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Backroads Trip Leaders: FAQs & Answers


Logistics of the Hiring Process

Our Hiring Events are by invitation-only and they're required in order to be considered for the position. During your interview we will ask you to indicate your availability and preferences for our Hiring Events. If invited, we'll work with you to select an event that suits your schedule, and you'll receive a comprehensive packet of information to help you plan the next steps.

Unfortunately, we are unable to grant requests for informational interviews. If you're interested in learning more about the job, please review the comprehensive information posted on this website. 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 interview.

Yes. We cannot invite you to a Hiring Event without proof of a clean record. This information is required and essential for insurance purposes. Your report must show any accidents or infractions on your record. Unfortunately we are not able to consider applicants who have alcohol-related offenses on their driving record (DUI/DWI).

For US candidates: Most states will now allow you to order or access a copy of your driving record online. Please visit your local DMV for information.

For Canadian and European applicants: Please click the country links below for information on how to obtain a copy of your driving record/abstract:

Work Schedules & Locations

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 want to maximize your work schedule, we suggest that applicants 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). As a seasonal employee, you will not likely work more than six months in your first year unless you're selected for winter "peak" work which would mean a few additional weeks of work in late December/early January. In that scenario, your season would likely conclude by January 10.

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.

Yes, you're still eligible as long as you can attend a Hiring Event, training and be available to start the last week of June (one of our busiest weeks). However, September is a very busy month and we need leaders to be available for work during the month of September.

We present the job as seasonal because most work is April - October in Europe and May - September in the United States 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. Seasonal employees typically work six months of the year and their season ends by October. Although we strive to provide winter employment for Trip Leaders and Trip Prep Specialists, we cannot guarantee trip-leading work through the winter/spring, and this is generally only available for those 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 and will be promoted to either extended seasonal status, or year-round status. Winter trips are awarded on the basis of performance and language skills, while also taking into account seniority. For comparison, from 2010 - 2014, about 10% of our new leaders received winter work, and from 2015 - 2018 that percentage increased to about 20%. Almost all had Spanish language skills.

Yes, we have several leaders who only lead 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 mid-June to mid-July and September. Often leaders who work part-time are leaders who have worked full time in the past.

It depends on which session of our Leadership Training Program 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. Once you enter the field, your training will continue by way of a Regional Familiarization. You might be scheduled to "shadow" a trip, work as a Support Leader, explore the region and routes on your own or guided by an experienced leader. Finally, you'll lead your very first trip paired with an experienced "Training Leader."

You'll typically work in 1 - 2 regions in your first year. The opportunity to work in more regions grow in your second year and beyond.

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, performance in training, language skills (if applicable), ability to drive manual transmission (if applicable), availability and, above all, our company need.

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, who can offer our guests an insider's perspective, in ALL of the regions where we're running trips. Please tell us during the phone interview if you have a strong desire to lead only in one area.

Ultimately the quality of our guest 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.

All leaders submit requests for regions where they would prefer to work. You will be assigned where we need you most and where we think you will excel, strongly taking into account leader performance, availability, knowledge of area and foreign language abilities (among other variables). 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're given, remain open and flexible, and remember that Backroads Trip Leaders are employees filling a company need.

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 are knowledge in cultures/customs, history, cuisine, geology, flora/fauna, politics, language, etc.

Trip Leaders take on a variety of roles during the season, including training, "unit drives," regional familiarization, equipment maintenance and more.

Leaders may be scheduled for trips with all types of activities—biking, walking and multi-adventure. 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—hotels, cruise ships, or camping (in North America only) and for different groups of people: Adults, Families and Private groups. Our family program is especially strong so it wouldn't hurt to highlight any relevant skills you have (working with children, facilitating activities for kids) on your application.

No, once leaders leave their Training Hub (Salt Lake City, Canmore or Pernes) 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.

Most regions have a "Leader House" where all employees sleep when they are in between work. If a Leader House is not available, Backroads will provide an inexpensive hotel in a gateway city. While working on trip, accommodations generally match those of our guests. When leading Hotel Trips, leaders share a "Leader Room" that is typically in the same hotel as our guests' rooms. The "Leader Room" will never be more desirable than our guests' rooms, but in almost all cases it will be onsite. Note that while leaders share 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 or on Camp Crew, leaders tend to sleep under the stars, but a tent is always available if desired or if the weather looks threatening. Trip Prep Specialists live in the "Leader House" full time.

There is no "typical" day for a leader—surprises, challenges and opportunities arise all the time. This gives a sense of what you could expect during the course of the day as a leader:

Morning: The day often begins early and it's up to you and your co-leaders to set the stage for a great day: tuning bikes, loading luggage, cleaning vans, preparing snacks and the day’s lunch. Each morning leaders will rotate being on the “early shift” while the other leader enjoys breakfast and some solo-time before the day gets going.

Just as you finish your preparations, it's time to start the day's activity, beginning with route talks and safety tips. 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, perhaps preparing a picnic lunch, transferring luggage and attending to logistical details as needed. Throughout the week, leaders rotate these roles. You may be one of two or three leaders depending on the type of trip. There will almost always be two or three leaders assigned to each trip.

