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Old 11-01-2006, 05:40 PM   #1
CarolA

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My Suggestion PREPARE

I am listening to the podcast that John and Kevin made....

I don't mean this post to be negative, but it occurs to me that as I listen and read the posts here that a lot of the ABD travelers have not traveled to Europe prior to this trip. I think your trip will be dramatically enhanced if you prepare. (Think of this as a Disney trip. You have to have a plan etc.... Those of you who laugh at the folks who go to Disney without reading the internet and/or guidebooks, don't be the tourist equivlant in Europe waiting on Disney to guide you around) A good guide book for learning some of the culture things that seemed to amaze the guys on the tour is Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door.

For example, yes Diet Coke (or Coke Light) will be much more expensive. Generally at a bar Coke products cost much more then beer or wine. (Which I think is a good thing) Ice is not something that comes with your Soft Drink or water. If you do get it, you get two ice cubes.

American plumbing, American ideas of taking a shower daily etc. are AMERICAN. If you are freaked out by things that don't have "American" sanitary standards, Europe might not be a good idea. (And if ABD ever does Turkey look up "turkish toliets")

Know what else there is too see in a city.... Don't EVER rely upon tour guides to tell you everything. You need to be in control. There may easily be things that you would LOVE that aren't on the tour, but if you don't read up etc, you don't know about them. It's just like going to Disney. Listening to the Rome stuff I thought that either they left out some major sites or you missed some GREAT stuff. (St Peters for example MAGNIFICENT!, the Forum etc.) The few tours I have been on I have always read guidebooks in advance and carried my own guidebooks with me. I don't care if Disney has guidebooks on the bus, you can't make notes in those.


Also, I joke that the reason Europeans don't have stairmasters is becasue they have TONS of stairs that they walk up and down every day. (I made my Girl Scout troop hike a few miles every weekend in the months leading up to their trip a few years ago, they agreed that it was needed especially in the Alps!)

I have to be honest, the podcast has pretty much convinced me that for me this is not a tour I would enjoy. I am a very independent traveler who has no problem with things that aren't American. (And by the way you can book a tour of the Vatican if you are a small party and avoid a large portion of this line. You also get to wander around more then apparently these guys did. That said my ONE and ONLY trip to the Vatican museum was enough. The church could do a MUCH MUCH MUCH better job of managing this. Other museums in Italy do!) I also don't know that I would enjoy touring with folks who are that concerned about the bathroom



As I said, I don't want this to sound negative, but John and Kevin strike me as not fully prepared for this. I am on the fourth podcast and still amazed that they spent this much money and seemed this unprepared.
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Old 11-01-2006, 06:09 PM   #2
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I agree that it's always a good idea to do as much research and preparation as possible prior to ANY trip. Before going on the AbD trip to London/Paris, I picked up a couple of guide books for each city, underground/metro maps, looked up a million things online, had all my plans for my free time (what I wanted to see, how to get there, how to get back, what it would cost, operating hours, etc). I knew climates, monetary matters, had a good idea what the hotels were like, what the food was like, what dangers to look out for and had learned some useful traveler's French, just in case. It's all available online and in guide books. No matter where you're traveling, whether overseas or another part of your own state, it's always best to prepare as much as you can. Makes everything much easier and less stressful.

I've already got my books, maps and language CDs for next year's trip to Italy. Can't start too early!
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Old 11-01-2006, 06:30 PM   #3
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I agree with Carol . I have traveled many times to Europe so i am prepared
concerning differences. The small differences do not concern me. I even toured Germany alone by train and booked the resorts myself. It was one of
carrying my luggage to hotel to hotel and using trains and taxi but i enjoyed it. I have not been on a group tour for along time so i thought why not Disney. I will still read up on Italy and maybe even learn some words. Like
you said, this makes the trip much more special. I have never been to Italy
dont know why but figured this would be a good time since renewing my passport.

In August i went to Sweden to attend the World Championships of Magic.
Only had one day to see the city of Stockholm
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Old 11-01-2006, 10:25 PM   #4
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Hi CarolA,

I appreciate your comments and understand exactly what you are saying. If you have listened to the previous podcasts, you will see that we did everything you suggest. I purchased guidebooks, I bought "Learn Italian" CDs, I interviewed people that had been to the places I was going, I watched the internet to try to get the best exchange rate from dollars to euros, I exchanged money prior to leaving so as not to have to pay at the ATM, I scoured the internet looking for information, I bought the phrase book so as to be polite and ask and answer in my best (but very limited Italian). I brought my own toilet paper, soap and wet wipes. I was as well prepared as I thought I could or needed to be.

