What to Look for in a Tour Operator

So you’ve made the exciting decision to travel abroad, and you already know you want to do it as part of a tour group. Now you have a crucial decision to make: which tour operator are you going to trust to make your holiday magical?

This choice isn’t quite the same as comparing airlines, where the key factor to consider is price. No – when you’re looking at tour providers, there’s a lot more to think about! To help you make this tricky decision, let’s talk about some of the things you should check before you confirm that tour booking.

Experience and Expertise

Tower of Pisa, Italy, courtesy of Gilberto

A tour company that has been operating for years (or even decades) has a whole plethora of expertise and background knowledge. Clever tour operators don’t just rely on the wisdom they’ve built up, though; they actively use this experience to make their itineraries better. With every tour, the managers can see which sites and activities had the most memorable impact on the guests. An experienced tour operator then takes this information and enriches the tour even further.

This is particularly true for companies with a niche focus – such as designing European tours specifically for Australians and New Zealanders. When you travel with a tour manager that has rich knowledge of your particular destination, you can expect genuine and personal insights at each stop – not just a standard list of facts that you could easily read in a travel book.


Value (Not Price!)

If all tour operators offered the same packages, the price tag would be the primary thing to consider. However, this just isn’t the case. Why? Because some companies just don’t have the same definition of ‘inclusive’ as others do. When comparing the prices of different tours, it’s important to understand exactly what that amount will cover – as well as what it won’t. Because a cheaper tour might seem great on paper… but it’s not so great when you sit down for your first holiday dinner and end up with a big bill at the end!

If it’s difficult to get a clear answer about what’s really included, this could be a sign that the tour operator you’re considering isn’t as ‘all-inclusive’ as they want you to think. Check each company’s website to see if they have a page that spells it all out – like our ‘What’s Always Included’ page. This way, you can be sure you’re choosing an operator that won’t surprise you with additional expenses after the tour has already started.

Glacier Express, Switzerland, courtesy of the Swiss Tourism


Tour Style

Not all tours are made equal! Great operators know how to design itineraries that really ‘wow’ their guests – without the exhaustion you might have felt after some holidays. Details to take note of regarding tour style include:

  •  Length of stays: Does the tour provider rush you through everything or allow you to relax with long leisurely stops in each city?
  •  Group size: Do they cram as many people into the tour as they can, or do they keep groups comfortably small?
  •  Accommodation style: Do they spend each night in a standard hotel, or do they treat you to accommodation with character (like an Italian castle)?

CastelBrando, Italy


Reputation

If you have friends or family who have toured recently, it’s definitely worth finding out who they travelled with and what their experience was like. However, if this isn’t an option, it’s time to hit the web. Start with the tour operator’s own website to see what kind of testimonials they have. Then expand onto review sites and forums to see what vibe you get from other people who have used the tour provider recently.

Another way to check a tour company’s reputation is to see if they have any accreditation. For example, Albatross Tours is ATAS-accredited, which means our high standards make us one of the best organisations in the industry.


Little Touches Make a Big Difference

Sometimes it’s a small detail that distinguishes fantastic tours from the mediocre ones. If your decision is coming down to the wire between two different operators, here are a couple of little touches to look for:

  • The quality of the coach: Does the operator’s bus look comfortable and spacious?
  • Departure guarantee: How many people need to book before a tour is guaranteed to go ahead? For example, at Albatross, only 10 guests are needed for a tour to depart.
  • Payment: Does the operator ask for a full payment upon booking or just a deposit? This can be an influencing factor if you don’t have access to all the funds needed right away.
  • Currency guarantee: If the exchange rate shifts between your booking and departure, will this affect the total you pay? At Albatross, we guarantee this won’t occur.

If you’re looking for an operator that ticks all these boxes, you’ve already found us! Please browse our destinations if you’re not sure which country is ideal for you or, if you already know where you’re headed, get in touch to make a booking.