Frequently Asked Questions
How do you choose which tours to offer?
Our trips have been specially chosen for their location, their accessibility, their local attractions and their terrain. All of our cycling vacations take place in areas that are safe to travel and within surroundings well-suited for the two-wheeled traveler. They are popular cycling destinations. The local tour operators we work with are very familiar with the area's surroundings and pride themselves on the tours that they have designed. They will assist you in every way possible. If you have any special requests, we will do our best to accommodate you.
I see you list the name of a "Tour Operator". What is that?
A tour operator is essentially the owner of the tour who contracts with us to sell the tours. We work very closely with all the companies whose tours we offer. They have researched the routes and destinations and have planned the daily itineraries with great care. We have also made an effort whenever possible to meet the tour operators personally and to either experience a tour ourselves or at the very least, visit the boat and barges. We are originally from Holland and having cycled in many countries, we are quite familiar with Europe.
Hotel Tour vs. Based Tour vs. Bike & Boat Tours, what is the difference?
Hotel to Hotel tours are exactly what the name implies. You cycle from hotel to hotel, each day enjoying the scenery, each night staying in a different hotel. A Hotel Based tour means you stay in one hotel and cycle the surrounding areas. The Hotel-to-Hotel tours include luggage transfer. The based tours will offer a number of bike routes from which you can choose. On Bike & Boat tours you stay on board a barge or boat. As the boat motors to the next destination, you cycle and meet it there. The convenience with the Hotel Based tours and Bike and Boat Tours is that you only have to unpack once while still getting to cycle from town to town. However, the Hotel to Hotel tours are very exciting and adventuresome, each day brand new!
What is the difference between a self -guided and a guided tour?
Most of the bike only tours are self-guided or individual, although there are tours that offer the option of a guided/group tour as well. For self-guided tours, you are provided detailed route descriptions with maps to guide you along the way. The routes have been tested and surveyed and you are provided a number you can call in the event of a serious mechanical breakdown or emergency. Self-guided tours require self-sufficiency, flexibility, and a sense of adventure. The expectations are that you will be able to use the information provided to cycle independently and will be able to repair any flat tire and handle minor emergencies on your own. We have found that when we cycle self-guided, it is inevitable that we will take a wrong turn at least once!
The majority of the Bike/Barge tours are guided tours though there are exceptions. A tour designated as guided does not guarantee that a guide will actually cycle with you. This will depend on how the tour is organized and the number of participants. Sometimes a guided tour is actually a supported tour in which a support vehicle is available for questions, guidance, and of course, acts as a sag wagon. All of this information can be found in detail on each tour page or you can simply ask us and we can clarify for you.
Road Bike Tours vs. Bike Tours, what is the difference?
Road bike tours usually entail a daily itinerary with a focus on mileage and/or challenges that a varied terrain can provide. Bike tours are completed on a hybrid/touring bike with less mileage and an emphasis on culture and history. This is not to say that some of our road bike tours do not provide the opportunity to explore and enjoy the local surroundings so please peruse all our tours because you might find an area in our road bike category that you will enjoy or vice versa. The biggest difference lies in the type of bicycle that is utilized. A road bike/racing bike has thin tires and racing handlebars that allow the rider to “drop down” low over the bike. The road bikes are lighter in weight and not geared as low as a hybrid/touring bike. The hybrid cycles have a flat handlebar, thicker tires and are a bit heavier than the road cycles.
Can you tell me more about the boats and barges used?
In the details section of each tour page under where you'll stay, the category (and sometimes name) of the ship you will be staying on is listed, and you can click for more details on the type of ship used. For general information about all the barges, please click on barges and boats.
What are the bicycles like?
Most of our trips include excellent bicycles; exceptions to this are some of the Road Bike Tours and possibly the U.S. tours. However, top quality bicycles are always available for rental. You may bring your own bicycle to use (be sure to state this at the time of booking!), for which a discount may or may not apply. Children's bicycles may also be available by request. We request your height at the time of booking since the bicycles are customized before arrival. To learn more about the bicycles we use and see pictures, please visit our Bicycle Page. Though helmets are many times not required nor included, we highly recommend that you bring your own properly fitted helmet. If you are traveling with children, please ask us regarding the availability of helmets. Packing a helmet is much easier than you think and should be on your priority list of what to pack.
What about when bicycles are not included?
For our Road Bike Tours, quality road bikes are available for rental. However, we do understand that many clients desire to bring their own road bikes with them and we encourage you to research your preferred airline for policy and fees.
What can I expect of the accommodations along the way?
We generally utilize 2- to 4-star hotels and always with private facilities in each room. Bed & Breakfasts may also be used. Breakfasts are usually included. For some trips, you will have the option of choosing your level of accommodations. The trip price is based on double room occupancy. Single rooms require a surcharge or single supplement. There are one or two boats in our program in which the cabins have "shared" facilities which are perfect for families.
What food and beverages are included in the trip package?
