Blog
2017-07-12

What to Look for in a Tour Operator

While it’s certainly exciting to explore a new place independently, the truth is there is no substitute for the expert knowledge and savvy know-how that a tour company can offer. But with so many tour operators out there, how do you know you’re choosing the one that’s right for you? 

Read below to find the 11 questions you need to ask yourself before booking with a tour operator:

1. How long have they been in business?

One of the first things you will want to know is how much experience your tour operator has. When were they first established? And how long have they been running the specific tour you’re interested in? It’s perfectly fine to book your tour with a newer company, but beware that the Internet has allowed small and inexperienced tour operators to look more impressive than they truly are. Ask about your tour operator’s background to learn about how much and what kind of experience they can offer.

2. Do they run their own tours or outsource them?

Some tour companies choose to outsource their tours which can ultimately weaken your experience. Outsourcing often means tour operators have less control over the selected guides, rented gear and overall experience of the tour. You will want to book with a tour company that runs their own tours so that, should anything go wrong, you have someone you can contact directly to fix it.

3. What is their cancellation policy?

You will often have to pay a deposit and schedule your tour many months before you travel. Always check with your tour operator before putting any money down to find out what happens if you need to cancel or reschedule your tour.

4. What is their reputation?

How have past travellers enjoyed their time with this tour company or even on the particular tour you’re looking to book? Search for testimonials and online reviews to see what a tour operator’s reputation is – it might not always be what they claim on their website! But remember to take reviews with a grain of salt: most people only write a review if something goes wrong. People’s expectations and travel preferences will also influence their experience with a particular tour, so keep that in mind as you read about others’ experiences with your selected tour operator.

5. What is their average tour group size?

A tour that’s too large can make you feel like you’re walking around in a tacky swarm of tourists, while a tour that’s too small can feel awkward and uncomfortable. On bike tours, we recommend you look for smaller tour groups as that will offer you the best chance to meet fellow travellers and stick with our local guides. Ultimately, however, it all comes down to your travel preference.

We've also created  an easy-to-use comparison chart to make choosing the right tour company a snap.  Follow this link to get your free copy.

6. What types of travellers do they cater to?

You probably don’t want to be the only 40-year-old couple in a travel group of university students on a cycling tour through the south of Portugal. Ask your tour company about the group composition. Will there be more solo travellers or couples? Is this a tour best suited for families with young children or older couples? While you will want to find similar travellers in your tour group, keep in mind that you will likely have more fun with a mixed group rather than a completely homogenous one.

7. What’s included in their tour packages?

With tour operators, it might not always be true that you get what you pay for. Some can overcharge you (instead of maximizing your value-for-money) and others can add hidden fees that you will have to pay upon arrival. Be very clear when contacting your tour operator: are attraction or park entrance fees included in the final package price? How much of your fee is their overhead? What hotels or guesthouses will you be staying at and do they charge any additional fees? What meals are included in the tour package price? Take all of these additional fees into consideration to decide whether you’re getting the best value for money on your tour.

8. Do they hire local guides?

No matter what type of tour you book, the truth is guides can make or break your trip. They are the ones who will explain everything to you, answer all of your questions and ensure the flow of the tour. You’ll want your tour to be led by an experienced local guide who has both the professional training and exciting personal experiences to truly enrich your trip.

9. Do they offer extra support?

Holidays are a wonderful time to relax, unwind and explore the world around us. But, sometimes, unexpected circumstances can keep you from enjoying your trip. If you’re booking a tour, you will want to know that your tour company also takes the unexpected into account. What happens if you fall ill on the tour? Or what if you can’t complete the day’s bike ride because you’re too tired? A flexible tour operator, that can easily adjust your trip to your needs on-the-go, is always an added bonus.

10. Do they offer customized tours?

Some tour companies only sell standard tour packages without the option to customize them to your exercise level, holiday duration or departure dates. This might work for you if the tour’s offer matches your needs. But if you are looking to adjust a tour’s length, difficulty level or itinerary to better fit with your travel preferences, book with a tour operator that offers partial or full tour customization.

11. What kind of gear do they offer?

Especially if you’re booking an adventure holiday, you will want to know what type of gear your tour operator offers. Are they using decent and safe bikes for your cycling tour? Or are they just renting and using old equipment? Ask your tour operator to be as specific as possible regarding their gear to ensure your quality and safety standards are met.

There are many things to consider when booking a tour. Ultimately, you will want to find a tour operator that meets your travel preferences and needs: one that offers you exactly what you’re looking for, with the proven experience to back it up.

 
And if you want to make sure you are choosing the right tour operator for your next trip, download your comparison chart.  Follow this link to get your free copy.

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