ABOUT - Protocols

The Protocols page will keep Tour Directors (TDs) up to date with the customs and regulations dealing with travel tours and guide expectations.

General Protocols


•Basic Hours of Service Rules for Passenger-Carrying Drivers - Hours of Service rules differ for property-carrying drivers vs. passenger-carrying drivers. For passenger-carrying drivers:
✓Off-duty Time: 8 consecutive hours
✓On-duty Time: No driving after 15 consecutive hours after coming on duty
✓On-duty (not driving) Time: On duty time means all time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work.
✓Driving time: 10 hours - No driver shall drive more than 10 hours following at least 8 consecutive hours off duty.
✓Weekly limits: 60 hours/7 days or 70 hours/8 days (We use 70 hours/8 days) since our tours are over 7 days in length. •Cell Phones - Tour guides are required to carry cell phones at all times. For guides without a cell phone, this is a suggested outlet for acquiring low-cost, reliable service. ATW reimburses $20/per tour for phone use, this could include calling cards or cell phone minutes. If your phone does not accept texts or you have a phone with limited minutes, please let the office know. Let us know if you cannot receive texts. •Alcohol On Tours - It is strongly encouraged that TDs refrain from drinking alcohol for the duration of their tours for the safety of you and our guests and to protect the reputation of our company. TDs need to be able to drive the tour vans at any given moment and exercise sound judgement when leading tours. •Dress Code - It is important to wear clean clothes even when camping. Always look presentable. •Exchanging Currency - The only place to exchange foreign currency is in the large cities. Make sure pax have adequate funds for food kitty payments, tips, and excursions. DO NOT accept travelers checks as they are not readily cashed any more. Discourage people from wanting to exchange foreign currency. •Electronics/Adapters - Most phones from Europe cannot be used in the USA nor can most electronics. Obtaining adapters and cell phones for guests is not the responsibility of the guides. •Petty Cash - Petty Cash will be given to guides to be used for operational matters for the tour as well as for dealing with an emergency situation. Petty cash is not to be returned as its remaining amount will be subtracted from the total payment due to TDs at the end of their tour. Make sure to keep all receipts for products and services paid with petty cash. Only expenses with receipts will be accepted as expenses. All expenses must be previously authorized by the office. Additional expenses must be okayed by the office (replacement of gear, tires, repairs etc). •ATM Availability - ATM availability may be limited when in more remote areas. Make sure guests have sufficient cash. Have cash on hand to pay for national park entry fees in case they do not accept credit cards. •First Aid - ATW provides small first aid kits that must be carried on all hikes. Supplement your kit with ibuprofen, aspirin, and neosporin as needed (put on your expense report). We suggest you leave meds in the glove compartment so pax can help themselves when need arises. DO NOT hand out drugs. Only suggest drugs and point pax to where they are stored. •Lost Passports - If a passenger should lose his passport, they must report to their nation’s nearest embassy to have one reissued. Costs incurred to transport passenger to embassy is not our responsibility. Never advance any funds to pax unless you know this person well and you know they will reimburse you. The office takes no responsibility for lost items or moneys you advance to passengers to help them.




Tour Arrival


Some groups are met at the airport, whiles others arrive on their own. Check your notes. If meeting at the airport, provide a sign or catalog, and meet the group at the luggage carousel. We will always provide the transfer costs and group flight, if necessary. •Lost Luggage - Always take the hotel list to the airport. If a pax bag is missing fill out a PROPERTY IRREGULARITY REPORT. You will need the addresses of the next 2 or 3 hotels to fill out the report. •No Shows/Delays - Departures for tours must run on schedule. Tours cannot be delayed due to the late arrival of one or a few passengers. Contact headquarters (after hours emergency number) to notify us about any delays or no shows. We may consider if waiting for the delayed pax is an option. If the entire group is delayed then of course we will wait. Closed groups often arrive on ONE group flight. The office will share with you all details of group flights if they are available to us. All groups met at the airport require that you have the flight details for that group. Check before the weekend that indeed you have the flight info from the office. Some groups, especially the fixed departures, pax arrive on their own and the airport transfers are not included. •Airport Arrival - ATW is NOT authorized to pick up or drop off at airports. Therefore we often use hotels near the airport that provide free airport shuttles. Remember many pax do not know that they are traveling with ATW. Make sure to make or use a sign from the other tour company. The place to meet your group is at the luggage carousel or the exit of the luggage area. At some airports we will ask you to reserve a local hotel shuttle to pick up your group (eg Scottsdale or SFO). Groups over 8 or 10 pax are often the same rate as individual transfers, so book a private transfer. It is common courtesy to tip driver $1pp (put this on expense report). COMMON ARRIVAL CITIES:
✓Las Vegas: If staying at La Quinta, use the La Quinta free shuttle unless directed otherwise by office. Call La Quinta from the airport to request shuttle once group has arrived and all luggage has been accounted for. They will direct you to the pick-up location. If you are picking up from International Terminal 2, make sure the driver knows to pick you up there. If staying on the strip, use the Hotel Shuttle ($6pp) or divide groups into taxis (about $20/taxi).

