Premier Yosemite Private Tours Specialist

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Thank you for your interest in Yosemite Private Tours. We have created this webpage to answer customers' frequent questions about our tours and operations:


Questions and Answers


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Yosemite National Park Tours Tours and Operations Frequent Questions: City Tour Questions Muir Woods & Sausalito Tour Questions Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Country Tour Questions Monterey, Carmel, and Pebble Beach Questions Dinner Cruise Questions
 

General Questions and Answers

Where is the Yosemite national park?


Yosemite National Park is located in California Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 200 miles east of San Francisco. Yosemite National Park spans eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California and covers an area of 761,268 acres (3,080.74 km2.

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Why should we book a private tour to the Yosemite?


Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoias groves, and biological diversity.

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Why should we choose your tour company?


Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation that ranges from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) and contains five major vegetation zones and alpine lakes.

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Why the Yosemite national park is the most popular tour from San Francisco?


The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and windy roads. Our private 4x4 SUV tours are the best way to discover the treasure , hidden sights of the Yosemite park wonders and back roads.

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How far is the Yosemite national park from San Francisco?


Thanks to its proximity from San Francisco, the Yosemite tours are the most popular trips from San Francisco. The Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity

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What do we see in the Yosemite National Park?


How far is the Yosemite national park from San Francisco? The Yosemite national park is located about 4;30 minutes a driving from San Francisco. It's about 218 miles each way from San Francisco.

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Do you recommend the one day tour for a family with kids?


We recommend the Yosemite one day tour for a family with kids and for families who can't afford more than one day tour. However, we highly recommend the two or three day tour because the Yosemite is huge national park with giant dimensions and requires several day to tour and explore its unique wonders.

 

Do you recommend more than one day in the Yosemite national park?


Yes, we do visit Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove on the two day tour not on the one day tour for time and elevation considerations. This spectacular Yosemite tour will take you from the Yosemite Valley to the breathtaking Glacier Point. Towering at an elevation of 7,214 ft., this high elevation view point is home to the best sun rise, sun set or a moon rise of the whole Sierra Nevada .From Glacier Point , a stupendous panoramic vista stretches out in the endless horizon for many miles north and east, overlooking hanging valleys & countless high mountains such Clark Range ,Clouds Rest. and Half Dome. From Glacier Point, you can also admire the Yosemite's most famous Falls, including ,Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls

 

Do you we visit Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove on the one day tour?


We do offer several day tours to the Yosemite national park from San Francisco by SUV, vans and motor coaches.

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Do you offer several day tours to the Yosemite national park?


We also provide tours and travel packages all included with accommodation

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Do you provide Yosemite 2 or 3 day tours with accommodation?


 

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Tours and Operations Frequent Questions

How do I make my reservation?

Guests can book any tour on  our website to save time and money. Choose a tour you like that takes you directly to the reservation form. Click on the red "Book Now" button, and make your reservation. It's easy, free, and available 24 hours a day. In addition, you get a discount by booking online.

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Do you pick guests up at their hotel and desired locations?

Yes. We offer complimentary pick ups at any location or hotel located in the following districts of San Francisco: downtown including Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Japan Town, Market, Mission, Folsom and Howard Streets located between Van Ness and the Embarcadero, Financial District, Nob Hill, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Lombard Street, Marina District, Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Presidio. We also offer complimentary pick ups for all Yosemite tours in the following locations: In Emeryville at the Amtrak Train Station and surrounding hotels, at any of Oakland's BART stations such as Mac Arthur BART Station located at 555 40th Street or in Emeryville at the train station . In addition, we also pick up at the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and at any hotel located on highway 120 in the city of Manteca and Oakdale. We can also arrange pick-ups in the East Bay and South San Francisco including SFO Airport. Please call us to schedule a pick-up in these areas. It may involve some additional fees. We  may offer additional complimentary pick-up in Sausalito, in Sonoma and Napa including Napa airport for all wine tours. Please call us to schedule a pick-up in these additional areas in San Francisco Bay Area or elsewhere. It may involve some additional fees.