That being said, I am a travel agent and looking to help others experience the wonderful trip I took. I would be remiss if I did not inform them as to what my experiences were and the ways to avoid the pitfalls that might be ahead. I tried to do this in a informative and entertaining way. I never meant for this to be a guide book, just my experiences. I do the same when people ask which tickets they should purchase when visiting Disney World.
Guidebooks dont always prepare you for everything you might encounter.

In addition, there are things that did not get included in our podcast. Part of our tour included St. Peter's. We were offered the opportunity to continue with the tour guide or to wander about on our own and meet later. We chose the latter.

While I pointed out the cultural differences, I tried to be respectful and always point out that "we" were not used to doing things "their" way and as visitors in their country...tried to appreciate all that was different and unique and above all....always be polite. I also understand your point about Coke products being more expensive than beer or wine. I have been to expensive American cities and all through the Caribbean and never paid the equivalent of $11 dollars U.S. for a can of Diet Coke, which is bottled in Italy by the way. I did however, pay the price and shared my experiences thinking others might be interested.

I would also agree with your guess that most ABD travelers have not been to Europe previously. I know of the 20 people on our trip, 2 had been to Europe and that was to Ireland. They had used a different tour company and were quite impressed with the difference Disney made in the enjoyment of this trip. I would also agree that this type of trip is not for every traveler. Were I traveling to a place I was familiar with, I would certainly not need a guided tour, nor would I want to be hindered by a tour guides schedule. I also agree that there are travelers who would never want to be encumbered by a group or someone else's schedule. While other people would not feel comfortable wandering around wondering if they were missing "the important thing" that they should see while visiting any country. Just look at the posts on the trip planning board and you will see that many, many folks are looking to be guided in some way. How many posts do we see asking "what should I not miss?"

Adventurers are provided with some "alone" time to explore each place visited. Our guides stated that if anyone needed "suggestions" that they were available.

I would also tell you that were it not for Adventures by Disney, I would have gotten to see Florence, but would not have gotten in to the Academia to see Michaelangelo's David. Due to a museum workers strike....hundreds, if not thousands of people were turned away. ABD got us inside.

Disney has entered the guided tour market and I believe they are going to be successful. One of the things I keep hearing is that being with Disney makes folks feel safer than traveling on their own. I think this is an intangible that needs to be considered.

Were I to revisit the places I have recently visited, I would not do it as part of a tour group, but our ABD trip gave us the comfort level to do it on our own. I guess the very best compliment that I can pay ABD is that we have signed up for another Adventure to another destination next year.

Thanks for your input.

Kevin

Last edited by DisneyKevin; 11-02-2006 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 11-02-2006, 11:07 AM   #5
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Kevin,
Thanks for the feedback.

I listened to your podcast to see if this was something I would want to do... By the fourth episode I had pretty much decided that this was not for me.

I have traveled a lot in Europe and one of the things I enjoy is interacting with the Europeans (and no, I don't speak most of the lanugages... I speak English and a little Spanish) This tour, like most tours, seems to keep you in the "American" womb where you interact mainly with other folks on the tour, stay in hotels that have American comforts (for example your bathroom in Tuscany sounded just like lots of others I have stayed in. I have yet to master the European shower, but I keep trying LOL!)

I also know that for me some of the "magical" moments in both Florence and Tuscany came AFTER the day tour groups had left which had been my concern when reading the tour plan for Italy... I am not a big fan of "drop in see the sights leave" (If anyone ever has an evening in Florence PM me... the WORLD'S BEST Gellato is there!)

My next trip to Europe will be Croatia and I will do it without the benefit of a tour group. To those of you who might want to do it without a tour, yes you can. It's a little harder (but dramatically cheaper LOL!) but I find for me it works.

I guess one of my concerns of ABD is that folks see the price tag and assume they can "never" afford to go to Europe. Yes you can. I took 10 Girl Scouts to Europe for three weeks...total cost $2,900 each including air, all meals and everything except souviners (and paragliding! LOL!)