✓San Francisco: None of the city hotels offer free transfers. We use Lorries and either send you vouchers for pax, or we reserve vans if the group is larger than 8 or 10 pax. If airport transfers are part of your tour make sure ATW gives you the vouchers prior to your tour. Generally we will mail or scan and email you the vouchers for your tour. Contact information for Lorries is on the vouchers. Lorries bills us.

✓Phoenix (Scottsdale) / Los Angeles / Denver / Seattle: None of the city hotels offer free transfers. If staying in Super 8, use the shuttle unless directed otherwise by office. Airport hotels often provide free hotel shuttles. If airport transfer is included, ATW will reimburse you.

✓Jackson: None of the hotels offer shuttles, however you can pick up at the airport.




On Tour


Tour Commentary - Tour Commentary must be prepared before the tour. Be prepared to talk about each subject between 5-15 minutes. Ideally you talk while walking or visiting parks. Speak on each national park, history of the US, Native American, fauna and flora, geology, anthropology, states, cities, cultures (Mormons). Do not talk while driving, as accident rates go up 40%. Explain to the group that the reason we have no microphone, is to keep their safety in mind. As they spend all day in the parks, commentaries can be given then. Make sure to play music while driving. Customize your commentary to the group’s interests. Do not talk too long. •Intro Talk - We have prepared a sample intro talk. The intro talk should be held in the hotel lobby/pool/meeting room at 8am on day 2 for no longer than 45 minutes (ask the front desk where you can meet with your small group. ATW does not pay for the room rental). YOU MUST HOLD THE INTRO TALK. Follow our outline and customize your talk to your tour. We provide the intro talk in many languages on this site. The intro talk is available under the forms section in various languages. •Tour Report / Note taking while on tour - Note taking during the tour: Make sure you take notes every day in the van, so pax see that you keep a log of hikes, activities, restaurants visited etc. Ask pax for feedback on restaurants and tell them you are asked to report to the office. We want pax to know that you are always keeping a log of activities, so when it comes time for refunds they will be more intimidated on requesting a refund. •Safety Talk - Needs to be held on every tour that is active (hiking, camping). Follow our Safety Talk outlines, located on the Tour Forms page. You must hold this talk as it is a park requirement. Customize this talk to your tour. The current safety talk covers all regions, from mountains to the desert so only cover what is applicable to your tour. It is available on this site in various languages. Sign the last page and return to the office with your paperwork. •Waivers - Waivers are an insurance requirement in the US and should be signed by all pax on active tours. Never push a group to sign the waivers if they refuse to do so. These should be sent to the office with the end of trip paperwork. •Daily Tour Log - Every day fill out the daily tour log, located in the Tour Forms page. We need to know what you are doing and when in detail. This form is imperative for insurance purposes and to avoid complaints after the tour, such as “we never did this!”. Make sure the group sees you do this and explain to them that you are documenting the entire tour in detail. This discourages complaints and attempts at refunds. When guiding in Hawaii, use the Hawaii version instead. •Tips - All tips are to be paid by pax. The only exceptions are: (1) arrival airport shuttle transfers when airport transfer is included in tour ($1pp) and (2) tips to the Hogan visit in Monument Valley when Jeep tour is included in tour ($1pp). •Gas - On van tours make sure to add the mileage on each gas receipt. We budget an estimated amount of money for gas not knowing how much gas will be. Please try to gas up in cities and not at the park entrances when possible. •Driver Log - DOT regulations require that you fill out your driver log at every change of station/duty. Refer to these instructions. If you are using an electronic tour log, you must have the ability to print on-demand! Police have the authority to halt tour operations if in violation. For up-to-date information, visit the FMCSA website. •Daily Briefings - Every day should have 2 briefings: the evening briefing and recap of the day. The evening briefing covers items such as: wake up time, breakfast time, lunch time, activities planned, options, weather, clothing, amount of water and food needed and next day’s drive time. In the morning, the TD should repeat the briefing describing the trails in details, as well as pull out a map and show the route being driven with the highlights along the way. •Lost/Stolen Gear - If gear is stolen or lost, report to police as soon as possible and notify the office. ATW does not cover any lost or stolen items while on tour. •Premature Departure - If a passenger needs to leave the tour prematurely for personal reasons, try to get a signed statement that the passenger has left the tour for his own reason. Notify the office immediately so we can inform the tour company overseas. •Check-In / Check-Out of Hotels - Call each hotel the day before arrival to confirm number of rooms and any meals included. Call again the day of arrival with your ETA (estimated time of arrival) and ask the front desk to have the key packets ready with meal vouchers if meals are included. Make sure that you are available in the lobby for at least 20 minutes after check-in to address any complaints or issues that our customers may have with the rooms. When checking out, present the hotel a rooming list of all of your passengers to make sure that all room keys have been returned and that all bills have been settled such as room service and mini bar. Point out to the front desk that any uncollected charges will NOT be reimbursed by ATW. •Sickness on Tour - ATW does not cover medical expenses or evacuations. Make sure pax pay for those. Pax have insurance for these events. If they submit a receipt they will get reimbursed once they get home. If a pax gets sick, fill out the Accident Report Form located on the Tour Forms page, and send to the office. If a pax is hospitalized, contact us immediately. Basically we need to collect their medical insurance information. Once we contact their US contact for their insurance, the insurance takes over all logistics. Once you or we have contacted the insurance, you can move on with the tour. This may mean that the client gets left behind. We cannot wait for someone while they are sick. •Optional Excursions - You will be given a book with optional excursions. This is a list of excursions that add great value to a tour. However, most clients book our tours because they do not want to be sold to every day. At your intro talk figure out which excursions you will offer and let pax know so they can plan their budgets accordingly. DO NOT OFFER TOO MANY EXCURSIONS. It is important that