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Backroads Trip Leaders: The Job & Lifestyle

What Does a Day of Trip Leading Look Like?

There is no "typical" day, although there is a plan for each day, each day is unique. Surprises, challenges and opportunities come up all the time. There are, however, many principles and routines that guests expect when traveling with Backroads. For many, the nimble combination of stability and flexibility is what keeps them traveling with Backroads time and time again.

  • The day often begins before guests get up. It's up to you and your co-leader(s) to set the stage for a great day: tuning bikes, loading luggage, cleaning vans, preparing snacks and the day's lunch.
  • Just as you finish your preparations, it's time to start the day's activity, beginning with route talks and safety demonstrations.
  • Regardless of the activity, at least one leader will participate with the guests, providing route support. Another leader will provide support in the van, taking care of guest needs, preparing a picnic lunch, transferring luggage and attending to hotel details as needed. Throughout the week, leaders rotate these roles.
  • There will almost always be two or three Trip Leaders assigned to each trip. Camping Trips also have a Camp Chef and Camp Assistant who work behind the scenes with the Leader team. On top of that, Biking Trips have an additional Support Leader assigned to assist with logistics and shuttling during many days of the week.
  • In the evening, you will share a meal with your guests—it may be a gourmet meal prepared by your Camp Chef on a Camping Trip or at a fine restaurant if you are leading an Inn trip. After dinner it might be back to the van, trailer and bikes to tie up any loose ends, or sitting by the campfire. Naturally exhausted, you will fall into bed, to rest up for whatever tomorrow may bring.

Please note: When leading trips that stay in hotels, Backroads Leaders share a room. Each Leader has his or her own bed which occasionally may be a roll-away. If you have questions about these arrangements, please ask.

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.

Additional Roles for Trip Leaders
New leader schedules include various roles beyond that of a Trip Leader. Depending on skills and geographic location, new leaders may also perform the role of Support Leader, Camp Chef or Camp Assistant. Most new Leaders have an equal mix of roles throughout the season. 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 to work up to 3 weeks in a row.

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 2010-2013, 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.

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.

Some examples:

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.

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