 
 

Do you drive us back to our hotel after the tour?

Yes. We offer complimentary drop offs at any location or hotel located in the following districts of San Francisco: downtown including Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Japan Town, Market, Mission, Folsom and Howard Streets located between Van Ness and the Embarcadero, Financial District, Nob HIll, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Lombard Street, Marina District, Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Presidio. We also offer complimentary drop offs for all Yosemite tours in the following locations: In Emeryville at the Amtrak Train Station and surrounding hotels, at any of Oakland's BART stations such as Mac Arthur BART Station located at 555 40th Street, Oakland 94609. In addition, we also drop off at the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and at any hotel located on highway 120 in the city of Manteca and Oakdale. We can also arrange drop offs in the East Bay and South San Francisco including SFO Airport. Please call us to schedule a drop off in these areas. It may involve some additional fees. We  may offer additional complimentary drop offs in Sausalito, in Sonoma and Napa including Napa airport for all wine tours. Please call us to schedule a drop off in these additional areas. It may involve some additional fees.

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Do you pick up at hotels near the airport?

We can pick up at the airport hotels for the Yosemite and Monterey/Carmel Tours. For all other additional pick-ups please add $49 on van tour or $69 on SUV tours. Please call our office to arrange a pick up.

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Do you pick up in Oakland or San Jose?

Yes, please call  usto schedule a pick-up, and the additional fees that involve the duration of your use of one or more of our tours.

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Is lunch included in your tours?

Lunch, beverages, wine tasting, and entrance fees to sights and events are not included unless noted otherwise.

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Do you have restrooms on the bus?

Yes, many of our coaches have bathrooms for longer tours.

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Are your coaches clean, and well-maintained for safety?

Yes. All our vehicles comply with state and federal regulations. In addition drivers are drug tested randomly, and well-trained.

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Have you been rated? If so, what's your rating?

We have been rated. We've been given 8 out of 10 stars.

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Do you have a lost and found department?

Yes. All valuable items left in our vehicles are stored in a lost and found department for a month. Please call our office if you have forgotten anything in our vehicles. However, we are not responsible for property damage, missing or stolen items.

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Are the driver's and tour guide's tips included?

No. Your driver and tour guide will greatly appreciate any gratuities you give them. It's up to your discretion, but gratuity is usually about 15%

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Are your vehicles equipped with handicapped and baby seats?

Regretfully, we are not equipped to provide handicap-specific seating, or baby seats. We are working hard to be able to provide those services in the future.

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What type of vehicles do you provide?

We provide mini buses, vans, limousines, and SUV's.

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What's the difference between group and Daily tours, and a private tours?

Our daily tours are open to everybody, for individuals and groups from all over the US, and the world. Our private tours are only for private individuals, or groups who pay for privacy and service a la Carte.

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Where do you pick people up when they are coming from different cities and locations other than San Francisco?

We offer complimentary pick ups at any location or hotel located in the following districts of San Francisco: downtown including Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Japan Town, Market, Mission, Folsom and Howard Streets located between Van Ness and the Embarcadero, Financial District, Nob HIll, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Lombard Street, Marina District, Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Presidio. We also offer complimentary pick ups for all Yosemite tours in the following locations: In Emeryville at the Amtrak Train Station and surrounding hotels, at any of Oakland's BART stations such as Mac Arthur BART Station located at 555 40th Street, Oakland 94609. In addition, we also pick up at the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and at any hotel located on highway 120 in the city of Manteca and Oakdale. We can also arrange pick ups in the East Bay and South San Francisco including SFO Airport. Please call us to schedule a pick up in these areas. It may involve some additional fees. We may offer additional complimentary pick ups in Sausalito, in Sonoma and Napa including Napa airport for all wine tours. Please call us at to schedule a pic- up in these additional areas. It may involve some additional fees.

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How do I book or make a reservation?

You can book directly online and save time and money

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How do I pay for my tour?

You can pay online . We accept all major credit cards and debit cards. We also accept cash and traveler's checks.

