1. Does Big Five work with travel agents?
Big Five has built strong relationships with travel agents, and has long-standing relationships with many agents and luxury travel agencies. Visit our “Find A Travel Agent” section on the home page of this website to find a professional travel specialist in your area.
2. How can I order a print brochure?
Brochures may be ordered through your travel agent, from our website under our Contact Page, or by calling us toll free at 800-244-3483. You can also access a digital version of our Big Five’s Navigator Series™ Edition II at Bigfivenavigator@bigfive.com. For the most up-to-date information, please review the tours on this website.
3. Can I book my trip on this website or should I call?
We do not book tours through our website. We provide luxury customized journeys that we tailor to your interests and needs. It would be impractical to try to fit all the details and variations into a one-size-fits-all form. It is to your benefit to speak to a knowledgeable travel agent or one of our Destination Specialists so we can help you to craft the journey of a lifetime.
4. How much deposit do you need to reserve a tour and when is it due?
Generally, deposits of $500 per person are required, but certain tours may have higher requirements. Our General Terms and Conditions give more specific information relating to the trip you are planning.
5. When is final payment due?
Final payment is usually due 60 – 120 days before departure, depending on the trip confirmed.
6. Do you offer travel insurance and how much is it?
Yes, we offer optional travel insurance through Travel Guard. The premiums are based on total tour cost and start at $89 per person. The application will be included in your trip confirmation packet. Regardless of which carrier you choose, travel insurance is no longer a luxury. We strongly recommend adequate trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and medical protection.
7. What forms of payment do you accept?
Big Five accepts Mastercard, Visa, American Express, wire transfers and checks.
8. What is being done to ensure passenger safety when travelling to the destinations you offer?
Big Five is a luxury travel provider. and the security and safety of our clients is our primary concern. Big Five follows US State Department announcements on a daily basis, and will never send clients into areas deemed dangerous.
9. When is payment due for my airline ticket?
Airline fares are subject to change without notice until ticketed. Payment is normally due with your tour deposit.
10. Why do you need a copy of our passport?
Passports are required by most countries, and we require that your name in the passport match the name of the reservations. This is required by airlines too. It is always a good idea to carry your current passport with you when traveling. We also recommend keeping a copy of your important passport pages in a separate place from your passport, when you travel in the event your passport is lost or stolen.
11. What are your cancellation policies and penalties in the event I cancel my trip?
All cancellation requests must be made in writing, and cancellation costs vary depending on the date, location, and type of the tour booked. Our tour application forms, which include the General Terms & Conditions, state the cancellation penalties depending on destination. We strongly advise that you acquire trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and medical insurance.
12. What pre-departure information do you provide before travel?
Upon booking your tour, we provide a trip confirmation packet, which includes a destination specific travel planning guide. This includes information on weather, clothing suggestions and general information on the planned areas of visit. We also include an application for our optional trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and medical insurance program, with a summary of coverage, as well as a Tour Application Form and Credit Card Payment Authorization Form, which should be completed and returned to us no later than final payment date. We also provide visa kits for each destination requiring visas.
13. What kind of final trip documentation do you provide for your tours?
About three weeks prior to your departure, we provide you with a detailed final itinerary, which includes emergency contact information for each location in the event someone needs to reach you. We also provide an attractive document wallet and luggage tags, your airline tickets, if purchased through us, any necessary vouchers, a clothing check list, and our Environmental Guidelines. For some trips, we provide an in flight bag.
14. Does Big Five post press releases on the website?
Big Five archives press releases on our website under the “About Us” link found at the bottom of our home page.
15. Does Big Five offer any hunting trips?
No. Big Five Tours & Expeditions has a corporate philosophy that focuses on eco-tourism and conservation. Our programs feature excellent opportunities for travelers and photographers.
16. In Africa, what type of vehicles do you use for game viewing?
All our well-equipped vehicles have roofs that are either open or pop-top allowing for optimal game viewing. Every guest is guaranteed a window seat!
17. Will I experience sea sickness on any of cruise-based tours?
The cruisers we use are geared to smaller groups and most are equipped with stabilizers. Very rarely do guests experience sea sickness. However all the vessels have onboard trained staff ready to tend to your special needs. Motion sickness medications may be taken.
18. Are there special airfares from points of origin outside of the U.S?
As we are a USA-based company, all of our flights originate from various gateways across the United States.
19. What trips involve travel at high elevations (above 7,000 feet above sea level)?
Some of our luxury custom tours, including tours in Peru, Ecuador and China, involve travel in high altitudes. If you are concerned about this, we recommend you speak with your personal physician.
20. Can you assist with ‘hotel only’ bookings?
As we are a complete luxury travel service, all of our packages involve land services, which must include hotels, transfers and some guided touring. Should you require hotel only bookings, we recommend you make those arrangements with your travel agent or with the hotel directly for the best rates.
