Howdy Benvenuto Welkom Ciao Welcome Bonjour Hallo Bienvenu Willkommen

Welcome to our Rick Steves’ Scrapbook of our 2023 trip to Europe.

Let’s start with some introductions. We are Mark & Jeannie Burleson from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. We have been married for 30 years and have three children. Our youngest is in college so we are officially empty nesters.

Could there be a better way to celebrate this milestone than to embark on our first Rick Steves’ tour? We are excited to share our experiences with you, and perhaps you will be inspired to plan an adventure of your own.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Our Tour

The Best of Europe in 21 Days

When we found out we would be able to travel for a month in the fall of 2023, we started searching online for possible tours. Of course, we had watched Rick Steves travel series on PBS, but we didn’t know much about his tours. One thing that really impressed us was the positive reviews and repeat customers, especially for the Best of Europe in 21 Days tour.

The tour travels to six countries over the 21 days. There is a wonderful mix of touristy, large city destinations and small, quaint villages. Some days are filled with activities while other days provide free time for exploring or resting. 

Upon arrival at the first hotel, you can relax and know that everything is already organized – transportation, accommodations, and many meals. We found the cost of the tour to be very reasonable given all that is included.

Check out the official Rick Steves’ Tour Website for more information about this and other tours.

Why a Rick Steves' Tour?

As mentioned, we did our research before booking our tour, but there were still concerns. Would the tour match up to our expectations? Would the trip be worth it? YES!! Allow us to share with you a few of our favorite things about our Rick Steves’ Tour (feel free to channel your inner Julie Andrews and sing along with us).

A Few of our Favorite Things

Best of Europe September 2023 in Switzerland

Our tour group was filled with great people from retired couples, empty nesters, young couples, friends traveling together, and solo travelers. There was a great variety of interests, but we all had one thing in common – we were ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

Want to go hiking? How about sitting back, enjoying a drink, and people watching? Attending a local opera? Eating fabulous local delicacies? You can share these experiences with new friends. You never have to be alone (unless you want to be).

We also appreciated the small size of the group (26 in our tour). Our guide got to know each one of us individually.

Here we are pictured with our guide, Lisa, and Peter, our Dutch bus driver.

Each tour includes a professional Rick Steves’ guide. Right from the beginning, Lisa brought the group together with a smile and great sense of humor. Every day, Lisa posted a detailed itinerary, so we were always informed as to when and what we were doing. For free time, Lisa was always available to help make recommendations.

Before arriving in each country, Lisa gave us a historical view that was very informative. We would learn common phrases with correct pronunciation and local etiquette. Once we arrived, she would identify funny landmark cues to make sure we could always find our way back to the hotel. She made us feel very confident navigating each new destination.

Sometimes it seemed that Lisa was herding cats as there was so much to see and so many distractions. Yet, she always kept us on track. The tour includes many skip the line sightseeing events, group meals, and bonus activities.

Peter handled our transportation. The bus was always ready for our departures. It was kept clean and stocked with beverages for us to enjoy during our long trips.

Peter expertly navigated narrow roads, highway traffic, and steep cliff roads. This provided an opportunity to socialize, nap, read, or journal.

Lisa and Peter added significant value to our tour.

Local guides give a unique perspective by sharing their personal experiences as well as their history and traditions. This allows visitors to have a deeper appreciation for the area and culture. The guides we met were so passionate and excited to share their heritage.

Thomas, Bacharach Guide
Alwin, Rheinsfels Castle Guide
Eleanora, Florence Guide
Alessandra, Rome Guide

The hotels were fantastic. Most are quaint, family run establishments with unique rooms right in the center of each city. Very few had elevators so be prepared to carry luggage to upper floors. Lisa was excellent at rotating room assignments, so we all got to take turns with the stairs.

The owners met our group when we arrived and made us feel part of their family.

Each hotel provides breakfast daily. At a minimum, we had a selection of meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, cereals, and juices. But some of the hotels went above and beyond providing incredible feasts to start our day.

Each tour includes group activities organized by the Rick Steves’ guide. What is included with each tour is listed on the official website. However, what you may not realize is that each guide has discretion to add in some impromptu events. 

We appreciated the spontaneity and flexibility of our guide. Her relationship with hotel owners, local guides, and restaurant owners provided us with an opportunity to participate in special activities.


There is a wealth of information and support provided to help travelers get the most out of their tour. When booking a Rick Steves’ tour, be sure you make use of these benefits.

Tour Account

Once your tour is booked, you will have access to your Tour Account page containing pre-planning tips, hotel information, packing recommendations, links to pdfs, websites, and videos. Check this often!

Rick Steves' App

In addition to the recommended museum and walking tours, the app is a great resource to prepare for a trip. We found it helpful in deciding which museums we wanted to visit during our free time.

Rick Steves' TV Shows

Episodes are available for streaming on the Rick Steves' website as well as PBS and Amazon. The episodes filled us with excitement and anticipation for our trip. We actually made reservations for dinner at several of the restaurants Rick mentioned in his series.

For small or popular restaurants, consider making reservations well in advance. This will guarantee you can eat when and where you want.

Many restaurants allow online reservations, but some smaller restaurants may require an email or phone call to make reservations. Check restaurant websites for details.

Rick Steves' Guidebook

If there is a guidebook for your tour, you will receive a copy in your Tour Kit. Read it (or the sections that apply) before your trip. Being prepared allows you to enjoy your trip all the more.