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What is a vacation package?

A vacation package combines multiple travel elements into an all-inclusive price. This price is usually more affordable than separately booking the travel elements, because of volume purchasing. A package may include air transportation (we do not presently offer this service), lodgings and accommodations, meals, motor coach, rail or private vehicle, entertainment, car rental, airport shuttle, and sightseeing excursions.

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What are the benefits of a tour or vacation package?

Lower prices, convenience, and peace of mind.

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What if a problem occurs on my vacation?

The vast majority of tours go off like clockwork. But if a legitimate complaint should arise, please contact our office and we will do our best to resolve the issue.

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Where do the tours depart from, and at what time?

Please see our website at and look at the tour you've booked formore  details concerning departure times and locations.

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Is your website safe to enter credit card information?

We have taken every precaution to ensure safety and secure transactions through our website. In addition to all the safety and security measures to protect our website from hackers and fraud, we added an additional Fraud Detection Suite to filter and identify and eliminate any eventual fraud before it occurs. We maximize all chances to guarantee your secure transactions and protect your identity.

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What forms of payment are accepted?

For internet bookings on our website, we accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. For group bookings made by email, fax, or phone, the same credit cards are accepted. Certified US and Canadian checks may be accepted and money wire.

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What are your office hours of operation?

Every day 8 am - 8 pm, except Sundays, 9 am- 7 pm. These hours are subject to change.

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Do I get a discount if I purchase 2 or more tours?

Yes, you can get a discount on your second purchase. You may contact us for more information.

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Do you provide group discounts?

Groups of 10 or more are entitled to a 10% discount or more. Please contact us at Contact Us to make arrangements for group services.

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Once I make reservations, will I receive tickets for my tour?

You will receive a voucher for confirmation and travel within 24 hours of booking. Just print it out and present it at the time of check in.

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What if our tour bus is delayed due to traffic?

Any traffic delays just mean that the tour will run a little later.

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What should I wear on my tour? Are there special items I should bring?

In the summer months, dress for warm weather and bring water and sunblock. In the winter, layered clothing is your best bet. But regardless of the time of year, bring your camera. For the Yosemite tours, get ready to hike with comfortable shoes and clothing. We often hike to waterfalls and to see the Giant Sequoias.

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It's my birthday/anniversary/wedding/honeymoon. Can I arrange for a little extra on my trip?

We love to take people on special days! If you are interested in making the occasion more memorable, just give us a call and we should be able to arrange something to suit your needs. We recommend our brand new SUV for a private tour.

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I have seen cheaper tours advertised in brochures. Would you make a price match?

Yes we will match the price, as long as you provide a valid written promotion.

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How soon should we reserve our tours?

We recommend booking your tours at least two weeks in advance. However, we do our best to make room for our last minute reservations as much as possible.

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How long have you been in business?

Our company has been providing quality tours at the lowest prices for 5 years. However, our teams has more than 20 years of experience in the tour industry, and wide international experience.

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Is smoking or drinking allowed aboard your vehicles?

For the health and safety of our passengers and drivers, smoking is not allowed on any of our vehicles. Charter groups may transport unopened alcoholic beverage containers in the luggage bays for use at the guest's destination.

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Do you have gift certificates available?

Not at this time but we are willing to work out something similar with you.

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Is my credit card safe?

Our website is safe, ensuring the safety of your credit card information as mentioned above

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How can I contact your company?

Please contact us.

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Do you have tips for hikers?

Tips for Hikers:

  • Carry enough water for fairy rigorous hike allowing 1.30mnt for 2 miles round trip when hiking on one of our hiking tours
  • no restroom is available in certain hiking trails such as the Sequoias grove hiking tours
  • if you see a bear do not get to close
  • have hiking shoes.
  • Do not hike if you smoke or pregnant or have any health & respiratory issue. We assume no responsibility of any accident injury that may occur. Hike at your own risk.
  • the return uphill is fairy rigorous hike about 400 elevations on our Yosemite hiking trails

(Usually the Yosemite hiking trails are open from June through October) The hiking trails are located above 5000 and 6000 ft high.