Have a great second trip!
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Old 11-02-2006, 01:31 PM   #6
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CarolA,

I would agree that there are folks that might see the price of these trips and find it either not to their liking and / or unaffordable.

At Walt Disney World, there are Value, Moderate and Deluxe resorts and there are guests that would rather stay off property and economize. In other words, there is something for everyone.

Another example....there are less expensive cruise lines than Disney Cruise Line yet people love the added service and luxury of the Disney ships and the ships regularly sell out

These trips are equivalent to staying at a Deluxe resort or taking a 7 night Disney cruise in a verandah stateroom. This is luxury travel. The hotels in Rome and Venice were 550 euros per night alone. Of our eight nights and 9 days....all breakfasts, 5 dinners and 5 lunches were included. All gratuities except for those to the two Adventure Guides are included. Guests never have to drag their own luggage. It's all taken care of. There are no hidden costs involved. We were told that if there was ever a time that we would like to return to our hotel...a cab would be provided and paid for by ABD. We were also told that if at any time we would like to leave the group and explore on our own...we were free to do so. Out of our twenty, no one did.

As for the tour group I traveled with....I would say that they only heightened my enjoyment of the things I was seeing. I enjoyed their company, comraderie and their views on what were seeing. Rather than a hinderance, I found them to be wonderful. We have stayed in contact and several of us have decided to travel together on another Adventure next year.

There are also experiences that Disney has added that are not available to the average traveler. The Disney name opens doors. We were able to visit a private museum in Siena having to do with the contradas (neighborhoods) and the Palio horse race. Truly a fascinating experience. We took a 4 hour dinner cruise around the Venice lagoon on a 16th century pirate galleon. Glorious!!!!!!

And as I said earlier....many of the clients I have spoken to have faith in the Disney name. It's a name they have come to trust for traveling via the Disney Resorts and Disney Cruise Line. The name seems to insure a level of quality.

Are there less expensive ways to travel.....absolutely, but they are not Disney and that seems to make a difference.

It just goes to show that there is something out there for everyone and we should each find the best way to travel for ourselves.

Kevin
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Old 11-02-2006, 02:20 PM   #7
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CarolA I think you were not attacking the Disney Adventures, I think it sounds more like you do not prefer the type of guided tour trips. I also know there are some people who do not like the whole drop off see something and move on.

However there are plenty of people for whom this maybe their only opportunity to visit Europe, and who want to see as many of the major attractions as they can. For them a guided tour is ideal.

I also agree that you have to do your research and try to learn as much as you can before you go, but all of that can prepare you for only so much. I am from NYC, obviously a major tourist attraction, and occasionally I will pick up a NY tour guide book just to see what it says, and although some of the information is helpful let me tell you, you get into Times Square on a Friday or Saturday Night with the lights and the cars and 10,000 people moving about and there is nothing in a guide book or on the internet that could have prepared you for it. And that is not a bad thing, I am still even amazed by it at times!!
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Old 11-02-2006, 02:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cxcelica
CarolA I think you were not attacking the Disney Adventures, I think it sounds more like you do not prefer the type of guided tour trips. I also know there are some people who do not like the whole drop off see something and move on.

However there are plenty of people for whom this maybe their only opportunity to visit Europe, and who want to see as many of the major attractions as they can. For them a guided tour is ideal.

I also agree that you have to do your research and try to learn as much as you can before you go, but all of that can prepare you for only so much. I am from NYC, obviously a major tourist attraction, and occasionally I will pick up a NY tour guide book just to see what it says, and although some of the information is helpful let me tell you, you get into Times Square on a Friday or Saturday Night with the lights and the cars and 10,000 people moving about and there is nothing in a guide book or on the internet that could have prepared you for it. And that is not a bad thing, I am still even amazed by it at times!!
I agree a guided tour is good for some. I just hate for folks not to experience Europe because Disney is thousands of dollars. As Kevin points out there are value, mod and deluxe at Disney. This is the "Deluxe" tour. Other tour companies can show you Europe on the "value" price, so if you really want to go and can't afford "Deluxe", think about value. Yes, you will give up some of the "Disney pampering", but you will still be there. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower for example is the same no matter what you paid to get to Europe.