Bring your guidebook on your trip. We initially thought it was kind of big and heavy for our light packing, but we ended up taking it. We were glad we did!! We used it several times throughout the trip.


If you have any questions about your tour, itinerary, or recommendations, call the office and speak to a staff member. The staff is super helpful and understanding. We found out that many of the staff members have been on tours, so you may end up speaking with someone who has taken your tour.

Travel Forum

The Rick Steves' travel forum is full of information and recommendations.


The more you prepare for your trip, the more you can relax and enjoy yourself in Europe.


You will receive lots of recommendations on how and what to pack for your trip. Do not ignore this information! Traveling light makes moving to and from hotel rooms much easier and makes the entire trip more enjoyable.

Check average weather conditions for your trip. Plan accordingly when packing. A few days before your trip, check weather forecasts for any major changes. 

Don’t worry if your neighbors think you are crazy walking around your neighborhood with your luggage. Trust us, it is best to work out any issues at home before your trip.


The Best of Europe in 21 Days is a very active tour. There is lots of standing and walking. We practiced by walking daily for several months before of our trip and felt very prepared.

Purchase two pairs of comfortable, supportive walking shoes. Wear them when you practice walking at home. As soon as they are broken in, pack them away from your trip.

Arrive Early

It is recommended to travel to your starting city a few days early. Besides jet lag and early sightseeing, we learned there was another valuable benefit to early travel - peace of mind and flexibility.

When we boarded our departing flight in Dallas, there was a major mechanical issue. Other passengers grew anxious with the delay. We took a deep breath, got a drink and relaxed knowing this was all part of our adventure.


Whether you are tech savvy or not, traveling is much easier and safer with the aid of technology. We personally have iPhones and Apple Watches, but there are equivalent apps and tools for non-Apple users.

Below are some of our recommendations and lessons learned. We hope sharing our experiences will help you prepare and enjoy your own trip.

We created two separate calendars on the iPhone:

  1. Travel Calendar – We shared this calendar with relatives so they would know where we were if they needed to contact us. By sharing this information electronically, family members had our most up-to-date information.
    • Flight Information directly from airlines (by adding travel info directly from airlines, the calendar is automatically updated when there is a flight change or delay)
    • Hotel Information – hotel name, address, phone number, email address
  2. Tour Calendar – This calendar was shared between the two of us, so we always knew our daily reservations (included name and location, time, confirmation/tickets).
    • Restaurant reservations
    • Museum reservations

Reservations that were not added automatically to the wallet, were added to our calendar instead. A link to the reservation confirmation (email, pdf, etc.) was included so we could use the calendar to quickly retrieve reservations without printing tickets.

Since both of us also have Apple watches, these calendars displayed reminders and notifications on our watches.

When adding calendar events, be sure to select the appropriate Time Zone. This way events will be appropriately displayed for your current location (no mental math to convert time zones needed).

The digital wallet ended up being our favorite technological tool. Not only did it provide convenience, but it also provided an additional level of security. Digital wallets can contain:

  • Credit and Debit Cards – Game changer!!
    • Super convenient – use tap-to-pay through phone or watch rather than a physical credit/debit card.
    • Super safe – wallet generates a temporary card number rather than sharing actual number. An additional level of security to prevent fraud.

Europe is more tech savvy and accepts tap-to-pay everywhere, even small family-run businesses. We carried our credit cards in our money belt as backup, but never had an occasion where we needed to use them.

  • Covid Vaccination Card and Medical Cards
    • We fortunately did not have an occasion to use these, but they were stored in our digital wallet.
  • E-ticket Reservations
    • Some reservations generated e-tickets that could be easily added to the wallet. For those that didn’t, we added reservation confirmation directly to the calendar.
    • Super convenient – no need to carry paper copies of reservations.
    • Super safe – no worry about losing tickets as many are non-refundable or non-replaceable.

Tap-to-pay works directly from watch or phone (if you have cell service). We opted for international cell coverage for one phone during our trip. The downside is that you quickly grow accustomed to this convenience. When returning back home, you may find that tap-to-pay is not accepted everywhere.

The use of a translate app is an invaluable tool. We used Google Translate. It can be used to type in words or phrases in English and translate to the local language. One of the best features is the camera translate. Using your phone’s camera, the app will translate whatever it is viewing. No worries if you are at a restaurant that doesn’t have an English menu or need to read a sign. Just open the app and Google Translate will translate the words to English.

Download Dutch, German, Italian, and French languages to your phone before your trip. This allows access to camera and text translate even with no wifi or cell service.

Ready, Set, Go

We are eager to share our Best of Europe in 21 Days experiences with you. Each country has its own overview page. For more details, there are links for each day of the trip. Happy reading!

Before leaving on a trip, think about souvenirs. Small, inexpensive mementos like postcards, refrigerator magnets, or beer coasters can remind you of each destination. If you plan ahead, you won’t miss any locations. 

We collected pins and added them to our Rick Steves’ day pack.

Before leaving on a trip, think about souvenirs. Small, inexpensive mementos like postcards, refrigerator magnets, or beer coasters can remind you of each destination. If you plan ahead, you won’t miss any locations. 

We collected pins and added them to our Rick Steves’ day pack.

Before leaving on a trip, think about souvenirs. Small, inexpensive mementos like postcards, refrigerator magnets, or beer coasters can remind you of each destination. If you plan ahead, you won’t miss any locations. 

We collected pins and added them to our Rick Steves’ day pack.

What are you waiting for?