Backroads Trip Leaders: The Job & Lifestyle
"I can't think of any other job that could connect me with 20 new people each week, all excited to be exploring and experiencing a new destination...what a poignant and rare opportunity to bring people a vacation experience that they'll never forget."
Matt Fletcher - Leader since 2004, Hiring & Training Manager
About Backroads & Our Hubs of Employment
Backroads began in 1979 as an innovative active travel company. Now the industry leader in active travel, we offer more biking, walking and multisport trips in more locations worldwide than any other company.
In order to accomplish that goal, in addition to our company headquarters in Berkeley, California, Backroads has created thee logistical hubs: Salt Lake City, Utah; Canmore Alberta (near Banff) Canada; and "801 France" in Pernes-les-Fontaines (near Provence) France.
See FAQ page for more information about hubs and employment options through our different subsidiaries.
Regardless of which subsidiary becomes your hub, the Trip Leader position offers the following terms, benefits, amount of work and more…
Part I: Leader Compensation & Benefits
Backroads sets the industry standard for the total leader compensation and benefit package. Backroads enables field employees to both work and play through many perks and benefits that mitigate out-of-pocket costs when leaders are on the road. A few things worth noting are:
• Pay & Gratuities
You will be paid an hourly rate (or a similar rate of pay on a daily basis for Canadian or "801 France" employees) for all your Backroads work, as well as be eligible to receive gratuities on trip from guests as part of your overall compensation. We will happily provide the most up-to-date information on our rates of pay and average gratuities during our interview process.
While actively leading trips, Backroads provides allowances to cover nearly all costs of food and lodging. Both are covered during trips, while lodging is covered between trips. In fact, most leaders find that they are easily able to save money while working for Backroads. Of course, your individual savings potential will ultimately depend on your personal lifestyle and the number of trips you lead in a season.
• Leader Houses
Many of our regions worldwide have leader houses in wonderful places that are available to leaders free of charge while working, and in between trips. In Europe: Tuscany, Puglia, Provence, Loire Valley, Dordogne, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Ireland, Switzerland. In the USA: Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Anacortes, Washington; Portland, Maine; Whitefish, Montana; Berkeley, California; Stowe, Vermont; Anchorage, Alaska; St. George, Utah; In Canada: Outside Banff, Nova Scotia, Québec. And other international locales such as: Wanaka, New Zealand; San José, Costa Rica. Standard with these accommodations are computers, wireless internet and access to bikes for personal use.
Backroads provides all travel from your hub (Salt Lake City for U.S. employees, Canmore for Canadian Employees or Pernes-les-Fontaines for "801 France" employees) when moving to another region during the season (either via air, train or driving company vehicles). Leaders enjoy keeping their own frequent flyer miles for personal travel, and may choose to stopover or extend their stay in desired locales within work-sponsored itineraries. While it's a leader's responsibility to cover travel costs to and from a hub at the start and end of a leaders' season, Backroads provides all travel to trip destinations during a working season.
• Recreational benefits
Backroads also offers several benefits to leaders that are of a more recreational nature, including (but not limited to) generous discounts with brand-name equipment and clothing companies; Backroads trip discounts to family and friends; and multi-day social and outdoor staff festivities throughout the year. Our version of the company picnic? A weeklong "staff ride" in Northern Thailand, Slovenia, the California coast, Spain and Crete (to name a recent few).
• Joie de Vivre
Perhaps the most valuable benefit is enjoying a lifestyle few can match. In addition to itineraries that feature some of the worlds' best hotels, restaurants and scenery, imagine having time off in some of the most desirable locations around the world, and having the freedom to explore on your own. Being a Backroads leader allows for a lifestyle of flexibility and variety that many value above all other benefits of the job.
• Trip-related fieldwork
Leaders are also paid for a variety of work in conjunction with and outside of trips. Some examples include travel pay, area familiarization pay, research pay, van-driver pay and hourly pay for miscellaneous work. Experienced leaders with a background in cooking may also work as Camp Chef (domestically) during weeks when they are not leading a trip. Some new leaders working domestically may work as Camp Assistants occasionally during weeks when they are not leading a trip.
• Additional benefits based on hub of employment:
Leaders employed by Backroads Utah enjoy these benefits:
- 401k plan: Leaders are eligible to contribute (up to 75% of their income) to a 401K plan after six months of employment, and Backroads will match 20% of an employee's contributions (up to 15% of pay).
- Medical, Dental & Vision Insurance: First-year leaders are eligible to receive reimbursement of up to $120 per month towards their individual medical plans beginning the first day of the month following the first day of training. This reimbursement is available during months the leader works 10 days or more. Leaders in their second year (and beyond) who are employed on a year-round basis are eligible to join Backroads' group medical, dental and vision plans. Backroads covers 80% of group health plan premiums during any month that a leader works 10 days or more, or on a year-round basis when a leader works 120 days or more. Leaders in their second year (and beyond) who choose not to join our group health plan continue to be eligible to receive reimbursement toward their individual medical plans.
- Flex Plan: Leaders are also eligible to join our "Flex Plan" after three months of employment. This plan allows employees to set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualifying health and dependent daycare expenses.
Leaders employed by our Canadian subsidiary enjoy these benefits:
- RRSP plan: Backroads will provide 20% match on leader RRSP contributions made during the year, up to a maximum of 15% of a leaders' Backroads salary. Employees become 20% vested each year and are fully vested after five years of employment.
- A health/dental insurance program: Backroads will reimburse up to $120 USD per month for provincial medical and/or supplemental medical insurance beginning the first day of the month following the first day of training. Leaders are eligible to receive this reimbursement during months in which they work 10 days or more.