And unique experiences don't just happen on tours... I somehow got invited to a contradra dinner in Sienna. (I still don't have a clue what was going on, but we were sightseeing in the neighborhood and the next thing we know we are being fed some of the BEST food ever LOL! I don't know about your home town, but in Atlanta we don't routinely block off a city street and stick out about a mile of tables and have everyone out to dinner!)

I have done tours. I did one to Turkey because the "logistics" of Turkey were a bit overwhelming and am doing an adventure type tour to Costa Rica this Christmas. In Turkey we had a great tour guide, but it still helped to have done some research. For example our first hotel was about a block from a old hotel where Agatha Christie wrote part of Murder on the Orient Express. The first afternoon we headed down there and the hotel (which is past it's glory, but must have been MAGNIFICENT at the time) showed us her suite. Two days later as we are leaving, a couple from Kansas is FURIOUS they didn't know this was there.... You don't meet the guide until Dinner so they just sat in the room because "we didn't know what to do" They were in Istanbul, there's LOTS to do.

I think Disney is offering a GREAT tour. I really wanted to want to go, however after listening to the podcast I think that while I would LOVE to be able to say I did ABD, the truth is I don't think I would really enjoy the tour....

Since this is a Disney board I am going to disappear and do my European lurking on other boards! I hope that everyone who does go has a magical time. (And folks if like me the "culture shock" portion of the podcast worried you, don't let it.... I think both Kevin and John seem to agree the "culture shock" was well worth it, don't let it turn you off! Yes, it's not like home but if it was why would you fly all that way?)
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Old 11-02-2006, 03:26 PM   #9
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Lol Dont worry CarolA,
Like i said before, i have gone on many escorted tours years ago. And then also traveled solo to some spots. I choose to go first because it gives me to see a place that i will have no clue where to get to atttractions. Thus the group interaction and i also value the independence part of it. I stopped going on tours because i was getting tired of traveling to Europe summer after summer .Now i have renewed my Passport and i am ready for some
travel. I have also traveled solo to Europe to.
Dont tell Mickey Mouse lol

But i will still go to Disney to .
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Old 11-04-2006, 09:34 AM   #10
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A qusetion for the European veterans: How hot is Italy in August? Have a friend of a friend who recommended never going there in August. But for us, that is the only month that works for our family. We are considering southern Italy if that makes a difference.
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Old 11-04-2006, 10:03 PM   #11
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As you know...I wasnt there in August, but in late September / Early October...but our Adventure guides talked about the summer months being warmer. Our temps were in the mid seventies during the day and the high sixties in the eveing. One night toward the end (In Venice) it got a bit chilly.....I'd say low sixties / high fifties. Also....keep in mind I'm from Florida and thing the high fifities is chilly.

I also understand that this past summer was not typical. All of Europe had a sweltering heat wave that was fairly uncommon.

Hope this helps.

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Old 11-05-2006, 06:34 PM   #12
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I was told that August wasn't a very good month to tour any part of Europe. When I asked why I was told it was the month that everyone took vacation and places weren't open and places were very crowded. Now I don't know if this is true or not, so if someone who is in the know, can clear this up. Please do so.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:25 AM   #13
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I've been to Rome in August although it was a number of years ago now. It was hot and crowded but in some respects no more crowded than WDW or any major tourist city would be in the middle of summer.

It is true that August is the time when a lot of Europeans go on vacation. It is typical that things might be closed for the first two weeks of August as people are vacationing but the major tourist sites do not close and you wouldn't be affected.

I've traveled Europe with a tour group and on my own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With a tour group you often have the advantages of the 'pull' of the tour guide and do not underestimate the advantage of a tour group in terms of transportation. There are a number of sites to see in Rome for example but it's not as easy to see them all without the transportation provided by a group tour.

As to culture shock -- my funniest culture shock did occur in Rome -- we were surprised to see nuns and monks with cameras taking photos of each other but they were tourists just like us!

I lived in Europe for a year while I went to school -- all of the guidebooks in the world can't prepare you for everything.

Loved the podcasts Kevin.
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:57 PM   #14
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Liek someone else mentioned, AUgust is one of the worst times to visit Italy, because that's when the Italians go on their holidays. As for the heat, it is not unbearably hot in August, but there is a lot less air conditioning in Italy than we're used to here in the US. So it's harder to escape the heat.
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