Find answers to commonly asked questions about touring with Explore California by following the buttons below. Can't find what you're looking for? Contact us and let us know how we can help!
Planning and booking your tour
How do I book one of your tours?
You can book your tour online by following the booking buttons anywhere on our site. You can also contact us and we can process a direct booking with you. Online bookings are subject to a 6% service fee; this fee is waived for direct bookings.
When do your tours operate?
We run tours all year long! Our package tours normally depart from San Francisco on Sundays and Wednesdays. Please refer to the schedule on each tour page for specific dates. For a private or custom tour, we can work with your schedule and depart on any day that works best for you! We normally do not operate tours on major US holidays.
What if the dates I want aren't available?
We may be able to open a tour date for you, or accommodate you on a private tour. Depending on your group size and departure date, a private tour that follows the same itinerary as our package trips may not be much more expensive than the package tour cost.
Where do your tours begin and end?
All of our package tours begin in San Francisco, with a pickup at your hotel. Please note that if you are staying in private accommodations, you may need to meet us at a nearby hotel to begin your tour. Our Wine Country and Best of the Bay tours end in San Francisco. Our California Coast tour ends in Los Angeles, but you can also choose to end that tour in Santa Barbara, or with a return to San Francisco (an additional fee applies if returning to SF). Private and custom tours can begin or end elsewhere in the state, depending on your travel needs.
Payments and what's included
How much do your tours cost?
The final cost of your tour will depend on the number of people in your party, the room configuration you require, and the level of accommodation you choose. The base per-person cost for each of our package trips is listed in the "Packages and Pricing" section of each tours' webpage. Private and custom trips are priced differently, and the tour cost varies depending on a number of factors. Please contact us directly to request price quote for a private tour. Tours booked online are subject to a 6% transaction fee; this fee is waived for direct bookings.
What forms of payment do you accept?
We can accept payments from any major credit card, which are processed via Stripe. The booking portal is managed by FareHarbor, and is fully encrypted over SSL for security. Payments by check or cash may be possible; please let us know if you would like more details.
What is included in the tour cost?
All of our tours include a dedicated guide/driver for the duration of your tour, 2 nights of accommodation in the package of your choosing, and light snacks (generally fruit and granola bars) to enjoy in the van. There are also inclusions specific to each of our package tours; please visit the pages for each tour for more details. Not included in your tour cost are lunches and dinners, entrance fees to some attractions, or gratuities for your guide.
Should I tip my guide, and what is the tipping standard?
Gratuities for your guide are not included in your trip cost, and are at your discretion. Should you wish to show your appreciation for your guide, a good guideline to follow is between $30-50 USD per person.
What to expect during your tour
What will the weather be like?
Weather in California can vary dramatically depending on where you are and what time of year you are traveling. On most of our tours we experience a variety of weather at all times of year. It is not uncommon to have a day that starts of cool, windy and foggy and ends in full sun and high temperatures! In general, summer trips see the hottest, sunniest days, but also the most fog. Fall usually has the fairest weather, but passing storms can and do come through. Winter brings the most rain, but in between storms we see some of the clearest and most beautiful days of the year. Spring usually brings sunny skies, the occasional rain shower, and the windiest days of the year. We recommend being prepared for any weather conditions by having layers on hand; our trips operate rain or shine.
Are there any luggage restrictions?
Luggage must be kept to a maximum of 50 pounds (22.5 kilograms) per bag, and not exceed 75 linear inches (linear inches=length+width+height) per bag. Each passenger is limited to 2 bags up to this size, plus 1 carry-on sized bag. Please contact us if you have any concerns about our luggage restrictions--we can help you to work something out!
What type of vehicles do you use?
For most of our tours, we use a 2016 12-passenger Ford Transit van affectionately named "Gerald". For certain small tours, we use a mid-sized SUV.
How large are you tour groups?
Explore California Travel specializes in small-group tours. That means there will be a maximum of 8 passengers on your trip. Our average group size is 5 passengers. For private tours, we can and do arrange trips for larger groups.
Who will be my guide?
Although we sometimes don't have our exact guide schedule determined until shortly before our tours depart, one of the best things about traveling with a small company like ours is that the same people featured here on our website are the same people who guide our trips. Kelly, Adam, and Mark split guiding duties evenly throughout the year. Learn more about them in the "About Us" section!
What is your cancellation policy?
Once you have paid your deposit and reserved a spot on our tours, your trip is fully refundable up to 30 days before the trip departs. Within 30 days of departure, trips are non-refundable. Private trips may be subject to different booking and cancellation terms.
Is my tour guaranteed to run?
Our trips are guaranteed once we hit a minimum enrollment of 3 passengers. If your trip has not met minimum enrollment 30 days before departure, we will contact you to let you know. You can choose to cancel your trip and receive a full refund, or we can run the trip as a low-enrolled trip for just your party. Low-enrolled trips are subject to an additional fee that will be added to your final payment; should the trip hit minimum enrollment after you have made payment, this fee will be refunded to you. Our trips run 12 months a year, rain or shine, but factors out of our control may lead to us having to alter your itinerary or possibly cancel the trip entirely.
There are 3 people in are party. Are triple-occupancy rooms available?
Triple- and quadruple-occupancy is possible, but none of our hotels offer rooms with more than two beds. We can request rollaway beds, but are unable to guarantee they will be available. If that is not a problem, we can make arrangements for a triple or quad room. Please contact us for pricing information.
Do you offer a family discount, or discounts for children?
We are generally able to offer special pricing for families who will be sharing rooms at triple- or quadruple occupancy, but otherwise we do not offer family discounts. Children receive discounted prices at certain attractions and these discounts will be passed on to you in your final trip cost. Please contact us if you have any specific questions about traveling with your children!