Off the Beaten Path Tours Frequently Asked Questions & Answers (FAQ)
Who is Off the Beaten Path, LLC?
Off the Beaten Path, LLC (OTBP) is an American owned and operated tour company with 18 years experience specializing exclusively in engaging, active small group tour travel in France. Unrivaled expertise and inspiring, exclusive itineraries within France plus incomparable quality and value set Off the Beaten Path, LLC apart from non-France based and multi-destination tour companies. The company has its' main reservations and operations office in Pennsylvania, USA. Travel in France is the company's sole focus and specialty! Travelers and publications rate Off the Beaten Path, LLC as one of the BEST tour companies worldwide for active, small group walking, wine tasting and gourmet tour travel in France.
OTBP has regularly scheduled 6-day tours to Provence, Loire Valley and Bordeaux wine country. In 2013, Dorodgne and Champagne Tours are also available on request for small groups of minimum 6-8 persons. Check out Off the Beaten Path, LLC's 2013 Dates and Prices page. Read more About Off the Beaten Path.
Are Off the Beaten Path, LLC tours in English?
Yes. All tours are conducted in English and designed for an English speaking clientel. The majority of OTBP Guests come from the U.S.A., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England. Guests have also come from the Caribbean, Singapore, the Philippines, South Africa and Israel.
Are Off the Beaten Path Tours non-smoking?
Yes. All Off the Beaten Path tours are NON-smoking. Thank you for respecting this policy.
Who are Off the Beaten Path, LLC tours designed for?
Off the Beaten Path, LLC active small group tours are designed for the discerning active traveler of all backgrounds, from the seasoned traveler and independent traveler to the first time traveler to France. Join one of the our tours as a solo traveler, a couple, a small group of friends or family, or bring your entire travel club, affinity group, womens organization or wine society. No culinary, history or other type of experience is necessary. This is active travel at its finest! Join OTBP for the vacation of a lifetime to discover France as an insider and make new friends along the way.
Do I need to be an expert to take your tour?
Not at all. The idea is to learn about French culture, traditions, wine, daily life, artisan lives and culinary practices in a fun and relaxing environment. Our tours offer great learning opportunities for everyone. Off the Beaten Path guides are very skilled at adapting their discussions to the general level of knowledge of the group, providing good introductory information for novices, and more advanced discussions for those who have more experience or a specialty interest. It's vacation and our tours are all about having fun, enjoying new experiences and being active!
What are the guides like? Are they knowledgeable about history, food, customs, culture, traditions and wine?
Off the Beaten Path evaluates each guide for his/her scholarship, experience and companionship: only choosing those who meet our high standards, as well as those we would want as traveling companions ourselves. Off the Beaten Path guides hold degrees in various educational disciplines, are accomplished professionals within their specialty, and many are published authors. All Off the Beaten Path guides are also Americans with dual nationality (American-French citizenship), are multi-lingual and reside in France. They bring a wealth of local information and history to enrich each guest's experience, and have personally been selected for their comprehensive understanding of French culture. You will find that Off the Beaten Path's team of guides are wonderful traveling companions, whose knowledge and sense of fun and positive attitude make each day a wonderful experience.
Can I change my mind and transfer to another trip even after I've already made a reservation?
You may transfer from one trip to another up to 91 days before trip departure without penalty (excludes custom designed-private tours) after which time our cancellation policy applies. When transferring to a different date or trip, if the trip costs more than your original trip, you must pay the difference. This credit can only be rolled over once and you incur no other penalty.
What is included in the tour price?
Off the Beaten Path tours include most everything. Please review the "Tour Price Includes" section for each individual tour for complete details.
What is required to book a tour?
It's easy! Take a look at the tour schedule, then either email us directly to request if space is available for the tour and date of your choice, or book your tour directly on-line using our secure online booking form (immediate confirmation is provided using the online reservation form), or complete and print a booking form and fax us your reservation using our secure printable booking form. Feel free to contact us with any questions that you may have. The payment for the balance remaining due for your chosen tour is due 90 days prior to the tour start date and we send you a final payment invoice prior to the final payment due date of your tour. We also send you complete tour information package for your tour about 30 days prior to your tour departure date.
Purchase Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance for all of you vacation travel.
How should I tip my Off the Beaten Path guide(s)?
While OTBP provides very competitive salaries to its' guides, it is customary to tip tour guides and drivers, as a show of appreciation for their hard work and services during your tour. Gratuities (tips) to tour guides and drivers are not included in your tour price. Our guests often ask us for guidelines on tipping, so these are presented as a service so you can know what industry standards are. The following are industry recommended tipping suggestions - It is recommended that each individual guest gives the following gratuities to each guide at the conclusion of the tour : 120 euros to the lead guide, 50 euros to the assistant guide and 20 euros to the driver. Some guests tip more, some tip less. Thank you for your consideration and gesture of appreciation to our guides and drivers!
How far in advance do I need to reserve my vacation?