the client at the end of the tour feels like the tour was complete, even if he/she did not book an excursion. We have researched the companies in the book. Please do NOT use other outfitters, unless you first clear this with the office. The current list of outfitters is selected for safety, insurance purposes, and commissions for the TD. ATW does not earn commissions on the tours you sell. If you would prefer to use another outfitter, please contact the office so we can add the company to our insurance roster and pre screen the tour company. WE WILL NOT RETAIN TDS THAT GET CRITICIZED FOR SELLING TOO MANY TOURS. Our tours are designed to be complete even without excursions. NEVER sell excursions for more than the rack rate. •Reserving Excursions - It is recommended that guides reserve certain optional excursions as soon as possible. This may require that the guide use their credit or debit card to hold the reservations. If reservations are non-refundable and guests have not confirmed that they would like to join an extra excursion, wait until you have met with the guests themselves to make any reservations. The benefit to the guide for making reservations is often receiving commissions from the companies that you book with. NEVER use a pax credit card to reserve services for other pax. You can however collect the credit card numbers of various pax and use them to make their own reservations. The excursions that need reserving well in advance are: ALCATRAZ, GRAND CANYON HELI TOURS, DURANGO TO SILVERTON TRAIN. If a tour starts in SFO it will be impossible to reserve Alcatraz as the cut off date is too close. Explain this to pax. •Arizon Port of Entry - When entering the port of entry for Arizona, all vans must obtain a permit as a commercial vehicle. If you do more than one tour, obtain a 90 day permit. LEAVE THE PERMIT IN THE GLOVE BOX for the next guide. You will find port of entrys at every border crossing into AZ. The most common one is between Las Vegas and St George, on the southern end of town. There is a $2000 fine if you do not stop here. You must have in your hands: current insurance (the insurance card must match the VIN#), current van registration, current trailer registration, and up-to-date driver’s log. You will not be allowed to proceed if your paperwork is not complete. DO NOT enter the port of entry if your paperwork is incomplete. Do not enter here if you do not have registration or insurance cards. •National Parks - Entering National Parks: At Grand Canyon and Zion you need to fill out an entry form. You can download the Zion entry form here. Grand Canyon NP will debit one of our accounts so you do not have to pay them (send the receipt to the office with your end-of-trip paperwork). Ask the office to send you debit forms if you need more. Every pax has the right to receive ONE color National Park brochure per National Park. Ask for those when entering the park. During high visitation years, the parks may run out of brochures. In this case there is no compensation to the clients even if the pax are upset. Note that some parks can provide you brochures in your clients’ languages. •In the Event of an Accident - Experts in accident investigation advise to: Shut off the vehicle and take the keys out immediately. This is so that any electronic information stored by the car is preserved and not overwritten. Then, work with law enforcement on the scene to obtain all evidence/documents possible. It’s important to get as much as you can. ✓ Police report
✓ Witness statements
✓ Drug test of our driver, at a nearby clinic, if possible, in the hospital if injuries require a hospital visit
✓ Road signs in the area
✓ Vehicle and scene photographs
✓ Driver logs
✓ Maintenance records
✓ Dash cam video (if possible)
✓ Cell phone records, if possible to obtain through law enforcement (GPS, locations, texts, etc.)
The statute of limitations on submitting a claim or opening a case against the driver in an accident is three years. It’s critical to gather and keep as much information as possible surrounding the accident, as it is extremely difficult to do at a later date. •Insurance Issues - Our liability insurance covers all activities that we list on the tour director itinerary. Please follow the itinerary carefully. You are fully insured as long as you stick with the program and the optional book. SHOULD YOU HAVE AN ACCIDENT CONTACT THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY. As an independent contractor you are fully insured through ATW while working for us. Make sure you never use drugs or drink while on tour and you operate safe and sound tours. •Managing Complaints - Dealing with complaints is almost inevitable in this field of work. The best way to prepare yourself to deal with complaints is to be familiar with some of the most common complaints we have. These complaints include: ✓ Restaurant hours do not match European hours (Spanish like to eat at 9 pm, when most restaurants are closed)
✓ Continental breakfasts are not what Europeans are used to (Germans want black bread, cold cuts and cheese for breakfast)
✓ Having only one driver-guide instead of many staff (in poorer countries tea is brought to the tent or a group may have a driver, a guide and a cook, whereas here, there is only one person)
✓ Requesting pax to pitch in with camp chores (this is only done in countries where labor is expensive)
✓ No speaker system on the vans (accident rate increases 40% if a driver also talks), some pax still miss having commentary while driving, explain this is not safe.
✓ No head rests on the benches (this is the only way these vans are made)
✓ Too many pax in each group, making the van tight (this decision is made by the overseas tour operator, not ATW)
✓ Alcohol laws in Utah (limited availability, closed on Sundays)
✓ Campsites are too primitive, pax may expect full service campsites with pools and showers like in Europe and be surprised about national park campsites with cold water and no pay showers; nothing to do in campsites (no bar, restaurant, pool)
✓ Lack of fresh veggies in Utah.
✓ Typical American food.
✓ Long driving distances.
✓ Boring repetitive sandwiches for lunch (TD: be creative and mix it up - please!)
Set the expectations to your group before you even start the tour. The intro talk is your best chance to prevent complaints before they even arise. Remind pax that they are getting good value for money and great, dedicated guides. If guests are unhappy about the staff/guest ratio, simply remind them that this is the only way that we can provide a low cost trip. The USA is not a third world country and thus cannot afford to have several guides at an affordable price. •After-Hours Emergencies - The DOT requires that our driver-guides have at least 8 hours of uninterrupted rest. Therefore for all driver-guided tours, we will tell our passengers that if they have an after-hours emergency, they need to call 911. If there are issues for which they need to talk to someone, they can call the office and get the emergency number, or e-mail us at emergency@at-west.com.

