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Jan 20th
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Home Travel Tips & Guides Six Quick Tips to Help You Pick a 'Real' Park Tour Operator or Guide

Six Quick Tips to Help You Pick a 'Real' Park Tour Operator or Guide

Ask Questions, Check Credentials Before You Hand Over Any Money

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When considering booking a tour operator as you plan a visit to a national park there are a number of considerations to protect yourself.
We asked Jo Pendry, Chief of the National Park Service Concession Program, and her staff to provide our readers with some tips they can use to pick a tour operator, such as rafting or horseback guides. Here are their suggestions for you.

1. Is the tour authorized to operate in the National Park?
The National Park Service authorizes businesses to operate in parks under a concession contract, a commercial use authorization, or a special use permit. These authorizations specify the terms and conditions under which a business is to operate and specify such issues as resource protection requirements, types of services to be provided, operating hours, and methods for establishing rates charged to visitors. The types of businesses authorized to operate, and the services they provide, are very unique to the park in which they operate. If visitors are contemplating taking a tour in a National Park, it is recommended they contact the park itself to ensure the business is authorized by the National Park Service to operate within the park and to obtain further details about the type of services offered. Contact information for each national park can be found at www.nps.gov.

2. Can the tour operator provide references from previous guests?
If they avoid this issue in any way it means that they don't have many satisfied clients.

3. Is the tour operator responsive to your inquiries?
Typical response time should be less than 48 hours.

4. What type of experience does the tour operator have?
Ask such questions as how long they have operated the business; what is the experience, training and certifications/licenses required of the guides, and ask for information on their safety record and how they address complaints.

5. What is included in the fine print?
Always confirm prices before you agree to anything. Make sure you know what equipment or costs you must cover or provide. If there is a contract to sign, read the fine print! If pre-payment or a deposit is required, make sure you have it in writing and understand the conditions for refunds. If possible, pay by credit card, in case there is a problem.

6. What is your gut feeling?
Do you feel you are being treated with integrity, reliability, professionalism, expertise? Sometimes these intangibles are the most important factors in your decision! You can only determine this by frequent communication with the companies you are considering and by doing your homework regarding all of the above.

Bottom line, ask questions and check credentials before you hand over your hard-earned vacation dollars.