US & Canada Discovery Winter
from $3956
Duration: 11 Days
Escape the crowds, embrace the snow and enjoy the magical festivities of Christmas on this 10-day winter adventure through the USA and Canada. Check out the Windy City, dine with an Amish family in small-town Ohio, experience the misty magic of Niagara Falls and skate along the frozen Rideau Canal in Montreal. Explore eclectic and French-infused Montreal, try your hand at sleigh riding in snow-covered Stowe, and finish up among the bright lights and skyscrapers of New York. Along the way, there’s a slew of winter festivals and Christmas markets to explore.
  • Capture the magic of Christmas and enjoy the local festivities. This flexible itinerary is specially designed to show you the winter highlights and some seasonal treats.
  • Venture off the tourist trail on a visit to Amish Country where you’ll dine on hearty homemade cuisine with a local family.
  • Indulge in Canadian local cuisine, from pastrami sandwiches at Shwartz’s Deli in Montreal to ‘beaver tails’ in Ottawa’s Byward Market Square.
  • Get insider knowledge on an orientation tour of Old Montreal with plenty of free time to explore the rest of the eclectic city at your leisure.
  • Get among the Canadian festivities like Christmas markets or the festival of lights in Toronto and Montreal. Depending on when you visit there's always something going on!
  • Berlin - Meal with an Amish family
  • Toronto - Kensington Market walking tour
  • Old Montreal Walking Tour
  • Waterbury - Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour
  • New York - Metrocard
  • Day 1 Location: Chicago
    Welcome to the Windy City, aka Chicago, USA. There are no activities planned until your welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you have time during the day, explore the lakefront paths that Chicago is famous for or opt for a cruise down the river to Lake Michigan. After the welcome meeting, perhaps head out with your new travel companions for a slice of the city’s legendary deep-dish pizza.
    Day 2 Location: Berlin
    Prepare for an early start as your morning begins with a long drive to Berlin, Ohio, which usually takes around 7 hours. As part of the largest Amish settlement in the world, Berlin is at the heart of Amish country in Ohio. Depending on the day of the week, you'll visit a local home for a hearty and wholesome dinner, or breakfast tomorrow morning. Dinner consists of homemade bread, baked chicken, vegetables, salad, pie, beverages and more, while breakfast is scrambled eggs, has browns, sausage, cinnamon rolls, homemade bread, fruit slushees, biscuits and sausage gravy! Your hosts are a local family who will dine with you, so you’ll have the chance to learn there is more to being Amish than eschewing technology.
    Day 3 Location: Niagara Falls / Toronto
    Today the group will make the 6-hour journey crossing the boarder headed for Toronto, Canada.  We will visit Niagara Falls on the way stopping at a couple of different viewpoints to witness the natural wonder in action. Winter is a lovely time to see the falls, as the mist and spray blows in the wind and settles to create oddly shaped ice sculptures. Afterwards, enjoy a free evening in Toronto. Perhaps explore dining options in and around Yonge-Dundas Square, or check out what's playing at the Bell Lightbox cinema in the entertainment district. During winter, the popular Maid of the Mist boat trip does not operate – however, for an additional cost, you can choose to view the falls up close in all their thundering glory on the Wind Cave tour.
    Day 4 Location: Toronto
    Today, join your leader on a tour through Kensington Market – one of the city’s most colourful and multicultural neighbourhoods, where you'll get to experience the history, culture and individuality of the area. After your tour, perhaps take in the views from the CN Tower, catch a Blue Jays baseball game (in season), visit the Hockey Hall of Fame or go shopping in the PATH underground market. This evening, opt for a dinner at a restaurant that supports career development for people in need of skills and employment and embraces a cuisine of local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.
    Day 5 Location: Ottawa