This will be stated under "what's included" on each tour page. Most of the cycling trips include breakfasts and sometimes dinners, which tend to take place at the hotel or near the hotel. All beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are not included and need to be paid for separately on location.
Do we receive information about the bike routes?
Yes, you will receive route descriptions for all self-guided tours and possibly the guided ones as well. You will receive the route descriptions upon arrival at your first hotel or on board your boat. All the routes have been thoroughly surveyed and outlined beforehand. They traverse as much as possible over good quality and lightly traveled roads, side streets or bike paths. In addition to the route descriptions, your travel package frequently includes information on the main attractions of the town or region you'll be exploring as well as local maps. Several of our tour routes can be lengthened or shortened according to personal preference. You will find more information about the routes on the tour page under "skill level."
How do I get to the starting point of my trip?
You will find this information under "Travel" or "Local Travel" on each tour page. Additional information is provided in the travel packet that we will email to you. For train schedules and the like, the internet is a valuable guide. One useful site for train travel all over Europe is Die Bahn. For travel in France, another good site is www.sncf.com. For driving directions within Europe, Mapquest.com can be useful. Keep in mind that local transportation costs are generally not included, unless stated otherwise. (Please note that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these sites or that they have not been altered, discontinued, or otherwise changed).
Is luggage transfer included?
Luggage transfer is included for all the hotel-to-hotel tours. The luggage will be transferred in the morning, and will arrive at the next destination sometime in the early afternoon. We ask that you limit your luggage to a maximum weight of 20 kg/44 lbs per person. Please refer to the travel information that you will receive from us for details on each tour operator's guidelines in regards to luggage. During the day, it is helpful to have a small backpack to hold items such as snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, rain jacket, pocket change, passport, camera, etc. that can slip into your pannier or handlebar bag and easily removed when you stop at places of interest. We advise, that even though most panniers are described as waterproof, that you put your electronics in a strong, sealed, plastic bag, in the event that you encounter inclement weather.
What kind of clothing should I bring?
Comfortable cycling attire, especially cycling pants or shorts. You may also wish to bring along a padded/gel saddle cover or padded bicycle shorts for extra comfort. Please be reminded of the temperature differences when cycling through the mountains and valleys. Multiple layers of clothing tend to work best for all kinds of weather. We also recommend bringing a windbreaker and full rain gear. We strongly advise that you bring your own properly fitted helmet. It is a good idea to check the local weather conditions just prior to departure. To read more, please visit our Packing Tips page
What is the degree of difficulty of the trips?
We strive to offer a variety of tours that will please all levels of cyclists. The majority of our tours fall within the Easy to Moderate level which means they can be experienced by the beginner as well as the expert, and most children. It is required that you have cycling experience and be in good physical condition. Cycling entails good balance, stopping and starting, sometimes in congestion, and to fully enjoy your bike tour, you should prepare. See each individual tour page for more details on its difficulty level. Our basis for categorizing our tours is below. Please remember that these are general descriptions.
- Easy: Flat terrain. Average daily distances approx. 16-30 miles
- Easy to Moderate: Terrain is mainly flat with some sloping hills. A daily distance can sometimes exceed 30 miles.
- Moderate: Terrain is made of rolling hills with some climbing involved. Itineraries frequently include two or more days with mileage more than 30 miles.
- Moderate to difficult: Climbs are more frequent and strenuous, such as you would find in the Tuscany region of Italy.
- Difficult: Very hilly terrain such as you will find with our Road Bike Tours or some of the tours in Croatia. Daily distances normally exceed 40 miles, but not always. A very mountainous terrain but shorter daily mileage will often times warrant the designation of Difficult.
- Very Difficult: Road Bike Tours with longer daily distances and strenuous climbs.
* Road Bike Tours will, of course, have more mileage and a higher level of difficulty. They usually will have a rating from difficult to very difficult.
What will happen should I encounter problems during the trip?
Though rare, problems do incur! If you encounter a problem, a phone call should quickly solve it. You will receive local emergency phone numbers for this purpose. The local tour operator (or tour guide for guided tours and Bike & Boat tours) will ensure you are back on your way as soon as possible. For the guided tours, your tour guide will be happy to help you fix a flat tire (or any problems with your bicycle). For self-guided tours, you will be provided with an emergency repair kit to fix a flat tire. It will be assumed that you are able to fix your flat on your own. Contacting the local hotline number provided is the most efficient and effective way to solve any problem. Though we are here to help, due to the time difference, you should first try to solve your problem on the local level.
Does a support vehicle accompany us?
Only on certain guided tours. Our experience has taught us that virtually every prepared cyclist is able to make it to the next hotel without difficulties! In the event of an emergency, our local operators will work with you to come up with a good solution.
When will I receive my travel packet?
