A Tight and Happy Group

10/14/2016 02:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

One of the great things about taking a tour is the people you get to travel with (assuming you join a tour that markets itself in a way that attracts enjoyable travel partners). With our "no grumps" policy, our "carry-your-own bags" policy, and our unapologetically "characteristic" hotels, we do our best to scare away the high-maintenance travelers. I love looking at the happy faces of a group like the one I was fortunate enough to guide -- especially after two weeks together.

Here's the group, giddy to be with each other (or maybe it was just the thin air -- at 10,000 feet above sea level, high atop the Schilthorn in Switzerland's Berner Oberland).

 

While touring the newly renovated and wonderful Museo del Duomo in Florence, we stayed until the very last minute. The museum guards, eager to call it a day, made sure we all packed onto the huge elevator at closing time and headed for the exit. Ciao!

 

Part of the fun of leading a group through Europe is introducing them to public transportation -- whether subway or bus. In Rome, our bus #280 from St. Peter's Square to Trastevere for dinner was running late, meaning that when it finally arrived, it was jam-packed. With 28 of us on board, let's just say it was a very local experience. Our "whisper system" headsets allowed our local guide to be in communication with each tour member...no matter whose armpit they were staring into.

 

As a guide, it's fun to grab spontaneous experiences when they present themselves. There are always two considerations: Can 28 people actually do it efficiently? And is it a budget-killer? On my orientation walk through Venice before dinner, we were running a bit late. I came upon the traditional traghetto (gondola ferry) that crosses the Grand Canal where there's no bridge, and I thought, "Wonderful -- that'll get us to dinner on time, and be memorable, as well." The maximum capacity is 14 per boat, and they go every 3 or 4 minutes for €2 per person -- so two boatloads got the entire group across quickly for less than €60...and we all enjoyed an experience we'll never forget.

(Follow along on my travel blog and on Facebook as I guide the Rick Steves Europe Tours Best of Europe in 21 Days Tour.)