    Drive to Ottawa, (approximately 5 hours) where your day is free to explore Canada’s capital. In the afternoon, perhaps check out the awesome Gothic parliament building, or visit the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History. Byward Market Square is great for a meal, with quality cuisine from all over the world (don't miss the ‘beaver tails’ – an Ottawa trademark and a delicious winter snack). Try your ice skating skills on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Every winter from December to February, 7.8 km (4.8 miles) of the Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s largest outdoor skating rink.
    Day 6 Location: Montreal
    Today it will take around 2 hours to drive to Montreal. Upon your arrival this afternoon, enjoy an orientation walk of Old Montreal where you’ll explore iconic sites in this historic neighbourhood including the famous Notre-Dame Basilica. This is a compact island city, which is great for walking around and exploring on foot. Montreal is also home to more than 80 ethnic communities and enjoys an outstanding reputation for gourmet dining. Perhaps head to one of the many restaurants for dinner in the evening.
    Day 7 Location: Montreal
    Today is a free day in Montreal. For lunch perhaps try the famous pastrami sandwiches at Schwarz's Deli, or relax over a long brunch at Beautys Luncheonette. The winter activities on offer are many. Glide around The Old Port’s Montreal Skating Rink or perhaps visit Mont Royal for some snowshoeing. Depending on exact dates, check out one of the many winter festivals the city delivers each year; Fete des Neiges de Montreal festival (January and February), Igloofest music festival (January) or Montreal en Lumiere festival (late February). For dinner, the unique O.Noir restaurant is a fine choice – it's a social enterprise hosted by blind waiters who will serve your food as you dine in the dark – and proceeds go to good local causes.
    Day 8 Location: Stowe
    In the morning, head south and back across the border into the USA on your way to Stowe (approximately 3 hours). En route, stop at the picturesque Lake Champlain to stretch your legs. A bit further down the road is the Ben and Jerry's Factory, where you'll take a tour and try some ice cream. Depending on time and season, you may also stop at a chocolate factory, a cheesemaker's or a maple syrup farm. The rest of the day is yours to explore.
    Day 9 Location: Stowe
    There's a lot to do in this mountain resort town and with a full free day at your disposal, you won’t be short of optional activities to keep you entertained. Perhaps visit the Von Trapp Family Lodge (once home to the family made famous by The Sound of Music), ride the Mount Mansfield gondola or try some winter activities like sleigh riding, ice skating or snowshoeing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may wish to zip-line through the snow-dusted treetops or if you prefer to relax, head to one of the mountain spa retreats.
    Day 10 Location: New York
    Welcome to the Big Apple! Today you’ll drive through New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut and on to your final destination for this tour, New York (approximately 6 hours). With a Metrocard in hand and some guidance from your leader you'll be set to explore the city that never sleeps, with a free evening to do as you wish. Perhaps check out Central Park and the Empire State Building or take a walk around Times Square and grab yourself a slice of pizza, New York style.
    Day 11 Location: New York
    Bid farewell to your travel buddies as your epic winter discovery ends today. If you’re extending your time in New York, ask your leader for the best tips and tricks to make the most of your time in the Big Apple.
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    Departure Date:
    07MAR2020
    Return Date:
    17MAR2020
    4655NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    28NOV2020
    Return Date:
    08DEC2020
    4775NZD
    available
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    19DEC2020
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    29DEC2020
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    Departure Date:
    04JAN2021
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    Departure Date:
    06MAR2021
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    4655NZD
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    Departure Date:
    27NOV2021
    Return Date:
    07DEC2021
    4655NZD
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    Departure Date:
    18DEC2021
    Return Date:
    28DEC2021
    4655NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    27 Jan 2020