It is never too early to reserve space on a trip. We apologize if the trip you want is full, however we take bookings daily via our "real-time" on-line reservations system, as well as by fax and email, and space often fills up months to as early as 18 months to a year in advance.
Is my money secure with Off the Beaten Path, LLC?
Yes. Off the Beaten Path Is fully licensed and insured carrying a $1M Professional Liability/Errors & Omissions policy.
Off the Beaten Path, LLC holds a website identity assurance warranty. Travelers are insured for up to $100,000 per tour reservation booking when relying on the information provided by GeoTrust IdAuthority on this site.
How does Off the Beaten Path, LLC manage tour monies paid by travelers for its' tours?
All tour monies paid by travelers towards the company's programs are deposited into a managed trust account, and are only released to suppliers for payment of services included on your tour on tour departure day.
Who travels with Off the Beaten Path?
Off the Beaten Path travel guests come from a variety of professional backgrounds, but most importantly guests share a common passion for active experiences, such as participating in theme walks, cooking classes, wine and cheese tasting and much more, while vacationing abroad. They enjoy learning about French history, and share an interest and curiosity for learning more about French culture and culinary traditions. The company regularly welcomes Corporate Executives, CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, Movie Producers, Educators, Scientists, House Wives/Stay-at-Home Moms, Medical Professionals, Designers, Lawyers, Teachers/Professors/Educators, Doctors, Journalists, Business Owners, Investment Bankers, Accountants, Actors, Artists and Musicians.
What are the ages of Off the Beaten Path travelers?
The Age of Off the Beaten Path travelers varies with the average ranging from early 30's to mid and late 60's. Some travelers have been younger, some older, but the above range is the most typical of our travelers. We regularly welcome couples, singles, solo travelers (widowed or married traveling without a spouse), groups of friends, family groups, families comprised of parents traveling with adult children, family groups comprised of siblings & their spouses, mother-daughter/father-son groups, members of various travel clubs/organizations, families of our tour guides. Most importantly, you will meet travelers with a diversity of interests and occupations who share a love of active travel.
How large will my group be?
The maximum group size on all Off the Beaten Path tours is 8-16 guests. Our experience has been that limiting our group size to 8-16 guests per tour creates the ideal ambiance for guests to easily mingle and get to know each other, yet still maintain their independence. We also limit our group size in order to preserve each guest's personalized experience, and ensure our famous quality customer service.
What kind of transportation is used for the tours?
All ground transportation is provided during the entirety of each tour by comfortable, spacious, air-conditioned mini-vans.
Where might I have seen articles or features about Off the Beaten Path, LLC tours of France?
Forbes Traveler Magazine, The New York Times, The Travel Daily, The Wine Commentator, France Magazine, Wine Spectator, Travel Lady, The Telegraph, Specialty Travel Index, Travel & Leisure, The Dauphine Libere, OLN, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Luxury Living, Cultural Travels, Shaw Guides, Travel Channel, Vine to Wine, Courier Magazine, Travel Concepts, Travel Intelligence: Best of France, International Herald Tribune, Trip Advisor, CNN Traveler, Worldweb Travel Guide, Tampa Tribune, La Provence, France Guide, Food and Travel, Decanter, Gourmet Traveler and many more.
Will most of the tour members be from the USA?
No. Travelers on Off the Beaten Path tours come from the USA, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand with a small percentage coming from the Caribbean, Singapore, Hong Kong and South America.
How many hotel changes does the tour group make during any given tour?
NONE. There is NEVER any hotel hopping on Off the Beaten Path tours. We select 1 unique historical, luxury hotel that reflects the charm and culture of each particular region for which a tour is offered, and that is centrally located for each tour's daily scheduled activities and excursions.
When is free time or leisure time included in a tour?
We include free time (leisure time) at various times throughout each day on every tour to ensure guests personal freedom, time to explore independently, shop at local markets, boutiques and artisan galleries and to enjoy time at local cafes. Aside from the daily scheduled activities and excursions, there are also many daily options available to guests on every tour.
How are the tours structured?
Having 18 years experience in the tour industry, specifically with small group touring, we have found that our guests are generally more interested in active experiences, culture, people to people experiences and guided tours of museums and sites. Our guests like to visit private homes, and pursue their hobbies when they travel. Our guests enjoy being able to shop locally for items, such as, collectibles, art and local products. Our guests tend to do more homework and want a meatier trip, and also want to enjoy down time or leisure time to explore independently. All of our trips are designed based on these factors. Each trip offers organized activities and excursions daily combined with periods of leisure time each day. Our tours encourage individual approach and pursuit of your interests, as well as introducing you to new experiences and people during each trip.
Will I order off the menu, or have set menus at each meal?
Our guests rave about our choice of restaurants on our tours and the selection of menus offered. Many meals are included in your tour. Some will be at Michelin-starred restaurants; others at very fine, typically-local establishments that offer finely prepared gourmet or bistro fare. Lunches will be full meals, at least appetizer-main dish-dessert; dinners may include more courses. Sometimes you'll have a choice of dishes; other times, everyone will eat the same dishes. In that case, the dishes will be expertly selected to ensure that everyone enjoys their meal. Meals offer great opportunities to discuss food and wine pairing! Wine is always included with meal on Off the Beaten Path tours.