Starting in 2010, we are no longer printing a large brochure or mailing travel packet. This saves us a considerable amount of time and money, both of which we need to better serve you and to keep our costs low. About 3-4 weeks before the start of your trip, we will email you all the travel documents and trip information you need. If you would like it emailed sooner, we will do our very best to comply. For many of our trips, more detailed information (such as route descriptions) will be provided as well upon arrival at the first hotel.
How large is the group on board a ship on the Bike & Boat tours?
The size of the group is dependent on the size of the ship used, which vary. Usually, group size is between 15 to 30 participants (with a bare minimum of around 10); although, during the busy summer season, the ship is generally always fully booked. There are also larger ships used, especially along the larger rivers. Chartering your own boat is also an option. For more information on chartering a boat, please email or phone us!
Which countries do the participants come from on a Bike & Boat tour?
Mainly, the United States, Canada, Australia and all over Europe, such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Italy. Do expect a multi-national group of participants and languages other than English.
What happens if it rains during my tour?
Most people put on their rain gear, get on their bicycles, knowing that the weather cannot be controlled! If you are on a guided Bike and Boat tour and the weather makes cycling absolutely impossible, the guide will arrange an alternative program which may include a longer visit to one of the towns along the way or a cultural excursion. You can always also stay on board the boat and sail to the next stop. Depending on the country you are in, and type of tour that you are participating in, sometimes you can simply hop a train to your next stop.
When is the best time to book a tour?
Generally, the sooner the better, especially with the Bike & Boat tours, and particularly when traveling with a group. Tours can fill up quickly, especially in Holland when the tulips are in bloom! We are finding that our tours are filling up earlier every year.
When are the tulips in bloom in Holland?
The month of April provides the best opportunity for seeing Tulips blooming in the fields though the actual window of opportunity for this is quite short. The Tulips in the fields are being cultivated for the bulbs and to have a strong, healthy bulb, the flower needs to be cut back shortly after the peak bloom. The weather is the ultimate determinant and may lengthen or shorten the time frame by a week or two. If you miss peak tulip time you will still see flowers in bloom! Holland is the land of flowers! Before the tulips, come narcissi and hyacinths with their enticing aroma. Late-season highlights at the Keukenhof include lilies and dahlias, as well as indoor exhibits. Visit our Tulip Time page for more info.
No problem, just be sure to state your requirements at the time of booking. On select boats, such as the Elodie, a supplement could be incurred if restrictions are extreme.
What if I want to spend an extra night?
Extra nights in certain cities or towns are usually possible, such as before or after a tour. We can assist you in the booking process or provide recommendations for you.
What documents will I need to travel?
A valid passport is required for all European trips. Visa requirements will need to be determined depending on your destination. For US citiizens, please visit the US Passports and International Travel page.
Tell me more about tour pricing
All prices are per person based on double room occupancy. Single bookings will incur a supplemental fee. We sell our tours without airfare. We require a $300 per person deposit at the time of booking after your tour is confirmed. Before final payment is due, we will send you a complete invoice to look over. Type of payment can be either personal check or one of these credit cards: VISA, MasterCard or Discover. Paying with credit card entails a surcharge of 4%.
Why are the prices now in Euros?
We buy the majority of our tours in Euros and it is simply cost-effective for you and for us to sell our tours in Euros as well, therefore, our prices will not change. Only the exchange rate changes. We provide a calculator on the pricing page of each tour so that you can accurately and immediately calculate the price in U.S. Dollars. For tours operated by U.S. based companies, prices will be in Dollars.
What exchange rate do you use to prepare the final invoice?
The exchange rate will be the bank rate plus 2 cents. If more than 100 days* before travel, you can pick a day when the exchange rate is favorable and pay in full that day. It is important to let us know in the morning as we purchase our Euros in the afternoon. As always, an initial $300 per person deposit is required at time of booking, which will be credited to you as partial payment for your tour. Full payment is due 90 days before travel. If you are booking a tour less than 90 days before travel, full payment will be required at time of booking with that day's exchange rate.
*For CHARTERS, payment will be due 150 days before travel.
What is the best way to pay?
We recommend paying by check in USD. Paying with a credit card will incur a 4% fee. International clients can also pay by direct wire transfer into our European account. We will provide all necessary details upon booking.
WiFi is everywhere today and many of the boats and hotels on our tours do provide this service. However, most likely, it will not be what you are accustomed to! Due to the steel construction of the ships and barges, signal strength and speed can be affected and many times hotels offer this service only in the lobbies and public areas. If you are expecting and requiring reliable, strong, and effective WiFi we recommend that you consider your own portable WiFi device which can be rented from numerous companies throughout Europe and the World. We have personally tried Hippocket WiFi in Europe and have been very impressed by their service. You can pick up their device in 1000s of locations throughout Europe or request to have it mailed directly to you before your trip. The pre-trip mailing can be to your home in the USA or Canada or some other location in Europe. After using the WiFi hotspot during your holiday you simply mail it back in a pre-paid envelope from anywhere in Europe. Plans currently start at €31.60 for a 4 day rental or €59 for 10 days.