How to Plan a Motorcoach Trip
For those looking to explore our wonderful nation, there is no better way to take in the scenic route while still traveling in comfort than to do so in a motorcoach. Luxurious seats, individual lighting and plenty of luggage storage all allow you to hit the road free from the hassles of traditional car travel.
Although we are not surprised, it is worth noting that this mode of travel is growing in popularity. According to the American Bus Association, motorcoach companies in the United States and Canada provided 605 million passenger trips in 2013 alone! In the process, trip passengers logged a collective 63.1 billion miles.
Clearly, more Americans are deciding to leave their own cars in the garage and skip the security lines at the airport — and are instead traveling by motorcoach!
However, while traveling by motorcoach is a great way to tour the country and minimize the stress of travel, planning a coach bus trip does require some know-how. You don’t want an otherwise perfect trip derailed because you neglected to address the small details.
That’s why we’re putting together this motorcoach bus trip planning guide. Our collective experience in providing well-appointed motorcoaches for tour groups throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland has provided us with a keen sense of the best approach for planning a coach bus trip for a group. By keeping our focus on customer service, comfort and safety, we have spent almost 40 years perfecting the art of chartered bus tours.
With that said, we’re excited about passing our expertise on to you so you can get started organizing your perfect motorcoach trip for you and your group. Whether you are booking a trip for a sports team, a church group, a student group, a family reunion or a company event, we want to make sure your trip goes off without a hitch.
With that in mind, here are our best pro-tips for planning your coach bus trip!
Determine What You Will Need Ahead of Time
Before you start inquiring about a chartered motorcoach, you want to be sure about what you are actually looking for. This will ensure you are having your expectations met while also giving you a better sense of what is possible and what isn’t.
Bus companies like Executive Coach have standard practices they will use by default. Some of these procedures are mandatory, especially where legally mandated safety procedures are concerned. However, others just represent standard operating procedure but are not set in stone.
That’s why you want to be sure you know what you will need for your chartered trip. You don’t want your driver to be caught by surprise, especially if accommodating your request would have been easy with just a little prior planning.
For example, many tour groups want to use audio/visual equipment during their trip. If the tour is educational, perhaps you want to show them an introductory video. If you are traveling with a sports team, the ride is the perfect time to review videos and other material to develop strategy. As you drive, you might want to hire a tour guide to point out relevant information over a PA system.
While all our coaches come with standard A/V equipment, including DVD players, a PA and AM/FM radios with CD capability, you want to make sure your media is compatible with the available system. If you show up with a video cassette and the bus only features a DVD player, your needs may not be met.
So don’t surprise your driver by assuming that accommodating your needs will be easy. While a driver will do whatever they can to make your experience as perfect as possible, giving them a little heads up will help ensure everything goes smoothly — and no one is disappointed.
Be Clear About Mobility Needs
When booking your coach, you also want to be clear about any special mobility concerns your guests may have. While drivers work hard to make sure every passenger feels welcome, there are equipment limitations when it comes to the buses. By making mobility needs clear ahead of time, drivers will be better prepared to accommodate your passengers’ needs while also ensuring passengers come prepared for navigating the coach.
Understand the Payment Policies
While most charter bus companies structure their payment policies in similar ways, there are many small variations within these policies. Therefore, there are certain policies you want to be clear on. So don’t be afraid to ask these questions while preparing:
- If you are planning an overnight trip, is the cost of the driver’s hotel room included in charter price, or are you responsible for paying for that separately?
- Are parking fees and tolls covered in the charter price?
- Is there a standard expected gratuity for the driver?
A good charter coach company won’t try to hide these policies from you. However, you want to make sure you are familiar with them ahead of time so you can budget for your trip accordingly.
Follow Your Gut on Safety
A good coach company will only hire good coach drivers. In order to ensure all of their drivers do in fact put safety first, they will put safety check ups in place, so inquire about these procedures. If you aren’t satisfied with the way your questions are being answered, take that as a sign. A good company won’t be afraid to put their safety commitments front and center when talking with you.
Furthermore, you want to make yourself familiar with the safety regulators that advocate for chartered bus consumers. At Executive Coach, we apply the highest local, state and federal standards. We also make sure our coaches undergo the exhaustive safety grading system implemented by the Department of Transportation.
Finally, look to see if your charter bus company is a member of the relevant trade associations. These associations don’t want their good names spoiled by companies with lax safety standards. That’s why they only allow companies with good safety ratings to be members in good standing.
At Executive Coach, we maintain memberships in all the leading associations, including the American Bus Association, the Pennsylvania Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, the Student and Youth Travel Association, along with local tourism associations such as Discover Lancaster and Visit Hershey and Harrisburg.
Think About Vehicle Size When Planning Your Route
Now that you have settled on the best charter company for your needs, you want to start getting to work on the specifics of your route. There are some particular concerns when planning your route, most importantly whether the bus is physically capable of navigating it!
