How To Choose A Tour Company: 5 Things to Look For

Before the age of the Internet, travelers relied on travel agents for advice on how to choose the best tour company. Today, the Internet provides every traveler with all the knowledge for picking the right company—but how do you sort through all the information? Let’s break down the process of how to choose a tour company.

Five tips on choosing a tour company

1. Reputation

To gauge the reputation of a company, read what others are saying about the business. TripAdvisor is the first place most people begin their research. TripAdvisor is the largest community for travelers and features real customer reviews for tens of thousands of businesses around the world. (Here’s why we don’t recommend reading Yelp reviews.) Link: Read real customer reviews of Discover Hawaii Tours on TripAdvisor. Other sources might include feedback from customer comment cards. Some companies might display comments online—like our Pinterest board devoted to handwritten reviews. Tip: Call your hotel and ask which local tour company they recommend.
Reviews of Discover Hawaii Tours - TripAdvisor

Screenshot: Reviews of Discover Hawaii Tours on TripAdvisor

2. Cost Transparency

You’re about to book a tour online—but what happens if your vacation plans change? Most tour operators charge you a fee if you need to change your reservation. We’ve seen local tour operators charge up to $25 per person just to reschedule—that’s a 25% fee if your tour is $99/person! Discover Hawaii Tours is the only tour company in Hawaii that doesn’t charge you a change fee to reschedule your tour. Just call us 48 hours in advance for a full refund, excluding inter-island tours with airfare.
Tour guide Kanoe parking her bus at the end of the day.

Tour guide Kanoe parking her bus at the end of the day.

Does your tour include lunch? Does your tour include admissions to attractions you’ll visit? Will you provide your own transportation, or does the tour operator pick up and drop you off at your hotel? These are important questions to ask as you do your research. Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying—and whether there are any hidden fees to consider—before making a final purchase. Tip: Check for a money-back guarantee or a refund policy that’s easy to understand.

3. Active Online Community

One of the easiest ways to learn about a company today is by viewing their social media efforts. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest business pages give you an idea of what a tour operator is all about. Does the company actively engage its social media followers? An active online community centered around a business shows that the employees care about their customers. Tip: Follow a tour operator on Facebook and Twitter for more information about the company and travel tips. (Psst, we’re also on Foursquare!)

4. Locally Owned and Operated

In the age of the Internet, it’s easy for anyone anywhere in the world to operate a website that sells tours. (Did you know there are Hawaii tour websites that are based in other parts of the world? It’s true.) Find out where the tour operator is located and ask “Is this a local company?”. Companies that don’t provide an address are probably not local. Tip: Local tour companies employ local tour guides—which means your guides will know the land, its history, its people, and its unique culture.
Just arrived at the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout, Oahu.

Just arrived at the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, Oahu.

5. Know Where The “Terms” Are

We know a lot of people don’t read the Terms and Conditions on every website they visit. But, that doesn’t mean a company should hide their terms from you. When researching which tour operator to use on vacation, look for the “Terms”, sometimes called “Terms of Use” or “Site Terms”. If the tour operator makes it hard to find their terms, be wary. I’ve seen Hawaii tour websites that don’t let you see their terms until the final checkout page, no joke. (Maybe that’s because they don’t want you to know about their $25 change fee!)
Tip: If you can’t find the fine print, be ready to expect the unexpected. (If you’re wondering, our up-to-date Terms and Conditions are located at the bottom of every page on our website.)

More info on how to choose a tour company

Learn more about how to find the most reliable customer reviews on the web.

What’s the next step?

Once you’ve decided which tour company you’re going with, think about which things to do and what to pack for your vacation.

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