First, I have nothing against Trafalgar and have not traveled with them.

I just have to write about this subject. We have taken a few tours and also done many trips on our own. So, here I am on my quacker box.

I agree with Sally, one needs to really look at the bus tours with regard to: how many meals are included, now many you have to buy on your own--remember, you are stuck with the lunch stop the bus driver chooses, how many hours you are on the bus, how many people are on each bus, how long it takes to get those people on and off the bus, how long the bus waits for those who are late to return to the bus, how long the women have to stand in line for each bathroom stop, and how many places you drive by--look for those signs in the write-ups that you will only glimpse in passing. Also, how early you have to get up each morning.

Another consideration is that the time allowed for breakfast may be only the half hour before you have to board the bus. Once, we tried to eat early and they would not even let us get coffee beofre the assigned time of opening. And, deliver me of ever having to have my suitcase outside of the door before I have time to dress in the morning.

As far as getting stuck with a meal not of your choice, I will never forget the time when the bus tour gave us chicken and rice every noon until I refused to eat it any more. The guide asked what I was going to eat and I told him bread and coke and that is what I did. Another time the supper was a fish with the head and tail and skin on it. I can't remember what I ate that night, but it was NOT that fish!

Another important issue is the time of arrival in each place. A bus trip we took in New Zealand got us at our hotel after dark, about 2 miles outside of the towns. Never will we do that again. Remember that a statement like on your own for a day means that you are on your own, paying for a taxi or finding a bus, food, remembering where you are staying and finding your way back to the hotel. We have some funny stories about these last things--like the time we got on a streetcar in Munich and wanting to go to Karlsplatz and that is where we got on! or in Mexico City where we rang the bell to get off the bus when we saw where we wanted to be, and the bus went on for 5-6 more blocks before it stopped. When you travel on your own you have done your homework and have city maps and bus information ahead of time.

As far as cutting costs with traveling on your on--there are a lot of things that can be done. Never eat lunch sitting down--it costs twice as much. What I mean by that is, sitting in a restaurant is expensive.

The alternative is to find a bakery and buy a sandwich and eat on a park bench. The grocery store is our best friend when traveling independently, and we stock up on bread, meats, cheese, and we never travel without a plastic plate, cup. knife, spoon for each of us and an immersion heater with dual voltage. We have eaten yogurt, potato salad, and fresh raspberries, etc. out of those cups.

We stayed at a Pension in Rome many years ago and our daughter stayed there 5 years ago and a friend on Semester at Sea stayed there last fall. Wonderful location, right near the Spanish Steps.

We figure that it costs about $300 a day for two of us to travel independently, including airfare, car rental or train passes, rooms, and food. I am not sure if that includes the car parking at the airport or not. The last trip we took to Switzerland (2 years ago) cost us $5600 for 3 weeks, two of which were spent in an apartment and we ate out one meal a day. We could do the same without an apartment as we would make our own coffee in the room, eat food from the grocery store both in the morning and at night, eating out at noon when we were out and about. We did that in Alberta, Lake Louise area, and saved $2000 Canadian dollars in 12 days.

Gretchen from South Carolina