Evening: You may share a meal with your guests. It may be a gourmet meal prepared by your Camp Chef on a Camping Trip (or by the ship’s crew on a Cruise Trip), or at a fine restaurant if you're leading a Hotel 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.

Qualifications for the Job

In truth, Tom is more fit than many of our Trip Leaders! While it's important to work hard and to be able to hike and ride, most of our leaders are hired for other reasons. And quite often leaders fall in love with cycling because of the job! You do need to possess the basic physical skills required for our biking, walking and multi-adventure trips. To lead biking trips, you'll want to be able to ride the daily mileages we offer guests (30 - 50 miles), with panniers or a Camelbak holding extra tools, food and water. On walking trips, you should be able to hike the daily distances (5 - 10 miles), 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'll also need to load and unload large pieces of luggage on a daily basis. In terms of mechanical skills, we'll teach you how to repair bicycles, hitch a trailer to the van, drive a large vehicle confidently, etc.

While most of our applicants do not feel confident in the full-range of bike mechanic skills when they first apply, Backroads leaders quickly learn to confidently fix typical bike issues in the field such as fine-tuning shifting, changing pedals, swapping saddles, changing brake pads and fixing flat tires. It's to your benefit to start learning and practicing these skills early, keeping in mind we may check applicant's basic skills at hiring events. Here are some of the skills new leaders will have mastered before they start leading trips: Replace a rear derailleur cable and properly adjust shifting in under 15 minutes. Replace a flat tube while checking the tire and rim tape for problems in less than 5 minutes. Remove and replace both pedals in under 2 minutes. Remove and replace a saddle in under 2 minutes.

We require all of our Trip Leaders, Trip Prep Specialists and Camp Crew to be able to speak English fluently. Speaking another language, specifically French, Italian or German, will greatly increase your chances of being hired, and being conversant in the local language is required to work in Europe. Because we offer so many trips in Europe, we have a great need for Europeans, Canadians and Americans who can speak a second language. Start brushing up on your language skills now! You will have the opportunity to test your language fluency at a Hiring Event, if invited.

This FAQ only applies to California residents and Canadian applicants.

California Residents: The DOT requires leaders licensed in California to carry a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) while driving a passenger van in California. CA license holders are not required to carry a CDL when leading in other states. If you're licensed within the state of California, please keep in mind that you will likely have to go through the process of obtaining a CDL when you're finished with training. The process usually takes 1 - 2 weeks. Backroads will reimburse the costs of licensing process. Information on the entire CDL process can be found here:

If you're hired, before you come to training, it would be helpful to get a jump start on the process:

  1. DOT MEDICAL EXAM: In order to start the CDL process, you have to obtain a DMV/DOT Medical Exam and Certificate and bring this to the DMV. This is easy to do, it just requires time to find a place to give you a quick medical exam and certify you're "road worthy." You may find a Medical Examiner here and schedule an appointment. If hired, we reimburse up to $100 for the exam. https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/Drivers.seam
  2. WRITTEN TEST: Take the written portion of the exam at the DMV. You can walk in or schedule an appointment. We will reimburse you for any fees for the exam. You will then be given a permit that we will use to schedule the driving portion of the test once you have completed training in Salt Lake City.

Leader with licenses from outside of California are NOT required to carry a CDL while leading in California or any other state. Your valid passenger vehicle license is sufficient.

Canadian Applicants: If you are hired as a Canadian employee you are required to obtain your Class 4 License (or provincial equivalent). Below are some important questions to ask yourself to ensure you will be able to obtain the license before your first work assignment.

Do you already have a Class 4 from Alberta or the equivalent from another province? Great! You are ready to lead this summer.

Will you be obtaining your Class 4 in Alberta? If there is a shorter turn around time between your hiring event and training, OR the license is difficult to obtain in your home province, it is possible to obtain your Class 4 in Alberta. Once you arrive in Alberta, Backroads will provide you with a letter stating that you are an employee of Backroads and will be working and residing in the Province of Alberta.

Canadian Citizens: do you currently have a full driver's licence (i.e. not a graduated licence or learners permit) that is issued from a Canadian province or territory? Great! You are ready to start the Class 4 licensing process.

Non-Canadian Citizens with Canadian work authorization: do you currently have a full driver's licence (i.e. not a graduated licence or learners permit) that is issued from a Canadian province or territory, AND, have you had this licence for a minimum of 3 years? Great! You are likely ready to start the Class 4 licensing process. Please confirm the above with your provincial licensing authority.

If your answer is "no" to the above question, but you have held a full (non-learners licence) for at least three years from a reciprocal country*, you may be eligible to start the class 4 licensing process. We will require further information during the application process

*reciprocal countries vary from province to province. Please inquire with your provincial licensing authority for further details.

If you've applied previously 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 prior application. 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.

If you have further questions please contact our Hiring and Training team at leaderapplicants@backroads.com.