With the exception of a few short trips where a package was a better deal than booking on one's own, I've never really been on a package tour. As I think about the time I spent figuring what hotels and train and rental car to book and how and when, I can understand why people like package tours where all those decisions are made for you.
But when I've looked at package tours offered from various organizations - from alumni groups to Costco - the daily individual price (not including airfare) ranges from $200-$400 double. That makes a hotel room around $200-600 per night. Our hotels - not five stars, but not shabby either - averaged about $100 per night. There were a lot of good deals on-line if you look a little. Even if you make some mistakes, you're still way ahead. The only surprise from my online shopping was the rental car out of Brussels. I never saw anything about a €50 site fee.
It was also nice to go at our own pace, not a group's pace. We linger or rush off as we pleased.
Tours do give you more opportunity to meet folks, but half our trip involved people we knew who live in Paris, Brussels, and Germany. And we met a number of interesting people - though there were lots of people on the Metro I would have liked to talk to, but didn't think I should.
I was lucky to get a good start on traveling solo when I was a student in Germany.
I would say there were a number of times of indecision and some concern, but that only means we were pushing ourselves into unknown territory and learning. For instance, I felt terrible about not being able to speak French and I tried a bit, but people preferred English. And I wasn't sure in the cheese shop if I could get just a few slices, but it was no problem. And waiters were helpful in the restaurants. The Metro was easier to figure out than the buses, but the buses were well marked at the bus stops and on the buses. It was easy to figure out what stops you were at.
2. Paris has a great bicycle system - Velib.
I only used it once, because J would rather walk, but it looks great and lots of people were using the
bikes. You can sign up for a day or a couple of days or a year. It cost about $2 for a day. There are stations everywhere. You can check online for ones near where you are going or where you are and find out how many bikes are available or empty spaces (if you want to return one.) You can ride for 30 minutes free, then then start charging you, I think it was €1 for the first hour and then it goes up. The idea is to keep as many bikes in circulation as possible - not to take long rides. But you could just find a new station and drop a bike off before 30 minutes and get another.
The map shows where there are bike stations - these are staggeringly close together.
Seems a little higher than the US, but it was also really good. Basics, like French bread and yogurt and packaged salads of all kinds, even sandwiches are available everywhere - there are restaurants and bakeries wherever you look. And little markets. And sidewalk restaurants have fixed price lunches and dinners. Some were very reasonable, others a little pricier.
Here's the menu - the formula is €12.50 about $14. You could choose a salad and the main plate or a dessert with the main plate.
Here's the melon salad.
Our plane is now boarding for Reykjavik, so I'll post this now. Really sorry to leave, but looking forward to the much cooler weather of Anchorage later.