How long has Great Explorations been in business and who owns the company?
Great Explorations was founded in 1997 and is owned by Robbin McKinney. Robbin has been leading trips in Europe and around the world since 1985, including 16 years with Butterfield & Robinson. Many of the other companies offering this style of travel are now part of large corporations which means there may be more of an emphasis on the bottom line (which may be why they charge so much). Our mission is to provide exceptional travel experiences and to inspire people to travel actively.
What is the Great Explorations difference people are talking about?
At Great Explorations, we design our trips with maximum flexibility in mind, so you can experience a region at a pace that best suits you. Our cycling days average 25-40 miles (walking routes 4-8 miles), with optional routes for those who prefer longer distances and more challenge. For those who enjoy additional time to try other activities, or relax by the pool, we plan layover days to allow you this option. Learn more.
Who travels with Great Explorations?
We appeal to travelers of all ages and a healthy mix of single, couples and friends. Approximately half of travelers on any trip are likely to have traveled with us before and usually at least a quarter come from being recommended by a friend. Our travelers seem to like to have more fun than others we see on the road!
Full disclosure – our founder guided 16 years for the company that invented luxury cycling and walking trips in Europe and the reason for starting Great Explorations was to appeal to a clientele that was younger in spirit, a little more adventurous, and perhaps a little more easy-going.
What responsibilities do I assume as a guest?
Guests are responsible for: choosing a tour matching with their physical abilities, fitness level and health conditions; arriving at the trip start on time for the meeting scheduled with the Guide; packing for the trip the clothing and gear recommended in the Trip Planner; respecting the laws and customs of countries visited; using Great Explorations bicycles and equipment appropriately and according to Great Explorations guidelines; ensuring that all Great Explorations’ bicycles and equipment are returned in the same condition than initially provided excluding normal wear and tear.
We respect the privacy of every individual who visits our website. We take great measures to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of any personal information on this site. All personal information supplied will remain within our organization and will not be shared with any external entity unless prior permission is given. Your personal information will not be sold, distributed or published in any manner whatsoever.
What are Great Explorations' limitations of liability?
Great Explorations is not liable for any loss, damage, injury or expense that I, or my next of kin or personal representatives, may suffer or incur as a result of my participation in travel arranged by Great Explorations. The complete document “Release & Indemnity” is available here.
Do I need to bring my own equipment?
Not unless you want to! Great Explorations bicycle fleets include high performance hybrid and road bikes. The bicycles include fitting and set-up, hand pump, spare inner tube, repair kit, multi-tool, tire levers, seat bag, lock, map case, handlebar bag (hybrid only), and water bottle. If you love your bike so much that you bring it for the tour, no problem.
Please note we do not provide helmets for hygiene and safety reasons. Our guide will be able to help you rent one locally if you do not wish to bring yours.
How fit do I need to be to enjoy my trip?
Our trips are designed to accommodate various fitness levels. If you are reasonably fit, you’ll obviously enjoy these types of trips more. For cycling trips, getting out on your bike before traveling will help and we send you suggestions to help you train if you wish. Our Travel Advisors can help you choose a trip that is suitable for you.
How should I train for my trip?
As a self-analysis before you start, ask yourself if you can cycle 45 km (30 miles) in a morning or afternoon, or go for a brisk walk for two hours. If you’re choosing a biking trip, the best training is to get out and ride; if you are choosing a hiking trip you should be walking or hiking prior to your trip. Slowly, build up distances and intensity so you can do rides or hikes similar to the ones you will do during your tour. No matter where you start, the important is to start and enjoy it. Try to train on two areas, cardiovascular fitness so you fill comfortable with the overall distances and consecutive days of activity, and intensity so you can manage the difficulties during the day, climbs for example. We’ll send you specific training tips once your trip is confirmed.
I consider myself fairly fit - will this tour be challenging enough for me?
For very fit riders, there are extra distances and hills that you can add as an option. Each night your guide will explain the options for tomorrow’s ride. There are some longer routes for the hiking tours as well, but we can help you select a tour that is more challenging in terms of average distances walked.
How do you accommodate people of varying abilities?
On most days of your trip, you’ll have a choice of multiple options. Each day, the guides describe the options and you choose based on how you feel that day. One day you might go for the most challenging. The next day, you may take it easy by choosing the shortest route, leaving more time for relaxation, exploration or mingling with the locals. You and your fellow travelers may spread out over several miles or you may choose to ride or walk together. For your peace of mind, one leader covers the route in a Great Explorations support van, ready to offer assistance, refreshments or a lift back if you’re done for the day.
Our trips attract people of varying abilities so there’s typically someone else traveling at your speed. This is ideal for friends and couples with different paces; they can spend the day with similarly fit travelers and then reunite for the evenings.
How does it work if I do not want/cannot to bike or hike on a day?
If you are not able to ride or hike on one of the days, no worries – your guide will always find the best arrangement to have you (and your luggage) transferred to the next spot.
Do I have to carry my own luggage or gear?