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What to bring on the Yosemite tours?

What to Bring (May-October) & (November-April)

  • Small Overnight Bag (that can fit under reseat)
  • Sneakers or Hiking Boots
  • Hiking Clothes (Shorts & T-shirt)
  • Swimwear
  • Sun Protection & Bug spray
  • Water Bottle
  • Warm Layers (Evenings can be cooler)
  • Raincoat/Jacket (summer rain showers are common)
  • Hiking Boots or Sneakers (waterproof proffered)
  • Warm Layers (Long Underwear Suggested)
  • Swimwear (Hotel has Indoor Pool & Jacuzzi)
  • Waterproof
  • Jacket/Pants for winter conditions

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City Tour Questions

 

What method of payment do you take besides cash?

We accept MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express credit cards. Debit cards are also accepted. American Express is always subject to additional fees, due to their transaction costs per item and per person that they apply to us. Please note that foreign credit cards may be subject to some additional fees due to currency conversions.

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Do we remain inside the bus for the entire tour, or are we able to walk around certain points of interest?

Many smooth hiking excursions to waterfalls, wine tasting, and walk around some sites of interest are built into the tour to provide the opportunity to spend quality time in the outdoor, rather than on the vehicles.

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Does the tour guide have the required knowledge and experience necessary to successfully lead the tours?

Yes. All of our tour guides are well-trained, state licensed guides, and are members of SFTTG.org. Many are multilingual, and all are able to communicate easily and efficiently.

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Do we make photo stops at Vista points when we go on sightseeing tours

We make photo stops at the major and famous key locations. Stops can range from 5 minute photo stops to 20 minutes such as the stop at the Golden Gate Bridge and in all other sites of interest. We also add stops as the weather permits. These stops often include the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks, Civic Center by City Hall, Alamo Square the Palace of Fine Arts, and more.

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What is the difference between your tours and big coaches "hop on/hop off" tours?

Unlike Coach and "hop on/hop off" tours, we are not restricted to a single itinerary all the time. We have the advantage of vans and SUV's to drive almost anywhere in the city that might be off-limits to other tours. We are also able to add locations.

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Muir Woods & Sausalito Tour Questions

 

How long is the Muir Woods Tour?

From San Francisco, including Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods tour lasts about 4 hours.

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How much time is allowed in Muir Woods?

About an hour is allotted to explore Muir Woods. Private tours and charters are able to stay as long as they want within the agreed time slot for the trip. (2-3 hours)

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What's special about Sausalito?

Picturesque views of San Francisco from a small, Mediterranean style town set in the hills of Marin County. Outside of San Francisco it's the most visited town in San Francisco Bay Area. Home to movie stars and celebrities.

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How long do we stay in Sausalito?

We stay in Sausalito about an hour, unless you're with a private tour, which can stay longer.

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How long is the Muir Woods/Golden Gate/Sausalito Tour?

This tour has been designed for clients who only have one morning or afternoon. The entire trip lasts about 4 hours. We are working on a new tour called the Great Muir Woods Escapade that involve points of interest in Muir Woods. Click here to learn more about this new and exclusive tour.

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How much time is allowed in Muir Woods?

Visitors are allowed to an hour or more to walk around Muir Woods. Private Tours and charters are allowed 2 hours or more. Sausalito usually takes an hour.

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Why Sausalito?

Sausalito is a picturesque relative to Mediterranean seaside towns. Sweeping, panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline, unique boutiques and famous cuisine make Sausalito a great place to spend some quality time.

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Can we take the ferry back to San Francisco from Sausalito?

You are welcome to take the ferry back to San Francisco from Sausalito. Please visit the ferry website to learn more about schedule and prices.

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Where do we stop on the way to Muir Woods or the wine country?

We make 2 or 3 stops: at the Golden Gate, often in the Marin Headlands for its unique view of San Francisco and the Bay; there is also a stop in Sausalito, and an optional stop at the Palace of Fine Arts.

