If there is one article you should read on this website, it is this one. There are a few things you may want to know and consider before you book your storm chasing tour.
The purpose for this article is to give you a good overview of what you should know, research and understand before you invest in a storm chasing tour – an experience of a life-time!
What is storm chasing?
If you are not familiar with what storm chasing is, please start by reading the introduction to storm chasing before you book your tour. Make sure you know what you are booking and what you can expect from a storm chasing tour.
Choosing a storm chasing tour
At the moment there are over 100 tours available from over 15 different storm chasing tour companies. One purpose of this website is to help you choose between all these tours and tour companies.
Our basic guidelines for choosing a tour and a tour company is:
1. Will the tour company find the storm?
Finding storms is a matter of skill, experience, and probabilites. A tour company is never better than the skill and experience of their tour guides. A tour company can never be great without having great tour guides.
The basic reason of going on a storm chasing tour is to see storms and in order to do so you should choose a tour company that you trust to have skilled and experienced tour guides.
A great tour guide will not always find the best storm, from the best position, every day but a great tour guide are more likely to do so on a consistent basis. Every tour guide could get lucky but a great tour guide will be “lucky” on a consistent basis.
Any experienced storm chaser will be able to find storms, especially on good days but only the great ones will be able to position themselves for the best storms, day after day.
Things to look for:
– Information about your tour guide, including credentials such as meteorology degrees and experience. Many tour guides have over 15 years of storm chasing experience.
Things to avoid:
– Unclear information on who will be the guide on your tour and / or unclear information on the experience of your tour guide.
– Guarantees to see tornadoes (unless it is a money back-guarantee of sorts)
Price is of course an important factor when choosing a tour but don’t let it be the only factor. There are a few things regarding the price you may want to consider when you book your tour:
- Total price – The list price for the tour. Does it match your budget?
- Price per day – Longer tours are more expensive than short ones, for obvious reasons. The total price divided by the number of chase days will give you a good tool to compare different tours, regardless of the length of the tour.
- Discounts that could apply to you – many offer discounts for sharing rooms, early sign-ups etc.
On the deals page you can find time limited offers and discounts but also a price comparison of the different tours.
3. Will the tour dates work for you?
The tornado season stretches from April to July with its peak around late May and early June. You can use our search form in order to find all the tours that are available during the dates you are able to go.
Also, take the time to read the article on when to go on storm chasing.
The vehicle you chase in might not seem as an important thing when you go on a tour, but it is. The longer the tour, the more important it is. Expect to be sitting in this vehicle for 5-10 hours a day, this could sum up to over 100 hours on a 14 day tour.
Things to consider:
- How comfortable are the seats? – This is particularly important if you have any medical problems with your back, or similar. Unless the tour operator have provided a photo to StormChasingUSA.com or onto their own website, make sure you ask.
- Will you be guaranteed a window seat, every day? – Some days you may more or less only be chasing from the vehicle. If you are stuck in between two people you may not see anything.
- Will all seats be full? -If the tour operator does not guarantee window seats, it could mean they fill up every seat in the van and this could be quite uncomfortable in the long run.
- Do all seats have seat belts? – Do not accept a ‘No’ to this question.
- Extras – Some vans have free WiFi and entertainment systems, such as DVD-players. This will make the long hours in the van more pleasant. The ability to easily watch the tour guides computer screen could also prove to be really interesting.
On each tour operator listed on StormChasingUSA.com you can find out more information about their vehicles. If some information is missing, make sure you ask your tour operastor.
5. Hotel comfort level
Most tour companies stay at very basic motels during the chase, such as Super 8, Days Inn etc. These hotels offer a descent but not great standard. Although the standard is quite similar over the days, there could be positive and negative deviations.
If you do not like to stay in these kind of motels, make sure you try to find a tour that suits your comfort needs. Some tour operators offer special tours with a higher standard.
In short, expect a basic standard on lodging unless the tour specifies otherwise.
6. Special needs
If you have a medical condition, make sure you let the tour operator know if they can take care of your needs. Some tour companies offer tours for people with special needs and with disabilities.
These are things that are not likely to be deal breakers but that would be interesting to know, when you compare the tour companies:
- How long are the weather briefings in the mornings? If you are interested in understanding the weather you are watching make sure you pick a tour that emphasizes learning.
- Will you get an exclusive tour t-shirt?
- Do the tour operator create a DVD with footage of the tour, that you get after the tour?
What you should expect to pay, and not pay, for
There are some things you should expect to pay for, and other things you should expect to get included into the tour price.
You should expect to pay, out of your own pocket, for:
- Flights to and from your home to the departure city.
- Hotel room charges for the night before the tour starts (i.e. the departure date)
- Your own meals during the tour
- Souvenirs etc
- Trips back to the departure city, in case you want to end the tour in advance.
