Q – No one has ever asked traveltruth a really important question. My wife and I are off to China on our first ever escorted tour. We are extremely nervous about this trip as we really have no sense of who our fellow guests will be. The tour company is Gate1 and the feedback we get from the company is that they attract “really nice people.” But how sophisticated are they or do we risk being placed in a group that thinks only snobs go on to college How does the consumer find out who one’s fellow travelers might be on these tours.

A – Well you know the obvious answer is to use a travel consultant who can describe the differences. But the best you can do as a consumer is to read the marketing copy and pay close attention to the “real” per diem, per person cost. By “real” we mean excluding airfare and insurance. Calculate the number of room nights and divide by the total tour cost. In China, anything under $500 per day should be considered budget to moderate. The top tour operators are going to have per diem costs in China that average $700. Each destination is different. China has some wonderful hotels. The problem is that there is a severe shortage of top-quality, English-speaking guides.

But we’re not sure that we want to take the path you’re on. Cost does not automatically equate to sophistication these days. You may find that the sophisticates on a pricey tour believe in the value of a college education, but they also may believe that global warming is a hoax and that women who use contraception are of dubious character. You might even come upon some tour participants who actually believe that Jonah lived inside a whale.

Spend a few minutes reading the brochure. The wording and the specific carrots used to tempt a purchaser are rather telling about the sophistication and educational levels of that company’s clientele.

Gate1 is a well-established company that operates tours in the value and moderate price ranges.