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Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Country Tour Questions

 

How long is the wine country tour?

7-9 hours.

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How many wineries are included in this tour?

For the Muir Woods/ Wine Country Tour, we generally visit 3 wineries, and have lunch at the historic Sonoma Plaza. However, we can add one more winery if time permits. For the Wine Discovery Tour in Sonoma and Napa, 4-6 wineries can be included. Private tours are the most popular options that allow more quality time to be spent at the wineries, more wine tasting, and less driving.

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Is wine tasting included? If so, are they included in the ticket price?

Wine tasting is not included. However, we always manage to offer one or more complimentary wine tasting as a courtesy to our customers. But we can't guarantee that, depending on each wine maker's policy.

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Will we be able to walk through the vineyards?

Depending on the wine tour, walking through the vineyards is possible. But we can only guarantee that on our charter and private tours.

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May we bring our children on the tours?

Yes, but no one under 21 is allowed by law to drink wine.

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This is a full day tour; will we have time to eat lunch?

We will spend time in places that combine architecture, history, views, shopping, and more. Many of these places have restaurants, cafes and diners, so lunch is almost always available.

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When do we start the tour? How long is it?

We leave San Francisco at 9 am. The tour is about 8 hours long.

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How many wineries are included on the tour?

We try to provide visitors with experiences at 4 or more wineries located in California's famed wine growing regions of Sonoma and Napa.

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How long is the drive time between wineries?

We know you want to spend time in the wineries, not sitting in traffic. That's why we pick up the best wineries located in the same region. We often target smaller wineries to provide you with excellent wine and great service.

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Are we allowed to walk through the vineyards?

Yes, some of our tours includes walks through the vineyard. A wine maker or a specialist may be available to explain the wine-making processes, from planting to harvesting, to bottling. Some wineries also allow guests to walk through the vineyards and take pictures as well.

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May we take our children along?

Children are welcomed aboard. No wine tasting is permitted by law for any one who's under 21, but a vineyard is an exceptional learning experience for all ages.

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Do we stop for lunch?

We will spend time in places that combine architecture, history, views, shopping, and more. Many of these places have restaurants, cafes and diners, so lunch is almost always available.

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What wineries do we usually visit?

We usually visit 3 to 5 wineries from the following:

  • Chase Cellars (Private tours only)
  • Cline Cellars
  • DomaineCarneros
  • Larson Family Winery
  • Homewood
  • Loxton Winery
  • Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
  • Nicholson Ranch
  • Bouchaine Vineyards
  • Chandon
  • Sterling Vineyards (Private tours only)
  • Roche Winery
  • Mumm Napa (Private tours only)
  • Robert Mondavi Winery
  • and more

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We are constantly adding more wineries to our list. We strive to provide you with the best wineries and service. If you have a special request, please contact us and we will accommodate you.

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Monterey, Carmel, and Pebble Beach Questions

 

How long is the drive to Monterey?

The Monterey Tour is an all-day trip lasting 9-11 hours.

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How long do we spend in Carmel and Monterey?

We arrive at around 10:30 am and leave around 4:15 pm.

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We would like to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Do you stop there?

Yes. We allow 2 hours to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website to learn more.

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Do we get to visit the Pebble Beach Golf Course?

Yes, visitors are able to walk around the golf course.

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When do we leave for the tour? How long does it last?

We usually leave between 8 & 9 am. The trip is day-long, lasting about 10-11 hours. We drive for about 2 hours each way between San Francisco and Monterey. We stop at a coffee shop stand along the highway where you can use the restroom and refresh yourself.

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How long do we stay in Carmel and Monterey? What is included?

Please refer to our itinerary. We usually start at the famous Cannery Row, where you can enjoy high quality seafood. And shopping. We allow you enough time to walk around and take pictures, about 2 hours. We then head down to the famous 17 Mile Drive. We wind our way along the picturesque Pacific Coast, where we make several stops at the best vista points, like Cypress Point and Pebble Beach.