    Trip title

    US & Canada Discovery Winter

    Trip code

    SSKS

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    Escape the crowds, embrace the snow and enjoy the magical festivities of Christmas on this 10-day winter adventure through the USA and Canada. Check out the Windy City, dine with an Amish family in small-town Ohio, experience the misty magic of Niagara Falls and skate along the frozen Rideau Canal in Montreal. Explore eclectic and French-infused Montreal, try your hand at sleigh riding in snow-covered Stowe, and finish up among the bright lights and skyscrapers of New York. Along the way, there’s a slew of winter festivals and Christmas markets to explore.

    Style

    Comfort

    Themes

    Explorer

    Transport

    Private vehicle

    Physical Rating

    2

    Physical preparation

    We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bike are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy the trip to its fullest.

    Joining point

    The Inn Of Chicago

    162E Ohio street

    chicago

    Chicago

    IL

    IL 60611

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    Phone: 31 27873100

    Alternate Joining point

    For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.

    04 Jan 2021 (SSKS210104), 06 Mar 2021 (SSKS210306), 27 Nov 2021 (SSKS211127), 18 Dec 2021 (SSKS211218)

    Cambria hotel & suites Chicago Magnificent Mile

    166 E Superior St,

    Chicago

    IL

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    Alternate Joining point instructions

    Airport shuttles are an easy way to get from the airport to your hotel. We would suggest SuperShuttle, which can be prebooked online in advance. Follow this link for more details, as cost and travel time will vary based on the location you fly into to: https://www.supershuttle.com/locations/chicago-ord-mdw/ Public Transportation: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is one of the simplest and most affordable ways to make your way around the city. CTA bus routes intersect throughout downtown Chicago, allowing you to reach any part of the city with ease. CTA train lines also allow for a fast and easy to navigate an adventure throughout the city! The hotel is located just a few steps from a CTA bus stop on the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Superior St. We are also just a short, 0.5 mile walk from the Chicago Ave. stop on the CTA Red Line. In order to navigate Chicago via the CTA you will need a Ventra Card or Pass to pay train and bus fare. There are card dispensers at every train station where you can purchase a Ventra Pass with cash or a credit card, or you can purchase one at one of over 1,000 retail locations throughout the city, and through the Ventra Website. Midway Airport is home to the Orange Line train route. The Orange Line will take you into Roosevelt Rd. where you will be able to transfer to the Red Line to Chicago Ave. O'Hare Airport is home to a convenient stop on the Blue Line. Take the Blue Line south until you reach the Washington St. stop, then take the transfer tunnel to the Lake St. Red Line stop, and continue North to the Chicago St. stop

    Finish point

    Skyline Hotel

    725, 10th Avenue 49th Street

    New York

    NY

    10019

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    Phone: +1 2125863400

    Finish point instructions

    TO JFK AIRPORT Walk to the subway station at 7th Av & 50th St and take the E train to Jamaica and get off at Sutphin Blvd-Archer Ave-JFK Airport. From there transfer to the JFK Airtrain. Alternatively you can take a taxi for a flat rate of US$45 plus toll and tip. TO NEWARK AIRPORT Walk or take the E subway towards World Trade Center from 50th St to 34 St-Penn Station. Transfer to New York Penn Station and take the NJ Transit Rail to Newark Airport Railroad Station. You can also take a taxi for approximately US$60 plus tip. FROM LA GUARDIA Walk to 50th St subway station. Take the E line subway towards Jamaica Center and get off at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue. Transfer to the Q70 bus to the airport terminals. A taxi to La Guardia costs approximately US35 plus tip.

    Important information

    1. A single supplement is available on this trip.

    Group leader

    Your leader will provide basic information about the sights and cities you'll be visiting but please note that our leaders are not 'tour guides' in the traditional sense. They are adventure travel specialists and are there to organise your trip, arrange activities and help with questions or problems you may have while on your tour. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations. They are also responsible for driving the van and navigating across the country. The allowable driving times for drivers is strictly controlled in North America. This ensures our drivers are well rested and are not over-tired from too many hours on the roads. While your group will have a minivan for all included activities on the trip, please note that the services of the van and the driver may not be available for your use during free time, or after you have arrived for the day. If you need a special trip into town you may need to arrange transport or a taxi. We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. It's strictly forbidden for non-qualified rangers to present any information about some National Parks in North America, therefore we adopt a system (as requested by the park rangers) where our leader will encourage travellers to visit the information centres in the National Parks for details about the site. We have designed our trips to make the most of your time in the States, but please understand that there are certain times during each day that your leader will need to be off duty from work. This includes having meal and rest periods and personal time. Your leader will provide you with all the important information you need to embark on your own explorations.

