Frequently Asked Questions header

Backroads Seasonal Trip Leaders: FAQs & Answers

Q. In the opening video Tom looks really fit. How active do I need to be to apply?
A. In truth, Tom is more fit than any of our Trip Leaders! It is important to be able to work hard and to be able to hike and ride, most of our leaders are hired for reasons that have nothing to do with their fitness or experience on a bike. And, quite often they fall in love with cycling because of the job! To answer the question, you should possess the basic physical skills to be scheduled for any type of trip: biking, walking and multisport. On biking trips, you should be able to ride any of the daily mileages listed in our catalog, with panniers or a Camelbak holding extra tools, food and water. On walking trips, you should be able to hike any of the daily distances listed in our catalog, while carrying a full daypack. Leading trips also involves a substantial amount of heavy lifting. For example, you will be trained to lift a bicycle and "tray" onto the top of the van, a combined weight of approximately 35 pounds. You are also expected to load and unload large pieces of luggage on a daily basis. In terms of mechanical skills, you must be able to learn how to repair bicycles, hitch a trailer to the van, drive a large vehicle confidently, etc.

Q. Does an applicant need to be a capable bike mechanic?
A. While most of our applicants do not feel confident in the full-range of bike mechanic skills when they first apply, Backroads leaders must be confident in their ability to fix typical bike issues in the field such as fine-tuning shifting, changing pedals, swapping saddles and fixing flat tires. It is to your benefit to start learning and practicing these skills early, keeping in mind we may test applicant's skills at hiring events. Here are some of the skills new leaders are expected to have mastered before they start leading trips: Replace a rear derailleur cable and properly adjust shifting in under fifteen minutes. Replace a flat tube while checking the tire and rim tape for problems in less than five minutes. Remove and replace both pedals in under two minutes. Remove and replace a saddle in under two minutes.

Q. Which hiring event may I attend?
A. Attendance at a hiring event is by invitation-only. Attending a hiring event is required in order to be considered for the position. When we conduct our Skype or phone interview we will ask you to indicate your availability and preferences for our hiring events, should you be selected to attend. Please note: If you are invited to a hiring event, we will assign that date for you, depending on many factors, including your preferences and our needs. If invited, you will receive a comprehensive packet of information to help plan the next steps.

Q. How do I get a copy of my driving record? Do I really need one? Can I bring it to the hiring event?
A. We understand it can be time consuming to attain a driving record, although more states are providing reports online. If you are European, your insurance company should be able to provide you with a copy of your driving record. Rest assured, we will not hold up your application if that is the only piece missing. However this information is required and essential for insurance purposes. Your report must show any accidents or infractions on your record. If you are sure your driving record is clean, you may hand deliver it to the hiring event, although if you have infractions, you may be disqualified on the spot from becoming a Trip Leader.

Q. May I request an informational interview?
A. Unfortunately, we are unable to grant requests for informational interviews due to the high number of applications we receive. If you're interested in learning more about the job, please review the comprehensive information posted on this website. As we require Trip Leaders to be self-reliant and capable of finding answers for themselves we feel this process accurately represents the working reality for Backroads Trip Leaders. Of course, you may have questions unique to your situation, and we welcome an exchange and will strive to answer any questions you may have during the Skype or phone interview.

Q. How much will I work?
A. The Compensation, Benefits & Work Authorization page has the most accurate estimate of days worked for New Trip Leaders. Your own availability and start date will likely impact the amount of work you receive. If you seek the most work available, we counsel applicants to attend the earliest possible hiring and training events, minimize your time-off requests during the summer, and stay available to lead through our fall peak (the end of September).

Q. May I request time off during the busy summer and fall season?
A. Yes, but it's important to realize that it can be difficult to schedule a Leader around time-off requests, and time-off requests often reduce the number of trips a Leader is scheduled to lead (which limits earning potential). Most Leaders have weddings or family reunions to attend, and this is fine. However, because trips start and finish on weekends, being unavailable on a weekend means that you will not be scheduled to work the week before, and the week after the weekend you are unavailable. Because the majority of our trips take place between May and October it's best to limit time-off requests in these months if you want to be scheduled fully. Please note: You must be able to lead trips during our peak fall season which includes the month of September. We may not be able to hire you if you can't work in September. Please discuss this with your interviewer if you anticipate a conflict.

Q. I'm in school or have other commitments until the middle of June, am I still eligible for hire?
A. June restrictions are not a problem as long as you can attend a Hiring Event and a Training Block. However, September is a very busy month and we need Leaders to be available for work during the month of September.

Q. Why is the Trip Leader job presented as seasonal? Is year-round work available?
A. We present the job as seasonal because for most New Leaders the job runs from April-October in Europe and May-September in the US and Canada. So, in your first year of employment as a Trip Leader, you will be considered "seasonal" with the opportunity to qualify for year-round employment in subsequent years. Although we strive to provide winter employment for leaders, we cannot guarantee trip-leading work through the winter/spring, and this is generally only available for Trip Leaders in their second year of employment and beyond. If you possess the appropriate language skills, you may be eligible to work winter trips in Latin America, Asia and Northern Africa. Winter trips are awarded on the basis of performance and language skills, while also taking into account seniority. (For comparison, between 2010-2014, about 10% of our new hires received winter work, and almost all had Spanish language skills.)

