By Dan Austin
8 minute read
Technically there are two “Who’s”, the consumer and the tour operator.
Adventure travel can mean so many things, from climbing Everest to sitting on a beach in Cancun. The key is what does it mean to you and what are you looking for. The good news is there is truly something “out there” for everyone. The challenge is first determining what is right for you (push yourself just a little) and then matching that with the right adventure for you.
Once you have a better idea on what might be right for you the next key to the “Who” of adventure travel is picking the right tour operator. A tour operator puts together all the adventures into a neat itinerary and takes care of all the details — from the accommodations to the meals to finding parking — and includes a local tour guide. There are literally thousands of tour operators around the globe. From small mom-and-pop regional experts to corporate giants with hundreds of options. A company big enough to have the range of programs and the bandwidth to stand behind their offerings with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I want to get to know my tour operator, I want a personal touch, not mass marketing, cold sales and end up just another number in the books. I also want to avoid that one-off regional service provider; what happens if they get in trouble? How is their insurance?
I strongly suggest you do your homework. Create a list of questions, pay attention not just to the answers, but how responsive they are to your queries. Can you talk to the owners personally? Can you talk to past customers? I would suggest listing at least 2-3 and build out a file. Pay close attention to the details, and you’ll find the second half of your “Who”.
After figuring out who you are as an adventure traveler and what you’re looking for, the “What” builds out on its own. Drill down and don’t forget it’s not just about you, but what kind of adventurers you’ll be traveling with. This is the fun part of the process. What is on your bucket list? What is your passion? What have you always wanted to try? Zip lining in Costa Rica? Swimming with the Whale Sharks of Baja? Looking for wolves in Yellowstone National Park? Are you an avid hiker? Cyclist? How about the kids? Been horseback riding in Montana? Seen the Glaciers of Alaska? The list and the options are long! Don’t try and do it all in one trip. You will get addicted to the carefree adventurous travel of working with a good tour operator who can make all that happen.
I love the “multisport adventures”. Simply put, these adventures offer a little something for everyone on the same trip. An adventure to the Canadian Rockies, for example, might include biking, hiking, rafting and hiking on a glacier icefield. A trip to Alaska might include biking, hiking, sea kayaking and a Glacier Cruise all in one week.
These days it’s not quite as easy as you might think to nail down when you could travel. We have busy schedules as work, at school and at play. As soon as possible get out the calendar and start blocking out the details.
Once you have as much “data” as possible start thinking about aligning this with your top destinations or adventures. In other words, you want to visit areas where they are going to offer the best experience. If you are looking for a warm destination with some swimming in December, needless to say Yellowstone and Alaska are definitely out. Ask your new tour operator friend (the expert) when the best time is to visit each destination. Whether it be crowds, wildlife activity, weather etc, there is always an exceptional or less-than preferable time and a season. Picking the right time of the year can make or break a trip.
Take what you have learned and create your short list. Lets say for all practical purposes you have chosen a summer vacation with the kids, you know you want to go in July, you know you want to hike, horseback ride and raft. Now start narrowing down the options with your favorite tour operator. Look at them as your partner in planning the perfect family adventure. If you decided Austin Adventures was the right pick and you brought us the above details. We might suggest a range of trips. Yellowstone National Park, or combine Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Canadian Rockies or our Montana Adventure. All have the activities you are looking for.
But there is more to picking the Where then the when and what. With a week-long adventure tour, accommodations and culinary details are going to be a big part of the selection process. Are you looking for 5 Start resort style properties? Maybe a National Park Property like Old Faithful Lodge? Or a classic Montana guest ranch. Ask and get the answer. Don’t worry about asking too many questions, a good tour operator will be thrilled you are putting forth the effort to get on the right adventure!
The process, the planning and the decisions all boil down to this question! First you might ask “Why travel”? Really there are too many reasons to list them all. It ignites new thinking, perspectives, and opinion. It opens your mind. You realize that there’s no one way to live life. Meeting people from other places will show you that your world view isn’t the same as everyone else’s. There is also the thrill of “first times”: First time zip lining a canopy forest in Costa Rica, first time horseback riding in Montana, first time kayaking with Orcas in Alaska… ultimately these firsts become lifelong memories.
Creating those lifetime memories (and sharing down the road) is a deep joy that keeps on giving. It’s a fact that these memories will far outlast material goods. Creating memories with those you love is even better yet. I know with our family, every get-together ends up with a trip down memory lane (pun intended). Smiles grow wide with each mental visit to that beautiful vista, that thrilling downhill bike ride, that amazing meal with the Peruvian family… the list is long, but each and every memory is vivid.