Adventure Travel 101 - Page 2
Know what DIY stands for? If not, you might need an outfitter.
DIY: Do It Yourself. With so many comprehensive online travel resources, DIYers can plan full-scale adventure trips in an afternoon. "Many people love planning and researching their adventure trips and would never think of traveling with a group," says Kate. But if you're not obsessive compulsive, or if you're an adventure-travel newbie, signing on with an outfitter can offer some real benefits. "They take care of the details for you, choosing the best and most scenic places to stay and showing you the off-the-beaten-track treasures and trails," she says. "Many adventure companies travel with a small group of people, an average of 15, and the guides are like having a walking, talking travel book filled with the most interesting details about a region or activity."
And going with an outfitter doesn't always mean traveling in a pack of strangers. "Keep in mind that many adventure companies offer self-guided trips," says Kate. "They help you with the trip details, make your lodging reservations, and give you the maps and information so that you can guide yourself at your own pace and check out the things along the way that you are interested in. I think this is a great option that's not taken advantage of by a lot of people."
If you do choose to go at it alone, Linda suggests asking yourself the following questions: What type of experience are you looking for? How easy and cost effective is it to travel by yourself? Are you prepared to venture off on your own? Is it easier, or perhaps required, to have a guide or to be part of an organized tour? How much information can you gather ahead of time, and what type of reservations can you make? Is it safe?
"Regardless of how you choose to travel," she adds, "it's important to buy a guidebook about the destination and learn about local customs and culture and to be respectful of these."
How do I pick a trustworthy outfitter?
The key here is to ask a lot of people a lot of questions. "Talk to the guides and company owners," says Kate. "They can give you first-hand experience about the lodging, food, and extra expenses on a trip, the level of physical experience necessary, and any cultural things you need to be aware of." Ask how long they've been in business and what sets them apart from other outfitters.
And don't stop there. Linda and Kate both suggest speaking to past customers as well. "Ask the potential outfitter if you can get an email or phone number of a past client," she says. "If they can't give it to you, give them a few more seasons to work up a reputation. Or, give them a chance to take you on a great adventure regardless, if you feel that they have made a good impression."
It's also a good idea to find out if the company has any specific professional accreditations or industry alliances that hold them to up-to-par, or better, standards. "Seek out an operator that gives back to the local community, and where sustainability, conservation, and long-term economic growth is actively supported," says Linda. Remember, if you get a feeling that the outfitter is not who they say they are, you can always look for other options. There are tons out there.