Keep in mind that buses are large, both in length and height clearance. You want to make sure your route keeps to roads a bus can safely drive on. Obviously highways and most suburban roadways are designed to accommodate large vehicles. However, bus size becomes a bigger concern if you plan on traveling on tight urban streets or smaller rural roads.
In the case of trips into the city, solutions are often available. While you may not be able to take the bus to the exact spot desired, a nearby location may be accessible, meaning your tour group may be able to finish the trip by only walking a block or two.
Rural areas can be a little harder as terrain may prevent the coach from even getting close to your desired destination. In this case, you may have to make some tough decisions and determine if your plan is even possible.
If you are in doubt, contact the company. They will be able to help you decide if your trip is possible and in the event of an issue, help you strategize about a solution.
Keep Federal Driving Hour Limitations in Mind
When mapping out your itinerary, you also need to consider federal regulations governing how long a driver can be behind the wheel.
These rules are as follows:
- 10 hours driving: A driver can only be behind the wheel for 10 hours a day. However, don’t measure this time by clocking how long you plan on being on the bus. These 10 hours include the amount of time it takes to drive from our lot to your pick-up location. It also includes any time spent looking for parking after you have been dropped off at a destination. Finally, it also includes any time spent waiting in traffic or at border crossings.
- 15 hours on-duty: In addition to the 10-hour limit behind the wheel, a driver may only be officially on duty for 15 hours a day. This includes any time spent on the coach waiting for passengers to board, any time spent helping passengers load luggage or time spent waiting for passengers to arrive for a flexible return time. However, if the driver can lock the bus — say to get a cup of coffee or relax — this is NOT included in the 15 hours of on duty time.
- 70 hours in eight days: Obviously, this only impacts multi-day tours. However, if you are planning an extended trip, this is another important consideration. Even though the driver may be following the daily limitations, it is still possible to violate the 70 hours in the eight days rule.
- 8 hours off: Finally, this rule dictates that a driver must have an eight-hour break between days from when they lock the bus at night until they unlock it in the morning.In addition to the 8 hours off duty, the driver must spend time doing a post-trip inspection at the end of the day and pre-trip inspection at the beginning of the day. Even if you want to get an early start on a one-hour leg of your trip, you have to provide your driver with at least eight hours between duties
Always Have a Detailed Itinerary Available for Review
Even if you do all of your homework and plan your itinerary accordingly, there are a number of small and unexpected wrinkles that can arise when planning a chartered trip. That’s why you want to make sure to give your charter company the opportunity to fully review your itinerary well head of your trip.
For example, in both New York City and Washington D.C., there are stringent city ordinances that limit where and for how long you can provide drop off and pick up service. These ordinances are designed to reduce inner-city street congestion, but they can have a big impact on your tour.
While it would be unreasonable to expect you to familiarize yourself with these ordinances as part of your planning, as professionals, we have to be familiar with them. We can pass that expertise back to you and help you plan your trip accordingly.
Build Load Times Into Your Itinerary
When planning your trip, you want to make sure you are saving enough time for loading.
Often, when setting the itinerary schedule, planners assume that loading a coach takes about as much time as putting luggage in the trunk of a car. However, loading a bus safely and securely requires significantly more time.
Additionally, even the promptest collection of coach tourists will likely arrive in a slightly staggered fashion. That means you need to anticipate at least one of two individuals scrambling at the end, causing a minor delay.
So you always want to build a little flex into your load times.
Plan on Some Traffic Delays
Finally, don’t forget to also build in some flex time to account for unexpected traffic. You never want to depend on perfect traffic when building your itinerary. Remember that arriving early isn’t necessarily a problem, either — even if you need to spend a little extra time in the motorcoach!
So if the map says it will take four hours to get to your destination, consider allotting five hours instead. That way an accident or some construction won’t make you late for a big event! And remember, no amount of encouragement will make a bus driver drive unsafely in order to make up for lost time.
Book With Executive Coach
Now that you have planned your trip, inspected it for any potential hiccups and settled on the safest and most professional charter bus company in Pennsylvania and Maryland, it’s time to start transforming your plans into reality by contacting Executive Coach.
Since 1979, we have been providing the safest, most professional and courteous service across PA and MD. By putting our customers first, we have provided countless chartered tours with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We pride ourselves on giving our customers the most comfortable and accommodating rides while also making sure they arrive safely by being uncompromising in the ways we follow our safety regulations.
Because our track record is so good and our procedures are so exacting, we have held the highest rated commercial busing insurance policy from Lancer Insurance since 1986. We like to think of this as a testament to how seriously we take safety and customer care.
We offer two classes of coach — our 40-passenger coach and our 56-passenger coach. Both provide comfort and luxurious accommodations!
So if you’re ready to start solidifying your plans, it is time to contact us. Our professional and courteous staff members are waiting to hear from you in order to provide you with a quote while also assisting you in further strategizing your trip.
Get ready to take to the road and experience all that this wonderful country has to offer you — all with an unrivaled level of comfort!