- Transportation to the location of the tour group, in case you arrive too late and need to catch up.
- Hospital bills – in case you need to visit an hospital.
- Travel insurance
You should not expect to pay extra for
- Hotel rooms and lodging during the tour.
- Car rental or similar
- Reparations to the vehicle in case it gets damaged.
…unless stated explicitly otherwise when you book the tour.
Note that some private tour operators have a different set-up, offering tours where you pay only for the tour guide and his or her equipment. You are then expected to arrange (and pay for) the vehicle, gas, hotel etc. Double check if this applies to the private tour you are going on!
You should check with your tour operator if the following is included in the tour price:
- The hotel night last night of the tour, when you come back to the departure city.
- Extra insurance, if needed, during your trip.
How can you know if a tour operator is good or not?
The storm chasing tour industry is still young and the quality could vary between the different tour operators. Since customers come from all over the world and bad news may not reach everyone, it is still possible to run a low quality tour with a good website and still get customers.
First of all:
- Read the reviews posted on this website. Note that the reviews are separated in validated revies and unvalidated reviews. The unvalidated reviews should be reviewed with great caution since they cannot be confirmed to be legit.
- Check references and make sure they are legit.
- Check if the tour company has a money back guarantee
- Assume a healthy critical stand point to what you hear from the tour company itself. No one can guarantee anything about the weather for example.
- Check the track record and read the stories from the different tours. Many tours publish this information on their websites.
Being listed on StormChasingUSA.com is no quality marker
StormChasingUSA.com has received reports of downright scams but are unable to validate these reports. In order to guide you towards the good quality tour operators, please note the following:
- Being listed on StormChasingUSA.com is NOT a quality marker in itself. We list every tour operator we know that offers tours and the listing is free, in order for fair competition and to promote transparity and easy comparison between different tours.
We do not blacklist any tour operators but if a tour operator is not on this website, it could mean we have decided not to cooperate with them.
Good companies are not afraid to be transparent
A good tour company will have no problem blogging about the tours, tweeting everyday, even on bust days, down days etc.
A tour company that will not provide this information could be afraid to show how and why they missed out on this. Not having a chase blog is of course not a sign of a bad tour company, but having one is typically a sign of a good one!
The same goes for a Facebook page, if people are able to communicate freely and openly with the tour company it is usually a good sign since it shows the company is not afraid of public scrutiny.
Lack of phone number or contact e-mail could also be signs that the tour company needs to be investigated further. You should ask yourself why they do not provide this informaiton.
How long has the tour company been around?
If the tour company has been around for one or two decades they are more likely to be of high quality. The opposite, being a young company is of course not a useful marker to determine if a tour company is bad.
One way to validate the age (established date) of a tour company is too check the registration date of the company. Another, less trustable, way is to use the Wayback Machine at Archive.org and see how long they have offered tours online.
Look up the tour company
You can look up the tour company over the internet, quite easily:
- Google the tour company – StormChasingUSA.com does not hold all answers and other websites (such as TripAdvisor) and forums may have discussed the tour company.
Try also to google with key words such as the tour company name and negative words like “scam”, “fraud”, “law suits” and “fake”. This way you may find out if they have had a lot of accusations (that may, or may not, be true).
You can also check Better Business Bureau to find out more about the tour company. If the tour company has provided this information to StormChasingUSA.com you can find it on the tour operator page.
- Check StormTrack.org – If you are not sure about the quality of a certain tour company and you cannot find, or trust, the information on StormChasingUSA.com, try to search the storm chaser forum StormTrack.org or ask the members there. You will get the opinion of many storm chasers that may be able to deepen your information on the tour company.
Can you trust the information on this site?
You should have a healthy critical standpoint towards StormChasingUSA.com just as any other website. Read more about how you can make up your own opinion about how trustworthy the information on this site is in the article can you trust the information on StormChasingUSA.com.
Things that can go wrong
The nature of Storm chasing allows for a lot of things to happen, most of them fantastic but some may be unfortunate. This is a short list of things that could go wrong and that you may take into consideration before booking.
Please note though that just because they could go wrong does not mean they are very common (Moore’s law does not necessarily apply here!). These are however a few unfortunate things that could happen.
- The vehicle breaks down
- If really unlucky, the vehicle could crash.
- You could get sick and not be able to follow the tour for a few days. Will someone pick you up?
- You could get injured by hail, lightning or strong winds.
- You might be unlucky with the weather and see close to nothing for the full extent of the tour
- You might be too late or just not there for an amazing tornado that virtually “everyone” else saw
- You might dislike some other tour member but still have to spend a lot of time in a small van together with that person.
The intention of this article is to bring out questions and situations that you may want to look up. This does not mean that problems, injuries, scams etc are common. You do not need to worry!
Have a nice and exciting storm chasing trip!