Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions? We’ve got you covered. Read on to peruse our FAQ. If you don’t see your question or want some additional information, please head over to our Contact Page to send us a message. We’ll be happy to help you.
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Self-guided trips are a form of travel where an organization (in this case, BACK&PACK!) designs and plans your travel experience, yet you ultimately execute the itinerary on your own / with your chosen companions. Self-guided travel stands in contrast to guided, group travel programs where you (obviously;) have a guide, travel with a group, follow a more rigid schedule, and have much less flexibility and independence to do your own thing. Yet self-guided trips are also different from the fully independent travel (FIT) experience, where you shoulder the burden of doing everything by yourself.
Essentially, self-guided travel is the best of both worlds. When you work with a professional organization like BACK&PACK, you get a professionally planned trip, destination expertise, local contacts, and meaningful travel support – yet not at the expense of your overall independence abroad. You will have the opportunity to exercise your self-reliance and generally travel with more flexibility and authenticity. Above all, you travel with more peace of mind knowing we have your back should you run into any issues. For more information on the advantages of self-guided travel, head over to our Why Self-Guided? page.
Note, while our trips are predominately self-guided, we utilize guided excursions when we feel it’s necessary for safety or to get the most from your time in a country. Examples of this would be whitewater rafting in Peru or whale watching in Iceland – it’s simply unsafe and infeasible to tackle these challenges on your own! On each trip page (located in the “Costs” tab), we have laid out what guided excursions are part of the itinerary.
Above all, BACK&PACK stands out because of our unique, self-guided travel model. Many guided, group travel programs lack the freedom and authenticity that independently-minded travelers seek. Many regurgitate prescribed itineraries time and time again. Despite what these group travel programs may claim, often this means staying on the beaten path and only scratching the surface of an area or culture.
Traveling on a BACK&PACK trip is quite different. You get much closer to understanding a country when experiencing it on your own. You might find locals are keener to get to know you as an independent traveler vs. coming off a tourist bus with a dozen others.
In other words, BACK&PACK believes in the transformative power of the independent travel experience, yet we are also acutely aware of how a poorly designed and planned trip can be a waste of time and money. We believe it’s best to work with experienced travel professionals and international educators to get the most bang for your buck. Simply put, our goal is to elevate your independent travel experience and maximize your time abroad.
Our support begins the moment you Contact Us! While we have a recommended itinerary for each experience, we want to get to know you – get a sense of your interests and personality. We’ll then get to work planning and fine-tuning your trip based on what we learn from you – your personal goals and expectations.
About a month before your departure, you’ll receive your customized Trip Information Packet (or TIP), which will include all the nitty-gritty details of your accommodations, excursions, contacts, transportation, trip notes, maps, etc. Your TIP will be downloadable and available online throughout your experience.
Before your fly day, we’ll also schedule you for a virtual or in-country orientation with one of our trip experts. Our orientation sessions focus on in-country safety, cultural norms, travel tips, and personal goal setting. At that point, your self-guided travel experience will begin, yet we’ll also be checking in with you periodically throughout your experience (typically once a week as needed). And, of course, if you run into any issues throughout your journey, we’ll be just a phone call or email away. Our expert support staff are available 24/7.
We often get asked what our “favorite” trip is or which is the best. The truth is every one of our travel experiences offers something unique and special, so it’s impossible to choose! The right trip for you ultimately depends on what you hope to achieve while traveling abroad, as well as your personality, interests, and passions.
That said – if we can speak very broadly – we find that Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Galapagos, Iceland, Peru, and Sri Lanka tend to be destinations that are well suited to those looking for more adventure-packed and nature-oriented experiences. India and Spain are focused a bit more on the cultural and language aspect of travel. But we suggest you take a look at all destinations that might appeal to you.
Of course, if you need some help deciding, always feel free to give us a call. We know each destination intimately and will get to know you personally as well. Then we can make some recommendations based on our past experiences.
This depends on your budget and preferences. We price accommodations based on a three-tiered system. At the time of booking, you can select either of the following:
- Budget – While every destination is a bit different in what qualifies as “budget” (i.e., Iceland, one of the most expensive destinations in the world, has a very different standard of hostels compared to developing countries like Peru and India!), you can expect to spend most nights in a hostel – or sometimes a homestay/field houses/community centers owned and operated by our partners (noted in the trip description, when applicable). Rooms are usually very basic and shared with other travelers or volunteers, as are bathroom facilities.