The e-mail will alert us. We will call them back and, if they need us to speak in their language, Susanne can speak in English, German, French, Italian, or Spanish.

If a driver-guide is disrupted at night, they cannot legally drive the next day. ALL COMPLAINTS MUST BE DOCUMENTED ON THE DAILY TOUR REPORT FORM. WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT THEY COMPLAINED ABOUT AND WHAT YOU DID TO REMEDY THE SITUATION. MANY COMPLAINTS COME IN ABOUT 3-5 MONTHS POST TOUR AT WHICH POINT NO ONE WILL REMEMBER THE DETAILS. BE VERY DETAILED WHEN PEOPLE COMPLAIN.




End of Tour


•Evaluations - Towards the end of the tour, hand out the evaluations. The office provides pre-paid envelops. Find 1 or several volunteers to collect the evaluations and send them in VIA MAIL. DO NOT collect them. Pax will not tell you the truth if they have to hand them to you. The office expects 80% of all evaluations returned to us. WE NEED THESE EVALUATIONS TO DEFEND YOUR TOUR AGAINST COMPLAINTS. Europeans are notorious for complaining about things that did not happen. Therefore we need their evaluations to prove their level of satisfaction should they be happy while on tour and then complain when they get back to gain a refund. Please help us to ward off refund issues. •Tour Accounting - Log all of your expenses on the ATW expense report form, located in the Tour Forms page. Please do not use your own spread sheet. We need a receipt for each expense (excluding tips). Sort all receipts by category (park entrance, group excursion, gas, restaurant, group food, parking and tolls, camping, misc) and staple them by category or put them in different envelops. The office will NOT fill out your expense report for you. Submit your receipts together with your expense report. •End-of-Tour Paperwork Chicklist - Put the following paperwork in a manila envelop and send via UPS, using UPS label (included in tour packet): ✓ Daily log report
✓ Expense report
✓ All receipts, sorted by category
✓ Original (white) copies of driver log book
✓ Signed waivers
✓ Signed safety talk forms
Make sure to keep a copy of the UPS label and tracking number until the office has received your packet.





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