Q. Do you have part-time Trip Leader positions?
A. Yes. We have several leaders who lead only a few trips (or even one trip) a year. However, if you're looking for part-time work, we require you to be available during our peak season which is August-September. Often Leaders who work part-time are Leaders who have worked full-time in the past.

Q. I applied before. What do I need to do to be considered for the 2015 season?
A. If you applied previously (i.e. prior to November 2014) please click the "APPLY NOW" button and if you use the same name and email as you did for your previous application you will be able to edit and re-submit your application from 2013/2014. Please note that because we have changed our video questions we would like you to re-take the video interview, and we will need an updated driving record.

Q. How much time will there be between my training and my field entry?
A. It depends on which Training Block you attend. Generally speaking, New Leaders enter the field between 1 – 21 days after having graduated from Training. Leadership Training Programs in April and May tend to have longer gaps prior to field entry than those in June and July. However, leaders who graduate from the earlier Trainings also tend to work more over the course of the season.

Q. Where will I work?
A. Leaders receive their trip leading assignments near the end of the training process. Several factors determine where you might work, including an individual's experience, language skills (if applicable), availability and, above all, our company need.

Q. What if I only really want to work in one location?
A. If you have expertise in a particular region where Backroads runs trips, this works well. As a matter of fact Backroads is motivated to find qualified local Leaders, men and women who can offer our guests an insider's perspective, in ALL of the regions where we are running trips. Please tell us during the phone interview if you have a strong desire to lead only in one area.

Q. What if I prefer to work somewhere other than the region where I live?
A. Ultimately the quality of Backroads' guest's experience drives scheduling decisions. We recognize the added value of having guests on trips with local leaders who are passionate about the place they call home! In some cases we hire specifically with this in mind. Over time, Backroads Leaders with the appropriate language skills and experience may work in a number of different places, however please understand that working near home through the busy summer/fall season may be the best thing for our guests. We can discuss further during the interview process if necessary.

Q. Will I be leading in my preferred region?
A. All leaders submit requests for regions where they would prefer to lead. You will be assigned where we need you most and where we think you will excel, strongly taking into account leader performance, seniority, knowledge of area and foreign language abilities (among other variables). Experience and/or language fluency in a certain region will increase the chance of being scheduled in that area. The ability to speak Italian, French or German greatly increases a New Leader's chance of being scheduled in Europe during their first season. Examples of appropriate expertise are natural and human history in the Rockies, wines in Burgundy and Bordeaux, human history in the Loire Valley, or culture and customs in Tuscany or Croatia. Given time Backroads Leaders can see and experience a lot of the world. The best way to accomplish this is to excel with the work you are given, remain open and flexible, and remember that Backroads Trip Leaders are employees filling a company need.

Q. Is area expertise required to work in different regions?
A. Leading trips requires expertise of the area in which you're scheduled—either from previous experience in the region and/or from taking the initiative to gain in-depth knowledge. Examples of appropriate expertise include knowledge of foreign languages, cultural or natural history, and food and wine.

Q. Do Trip Leaders get flown home in between trips?
A. No, once leaders leave their hub at the start of the season, if they choose to travel home in between trips, the cost is theirs. Backroads pays for leaders to travel between regions for work.

Q. Beyond leading trips, what other types of work does a Trip Leader do?
A. Trip leaders take on a variety of roles during the season. Please visit the Roles of a Trip Leader page for more information.

Q. Do Trip Leaders lead all types of trips?
A. Leaders may be scheduled for trips with all types of activities—biking, walking and multisport. Please note: we especially seek leaders who like to ride and have good mechanical aptitude and ability to lead our biking trips. In addition, leaders may be scheduled for trips with all types of lodging—inns or camping (in North America only) and for different groups of people: "Classic", Family, Solo and Private. Our family program is especially strong and many first year leaders should expect a fair amount of their scheduled trips to include family trips. It would be to your advantage to highlight any relevant skills you have (working with children, facilitating activities for kids) on your application.

Q. Where will I be sleeping during trips and between trips?
A. While Leaders are leading trips their accommodations generally match those of our guests. When leading Inn Trips Leaders share a "Leader Room" that is typically in the same hotel as our guest's rooms. The "Leader Room" will never be more desirable than our guest's rooms, but in almost all cases it will be onsite. Note that while Leaders have shared accommodations, each leader will have his or her own bed or sleeping space (sometimes a roll-away, and rarely a sleeping bag and pad on the floor). When leading Camping Trips, Leaders tend to sleep under the stars, but a tent is always available if desired or if the weather looks threatening. Between trips Backroads provides accommodations either in inexpensive hotels in the gateway city, or in Leader Houses around the world which are described on the Compensation, Benefits & Work Authorization page.


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Backroads Seasonal Trip Leaders

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"It's not every day that you can walk into a brand new work environment and feel totally supported from all angles."

Dave Green
Leader since June 2010