A great guide can make a successful trip just as quickly as an average or sub-par guide can ruin one, says Dan Austin, co-founder and Director of Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA), a leading active tour company based in Billings, Montana.

With over 20 years in the business, Austin knows what he’s talking about. ALA was honored this year by the editors of National Geographic Adventure Magazine with its highest accolade as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Here are the top traits ALA looks for in selecting guides:

1. Focused with laser-like precision on making sure that guests feel like a V.I.P.
2. Naturally intuitive and has the innate ability to foretell what a guest is thinking or wanting.
3. Spontaneous and can seamlessly deal with the unexpected, both pleasant and potentially disastrous. This means having a Plan B ready in case of such things as sudden weather changes, lodging snafus and road delays.
4. Passionate and eager to share his / her knowledge about an unfamiliar destination.
5. Multi-tasks, switching from chauffeur, coach, and doctor, to teacher, culinary wizard, athlete, mechanic, social worker and psychologist, all in a heartbeat..
6. Has sense of humor and can loosen everyone up to break out of their shell, helping to create strong bonds between absolute strangers.

“With developments like Google, 24-hour high-definition travel television, online forums, Twitter, Facebook and more guidebooks and travel blogs than you can shake a stick at, it seems like informed, independent travel is easier than ever,” says Austin. “But no matter how much research, planning and consultation goes into a trip; travelers who choose to fly solo are still missing two key elements essential for a truly world-class vacation: the knowledge that comes with experience, and peace of mind that there is a guardian angel looking out for you.”

Austin says he tips his hat to the ALA team that consistently delivers the ALA service promise to its discerning clientele. ALA takes pride in its extensive staff and guide training programs and boasts one of the most generous (1:6) guide to guest ratios in the business.

Austin-Lehman Adventures manages all of the arrangements for its selected destinations that include iconic regions of North, Central and South America as well as southern Africa and in spring 2009, cycling holidays in Europe. Small groups are limited to 12 guests (18 on family departures). Rates include first-class accommodations, most meals and beverages, expert guides, park entry fees, multisport activities such as hiking, biking, rafting, horseback riding and more, ground transportation, luggage service and unlimited memories.

For a copy of the 2009 catalog as well as information on ALA’s 66 unique itineraries for active adult and family travel, please call toll-free 1.800.575.1540, or e-mail info@austinlehman.com. To review current trips, schedules and itineraries you can log onto its website: http://www.austinlehman.com.

Source: Widness & Wiggins

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".