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What are the charges for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the best time to visit?

Please refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website www.montereybayaquarium.org for more information. They usually charge: Adult - $24.95; Child (3-12) - $15.95; Children under 3 are free, students 13-17 or with a college ID - $22.95; seniors (65+) - $22.95; disabled- $15.95. These are subject to change. Only our private tours and charters may include the Aquarium due to time considerations as we deal with a group of people who have different interests.

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When is the best time to visit the Aquarium? How long does the average visit take?

The best time to visit the Aquarium is during the peak season, especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The average visit lasts 2 to 3 hours, but it is easy to spend more time there. We allow 2 hours, and we have to leave on time. We recommend hiring a private tour or charter service to enjoy Monterey or Carmel at your ease. Please call us to arrange a private tour. If you are 3 or more you save time and money on doing so. Please visit our Private Tours webpage.

All the above prices are subject to update and change as well as our terms and conditions.

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Dinner Cruise Questions

 

What is the dress attire for the dinner cruises?

Depending on the cruise, it will usually be dressier when dinner is involved.

 

 

When or how do we pick up the tickets?

We will provide the guest with their ticket if the dinner cruise is included. Otherwise we will give the guest recommendations and provide them with the required information.

 

 

What time do I board the ship?

Boarding is usually around 7 pm for 7:30 departures from the Fisherman's Wharf. The cruise boats will occasionally board at 6:30 for 7 pm departures.

 

 

How much are the dinner cruise tickets?

The dinner cruise tickets generally start at around $125.

 

 

Where is the best place to park?

Depending on where you come from and which area you decide to park your car, we suggest parking at the parking lot located between Jones and Taylor and Beach/Jeffereson. It is safe and reliable outdoor parking.

 

Can I cancel my reservations?

It is possible. Please refer to our cancellation policy for more information. All cancellations must be made 72 hours before tour departure. Cancellations are subject to fees.

 

 

Do you pick us up at our hotels?

Yes. As stated before, we pick up anywhere Downtown, Japantown, the Marina District, or Fisherman's Wharf. Please call to confirm your pick up location and time. Many hotels have the same name, so please ensure that you are providing street address, city, and zip code.

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Do you pick up from hotels near the airport?

We pick up at South San Francisco hotels and San Francisco airport hotels for $49 or more per pick up.

 

Do you drop off at our hotel after the tour?

We always drive you back to the same location where we picked you up. However, if you came on your own from a location where we are not able to pick you up, we will do our best to drop you off as close as possible to where you need to be. Please note that buses and minibuses are not allowed to drive in certain areas. In this case we may have to drop you off in a different location.

 

Do you pick up in Oakland, San Jose, or Dublin/Pleasanton?

We pick up in Oakland and Dublin/Pleasanton when going on the Yosemite Tour. Unfortunately we do not pick up in San Jose. However, you may take BART from Oakland, or CALTRAIN from San Jose, and we will pick you up at any Bart Station downtown or at the CALTRAIN station at 4th and Townsend Street in San Francisco. We will assist you when making your reservations to help in the best way to find your way around the city.

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Do you include wine tasting and meals in your tours?

Meals and wine tasting are not necessarily included in the tours. However, some tours provide wine tasting. We are working hard to provide a package that includes both meals and wine tasting.

 

 

Do you have restrooms on the bus?

The majority of our full size coaches are equipped with restrooms. Our "mini coaches" and vans do not have bathrooms. All our trips go through cities and towns, or down highways with gas stations on both sides of the highway. We do make several stops to accommodate our clients. Many of our daily trips involves short driving anyway between two points.

 

 

Are vehicles clean and well-maintained for safety?

They are well-maintained and checked daily by trained teams and dedicated mechanics in accordance with the California Department of Transportation (CHP).

 

What method of payment do you accept?

All major credit cards, cash and traveler's checks, signed properly, that match your ID or passport.