- Comfy – This option is great for travelers that are still adhering to a budget and want the most bang for their buck, yet also want to have a bit more privacy and personal space. For “comfy”, we often book in the same hostels as the budget tier – but instead of a shared dormitory, you’ll have a private room. Bathrooms are either shared or private, depending on the location.
- Splurge – When you consider our highest priced tier, think of “splurge” in the same way a low-budget backpacker might. This option is for those that want a private room with a private bath in a higher quality hostel/hotel. However, note that BACK&PACK is not a luxury travel company. i.e., We do not typically patronize four and five-star hotels.
Regardless of your choice, you can rest assured that every accommodation is hand-selected for comfort, quality, uniqueness, and safety. We also strive to support businesses that share our values in sustainability and responsible travel.
Our trips are open to ages 18+. When designing our travel experiences, we typically have in mind those that are in their college years (i.e., gap year and university students) – as well as those that are a bit older (young professionals) yet not “settled.” However, individuals of all ages and at different stages of life may still be perfectly suitable for our itineraries.
Above all, what unites us at BACK&PACK is a genuine desire for independent, conscious, and authentic experiences outside of the tourist bubble. Note that this often means traveling more simply. You might be a good fit for our trips if you prefer to stay in a hostel where you’ll get to know other travelers vs. a snobby five-star luxury hotel – or perhaps eating at a cheap (yet delicious!) local haunt instead of an over-priced tourist restaurant.
In other words, if you resonate with our mission and travel philosophy – no matter your age or life experience – do give us a call. We will be happy to assist you.
Yes! One of the advantages of self-guided travel is that you can travel solo or in a small group with your friends or family. You can learn more on our Why Self-Guided? page.
We certainly can! Please see “Are flight costs included?” below for more information.
BACK&PACK cannot apply for passports or visas on your behalf, but we can provide the information you need to do so yourself. Please refer to a trip’s “Travel Docs” tab in the “Travel Details” section for the most detailed information on visas.
We’ll be there to help! While we are not able to completely coordinate your care nor offer specific medical advice (we’re not doctors, after all!), our office and local partners/field staff can point you to appropriate medical resources in your area.
Please Contact Us to begin your BACK&PACK journey. As each trip offers some personalization and customization, we will start by collecting some basic information from you – your desired travel dates, number of travelers, accommodation requests, itinerary adjustments, etc. Once we have all the information we need and an understanding of your expectations and goals, we will send you a trip quote and our booking instructions.
Contact Us anytime before your desired start date, and we will do our best to assist you. However, we generally recommend booking at least 3-6 months before your trip. This helps ensure availability for all of your activities, excursions, accommodations, transportation, etc.
Due to the inherent nature of self-guided travel, participants must have a high level of personal maturity – as well as the physical and mental capacity to travel in a way that’s more autonomous and independent. While we do support our travelers in many ways (see “How do you support participants?” above), ultimately each participant is responsible for their safety and well-being abroad.
When considering BACK&PACK as your travel experience provider, we also ask that you take note of our five core values. We seek travel that is responsible, intentional, authentic, challenging, and affordable. If you resonate with this statement, you’re likely a great match for our trips!
On that note – while we certainly kick back and have our share of fun at BACK&PACK – if you are just looking to join the “day in, day out” backpacker party scene, it’s safe to say you will not be a good fit for our trips. BACK&PACK participants should have a respectful demeanor, an open mindset, and – most of all – a commitment to safety and personal responsibility.
At the time of booking, we require a $250 deposit per traveler. Full payment is then due 90 days before your scheduled departure, or at the time of booking if less than 90 days.
For cancellations more than 90 days before your scheduled departure, you have the option to transfer your $250 deposit to a future time frame so long as it’s within 365 days of your original booking’s start date. If you are unable to transfer your booking to a later time, the deposit becomes forfeit.
For cancellations between 0-90 days, the $250 deposit is non-refundable and non-transferable. Yet you may request a partial refund of the balance of your trip fee under the following schedule:
- 61-90 days: 70% refund
- 31-60 days: 50% refund
- 15-30 days: 20% refund
- 0-14 days: 0% refund
Note that – while uncommon – factors outside our control (global travel restrictions, etc.) may require us to temporarily suspend or cancel trips to certain destinations. In the unlikely event that BACK&PACK decides to cancel a trip, we can work with you to find an alternate destination – or you can select to receive a full refund of your deposit and trip fees.
