Hi from Rick: This Year’s Top 10 Tours

Dear Traveler,

I'm in Europe filming my final batch of TV shows for the upcoming season (Berlin is on deck, then Prague), but whenever the camera shuts off, my mind keeps going back to the real highlight of this summer — tagging along on one of my "classic" Best of Europe in 21 Days tours.

While I've always had a passion for teaching smart independent travel, each year as a tour member I learn first-hand what a joy it can be to experience Europe on a well-designed tour. And this edition of Tour News feels like a good time to celebrate our Top 10 tours of this past year, chosen by how you've "voted" with your precious vacation time and money. Of course, just because one itinerary is more popular than another doesn't mean the quality isn't the same. In fact, having the same high standards for all 40 of our itineraries is something my staff will tell you I'm obsessed with. But there's something irresistible about a popularity contest. Ranked simply by number of seats sold, here are your Top 10 tours for 2014:

(1) Heart of Italy; (2) Venice, Florence & Rome; (3) Best of Paris; (4) Best of Europe in 21 Days; (5) Paris & the Heart of France; (6) Best of Ireland; (7) Best of Germany, Austria & Switzerland; (8) Best of Italy; (9) Best of Europe in 14 Days; and (10) Best of Sicily.

Although these are all fully-guided tours, our "un-guided" My Way® Italy tour is close behind at number 12. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks into the top 10 in 2015. But I also think that a couple of perennial leaders — Eastern Europe and Turkey — that dropped off the list in 2014 are due to rebound soon.

These numbers come with good news: Even though we are on track for another record-breaking season, each of these tours still has seats available for 2014. If you're having trouble deciding where to travel this year or next, our tour members' Top 10 for 2014 is a good place to start.

In this month's Tour News you'll find a gorgeous "day-by-day" slideshow of our Top 10 tours, a fun selection of tour-member raves, my video on Renaissance Florence (a major stop on half of this year's Top 10), an interview with veteran guide Reid Coen (who cheerfully survived having me as a tour member), and a bunch of early-season 2015 tours that are ready for booking now. For the rest of our 2015 season, watch for an email from me in the last half of August. About that same time, in next month's Tour News, I'll fill you in on some exciting new tours we have in the works.

No matter how they rank, one thing's for sure: Europe is the winning place to go. I hope you can join us.

Happy travels,