Hi from Rick: Test Drive a Tour Guide™!

Dear Traveler,

For 25 years I guided "Rick Steves" tours. And for the last decade, I've been enjoying the amazing work of our talented guides. In the last couple of years I've traveled along as a customer on three of our tours: the Best of Sicily, the Best of Ireland, and the Heart of Portugal. I've never been more proud to have my name on our tours.

Of course, with a good guidebook you can be your own tour guide. But just like with cooking, playing the piano, exercising, and bird watching — with a chef, musician, trainer, or guide at your side you learn more, experience more, use your time smarter, relax, and have fun. This month's Tour News and our free, streaming, "Test Drive a Tour Guide" event on Saturday, January 26 combine to illustrate just that.

For example, on the Best of Ireland tour, our guide (Declan) knew just the place to be for the best live traditional music in a Dingle pub. I even got to take a whack at the bodhrán drum, with an expert making sure my wrist was properly loose enough. On the Best of Sicily, our guide (Alfio) arranged for us to walk the slopes of Mount Etna with a vintner, so we could learn how the volcano brings fertility to the island and a special taste to the wine. Then we shared lunch on a farm, pairing "zero kilometer" delights, both edible and drinkable, in the way that locals call it "a good marriage." And on the Heart of Portugal, our guide (Fatima) made sure we were inspired by her homeland's gorgeous ceramic tiles and then got to paint our own — which were fired and waiting for us the next day at our hotel. (Talk about an unforgettable trip souvenir!) On each of these tours, by adding hands-on experiences to our sightseeing, our guide was able to take travel to a more fun — and more meaningful — level.

From January 21 to 29 we hosted over a hundred of our European tour guides at our headquarters in Edmonds, WA, for our 20th annual week-long tour guide summit. A big part of the festivities took place on Saturday, January 26, when we shared a series of talks about our various tours featuring on-stage appearances and interviews with our guides. We recorded the most popular presentations so you can watch them on-demand through February 9, 2019.

In this month's Tour News we'll also connect you with a bunch of revealing interviews with our guides, a video on the importance of great guiding, and even a related forum discussion.

If you're dreaming of exploring Europe on an expertly guided Rick Steves tour in 2019, don't miss this exciting event. Winter is a great time to cook up plans to turn travel dreams into fun, affordable, and meaningful reality. And, as always, we're standing by…eager and able to help.

Happy travels,