Absolutely! We are open to travelers from all backgrounds and nationalities.
Of course! If you want to experience multiple countries on one trip, simply Contact Us for a custom trip quote. The booking and planning process is essentially the same for multi-country itineraries, and we can help coordinate flights as needed.
Please refer to a trip’s “Costs” tab in the “Travel Details” section for the most detailed breakdown of our fee. Your customized trip quote will lay out everything in even more detail. BACK&PACK fees typically cover:
- Professional trip planning, mentorship, and travel support.
- A customized trip plan and information packet (your TIP – see “How do you support participants?” FAQ above).
- A virtual or in-country orientation focused on safety, cultural norms, travel tips, and personal goal setting.
- Weekly check-ins with our U.S. office or in-country representatives.
- All accommodations. We price based on a three-tiered system (see “What are the accommodations like?” FAQ above).
- Some meals, as laid out in the TIP.
- Major ground transportation, as laid out in the TIP.
- Professional guides, equipment, and tips for any included adventure excursions.
- Entrance fees for cultural sites able to be booked in advance.
- A debrief post-trip focused on learning outcomes and personal goal achievements.
Please refer to a trip’s “Costs” tab in the “Travel Details” section for the most detailed breakdown of costs. Your customized trip quote will lay out everything in even more detail. Typically, BACK&PACK fees do not cover:
- Flight costs to/from the trip destination.
- Any airport or airline-related taxes, baggage fees, flight upgrades, meals, etc.
- Fees associated with obtaining a passport, visa, and/or vaccinations.
- Health insurance and/or travel insurance.
- Any costs incurred due to medical needs or emergencies (doctor’s visits, medications/prescriptions, etc.) and/or emergency evacuation expenses.
- Personal spending money.
- Meals and snacks not expressly covered by your TIP.
- Any personal activities, excursions, or transportation not expressly covered by your TIP.
- Costs associated with cell phone and internet usage.
- Laundry expenses.
As BACK&PACK participants come from all over the world, air transportation is not included in our pricing. You are free to book flights on your own, yet we are also available to coordinate air transportation as needed. Please inform us if you would like to include flight costs in your customized trip plan. We are often able to book very reasonable fares depending on your origination point and dates of travel.
Note that international flight costs are impacted by many variables. Differences between high/low season travel, how far in advance you look, the booking platform you use, even the time of the week you search can greatly impact the fares you’ll find. That said, we recommend that you start to look for flights at least 3-6 months before your departure day. Typically, more of the cheaper seats will be available the further out you book, plus this offers some wiggle room to monitor price trends. Again, we are happy to navigate the process and find a great deal for you, all for a relatively small service fee ($35 per traveler).
Travel insurance is not required, yet we strongly advise every participant to purchase a comprehensive policy that covers unexpected medical and emergency evacuation expenses. Travel is anything but predictable, and you never know when that annoying “extra” insurance expense will pay itself back tenfold. If you need some help identifying a policy that is right for you and your budget, please Contact Us. We’ll be happy to make some recommendations.
Risk management is foundational to our business at BACK&PACK. The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably shaken our world, yet we are working every day to fine-tune our risk management protocols and recommendations for our travelers.
International travel rules and restrictions continue to be in a constant state of flux. As such, we are regularly monitoring travel advisories via the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and country-specific embassies and consulates.
Please Contact Us to discuss current travel options. While many countries are still closed to tourists, others have begun implementing screening/quarantine procedures for visitors. We are optimistic that – with the global rollout of effective vaccines – the situation will continue to improve in 2022.
Given the global uncertainty, we have implemented flexible date change and refund policies (see “What are your payment and cancellation policies?” FAQ above). If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please always feel free to contact us.
Naturally, travel is near and dear to our hearts at BACK&PACK, so we have our biases. However, we do believe it is reasonable to consider traveling at this time. With the rollout of effective vaccines, international travel is becoming safer and should continue to improve in 2022. As such, we are encouraging our travelers to begin planning for these times.
It is important to note that our trips offer distinct advantages over guided, group tours. By its very nature, self-guided travel means you will be more independent – able to control more of your surroundings and the people you spend time with. As the world begins to recover from these unprecedented times, we believe carefully designed and executed independent travel experiences will offer the best balance between personal / community safety and travel support and quality.