ExperiencePlus! Blog

Travel in good company

know your tour operator

Once you commit to taking a guided bicycle tour, the tour operator you choose to travel with is an important decision point. At ExperiencePlus!, we know we’re only one of many companies that would love to show you the time of your life. But if you are searching for your first-ever, guided bicycle tour, make sure you’re clear on your touring and hosting needs and wants before you start researching your options. Then, get to know a few different companies before making your choice. Not sure what to ask? Here are our recommendations.

Get to know your tour operator

When you ask a company to walk you through what a day on tour looks like, make sure the helpful sales person describes the product that you want. Companies offer many different styles of tours, so make sure you compare apples to apples. For example, ExperiencePlus has four different tour styles. As you listen to their elevator pitch, get to know the day’s schedule, if and when you ride as a group, how tour leaders communicate with guests throughout the day, how organized visits are managed, and if you eat all meals together.

Does the company purchase a new fleet of bikes every year or do they re-use their frames and upgrade components? What bike brand do they use and why? What different styles are available? What is included with the bike – a pack to hold your jacket? Repair kit for a flat tire? Lock to secure the bike during stops? Is the use of the bike included in the cost of the tour? How soon before my tour starts can I change my mind about the kind of bike I want to use?

How many tour leaders will be on my tour? Where are they from? How long have they been working for your company? How are they trained? Do they expect a tip?

Are GPS devices and holders provided? If so, what kind? Do you provide GPS tracks in advance of the tour? I’m going on vacation because I want to escape technology, do I even need a GPS? What happens if I get lost? For comparison, ExperiencePlus! uses chalk arrows on its Classic, Bike and Boat and Expedition tours. It’s a labor of love and makes all the difference.

Some folks are really sensitive to group size, so make sure you’re comfortable with the number of folks on tour. If you eat all your meals together or travel as a group, size can make an even greater impact, depending on your personal preference.

ExperiencePlus! gets a lot of questions about group composition, particularly age range and type of bike requested. Does it matter to you if some of the group is on an e-bike and some is not? If you’re the only one under the age of 40, will this be a disappointment?

What kind of resources does the company offer as far as helping you make sure you’re ready for your bicycle tour? Has the company made sure you are selecting a tour that is right for your ability level? For comparison, ExperiencePlus! offers free downloadable training guides for every tour level based on age.

Life dishes out plenty of uncertainty and sometimes the unexpected can derail your best laid plans. What happens if you have to cancel off a tour less than 30 days before departure? How much money can you get back? Will insurance cover your losses? Can you transfer to another tour without penalty? Spend time reading the fine print so you know what to expect.

Tour operators will be more than happy to connect you to a previous traveler who can give you an insider’s understanding of the tour you wish to take. If you want a referral, ask for someone who has been on several tours and can speak to a variety of experiences. Then, read through reviews posted both on the tour operator’s website and other third-party sites.

We all have different priorities when it comes to how we select a tour operator, so if sustainability initiatives, awards received, number of years in business, size of company, and other business and operational factors matter to you, be sure to ask about them.