    Safety

    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety-field

    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

    DRINKING SAFETY: Please note that in the US the legal drinking age is 21 and in some parts of Canada it is 19. When out drinking in bars please be responsible and take the same precautions you would at home. Don't accept drinks from strangers, and don't let your drink out of your sight. It is always a good idea to go out with a group and stick together.

    Communications

    WIFI Our vans in the USA are equipped with free WiFi however a fair use policy applies. It is limited to 5 users at one time, and is suitable for updating your Facebook status or sending an email home - not for streaming video or radio. Please be considerate of your use so that there is enough to go around. Most hotels have WiFi access although on occasion you may need to pay extra for it. CHARGING BATTERIES North American electrical outlets operate at a lower voltage than much of the rest of the world. This means that your devices may take longer to charge than you are used to, or may say that they are not charging, even though they are. You may also notice that some hotels have powerboards or multiple appliances plugged into one socket. Because of the lower voltage, this is not the safety issue that it may be in other parts of the world. You can also recharge batteries on the van, although obviously this will need to be shared between everyone. You will need to bring a 12 volt/cigarette lighter adapter to plug your USB charger into.

    Visas

    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking Entrance requirements to the USA have changed in recent years so please read the following instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to the USA before. PLEASE NOTE: Also please note, all travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov Apply for ESTA no later than 72 HOURS (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the United States. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program (meaning a visa isn't required) however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html Many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel to the USA without a visa for a 90 day stay, if they meet certain requirements. Travellers from all Visa Waiver Program countries must present a machine-readable, biometric passport (which meets US requirements) at the port of entry to enter without a visa, otherwise a US visa is required. You can get further information from the US Department of State website: - https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit.html All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14.00 fee paid by credit or debit card. You should apply for your visa waiver authorisation at least 1 week prior to travel to avoid any last minute delays. You will require your passport details and your address in the US (you can use the starting point hotel/hostel address). Please note that if there is any discrepancy between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets and even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere. If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan or Yemen since 1 March 2011, you will no longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html CANADA Most nationalities except South Africans do not need a visa for Canada, but will need to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). See http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp for details and to apply. There is a fee of CA$7 for this service. Travellers will need an eTA before they can board a flight to Canada. If you are crossing the border by road, then you do not need to apply for an eTA. Please note there are many third-party sites offering visa services and charging a fee however The Government of Canada website is the only official place to apply for an eTA visa. Please note, if you hold dual Canadian citizenship, then from 30 September 2016 you won't be able to apply for an eTA and will instead need to enter Canada using your Canadian passport. If you do not have a Canadian passport, you'll need to apply for one in advance of travel. As always, please check your individual requirements with your local embassy/consulate or a visa service.

    Why we love it

    Capture the magic of Christmas and enjoy the local festivities. This flexible itinerary is specially designed to show you the winter highlights and some seasonal treats.

    Venture off the tourist trail on a visit to Amish Country where you’ll dine on hearty homemade cuisine with a local family.

    Indulge in Canadian local cuisine, from pastrami sandwiches at Shwartz’s Deli in Montreal to ‘beaver tails’ in Ottawa’s Byward Market Square.

    Get insider knowledge on an orientation tour of Old Montreal with plenty of free time to explore the rest of the eclectic city at your leisure.

    Get among the Canadian festivities like Christmas markets or the festival of lights in Toronto and Montreal. Depending on when you visit there's always something going on!