Is wine included at meals? What kind of wines are included at meals?
Yes, wine is included at all scheduled meals together. We expertly match premium wines from the region we're visiting with each dish. Meals offer an excellent opportunity to try wines from appellations not available to guests at home, and to introduce guests to some select wines worth a favorable mention or that are exceptionally appreciated by the locals.
What size and types of hotels does Off the Beaten Path use on its' tours?
We select small (less than 30 rooms) boutique hotels of historical character and charm that offer well appointed rooms, comfortable king and queen size beds, private ensuite bathrooms and excellent modern services and amenities, plus 24 hour front desk service and security.
What are the hotel rooms like on Off the Beaten Path tours?
Hotel rooms are large, well appointed, individual, private rooms with large comfortable queen/king size beds and fully equipped, private, en-suite bathrooms (tub/shower, sink, toilet, etc.) that we have personally selected and have determined to meet our strict criteria. Rooms are larger than traditional European standards. We have been working with the same hotels for many years and have established relationships of privilege. Thanks to these privileged relationships, we always have the BEST rooms and services reserved exclusively for our guests.
What kind of shape do I need to be in to enjoy my trip?
Off the Beaten Path trips are designed for active travelers, walkers and multi-activity enthusiasts. You certainly don't have to be a fitness guru to enjoy our tour programs, but you will get more out of your trip if you are reasonably fit. Travelers should be able to walk on a daily basis through a castle, village, winery and stand around during some specialty visits (sometimes there is no place to sit and typically there are no elevators).
How challenging are the walks on your tours?
Walks are generally quite easy, and suitable for persons who walk on a regular basis. Click the link to review the detailed Walk Ratings for all of our tours.
Do I have to participate in all of the scheduled activities of the tour?
No. Each trip offers the flexibility to opt -in or -out of an activity so that you always have the choice and flexibility to participate in as many or as few activities of interest to you. There will always be alternative options available if you don't want to participate in a specific scheduled activity or excursion.
Are any portion of your tours subcontracted?
No. No activity or excursion on any Off the Beaten Path tour is ever subcontracted to a third party. All guides, hosts/hostesses, chefs, artisans, etc., work directly and exclusively with Off the Beaten Path, LLC.
If I am traveling alone, will you find me a roommate or can I have a private room?
Prices are based on double or twin occupancy. If you would like a roommate, the company can often pair you with one (of the same gender). If no roommate is available, the single supplement fee applies.
Where do your tours start and end? How do I get to the starting place?
Most of Off the Beaten Path tours begin and end with a group transfer scheduled in the closest major city to the region of your tour. For example, transfers for the Loire Valley Tours are from and to the city of Tours, specifically the St. Pierre des Corps Rail Station. This allows flexibility for our clients, who often have other travel plans in Europe before or after our tour. All tours start and end near a major French city. You can fly into most cities via a connecting flight from Paris, or you can fly into Paris and then take a high-speed TGV train to our starting point. In every case, a group transfer will be available once you arrive, and at the end of the tour. The company is not a travel agency, so we are unable to book flights or train tickets. However, a company representative will be able to give you all the information you need to make your travel plans, and will be happy to give you further assistance by telephone or email.
How should I pack? What clothes are most appropriate for your tours?
Try not to over pack; you will not wear all your clothing! A suggested packing list will be enclosed in your tour information package. Pack comfortable light weight, casual clothing. It's vacation and we want our guests to feel and be as comfortable as possible during our daily activities and excursions. Our dinners together include a mix of Michelin star and casual bistro style restaurants. For men we suggest a business casual ensemble (no tie or jacket necessary unless it's your personal preference) and for women we recommend a casual dress for dinners.
What is the best time of year to take one of your tours?
Off the Beaten Path tours are scheduled between the months of March and December. France has a temperate climate, with generally mild conditions throughout the year. Generally we recommend the months of April, May, June, July, September and October as the most comfortable months for travel to France.
Do you offer any incentives for Private Tour Organizers or Group Leaders?
Yes! If you have a group of at least 12 people, Off the Beaten Path can offer you a FREE tour as the Group Leader. This offer can not be combined with any other ongoing promotional offers. Please Contact Us for complete details.
Can I reserve my Off the Beaten Path vacation with my travel agent?
Yes, If you prefer to have your travel agent handle your booking, please have him/her contact us directly.
Do you offer self-guided tours?
No. Off the Beaten Path has developed trusting, long-term relationships with the professionals you meet during each tour program, and many have committed to working exclusively with our company, and in return ask that Off the Beaten Path have one of its representatives present to ensure that excursions and activities scheduled are kept. Off the Beaten Path also believes that you will get a great deal more out of your experience, if you have the guidance of an expert guide for the majority of your travel through France.