The Leaning Tower of Pisa




Escorted tours/Optional Excursions

Why an escorted tour?
Should you take all the optional excursions?
Here's why we did what we did:

Why an escorted tour?

When we first thought about planning a trip for our 20th anniversary, we had many ideas. One that we both really liked was two weeks in Bed & Breakfasts in Ireland. We would rent a car and travel on our own throughout the country. But with the problems in the UK with Mad Cow disease and the more recent Hoof and Mouth disease problem, we decided to put that off, even though we didn't know if it affected Ireland or not.

We decided on going to Italy, and started looking at options. Our main priority for this particular trip was to see as much of Italy as we could. Because of this, and the fact that this was our first trip to a country where English was not the native language, we decided that an escorted tour would be best. This would give us a great introduction to Italy, and we could then go back sometime on our own to continue our discovery of the country.

We looked at many tours from many different companies, and felt that the Best of Italy tour from Trafalgar was the best value for the money. So we went to our travel agent and booked the first available tour that would have us in Italy on our anniversary. (If I had seen the description of the "Country Roads of Italy" tour from Trafalgar's sister company, Insight Vacations, I probably would have taken that one instead.)

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The Optional Excursions

The Trafalgar itinerary shows some time almost every day for you to "explore on your own". For most of these times, they have optional excursions that they will offer you when you are there. When you receive the itinerary before you leave for your tour, it will list many optional excursions. However, they will offer you a specific set of optional excursions when you are on the tour, and you can then decide which of them you want to take.

For example, there are several optional excursions for Rome listed with the itinerary. There are three times while in Rome where you have free time: the first evening, and the afternoon and evening of the next day. Of the many optional excursions that they list, they will offer you three specific optional excursions to fill those three free times. You do not get to choose from all of the Rome optional excursions, just the three that are offered to you on your specific tour.

At first, before we left, we were thinking of not doing most of the optional excursions and trying to do as much as we could on our own. But as we thought about it, we decided that we probably would not see as much that way as we could by seeing things with someone who had been there and knew that place. We knew that there would be some stuff that we would not see, and decided to put these on our list to go back to on the next trip to Italy. So we would sit back and let them take us everywhere on this trip.

With this said, there were still at least a couple of optional excursions that we were thinking of skipping. In the long run, after the tour director explained everything and described the optional excursions and gave us the information about what free time we would still have, we bought all of the optional excursions. This turned out to be a good thing, because some of the optional excursions that we thought about skipping were some of the best ones. I will give more detail about this in the day-by-day travelogue.

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Randy and Lynda's comments on the optional excursions:

We took every optional trip offered and by the end of the tour we were asking ourselves why we had arranged to stay a couple of extra days. We were really exhausted by that time. We toured Rome on our own with Hal & Patt for the next two days, at our own leisurely pace.....and amazingly we were refreshed and enjoyed it; it just served to show us at what a fast pace we had been with Marco. We really covered a lot of ground and we are happy with the tour overall.
We revisited the Colosseum, just couldn't leave without going inside. I think this is where they needed to structure an optional tour.

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