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A new ally in the search for adventure travel?

If you've ever booked adventure travel, or really any other sort of package travel, through a tour operator, chances are you've had at least a few moments of that pit-of-the-stomach anxiety as you type in your credit card number or put that check in the mail. What if it isn't as promised? What do you really know about this company you're entrusting with your money and safety?

The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) is working on a simple but useful solution, which will allow you to focus your moments of anxiety on the seconds before cliff diving or hitting a particularly dicey set of rapids, not on the booking process. Its new Adventure.Travel website features listings screened for reliability and credibility.

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The ATTA is building the directory by not allowing paid placement, and by selecting pre-qualified ATTA members. While at this stage, it sort of seems like a ploy to get tour operators to join the organization, the next step in the directory will bring greater benefits to travelers looking for credible companies. The ATTA says companies will rise in the directory rankings according to unspecified "quality measures," and in November, the site will introduce consumer review capabilities, which will add a real-world angle to the listings. Eventually, listed companies will also sign commitments to pursue sustainable tourism practices. Let's hope these elements come together to yield a useful and trustworthy source for adventure travelers looking for the best experience for their money.

In the meantime, don't go ruling out adventure travel providers just because they're not on this list. Instead, if you find a provider that seems promising, do some research and ask around (online and off), to gauge the reliability of the company before booking.

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