No. On a Great Explorations trip, the support van carries the luggage. Our hybrid bikes have handlebar bags that you can carry personal items that you want with you on your bike, or you can leave a day-bag in the van with an extra layer, or jacket etc. Those on racing bikes typically carry what they need in jersey pockets (phone, light jacket).
What do your trip prices include?
- All accommodations
- Typically, all breakfasts, most lunches, including our amazing picnics, and all dinners except for one, when you’ll have the opportunity to sample local fare on your own
- Expertise and services of one or two experienced Great Explorations Guides
- Snacks and beverages between meals
- Additional guides and experts from the region on many trips
- Van shuttles to support a variety of route options
- Comprehensive Trip Planner with detailed pre-trip information
- Private guided tours at museums, historic sites, wineries and other select attractions as noted in the itinerary
- All gratuities at hotels and restaurants
- Special events, including wine tastings and other select attractions
- Park and other entry fees
- Baggage transfers and porterage
- Great Explorations water bottle
- Great Explorations complimentary T-shirt (if 1st trip) and Jersey (if 2nd trip)
- Welcome and final night wine reception
Please refer to the trip you’re interested in to see the exact list of ‘What is included’.
How do I get to the start of the trip? How will I get to the airport at the trip's end?
Detailed information about starting and ending locations, airport and transportation options will be included in your trip confirmation package. We provide specific information on the recommended way to get to the start of the trip and how to depart. Each tour begins and ends in or near a town accessible by train bus or taxi. If you plan on driving to the trip start, please contact one of Great Explorations’ Travel Advisors for more information on parking options.
How can I arrange my travel before and after my Great Explorations trip?
On some of our trips, we offer Pre-trip and Post-trip Extensions – please refer to the trip you’re interested in on our website or contact directly Great Explorations for some suggestions and advice. Please note Great Explorations does not book plane and train tickets or car rentals. If you would like someone to make those arrangements for you, Great Explorations can recommend travel agents that have offered excellent advice to Great Explorations clients in the past.
Great Explorations does not recommend purchasing non-refundable airline tickets before the confirmation of your tour.
How can I know if the trip will run for the start date I want?
On each trip page, you can see our scheduled trip dates for the next 2 years. If those work for you – great, you may submit your online registration form and select the starting date as listed on our website. If you have different dates in mind that’s all good – please submit your online registration form so we can contact the accommodations and confirm availability for the requested dates. No deposit is due until the confirmation of the trip. 90 days prior the trip departure by the latest, we will inform you on the status of your trip. Please note we require a minimum of 4 participants to guarantee a guided departure.
How far in advance do I need to book my trip?
The earlier, the better. All our trips are ‘on request’ and the confirmation of your trip depends on the availability of the accommodations. As soon as we will have received the first registration form for a scheduled (or non-scheduled) date, we will contact the accommodations and confirm the trip in the next 48 hours.
How much of a deposit is required?
Once your trip is confirmed, US $750 (or equivalent in CAD$) per person is required. For trips in Canada, the deposit is CAD $750 (or equivalent in US$). For custom trips the deposit amount may vary.
What is a single supplement?
Since our prices are based on the assumption that two people will share one bedroom (either sharing a double or twin bedroom), we have to charge a single supplement for solo travelers who requires a private room.
When is the balance of my tour due?
The balance of your trip is due 90 days prior trip starting date, however you may pay the balance at any time between the trip confirmation and 90 days from departure. For custom tours the due date may vary.
How do I book my Great Explorations trip?
You have to fill out our registration form online. On the right hand side of any page of our website, click on the button “Book this trip” then you just have to follow the steps and fill-out the fields. Reservations over the phone are not possible.
Will the price of my trip change?
No, the listed price for your trip when you register is the price you will pay. Even if we change prices after you book, your price is guaranteed.
Do you charge any additional taxes?
Only our Canadian trips require the payment of taxes. For trips in British Columbia for example, GST of 5% applies. Please refer to the pricing on the itinerary page for specifics for the trip you are choosing.
How do you calculate exchange rates when trips are invoiced in USD and paid in CAD or vice versa?
When clients’ preferred currency is different than the one we invoice the trip with (CAD $ for Canadian trips; USD $ for other trips), we use the live exchange rate on the day we send the invoice.
What is Great Explorations' cancellation policy?
Cancellations must be made in writing. All cancellations are subject to a US $500 per person administration fee. The remainder of the deposit is fully refundable up to 90 days before the tour start. If you cancel a Randonnée Tours within 90 days of the tour start, the full trip cost, including the deposit, is not refundable. Because the cancellation policy is strictly applied, purchasing travel protection is highly recommended.
Please make sure to check our most updated Terms & Conditions for updates related to Covid19.
When will I receive more detailed information about my trip so I can start planning?
As soon as the accommodations for your trip dates have been confirmed, you will receive an email including a Trip Planner which list everything you need to plan and prepare for your trip. Approximately 30 days prior to departure, you will receive your detailed Route Instructions, maps, and other information that you will need on your tour. The reason we wait until 30 days prior to your trip, is that we want you to have the latest information possible.