Guided tours are a good option when you don't want to do it all yourself. You travel along with a group (sometimes large, sometimes small), stay in prebooked hotels, eat with your fellow travelers (the cost of meals is sometimes included in the price of your tour, sometimes not), and follow a schedule.
But not all guided tours are an if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Yosemite experience. A knowledgeable guide can take you places that you might never discover on your own, and you may be pushed to see more than you would have otherwise. Tours aren't for everyone, but they can be just the thing for trips to places where making travel arrangements is difficult or time-consuming.
Whenever you book a guided tour, find out what's included and what isn't. A "land-only" tour includes all your travel (by bus, in most cases) in the destination, but not necessarily your flights to and from or even within it. Also, in most cases prices in tour brochures don't include fees and taxes. And remember that you'll be expected to tip your guide (in cash) at the end of the tour.
Biking is a popular way to see the California countryside, and commercial tours are available throughout the state. Most three- to five-day trips are all-inclusive—you'll stay in delightful country inns, dine at good regional restaurants, and follow experienced guides. When booking, ask about level of difficulty, as nearly every trip will involve some hill work. Tours fill up early, so book well in advance. lMost airlines accommodate bikes as luggage, provided they're dismantled and boxed.
The Northern California Wine Country, with its flat valley roads, is one of the most popular destinations.
Napa and Sonoma Valley Bike Tours. Single-day bike tours through beautiful Napa and Sonoma wine country offer a casual pace and frequent winery stops. 6500 Washington St., Yountville, California, 94599. 707/251–8687; 707/996–2453; www.napavalleybiketours.com. From $99.
Bicycle Adventures. Based in Washington state, this outfitter plans all the meal, lodging, and travel details of multi-day bike trips through some of California's most engaging scenery, including the redwoods, wine country, the North Coast, Big Sur, and rugged Death Valley. 29700 S.E. High Point Way, Issaquah, Washington, 98027. 800/443–6060; 425/250–5540; www.bicycleadventures.com.