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Escorted tours are structured group tours with a group leader. The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, admission costs, and local transportation.

Many people derive a sense of ease and security from escorted trips. Escorted tours -- whether by bus, motorcoach, train, or boat -- let travelers sit back and enjoy the trip without having to spend lots of time behind the wheel or worrying about details. You know your costs upfront, and there are few surprises. Escorted tours can take you to the maximum number of sights in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle -- you don't have to sweat over the plotting and planning of a vacation schedule. Escorted tours are particularly convenient for people with limited mobility. They can also be a great way to meet people.

On the downside, an escorted tour often requires a big deposit upfront, and lodging and dining choices are predetermined. You'll have few opportunities for serendipitous interactions with locals. The tours can be jampacked with activities, leaving little room for individual sightseeing, whim, or adventure -- plus they often focus only on the heavily touristed sites, so you miss out on lesser known gems.

Brendan Vacations (tel. 800/421-8446; www.brendanvacations.com) has a selection of 8- to 15-day tours. Accommodations are at the better hotels, and rates include everything except airfare. Collette Vacations (tel. 800/340-5158; www.collettevacations.com) has an "Alpine Countries" tour that covers southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Globus & Cosmos Tours (tel. 800/338-7092; www.globusandcosmos.com) offers 9- to 16-day escorted tours of various parts of Germany. It also has a budget branch that offers tours at lower rates. Maupintour (tel. 800/255-4266; www.maupintour.com) has a selection of upscale tours, such as a Rhine River tour of Berlin, Dresden, Meissen, Nürnberg, and Heidelberg. Its most popular tour is a 14-day trip that takes in such cities as Dresden, Berlin, Rothenburg, Munich, Meissen, Baden-Baden, and Potsdam, including a Rhine River cruise past the Lorelei Rock.

Abercrombie & Kent (tel. 800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com) provides customized group tours to various areas of Germany.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.