Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about our Private Journeys, you might find the answers here. If not, please call us. We want to make sure that all your questions are answered.
Each year, TrailFinders offers a small number of travellers the opportunity to join one of our own staff on a few special voyages of discovery through some of the world's most interesting regions. Over the past few years we have offered these journeys in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Mali, Peru, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, Borneo and New Zealand. We have recently added Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
TrailFinders designs these journeys so as to ensure that each guest is given the opportunity to visit all major highlights in the countries being visited without having to worry about the logistics of doing so. This form of travel maximizes efficiency and value. The pre-planning allows us to visit more locations in less time without being rushed and the small group approach ensures that the total cost of the journey is less than each guest would have had to pay if they had done an identical journey on their own. The hassle factor is low and the satisfaction level is very high.
On each journey we travel together as a small group - never more than 16 guests. Even though we travel as a group we do not spend all our time together. Free time is designed into most of our journeys. Guests are encouraged to set off on their own during periods of unscheduled activity and to participate in independent discovery whenever they wish.
Each group is accompanied by at least one, and often two TrailFinders’ experienced tour leaders chosen from our own staff. Local guides join us in every location as well to provide cultural, historical and social insight.
It would be impossible to follow such an itinerary for the same duration and at the same cost while travelling independently and dealing with daily travel arrangements. Either the total cost or the duration would have to be increased to visit the same sites in the same way.
Our clients made us do it! They were searching for specific kinds of journeys and couldn’t find them anywhere, so they asked us to create them with all the required elements. They wanted the following: a high-value itinerary that included all major sites visited in the optimum order with no backtracking; unique, interesting accommodation with character having above-average comfort levels (but not necessarily deluxe) and situated in excellent locations; no camping; many diverse types of local transport including aircraft, mini-buses, boats and in some countries elephants, camels and others; colourful local markets; hand-picked guides and drivers; a high level of safety and security; delicious and safe food; a knowledgeable tour leader who has recently visited the area, hotels, sites and restaurants; and, some free time to explore on their own.
It is with these objectives in mind that we created our Private Journeys.
We generally design our Private Journeys for those who are travelling to the designated area for the first or second time. Our journeys are carefully designed to ensure that we encounter new sites, sounds and experiences every few days. The itineraries provide a comprehensive selection of the diversities of the area in a short time and consequently we do not dwell in any one place for lengthy periods. We do however stay in each place long enough to get the ‘feel’ of it and we move on before we can tire of it.
If this philosophy appeals to you, our journey may be just what you’re looking for.
Not really, although they are excellent value. We generally design our small-group journeys with a high degree of comfort built in. We aim for accommodation around the 4-star to 4 1/2-star category on average throughout most of our trips with the exception of Mali, North Korea and some parts of Myanmar where we use the best available hotels en-route. We try to select unique hotels with local character whenever possible.
The food is always wonderful and safe.
We don’t cut corners in order to save a dollar and potentially jeopardize an otherwise enjoyable experience. Having said this, you will find that the journey delivers high value for each dollar spent. Guests on our previous trips have consistently told us that they were very satisfied with the cost of the trip and the value they received. A few of our clients have been on every one of our Private Journeys. Many clients have been on several of them and our repeat client ratio is high.
The philosophy of our Private Journeys does not support the use of a lower comfort level in the locations where we travel except for our simpler "Waterways" Journey, where we use the best available hotels in some parts of Cambodia. There are very few products available from any supplier that can match the comfort, safety and 'feel' of our Private Journeys.
However, for those who prefer to travel at the mid-range or even budget level, we have many other products available from our regular suppliers that make use of simpler hotels and even guesthouses or we also can work with you to custom-design a journey at the comfort level of your choice.
No. The price of our Private Journey includes all hotels, transportation, guides, drivers, admission fees, sightseeing and many meals from the time the trip starts in the joining location until the final day, but the cost of the international flights from Canada is not generally included.
We do this so our guests are free to choose whichever airline, routing and schedule they wish and to choose to purchase tickets or use points from their frequent flyer accounts.
For those wishing to purchase airline tickets we would be pleased to provide suggested schedules, options and prices for your consideration. We are experts in international airfares and most of our clients ask us to arrange their international air for them.
No. Since we include most of the major tour items in the price, additional costs en-route are kept to a minimum. You will need some money for personal expenses including, but not limited to items such as laundry, drinks, extra meals and shopping.
In order to help you plan for this, we have prepared an estimate of all extra costs associated with each of our Private Journey itineraries. This summary can easily be accessed from the pricing pages for each journey on our website.
Our journeys have a cultural and historical focus and are not endurance races. They are not about white-water rafting, bungee jumping and long-distance trekking. They are generally moderately-paced, however you should be prepared for a reasonable amount of walking, standing, stair climbing, some uphill walks and the occasional stroll across uneven ground. We suggest that prior to departure you should be comfortable walking at least two or three kilometres at a stretch, some of it uphill.
In general, if you are relatively healthy and reasonably active you will do just fine on one of our journeys. We have had guests with some mobility problems with us on many of our departures. If you are in doubt, please discuss this with us and we can help you decide if a specific journey is right for you.
We would like to point out that some countries may have relatively poor safety standards and consequently our guests will not necessarily find the same degree of support that they may be used to at home. For example, very few hotels in Asia will offer safety bars in bathrooms or showers. As well, street conditions may present challenges including open holes, uneven pavement and other hazards. Marble floors may be slippery and stairs may be poorly illuminated.
