With so many motorcycle tour companies and potential tour packages to choose from, how are you going to choose which one is right for you, and right for your money? This article is meant to help you think through the shopping process and make sure you pick the best provider for your long-awaited riding vacation.
The Cost/Value Question: Of course, cost is a factor for everyone. Even those who can afford the most expensive motorcycle tour would rather not overpay, and those who are "stretching it" a bit to make these trips happen financially…well…obviously, they're looking for the best value as well. Consider some points about the cost of each tour package you see:
- Look carefully at the "Included" items on each tour, and how they might affect your eventual overall cost of the trip. For example, whether you pay for all your meals up front through Company A, or eventually while you're on tour meal-by-meal while touring with Company B, the overall cost is probably about the same. Don't forget also, if motorcycle tours seem expensive, take a look at how much will be spent on food, either as part of your package or separately. You're probably going to eat every day whether on a vacation or not, and the difference in food costs while traveling might not be that much different from what you're accustomed to in daily life (for those who tend to dine out a lot.) Also, are things like fuel, airport pickup, and other items included in both tour options? What might seem like an enormous price difference in tour packages might not be when you look closely.
- Consider how much money Company A spends on advertising as compared to Company B. All those magazine ads, DVD's, and exhibits at motorcycle shows can be very, very expensive (trust us, we do it too!) and just like with many other things we buy, part your tour price goes toward covering those marketing costs. Certainly, our marketing is part of your entertainment in magazines and at motorcycle rallies, but wouldn't it be better if that money were being spent on the motorcycle tour you're taking? Better hotels? Maybe nicer meals and more qualified staff? Newer bikes?
- Along similar topics, consider things like the quality of hotels, conveniences and qualities of meals, and of course, the condition of the motorcycles you'll be riding on your tour. Some companies will cut corners in these categories, and in doing so could miss out on some truly great experiences on your trip. When you're comparing tour packages, make sure you consider all of the possible price/cost variances.
The Guides: If you're paying for a guided motorcycle tour, you shouldn't have to think much about how to accomplish the tasks of any given day or how to get to where you're going, right? Be careful with this one, because such will not always be the case and you could end up with a "guide" that is experiencing the tour route for the first time themselves.
- Sometimes this is disclosed ahead of time because, for example, a touring company might be doing a "research trip" to plan a new tour route (or portions of a route.) In that case, it's probably fine as long as they inform you ahead of time and give the "tour" at a reduced rate over what they or other companies might typically charge.
- In other cases though, you might be getting a "first timer" as your guide because that's all the time, effort, or money a tour operator chose to put into your trip. Instead of having experienced staff members attend and properly train their new guides on the route and tour operations, they figure "ahhhh...they'll figure it out and the customers won't know the difference." Training is after all, an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. But how will that factor into your overall experience when you finally get to do one of these trips?
- A third possibility is that a tour was originally planned to have an experienced, trained professional guide or guides, and something happened at the last minute that kept them from leading your group. This is after all "motorcycle touring," and accidents do happen. Still there's a clear distinction to be made between touring companies who intended to set you up with a proper guide, and those who never had such plans in the first place. (For example, some companies "promise the owner will be there himself!" when, ha, ha…we guarantee you there were never such plans in place to begin with. Maybe this is not important to some of you, but if it is, please be sure of what you're being promised.)
Which Company is Really Running the Tour? Along those lines of "who will be guiding your tour" comes the question of "which motorcycle touring company actually designed and organized the tour to begin with?" Just because Company A puts their name on a trip and takes your money for it doesn't necessarily mean they really had anything to do with making it a unique experience that they created for you.
In the world of travel and tourism, companies rely on "local operators" all the time to carry out the guiding and organizing needs of the tours they've sold. This is okay, but consider which company actually put the time and effort into creating your travel experience then. If you're buying a tour from "Company A," are they really doing anything more than taking your money, telling you where to go and giving the local tour operator a hat with a Company A logo to wear for the trip?
RIDE Adventures take pride in this particular arena in that, "yes," in addition to running our own tours we also sell the tours of our local operators in each country; however, we always make this clear to you from the beginning of our conversation about your trip. Furthermore, some of the premier tour operators through Latin America and Australia have named RIDE Adventures to be their official "USA Office," as we have such a strong history of working together to please customers. Most of the tours listed on our site are indeed actually the tours of our partners, but there are also some that are our tours. We designed them. We put the time and care into creating them, and we will be there personally to show you the time of your life on a motorcycle trip (most tours in Patagonia and Wisconsin are designed and will be led by either Chad or Eric.)
As always, we hope you find this information useful in choosing the your next great motorcycle adventure tour. Go back and reconsider factors like food, fuel, hotel qualities and who your actual guides will be, and your choice might change!