My last few posts have helped you and your group (hopefully) get down to your top choices for a trip but there is one more step. Picking your outfitter. You may already have one in mind or maybe you have a lake in mind with multiple options. Finalizing your choice, confirming availability and doing some background checks on your desired outfitter go a long way to deliver a perfect trip.
With our group we typically nail down 3 to 5 choices in a spreadsheet like the below. A meeting is booked (usually at a local tavern) and homework gets assigned 1 week prior.
Yes, HOMEWORK. Each member of the group is expected to come to the meeting w his choices ranked by preference. Failure to do so results in exile (more than likely just some good natured ribbing). Everyone gets there turn to highlight there top choice, provide a quick rationale of why and then its on to the next guy. The lakes are then re ranked – highest to lowest.
A set of questions, typically things that were unclear during preliminary research are created for the top 3 outfitters. A few questions that are quite typical for our group:
Do you have availability the week of X in August 2020?
Members use CPAP machines – what are the overnight charging capabilities?
Are we able to have camp fires at night?
Can you provide contacts and testimonials from previous guests?
Per your website the cost for the week based on X people is X?
We like beer – what are the weight restrictions? (generally only an issue for a fly in)
I personally like to email an outfitter first. An email will provide a few things: How responsive is the outfitter. Getting answers on paper (more on that later). I will always follow up the email with a call as well. Talking to someone can also give you a read about the outfitter.
Making the Choice
The results of the research are shared with the group via email. Any clarifying questions or concerns are brought forward. Availability is usually the first big barrier – our group is pretty much set on the same week for our trips. Generally if our top choice is available and the person who connected with the outfitters feels good it’s a simple email confirmation. If availability or some other deal breaker pops up and we are going down the list we may re group.
Things to Keep in Mind
As someone who has planned quite a few of these trips here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your outfitter:
Get everything in writing. Outfitters are dealing with lots of groups who are typically booking well in advance and things will get missed.
Be wary of relying on the outfitter for all your info. At the end of the day the outfitter is a business trying to sell a product. We have had promises made only to find out that was not the actual experience. Do some research, get testimonials and see step 1
Be wary of someone who is not responsive. If an outfitter can’t email or call you back within 48 hours I would be skeptical of choosing them. Especially if you are the conduit between the outfitter and your group
Be specific – not all lakes have both monsters and numbers. When checking in with outfitter or any references tell them what will make your group happy.
Pay it forward – If your outfitter was great please leave them a good review wherever that is possible. 1) Help them get more business 2) Help others who are out their planning their own trip
Every group will have a different set of wants, needs and expectations however with 1000s of trips to choose from I am sure the perfect trip is out there. It will however take some work. And over time I think your expectations will change. I know for us each trip has been memorable, even magical but some have really set the bar.
So – know what your group wants, find some outfitters that fit the needs and confirm that your chosen destination meets your expectations.
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