How to Choose an Adventure Tour Operator
By Candyce H. Stapen
Whether you want to hike the rainforests of Costa Rica, horseback ride across the high-mountain deserts of Oregon, raft rivers in Idaho or scuba dive in the Cayman Islands, you can find a tour that fits your fantasy. Going on a guided adventure with like-minded enthusiasts comes with bonuses. Not only do you share the achievements and the fun, but you also gain encouragement to make it through the hard parts.
In addition, a group adventure means you can forget about such tedious planning details as finding lodging or arranging transportation from place to place. The tour operator takes care of that and much more. However, before you sign on, make sure you choose a reliable outfitter as well as a trip that meets your expectations. After all, you donít want to be out in bush with a bunch of guides who canít handle the challenges and you donít want to lose money by booking a bogus company.
Ask these questions before reserving a group adventure tour:
--How long has the company been in business? A minimum of five-years shows a certain amount of reliability.
--Is the company a member of a legitimate tour operators association?
The U.S. Tour Operators Association requires that a company carry at least $1 million in professional liability insurance and $1 million in traveler assistance insurance. The latter
provides coverage for deposits or fees paid in case the company defaults or goes bankrupt.
--For what level adventurer is the activity suitable? For example, is the 6- mile ďmoderately challengingĒ hike before lunch a walk through gently rolling hills or is it a hard push up a steep slope used for skiing black diamond runs in winter?
--What is a typical day's schedule? Are you in the saddle for twelve hours a day herding cattle with the only breaks a pre-dawn breakfast and a cold supper before bed?
--How large is the group?
--What exactly is included in the rate? Check to see what meals, lodgings, entrance fees and other items are extra.
--How many leaders are there for what size group? Unless the group is five or fewer people, two guides prove better than one and even with a small group two guides are preferable.
--What procedures are followed in case of a medical emergency?
Do the trip leaders know CPR? Are they in cell phone or radio contact with a base camp, or coordinator who can phone for medical help?
--Do the guides help with or do all the work of pitching tents, cooking food, and carrying gear or are participants required to do all these tasks on their own?
--Does the company provide any special equipment needed? Is this included in the fee or are rentals extra?
For more information:
The U.S. Tour Operators Association, www.ustoa.com