21. What type of groups can you handle?
We work with many groups that range from multi-generational families and friends, to organizations (both profit and non profit), and groups that have a specific focus. We have worked with groups as varied as veterinarians in Kenya and astronomers in South America.
22. What is your group leader policy?
Often on luxury custom tour group programs, with as few as 15 paying adults, we are able to offer 1 complimentary space for the land portion of the trip, which can be used by the group leader or coordinator.
23. Can I use the photos found on your Web site for any other personal or commercial use?
All photos on our website are property of Big Five Tours & Expeditions. We will be happy to provide photographs as long as we have granted written permission for use. All right are reserved.
24. What are the activity difficulty levels on your tours?
We accommodate many different levels of activities. Our clients range from those who wish to have a relaxed pace to the most active adventures. Some of the active options available in select destinations include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, jungle canopy walks and zip lines. We match the level of activities to your interests.
25. Do you offer triple- and quadruple-room occupancy on your trips?
In some types of accommodations, we do have the ability to provide triple and quadruple rooms. They are, however, not available on all tours, and are subject to availability. Note that a triple room usually means a double room with rollaway bed, or a room with 2 double beds, requiring all 3 guests to use existing bedding. Quadruple means a room with 2 double beds where all 4 guests are required to use existing bedding.
26. Can a single be accommodated on some tours without paying a single supplement?
This will vary largely depending on the number of passengers on a given tour. There are situations such as a group tour, where we can pair up singles, thus saving them the expense of a single supplement. On select cruise based tours, we guarantee shares.
27. What does Big Five need from me to begin a proposal for a customized itinerary for individuals or a private group?
Once we have the details about what destinations and activities you are interested in, we can begin creating a proposal tailored to your needs. We recommend you share with us as much details as possible on your interests. We do not charge any fees to commence a proposal but we do request changes be kept within reason.
28. Does past travel with Big Five automatically provide me with any discounts for future trips?
Big Five enjoys a very high rate of repeat clients due to the exceptional value already offered on our trips. We do not currently provide discounts for future trips but we may add additional values to enhance your return trip experience with us.
29: Can Big Five design a custom tour for individual or group’s interests?
Absolutely! Big Five has the knowledge and expertise to customize journeys to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets.
30. How can I be contacted in case of an emergency while traveling with Big Five?
Big Five maintains an emergency hotline in the U.S. The calls are processed at all times by Big Five personnel: 800-244-3483 ext. 8, or 772-287-7995 ext. 8. In addition, telephone and fax contacts for local representatives and hotels are provided in all final itineraries. We encourage travelers to leave a copy of specific itinerary with a friend or family member to be used in the event of an emergency.
31. Why should I book my international air through Big Five?
We work with major international airlines and our volume purchasing power enables us to negotiate contract fares which are often substantially lower than published fare. We know the best flights to recommend for our trips.
32. Can I use my miles to upgrade to business and/or first class when purchasing Big Five’s ‘special’ airfares?
No. Our fares do not permit any upgrades using your frequent flyer miles.
33. Is mileage accrual allowed on Big Five’s special airfares?
Yes, on most special fares purchased through Big Five, miles may be accrued.
34: What’s the difference between a brochure/website tour and a custom tour?
Our brochure programs are ready to take programs designed with years of extensive knowledge and feedback. These are our recommended trips especially for the first time traveler. Trip prices, departures dates, itineraries and activities are all published in the brochure. Custom tours offer more flexibility and can be tailored to clients’ specific interests and budget.
35. Can children travel on Big Five tour programs?
For most of our destinations and itineraries, children are more than welcome. Some tours, however, are too rigorous for young children. Our destination specialists can advise you about specific tours and any children acceptance limitations.
36. Do you have a honeymoon registry? If so, how does it work?
Yes we have a honeymoon registry. You will find the details on the web site on the home page. Once a couple has confirmed their planned honeymoon trip with us and requests to have it set up in our honeymoon registry, we will send them instructions on how they can inform their friends and family, who may then make a pledge towards the cost of the honeymoon.
37. What kind of special interest trips do you offer or can be planned?
Big Five can satisfy the interests of even the most discerning travelers. Our in depth knowledge and experience has enabled us to successfully operate special interest trips surrounding anthropology, archaeology, botany, zoology, ornithology, photography, ecology, astronomy, paleontology and much more.
38. What is the difference between escorted and locally hosted tours?
An escorted tour means that a trip coordinator is assigned to accompany travelers from start to finish on a particular tour and liaise with local guides that will be used in the regions specific to their areas of expertise. Escorts are often used on trips with group sizes of 10 or more passengers. A locally hosted tour means that local guides are used according to their areas of expertise and region. An escort is not necessary as the local guides also perform similar duties of an escort. Our guides and escorts are all English speaking.