We usually have quite a diverse group and yet everyone fits in well. Our guests often tend to be retired or close to retirement however we do have some guests who are in mid-career. About 80% of our guests are travelling with their spouse, about 15% with a friend or relative and we sometimes have single travellers with us as well. Our guests bring with them an interesting variety of backgrounds and interests.
We highly recommend it.
Single accommodation is very expensive. While we try our best to keep the single's cost as low as possible, the reality is that accommodation is a significant part of the trip cost and the single traveller who occupies a room on his/her own will have to pay the entire cost of the other half of the room as a supplemental charge. As well, tour companies and ground handlers often add supplemental surcharges due to costs associated with single occupancy.
In Galapagos, for example, the yachts generally have eight cabins. Consequently the occupants of each cabin would pay roughly one-eighth of the total cost of the yacht or about one-sixteenth per person in a twin-share. A single guest who occupies one cabin would be required to pay one-eighth of the cost of the yacht or about twice as much as those who are sharing. This makes the trip very expensive for the single traveller. We have no control over these costs and we must pass them on to the single guest.
In order to keep costs reasonable for single guests we have experimented with the concept of matching up those who wish to share, but this has not been a particularly successful undertaking and we no longer offer this. Instead, we prefer that singles who wish to travel on our Private Journeys attempt to encourage a friend or relative to come along with them. This not only lowers their cost but generally results in a much more enjoyable experience.
Finally, on some of our journeys we are not able to obtain single accommodation at all due to the limited number of rooms available in some of the smaller hotels and lodges.
Certainly. We collect and analyse feedback from every guest after every journey.
Here are a few comments sent to us…
As we progressed through the journey and afterwards in retrospect, we realized how much research, planning, management, coordination and sheer hard work had gone into delivering such an informative, enjoyable and interesting multi-country tour and so, once again, thanks to both of you for being our Tour Directors and making the whole trip an unforgettable experience.
R. B. Ottawa
I count my experience with you one of my great travel experiences ( and you may quote me) and shall be watching future ads with great interest.
D.M. Port Carling ON
Robi and I want to thank you very much for providing us with such a terrific historic trip through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Thanks to your great leadership and care this was the most enjoyable trip – you took care of everything. We want you to know how much we appreciated it.
Murray and I had a sensational trip. It was all we expected and more! Your ground handlers were efficient, knowledgeable and lovely people to deal with. Everything went off without a hitch. Your choice of hotels was flawless. Our only regret was that we had too little time to enjoy the beautiful Legend Hotel in Chiang Rai. You advised us correctly when you thought that we would or would not need a guide. We loved Luang Prabang and the Three Nagas; the trip on the Mekong and Angkor.
I've never been on a trip where daily I learned so much about current affairs, history, cultural diversity, flora and fauna... I'm still on a high from this trip!
Thank-you so much for all your concern and assistance in helping us. Receiving the cheque from you to cover the additional expenses we incurred is a benefit over and above and is much appreciated. You are an exceptional agency in every way. This compensation is further evidence of your first-rate service. Thank-you again.
For service above and beyond the call of duty! Thanks.
With respect to planning, integrating and implementing itinerary items on our Private Journey… “It was this that made the whole tour worthwhile – I could not have come anywhere near achieving such a trip myself.”
Just wanted to say that our experiences in Hanoi and Sapa, and the support we had in Beijing, were all excellent. Your arrangements were perfect, the guides were wonderful, everything ran on time. It all greatly enhanced our visits.
J. K. Ottawa
Your execution was excellent. Having planned a number of holidays on our own in the past, we realize the difficulty in planning and executing a trip with this number of different connections. We were pleased with how smooth it was delivered, given all the things that could go wrong.
We've already talked to a number of people about our trip and about your organization. It was a wonderful experience with a wonderful group of people.
All in all, it was a great trip, Rick. I keep re-living it through my photos. The planning you did for our safety, comfort and enjoyment was very much appreciated. Thank you.
Yes. Many of our former guests volunteer to make themselves available to discuss their experiences with prospective travellers. Just ask and we'll put you in touch.
We provide a significant amount of written information both prior to departure and en-route in order to prepare our guests for their journey.
A few months before departure we issue a comprehensive Trip Planning Guide containing information such as geographical, cultural and site data, packing recommendations, discussions on money, customs, air & land travel and much more.
Just prior to departure we issue a package containing the final trip itinerary, hotel contact numbers to leave with friends and/or relatives, an update on money, final packing recommendations, in-transit instructions, arrival instructions and trip documents including air tickets, insurance policies, and so on.
During the trip we often have a series of simple handouts and maps related to the sites being visited.
Our journeys are designed with the “avid amateur photographer” in mind. Every day we will introduce you to a steady stream of enticing and photogenic human, historical, architectural and scenic subjects. Based on the experience of previous groups we would estimate that you are likely to take twice as many pictures as you would on a normal vacation. Some of the guests have taken over 150 photos per day. There is a new photographic subject around every corner.
Absolutely! In fact we highly encourage everyone who is considering booking one of our Private Journeys to spend an hour or two with us, either in our office or on the phone and if possible, to attend one of our informative slide shows. We want to make sure you know what you are getting into.
If you aren’t located in Ottawa we can sometimes make arrangements to do our slide presentations in your community, but if not, we can certainly spend lots of time with you on the phone. We have a toll-free number so our prospective guests can call us anytime they need information or advice.