Tips for Planning a Bus Charter Trip

by Matt Solis

Long-distance driving can be a challenging prospect, especially with a large group of people, and that’s exactly why the charter bus industry has thrived over the years. In addition to being relatively cheap (about half the cost of flying), bus travel is one of the most fuel-efficient—and thus environmentally friendly—forms of transportation available in the United States. Charter buses are good options for tours, events and long-distance travel, but before you choose a service provider, it’s important to remember that not all passenger transportation companies offer the same services or implement the same standards and business practices. Before booking your trip, take precautionary measures and consider the following tips:

  • Be thorough when discussing your needs and any special amenities you’d like. This will help avoid future misunderstandings and ensure your comfort during a long trip.
  • Ask about policies for deposits, final payment, refunds and cancellations.
  • Determine if the driver’s hotel room is included in the cost of the charter, or if you or your group will be responsible for covering the cost.
  • Ask to see the company’s USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) number. It’s five or six digits long, and you can use it to view the carrier’s safety information online.
  • Consider booking a video-equipped motorcoach if it’s available. Educational videos or movies can help pass the hours, and sports teams can utilize the travel time to review game footage. Also, some modern buses now offer Wi-Fi access, so ask if that’s a possibility.
  • When comparing quotes, make sure you account for things like driver experience, equipment maintenance and company stability. These aspects are often overlooked, but their value is nonetheless significant.
  • Provide the company with an itinerary to ensure the driver is thoroughly prepared to make your trip as efficient and smooth as possible.

It’s important to gather as much relevant information as possible before deciding to hire a charter bus provider, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how obvious the answers might seem. Here are 10 questions to start with:

  1. How many local miles are allowed per day after reaching my destination? What’s the charge for exceeding them?
  2. Does the price quote include parking and tolls?
  3. What’s your cancellation policy?
  4. Is 10 percent the standard driver gratuity with your company?
  5. What’s your procedure in the event of a breakdown?
  6. Can you provide proof of insurance?
  7. Does your company own the bus or will it be brokered out?
  8. Is the bus available for inspection before chartering?
  9. Are you members of any associations (American Bus Association, United Motorcoach Association, National Tour Association)?
  10. Does your company have its own maintenance facility?