    Is this trip right for you

    You'll be travelling in a van with a group of travellers on long journeys, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This is all part of the adventure and you might even make some long-term friends. Part of travelling with Intrepid means respecting local cultures and sensibilities. That way you get the most out of your interactions with local people. As this trip includes a visit to Amish country, we ask you to dress respectfully and please don't take photos without asking. Traffic around the cities of New York and Toronto can be quite hectic and busy, especially during holiday periods. There may be delays, so be prepared to take part in car games to keep yourself entertained. Some of the cities on this itinerary are best explored by foot. You'll get the most out of your trip if you're reasonably fit and able to walk moderate-to-long distances. However, public transportation in these cities is modern and reliable. It will be cold. Very cold. You'll need to make sure you have appropriate gear such as a pair of warm winter boots. See our packing list (http://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/packing-list) for a full recommendation of what to take. Highways are generally well maintained in this part of the world and ploughed regularly, however there can occasionally be disruptions to transport due to storms or heavy snow. Winter is a great time to travel but it does require some flexibility.

    Health

    All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared. PERSONAL MEDICATIONS: Medical prescriptions written outside of the US and Canada aren't accepted at pharmacies. Therefore, we recommend you bring along your personal medications in the necessary quantities for your trip. DEHYDRATION & SUN PROTECTION: The most likely medical incidents to occur on our trips are dehydration, over exposure to the sun, and twisted ankles from walking on uneven ground. While hiking please ensure you drink enough water to remain hydrated as some hikes don't have refill stations for your water bottles. The sun (especially in desert areas in the West) can be harsh, particularly in the warmer months. Ensure you apply adequate sun protection cream and wear a hat. Travelling with sunburn can be uncomfortable.

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.

    Money matters

    It can be difficult to exchange money while on the road so we suggest that you bring some cash in US dollars/Canadian dollars, or exchange/withdraw money at the airport when you arrive, or at least before you start the trip. Your individual budget will depend on your personal plans. Think about how much you want to spend on souvenirs, shopping, entertainment, food, drinks, excursions and attractions that aren't included in your trip (eg. helicopter flights etc). Please bear in mind that North America has endless things to do and see. Not all possible optional activities are listed in our Trip Notes. The cheapest and most convenient way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which are plentiful throughout all cities and towns, and even at roadside stops. This allows you to draw funds from your personal account at a superior exchange rate. Bank fees for these withdrawals can be either a flat rate or a percentage of the amount withdrawn. Check with your bank for information on their international fees. Don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. When using your debit card, check your receipts and keep them to compare against your statement when you get home. Occasionally banks will also allow cash advances on your credit card, but it's not recommended to rely on this method only. We recommend that you carry some cash for situations when ATMs can't be accessed. SPENDING MONEY: When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document). TIPPING If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips. The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: Restaurants: We suggest 18% to 22% of your bill. Bars: Recommended US$1 for each drink ordered to ensure you are served again. Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$5-20 per day for local guides. Ask your leader for suggestions as to what is appropriate for a given activity. Your Group Leader: You should also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. Your leader works long and hard for you. He or she may well become your friend during the trip but they do need to pay their bills. If the leader's performance meets or exceeds your expectation they will gladly accept a tip from you. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however you should plan to tip your leader US$7-10 per person per day. Another charge not normally listed in North American costs is the state and federal taxes, keep this in mind when your bill comes out slightly higher than the original price listed. Tipping in North America can be confusing. If you'd like some more detail about when and how much to tip, see http://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/tipping-guide-united-states/ DEPARTURE TAX All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket. Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less. CONTINGENCY FUNDS We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.

    What to take

    LUGGAGE RESTRICTIONS: All luggage is carried in trailers or inside the vehicle so please don't bring more than one medium sized bag, backpack or suitcase (20kg maximum) per person. Your suitcase/rucksack may get some rough handling, so make sure it's a tough one. A small daypack and camera may also be carried inside the vehicle.