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Frequently Asked Questions about our Hot Air Balloon Rides

 

We can understand how you feel when you fly on a hot air balloon for the first time. So you want to try ballooning with Golden Horizon Travel but still have some questions? Perhaps you will find the answers right here:  

Brief History: Did you know that the hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology and is a subset of balloon aircraft? It was back on Nov 21, 1783, in the city  of Paris   few years before the French revolution  broke out when  the first manned flight was made by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes , in a hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers.

What is a hot Air Balloon? A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is the gondola or wicker basket   which carries the passengers and  a source of heat, usually an open flame. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the relatively cold air outside the envelope. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom since the air near the bottom of the envelope is at the same pressure as the surrounding air. In today's sport balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the mouth of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material such as Nomex

 

 

What are Hot Air Balloons Made of?

Envelope Rip-stop nylon is the most common material. Polyester, dacron and other fabrics are sometimes used. The lower portions around the opening are usually made from a fire resistant material like Nomex, similar to what race car drivers and firemen wear. It contains approximately 1,500 to 2,000 yards of fabric and more than three miles of thread.
Burner The burner is the power plant of the system. It is fueled by liquid propane carried onboard the balloon and generates up to 20 million BTU's of hot air per hour.
Gondola ~ Basket Woven wicker is used because it is lightweight, flexible and easily repaired.
Fuel System Hot Air Balloons use propane.

 

 

How do Hot Air Balloons work?

Hot air rises. The air inside the envelope is heated by the burner. If the air in the envelope is allowed to cool or if the hot air is 'vented' (allowed to escape) from the balloon, the balloon will descend.

 

 

What type of clothing should I wear?

Wear something warm as it will probably be cold when we start out. It might be a good idea to bring a hat of some kind as the heat from the burner flame can sometimes be quite noticeable. Also, you will need a pair of good, sturdy shoes.

 

 

How long does it take to inflate and deflate the balloon?

Once the envelope has been laid-out and the cables attached to the basket, a portable (gasoline powered) fan pushes air into the envelope. When the envelope is almost filled with cold air, the propane burner is ignited and the air inside is heated enough for the balloon to rise to an upright position. With a small amount of additional heat the balloon will become buoyant. The inflation usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. It takes about the same amount of time to deflate and pack up the balloon after the flight.

 

 

How far in advance do I need to book?

If you have a large group or would like to fly on a weekend you may need to book a couple of weeks in advance or even months during the peak seasons (April to November) But some days are busier than others so if you have a date in mind , please let us know asap. 

 

 

Which season has the best weather for flying?

You can have good or bad days at any time of year, we take it on a day by day basis. But spring and autumn are  typically has more flyable days than the other seasons in our California wine country 

 

 

How does a balloon fly?

Hot air balloons fly because hot air rises. Hot air rises because it is less dense than the cooler air around it and so it tends to 'float' on the cooler air. We use a burner to heat the air in the balloon until it is hotter than the air outside the balloon. Once it is, the balloon will rise, carrying us with it. If we were to allow the balloon to cool it would begin do descend as it becomes the same temperature as the outside air. If we were to let some of the hot air out of the balloon the same thing would happen because there would no longer be enough hot air in the balloon to lift us. Gas balloons work on a similar principle except that they use helium gas, which is less dense, and therefore lighter, than air to achieve the same effect.

 

 

How high do you fly?

How high we fly depends, (like so many aspects  in ballooning  can change ), on the winds on the day. At different heights there are different wind layers in which the wind has different speeds and directions. On an average flight we go from tree-top level up to top all the surrounding peaks and valleys in our California wine country.  

 

 

How much does the balloon cost?

The cost of a balloon varies greatly depending on how big it is. We have three balloons which can carry up to six, nine or sixteen passengers depending on which balloon you are talking about. The largest of the three cost about $105,000, and the other two were about $70,000 and $55,000.

 

 

Do you need a license to fly a balloon?

Yes, our pilots have Commercial Pilot Balloon Licenses to operate in  California wine country and Napa Valley.  

 

 

How big is a balloon?

