What to know before you go to a dude or guest ranch: details

Sure, you did your homework when you picked your guest ranch and booked your vacation, and a lot of key information is available on the ranch website. But it never hurts to make a quick call to brush up on some ranch facts before you go. Here are some of the details you should ask about.

-Before you go, find out how many kids of your own children’s ages will be there at the same time; the answer may determine whether your child will need to bring that Gameboy or not.

-About check- out and check-in times—they’re different from most hotels. Often, you’re okay to check in at 2 PM and asked to check out by 10 AM (exceptions are made individually).

-What is included in the rate? Usually, rates are all-inclusive, covering meals, horseback riding, all facilities, children’s and teen supervision, special programming. But sometimes extra options—spa treatments, trap shooting or fly fishing school—is extra.

-What activities beside riding, hiking, and fishing will you need special clothes or shoes for? You may want to add a skirt or your dancin’ shoes for that square dancing evening.

-Find out if the ranch has a liquor license and, if not, what their policy is about guests bringing their own bottles. Some ranches will let you bring your own bottles but ask you not to consume it in the public areas, in order to preserve a family atmosphere. Check ahead.

-Medical needs are an issue for some guests. Ask if their staff is Red Cross First Aid certified and where the nearest hospital emergency room is located and how long it takes to reach. If your family members have serious medical issues, you may want to select a ranch that’s fairly handy to a major city.

-If you’re a smoker, be sure to ask about the ranch’s smoking policy. In Colorado, for example, a new law restricts smoking in public places so you’ll be asked to step outside before you light up. Many ranch cabins are non-smoking now, as well.

-Those who need to stay connected should ask about cell phone and internet service; both are possible at more and more ranches now, but be sure to confirm your ranch’s availability.

-Plan to bring a pet? Ask what the ranch policy is first. Many ranches prohibit pets, as their safety may be at risk (among the cattle, herd of horses, and ranch dogs).

We thank our friends at the Lost Valley Ranch for their help in compiling this list. And stay tuned for What to know before you go (part 2): what to wear!


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