    CLIMATE & CLOTHING: Keep in mind that our dress tends to be informal. Take a practical selection of clothes for both warm and cool climates to suit the season. You may encounter a wide variety of temperatures en route due to altitude and unforeseen weather conditions - so be prepared! Make sure to pack a warm fleece and a waterproof jacket as well as comfortable walking shoes.

    WATER BOTTLE Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation or simply refill with tap water (your leader will advise whether tap water is safe to drink in your destination). When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

    Climate and seasonal

    NATIONAL HOLIDAYS: The following national holidays are observed in the US, which can affect our itinerary as traffic can be extreme, and shops, restaurants and attractions can be closed: - New Year's Day - Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Washington's Birthday - Memorial Day - Independence Day - Labor Day - Columbus Day - Veterans Day - Thanksgiving Day - Christmas Day

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information. CANNABIS Recently cannabis was legalised in Canada, however taking it across international borders, including into the United States is illegal. For more information: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/

    Feedback

    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please contact our operations base on 1-800-786-8735 (toll free in the USA and Canada) or +1 707 523 1800 (office hours). You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete. POLICE AND AMBULANCE In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA and Canada. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0. BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/contact-us CRISES AND EMERGENCIES In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency please contact our local ground representative on the number below (remember to drop the +xx country code if you are calling from within the country): +1 707 483 9460

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation are matched by Intrepid Group dollar for dollar (up to AU$10,000 per donor and AU$500,000 in total each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And because Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

    Accommodation notes

    The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

    Transport notes

    FLEET Our large fleet of vans are fully equipped with dual air-conditioning system, V8 engines and any camping or cooking equipment needed for your trip. Most have cloth-upholstered seats and carpeted interior with radio/tape or CD players. Your baggage is transported in a trailer which is towed behind the van. The vans are regularly serviced in our own maintenance facility and continuously checked and serviced by a well established network of maintenance and service facilities throughout the continent. However, unforeseen maintenance problems can still occur while on the road and we appreciate the patience of our travellers as we make necessary repairs as quickly as possible. WI-FI Beginning 01 January 2013, all private vehicle trips through the United States, including Alaska, will feature mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Please note that trips in Canada will NOT have Wi-Fi hotspots in your van. Whilst travelling in the van, use Wi-Fi to check-in back home and share your background and cultural interests with your fellow travellers. Some usage restrictions may apply depending on demand and use. Hotspot devices provide wireless connections for up to five devices (up to two for optimal service and speed). Many camp grounds and hotels supply Wi-Fi for additional use outside the van. DRIVING TIMES All driving times mentioned in our itinerary are intended as a guide only and represent an estimated driving time - not including lunch stops, fuel stops, photo stops, traffic congestion, adverse weather conditions or any last minute alterations to the itinerary for any unforeseen circumstances. Please note that there are some long driving days on this tour - we'll have some starts as early as 7am and late arrivals at our final destination, sometimes after dark). As always, your group leader will make stops for viewpoints, short walks and lunch/rest breaks to help break up the journey. We recommend you are fully prepared for these long travel days by reviewing our notes and indicated drive times. Some travellers prefer to bring pillows on board for added comfort, others prefer reading material or games and puzzles. The reality is that to get from one fabulous location to another, the distances are great and we like to think at least some of the adventure is in the journey - not just the destination. You'll be on board with up to 12 other passengers plus your group leader so patience and cooperation goes a long way in making this journey a comfortable one. SEAT BELT POLICY Safety is our priority and therefore our travellers are asked to sign a document on Day 1 of the itinerary indicating your understanding of our seat belt policy.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SINGLE TRAVELLERS: Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk. MEALS Please note that day-by-day meals are indicative only. You will receive the same number of meals, but they may not happen exactly on the days indicated. Your leader may change the days that meals are provided to best suit the needs of the group and the timing of the activities on your trip.

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