Leaders employed by our French subsidiary also enjoy these benefits:
- Medical Benefits: "801 France" Leaders qualify for the basic French Social Security coverage since they are employed by a French company. Coverage is effective as soon as the Leader is under contract (first day of work). Leaders are 100% covered in case of a work injury, and up to 65% for all other medical expenses.
- Holiday Pay: Time worked on French holidays is paid time and a half. Time worked on Sundays or on May 1st is paid double.
- Vacation Pay: Vacation pay for European Leaders is paid out at the end of each contract. The amount of vacation pay is equal to 10% of the total gross pay Leaders make during the entire duration of their contract.
- European Leaders also qualify for French government approved retirement and unemployment plans covered by Groupe Mornay and Pole Emploi.
Part II: Trips & Scheduling• Leading All Types of Trips
Leaders may be scheduled for trips with all types of activities—biking, walking and multisport. 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 this coming season 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.
• Area Expertise
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.
• The Physical Demands of Trip Leading
Although the leadership, customer service and knowledge you provide to our guests is the core of being a successful trip leader, you must also possess the basic physical skills to be scheduled for any/all types of our trips: biking, walking and multisport. On biking trips, you must be able to comfortably and confidently 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 must be able to hike any of the daily distances listed in our catalog, while carrying a full daypack. Leading any type of trip 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.
• Leading in Your Preferred Regions
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 first year 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. Note: Non-U.S. citizens are not eligible to work in the U.S. unless you possess the necessary work visa. Backroads does not supply visas for non-U.S. nationals to work in the United States.
• Leading Locally
Backroads has a growing number of Leaders who are local to regions where they're leading. These Leaders are able to stay closer to home and live the lives they're accustomed to living while adding their local expertise and flair to the trips they lead. Some lead only a few trips, while others may be interested in more—we're open to creative scenarios. Some have families, others have business or other commitments that limit their travel but they all have one thing in common—they are passionate about the area they call home. So, if you're interested in leading but not sure if a life of travel is tenable, whether you live in Anchorage, Argentina or Andalucía, please apply. There are some factors we can work on together, and We would be happy to speak with you about the possibilities.
• Additional Roles for Trip Leaders
New leader schedules may include various roles beyond that of a Trip Leader. Depending on skills and geographic location, new leaders may also perform the role of Van Support Driver, Camp Chef or Camp Assistant. Some new hires have an equal mix of roles throughout their season and some are scheduled exclusively as Trip Leaders. Factors that contribute to scheduling include our trip needs as well as leader aptitude, performance and expertise. New leader schedules will be discussed further in Training.
• Peak Season Availability
Although Backroads runs trips all over the world during the entire year, the majority of our trips take place between May and October. You must be able to lead trips during our peak fall season which runs through the end of September. You must be available to work weekends, and work up to 3 weeks in a row.
• Number of Days Worked and Trips Led
New Leaders work an average of 90 days during a typical season. In 2012 New Leaders worked in the role of Trip Leader on 6-10 trips (depending on hiring date). Many New Leaders also had weeks of work as Van Support Drivers, Camp Chefs or Camp Assistants. In addition to being paid for New Leader Training, all Leaders are paid to become familiar with the region(s) where they are working, and to do things like load and drive equipment to and from regions, or to help perform routine maintenance on Backroads' equipment.
• Working Year-Round
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 2010-2012, about 10% of our new hires received winter work, and almost all had Spanish language skills.)
• Travel To and From Hubs
Backroads does not expect leaders to reside near our hubs in Salt Lake City, Utah, Canmore, Alberta or Pernes-les-Fontaines, France. However, leaders are responsible for getting themselves to the hub before their trip schedule begins in order to pick up trip gear from the office and warehouse. Backroads then pays for leaders to either fly or drive a trip vehicle to their trip leading destination. Free housing is available to leaders while in their hub (Salt Lake City, Canmore or Pernes-les-Fontaines) for work-related purposes.
Part III: Additional Career Opportunities for Leaders
Backroads rewards exceptional performance with opportunities for career advancement throughout the company. Several leaders have spent a portion of their career with Backroads leading trips and then have moved into full-time office staff or management positions.
• Regional Experts and Trip Experts
These positions are leaders who oversee the design, development and all-important quality standards of a trip year after year. Trip Experts "own" specific trips - not only leading the trips themselves, but also conducting research for those trips, managing relationships with subcontractors in the field, and collaborating with regional managers in Berkeley concerning long-term trip development.
• Regional Systems Specialists
This position supports our various technology and equipment systems in the field. Regional Systems Specialists work closely with our Logistics and Transportation Department as well as the Leader Development department in making field operations smooth for leaders in centralized regions.
• Regional Managers
This position is an excellent opportunity for qualified leaders to expand their responsibilities at Backroads. Responsibilities include mentoring, providing feedback and evaluating leaders, ensuring smooth working systems within their regions, and working closely with all departments within Backroads to help ensure quality on trips.
• Office Positions
Full-time or seasonal office positions provide opportunities for leaders to extend their employment in different ways at our Berkeley headquarters or our hubs in Salt Lake City, Canmore or Pernes-les-Fontaines. Leaders have contributed their valuable talents to our Leader Development department as Hiring & Training Coordinators, to our Sales department as Trip Consultants, and to our Trip Development department as Trip Development Coordinators.
• Part Time Opportunities
There are also occasionally part-time temporary opportunities between trips and during the winter to work in our office and warehouse.
We hope that the information we have provided gives you an understanding of the Trip Leader position and has allowed you to evaluate whether or not it would be the right fit for you. We look forward to addressing any additional questions that you might have during the interview process.