Potholes aplenty for ‘arrive & drive’ Phoenix hiking tours

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • September 25, 2023
A Wild Bunch Desert Guides guests stops to admire wild flowers during a guided Phoenix hiking tour in the Sonoran Desert.
(TOP) A Wild Bunch Desert Guides guests stops to admire wild flowers during a guided Phoenix hiking tour in the
Sonoran Desert. (COVER) A couple on a guided Phoenix hiking tour with the Wild Bunch poses in front of a
picturesque backdrop.

With a new wave of visitors coming to Arizona -- as a new travel season officially starts Oct. 1 –  I wanted to devote this Blog to addressing a sticky situation that annually haunts guests of every Phoenix adventure tours company.

In fact, the question came up again recently during a call with some returning guests for my Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

“We are flying in Friday,” the caller explained. “We land at 1:30 p.m. and want to go on one of your 4 p.m. guided Phoenix hiking tours. Is that possible?”

The short answer: Yes, but it is complicated.

Generally, I discourage guests from seeking to do anything more than unpack, hit the pool and make dinner plans on the day they arrive in the Valley of the Sun.

But I understand many have tight travel windows and are trying to squeeze in everything on their wish list – especially if planning an extended weekend getaway with their significant other.

Yet, even while returning guests are especially heartwarming because I know that my little mom and pop specialty shop has earned their trust – and they know to call me to talk through a special request – I have to be brutally honest with them about our cancellation policy and how we manage the business side of our private, customizable service.

Hikers and their Wild Bunch guide take a quick break to admire the scenery on their Phoenix adventure tour.
Hikers and their Wild Bunch guide take a quick break to admire the scenery on their Phoenix adventure tour.

Importance of 48 hours to Phoenix hiking tours
Same as most anybody in the travel industry, my Wild Bunch Desert Guides have a 48-hour cancellation policy, which I detailed in this previous Blog.

Guided Phoenix hiking tours are no different than the airlines, resorts, hotels or Air BNB’s. We all book in advance and reserve your desired spot with a credit card.

Yes, plans do inevitably have a way of changing – and if say you need to cancel those plans, doing so 48 hours or more ahead of time is certainly within your rights and totally without a problem.

We understand and hope to see you next time!

However, cancelling without penalty inside the two-day window should never be expected.

In those 48 hours leading up to your Phoenix adventure tour, entities such as the Wild Bunch have already passed on other bookings – and there is little hope of replacing that late cancellation. There is not a waiting list behind you waiting to take that spot.

So, you will get charged to compensate the five-star guide (or guides) who have reserved that time from their busy schedules to deliver a five-star experience in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.

And if you are opting for one of our Phoenix mountain bike tours? Same as a rental car company with their finite number of available vehicles -- we are holding bikes for your adventure.

That is why we take a credit card (or cash) in advance to reserve your booking.

And just like your airline or lodging preference, we run the card in advance to avoid any post-adventure excitement in case there are problems with the card.

Can you imagine leaving a restaurant without first paying for the meal you enjoyed?

There is nothing worse than having to track down somebody for payment after their adventure – and that happened way too often in the past, when we found the credit card information given to us was outdated.

Wild Bunch got burned a couple of times, too – and it is sad there are dishonest people in the world like that looking to screw somebody over.

But that is why we charge upfront now – like any travel business -- because it is a hell of a lot easier to refund a guest than to chase someone around to get a new card.

A couple hiking with the Wild Bunch pauses for a hug in the scenic Sonoran Desert for a memorable vacation photo.
A couple hiking with the Wild Bunch pauses for a hug in the scenic Sonoran Desert for a memorable vacation photo.

Phoenix hiking tours: Avoid same-day distress
Having explained all of this, the returning guests I was talking to on the phone said, “Well, that’s kind of unfair.”

But I countered by saying, “What’s unfair is booking a tour and then not being able to be there at the last minute. That’s not our problem. If you booked a resort and then didn’t show up? They’d still charge you because they held your room for you.”

When guests want to go on an adventure the day they arrive, I caution that a lot of things have to go right for them.

It’s not impossible, but all sorts of potholes await to delay or derail you.

There can be flight delays – or worse, cancellations are happening much more often now than they should.

Even if your flight arrives on time, you often have to make your way through a packed airport, and there could be delays in getting your bags or transport.

And you can lose a lot of time waiting in Phoenix traffic before arriving at your destination.

A line at check-in could also further delay you.

So, that’s why I advise guests from rushing to get to a guided Phoenix adventure tour on the day they arrive.

However, I am honest about cancelling guests if flights are delayed or cancelled – and they are being totally honest about why they can't get here.

Other companies are like, “Hey, sorry, that's the risk you take booking the same day you arrive.” But I have issued a refund before in those circumstances.

The Wild Bunch Desert Guides also have given those guests caught in that situation an opportunity to rebook their Phoenix hiking tour or Phoenix mountain bike tour.

However, if the weather is not what you hoped in terms of it being an overcast day? That is not a reason to cancel. You will be charged.

Unable to get your children out of bed in the morning to make it to your adventure? You will be charged.

Stayed out a little late and are hung over and not feeling this tour? You will be charged.

Yes, the Wild Bunch is in the business of delivering totally private and completely customizable five-star experiences to our guests.

But the bottom line is we are a BUSINESS – and I oftentimes feel many fail to recognize that. They think we are simply a “play thing.”

Instead, we are an Arizona licensed and certified business. We pay taxes. We have insurance. We have city, state and federal permits to follow depending on the trails used.

Wild Bunch also has cancellation policies and charges up front – same as your hotel or resort, and same as your airline or rental car company.

-- Cancel Culture: Why there is a refund policy. https://www.wildbunchdesertguides.com/blog/Cancel-culture-Why-there-refund-policy.cfm
-- This woman's adventure tour company truly a 'wonder.' https://www.wildbunchdesertguides.com/blog/This-womans-adventure-tour-company-truly-wonder.cfm
-- Phoenix adventure tours: Priceless. https://www.wildbunchdesertguides.com/blog/Phoenix-adventure-tours-Priceless.cfm

About the Author

Laurel Darren is the founding owner of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a 5-star rated adventure tour company that offers guided hiking tours and guided mountain biking tours in Arizona’s picturesque Sonoran Desert in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Arriving in the legendary “Valley of the Sun” in 2012 -- from the home of John Deere in the Quad Cities of Eastern Iowa/Western Illinois -- this corn-fed Midwest girl brought 30 years of athletic chops under her chaps. A 3-sport high school standout and former college softball player – who won her conference’s Athlete of the Year award as a prep senior – Darren has graduated to competing in many races as an adult, from road running and cycling, to cyclo-cross and Mountain Bikes, and even Duathlon and Triathlon “Ironman” competitions. Darren was a popular, top-rated senior mountain bike guide at Arizona’s Outback Adventures before branching out to start her own small adventure business in 2016. To book a guided mountain bike tour or guided hiking trip – or a combination of the two adventures – please visit the home page www.wildbunchdesertguides.com or call 602-663-0842.


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