There are many different sizes of balloon from small, one person balloons to very large ones that can carry twenty people or more. Sports balloons average between 65,000 and 105,000 cubic feet and carry from three to six people. These balloons when inflated vary in height from eighteen to twenty-seven meters and are between thirteen and eighteen metres in diameter. We have 3 different size balloons, one of 120 000 cubic feet, the 2nd of 180 000 cubic feet and our biggest is 300 000 cubic feet.

 

 

Why do you fly so early in the morning?

Although we need some wind to fly the balloon we can't fly if there is too much. We fly in the early morning because the winds are at their calmest then. Also, a lower ambient temperature means that it is easier to get the balloon off the ground and keep it in the air because we don't have to heat it to such a high temperature. This in turn means we don't use so much gas and can fly for longer. And besides, the valley looks so pretty at sunrise.....

 

 

How is a balloon inflated?

We begin by laying the basket on it's side and then laying out the envelope, (the balloon bit), and attaching it by very strong wires to the basket. Then we inflate the balloon with cold air using a portable petrol-powered fan. When the envelope is almost completely inflated with cold air we turn on the burners and begin to heat the air inside. This will make the balloon begin to rise to an up-right position. Then we just keep heating the air until it is hot enough to take us up for a ride. If you would like to see some pictures of the inflation click 

 

 

What is the balloon made of?

The first panel of the balloon is made of Nomex which is extremely fire-retardant. The material from the 2nd panel up is rip-stop nylon which is coated with polyurethane.

 

 

Where are the sandbags?

We don't need sand bags. If we want to go higher we just heat the air in the balloon a bit more. If we want to go down we let the balloon cool or let a bit of hot air out. Gas, (helium), balloons use sandbags.

 

 

Why do you still use wicker for the baskets?

Wicker is light in weight, flexible and very strong - and besides, it looks so nice......

 

 

How much does the balloon weigh?

This depends on the size of the balloon. Our largest balloon weighs 929 kilos fully fueled.

 

 

What type of gas do you use?

LPG - liquid propane gas, the same thing you might use in your gas b-b-q.

 

 

Do you fly in the rain?

No. It is not very pleasant to fly in the rain. The rain cools the balloon down, adds a lot of extra weight to the balloon and due to the curved shape of the balloon the water does not drip off, but gathers in the load tapes and runs down the sides and you get covered in a hot dirty shower.

 

 

How many people can you carry?

Our largest balloon is licensed to carry up to sixteen passengers plus the pilot but it also has a weight limit, so sometimes we get to the weight limit before we get to the 16 passengers. Our middle size balloon can lift up to eight to nine passengers and our smallest can lift up to five passengers plus the pilot.

 

 

What days of the week can I fly?

Any day you like - we operate seven days a week but we are dependent on the weather. We won't fly if the wind is too strong or it is raining.

 

 

What time do I need to be there?

We meet about an hour before sunrise. Don't worry, when you book we will let you know the exact time you will need to be where you need to be. Complimentary pick up and drop off are offered by Golden Horizon Travel staff. We usually meet with our customers round 6 am.

 

 

How long can you fly for?

Pretty much for as long as we have gas to burn. But the later in the day you fly the wind speed usually increases and the more turbulence you get, neither of which you wont. Generally our flights last about an hour.

 

 

Can you steer the balloon?

We go where the wind goes, so we have a lot of different launch sites to choose from in   California wine country .Also the wind does go in different directions at different altitudes and so, by ascending and descending, we can take advantage of this to choose a wind direction which is as close to the direction we want as possible.

 

 

How cold does it get up there?

Generally it doesn't get much colder 'up there' than what it is on the ground. You don't feel any wind because you are moving at the same speed as the wind. We also find that the burner acts as a pretty good heater. So, please bring a hat to protect your head from the heat as we fly over Napa Valley.

 

 

Where do Hot Air Balloons Land?

A Hot Air Balloon travels with the wind; it is not possible to determine an exact landing site before the flight. A pilot's first concern is safety.

 
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