If you’re like a lot of travelers, you’re more than ready to get out and explore in 2022. So you might be researching various tour operators. And if you prefer to explore by foot, you might have come across a fair number of walking companies.
Many are legitimate, honest, and committed to their guests. But some are fly-by-night, uncertified, and unrecognized. They might promise you the trip of a lifetime in exchange for a hefty deposit…only to leave you high and dry when they suddenly close up shop or—worse—leave you stranded overseas.
So how can you know who to trust? Here’s our guide to helping you sort out the reputable companies from the questionable ones:
Check for affiliations and memberships. Industry backing and accreditation means everything. If a tour operator is active and in good standing with agencies like USTOA (the United States Tour Operators Association) or ATTA (the Adventure Travel Trade Association) – as Country Walkers is – you can have more confidence that it’s a reputable company.
Research them in the press. Check a tour operator’s website for a link to their Press Room or a similar page. If they’ve received notoriety in local and/or national publications, you can be confident that they’re serious about providing you with a memorable experience.
Check for accolades. If a tour operator has received awards and other recognitions for their itineraries and their service, then don’t hesitate to reserve. It’s a good indication that they are 100% dedicated to your satisfaction – and well regarded in the industry.
Avoid travel clubs. You don’t need to belong to a club with hefty subscription fees to get good travel deals. The truth is, once you pay the subscription fee in order to get access to a deal, it’s not much of a deal at all.
Make sure they accept credit cards. In today’s world, this might be a no-brainer. But if a company doesn’t accept payment by credit card, then you’ll have no recourse or support to get your money back should you later discover that they’re not legitimate.
Ask for trip details. Confirm before you put down a deposit that the tour operator will provide all your trip details in writing. Once you are closer to departure, you can double-check your reservations with hotels and airlines.
Be careful about paying in full upfront. If you’re close to your departure, then a tour operator will obviously require full payment. But if you reserve a date that’s many months away, no one should ask you for full payment.
Look them up on the Better Business Bureau website. You can head over to the website of the Better Business Bureau to learn about the nature of complaints that might have been filed against the company. If the complaints are frequent and loud – and if the company has received a poor grade from the BBB – don’t do business with them.
Check for their address. Be wary of companies that do not provide their address online (it’s typically in the footer at the bottom of a website). If their contact information isn’t visible, consider it a red flag; you can assume that they would rather you contact them in writing once they have your deposit.