39. What vaccinations or inoculations are recommended for travel?
Requirements and regulations regarding vaccinations vary with destination. W make recommendations specific to the destination, however, it is always best to consult your doctor, a travel clinic or local health department. You can also contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov. You can also call their Traveler’s Health hotline at 877-394-8747.
40. What is recommended attire for your trips?
Our destination specific travel planning guides will state what clothing is appropriate. In most cases, very casual clothing is acceptable, but we recommend travelers always maintain respect of local customs. Safari tours, for instance, are very informal. On the other hand, some Arabic speaking countries require women to cover all exposed skin! We advise clients in the event an itinerary calls for any formal dress.
41. Does Big Five require clients to sign a Release of Liability form? What else am I signing off for?
All confirmed clients must review and sign off on our General Terms & Conditions which is your acceptance of your participation, acknowledgment of the terms and conditions surrounding your trip and a release of liability.
42. Do you offer family vacations?
Yes, we have programs geared toward family activities for adults and children of all ages. You will find details in our brochure or on this web site.
43. If I put my own group together, can I expect the same quality of service for my group that Big Five offers escorted and independent travelers?
Big Five maintains the same level of excellence and high standards of service regardless of the circumstances of any specific tour.
44. What are your tipping guidelines for your trips?
Tipping is always at your discretion and may vary according to local conditions. As a general guideline, we recommend $5 – $7 per person per day for services rendered by any licensed guide/naturalist; $2 – $3 per person per day for services rendered by a driver; $1 per bag for luggage handled by hotel staff.
45. What are luggage weight and size restrictions when traveling on your tours?
We recommend travelers limit their luggage to 1 medium bag and 1 carry on per person. Further specific restrictions may vary according to country which will be advised in your destination specific travel planning guide. International airlines also have luggage weigh and size restrictions. We recommend you call the specific airline for further details.
46. What kind of photography tips do you offer?
Our destination specific travel planning guide includes a section related to photography. The most important things to remember are:
Bring cameras and lenses you are comfortable using. If you get new equipment before you go, do so as far in advance as possible. We recommend that visitors bring plenty of film. While you can purchase film in many areas overseas, it is usually more expensive and fresh film can be hard to find. You will undoubtedly shoot more pictures than you planned. Even those not all that interested in photography will probably shoot one 36 exposure roll of film per day, and enthusiastic shooters will double or triple that amount. Bring extra batteries.
Regarding x-ray machines at airports, recent news reports warn that new explosive detectors used in more than 100 US airports to scan checked baggage will ruin unprotected, unexposed film. This technology will eventually be in place at all airports worldwide. Experts suggest placing film in safety, lead-lined bags in your carry-on luggage to minimize X-ray damage.
47. On an independent trip (also known as Foreign Independent travel or FIT), will I be traveling with private services or joining other people?
Under normal conditions, you will travel with a private driver & guide; however, some excursions such as lake crossings and ship itineraries are shared with other clients.
48. What conservation/charitable/environmental programs do you support?
Big Five is strongly committed to sound environmental practices and sustainable tourism. We believe in giving back to the communities in which we live and work. Recently, for example, we were involved in a fundraising event through Rare Species Conservancy Foundation to help reintroduce African bongo antelopes into areas of Kenya where there are no more resident wild populations. We also select suppliers who share our vision of a sustainable world. For more information on Big Five’s charitable efforts, please see the “About Us” section on this web site.
49. Are your published departures guaranteed?
We guarantee all scheduled and published trip departures with a minimum of 2 guests.
50. What level of guiding should I expect on your tours?
Big Five works with talented and highly trained guides and drivers, many of whom are certified in their respective fields. We recognize the value services these seasoned professionals provide our clients. Our guides are English speaking and many are certified naturalist guides eg, our Egyptologists in Egypt during your Nile cruise and our Galapagos guides.
51. What quality of hotels do you use on your tours?
We use hotels of deluxe and superior class quality, equivalent to 4-5 star hotels. Many of our hotel choices are selected based on location, safety, ambiance and local flair.
52. Do you assist with obtaining visas for travel?
Yes. Many countries require travelers to obtain visas prior to arrival. Big Five Tours & Expeditions has appointed VisaCentral to process required visas for our passengers. Big Five and VisaCentral are proud to offer you our Concierge Service to assist you with your visa processing. A dedicated, VisaCentral visa specialist is assigned to handle your request from end-to-end. With information from you, all visa forms are created, completed & provided to you for signature. This is different from the usual visa services where you must complete all forms, sometimes multiple times. Our goal is to remove this frustration. With the Big Five/VisaCentral Concierge Service, you give the information to a visa professional who correctly completes all of the forms and follows up to insure efficiency. Fees for this service start at $199. Call 877-941-5468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
53. Upon completing a trip with Big Five, I want to share my feedback with your company. How do I do this?
In your final documents we will include a Passenger Trip Evaluation, which we encourage you to complete and submit. We also welcome emails and letters. In our effort to consistently improve our programs, we value your comments.