder every second of the day.
A great number of people who replied to this question gently advised avoiding tour packages. I mean, it’s not the Serengeti – you can get around easily, and its not dangerous at all. Also, yuck, tours, ew. I think about the richness of my solitary adventures while traveling, and I get the chills:
Losing myself in a new city. Being anonymous. Being mistaken for a local. Eavesdropping. Feeling like I am the only one who has just witnessed some little vignette of daily life in a foreign land. Being able to stop and take a photo of heartbreaking beauty, even though it’s just a doorway framed in late afternoon sunlight or a clothesline of sheets drying in the breeze. Following a delectable smell to a tiny restaurant on a forgotten side street, and being served the pride of the kitchen while reading a great book in blissful silence. Sleeping in after walking around all night, listening to the quiet rhythms of a city that has gone to bed.
So I joined the fray and rattled off my two cents about package deals, from my experience when usually older friends of my family would have exactly 12 free minutes outside the Colosseum after their guided tour. They were still jet lagged days later, they were exhausted, and they really
couldn’t remember anything they had seen up to that point, let alone have an opinion about it.
And they would tell me where they have eaten so far with their tour group, and I would weep silently for their pain.
I told this person who was looking for tour advice a bunch of other whiny crap, too, and posted it under her question, confident that she would have the vacation we all wanted her to have.
And then, I felt bad. Some people really like package tours. They like being in a group. They like being led to places and not getting lost and being able to complain to someone who speaks their language when things don’t go right. And if this woman was a package tour true believer, then she deserved some Solid Advice.
So, I gave another two cents.
Sorry, I feel so bad that I dissed your package idea. Here are some thoughts on packages.
The thing you want to look for in a package deal is a LOT of free time without the group, and the ability to eat where you want at least one meal a day. You should also pick one that matches your age range and physical ability. Obviously, pick one that has the cities you want to see in it, duh.
To me, as someone who has ushered friends and family around Rome for five years, a sign of a decent package deal to Italy would be to look at their itinerary for Rome, and see what else they have you doing on the day you go to the Vatican museums.
The Vatican and its museums are overwhelming, enormously hugely huge, and exhausting. Ideally, you don’t want to do anything else that day – but that’s not possible on a package tour, usually. But, you want to choose one that has the minimum amount of other stuff planned on that day – it’ll give you an idea of how punishing the rest of the schedule will be.
Also, any tour that is more than two days in Florence is ridiculous. You can do Florence in a DAY.
Have you been on a package tour to Italy? What are your tips, tricks and secrets?