It’s the common denominator in every trip you plan: If you’re going to travel with a large group, you need a motorcoach to get you where you’re going.
Whether you’re taking a day trip to a nearby attraction or a weeklong jaunt across the country, you’ll be counting on a motorcoach to move your group around. Even if you’re flying overseas, you’ll probably use a bus for ground transportation after you arrive. Your travelers are likely to spend a lot of time on the coach throughout the trip, and unless your church owns a bus, chartering equipment is going to represent a significant portion of your trip expenses.
Since the motorcoach plays such an important role in your trip, you should invest some time and effort into researching coach companies and products to make sure you’re getting the best and safest transportation for your travelers. With that in mind, here are 10 things to keep in mind when booking buses, whether you’re working with a local transportation provider or a coach line in another part of the country.
1. Know your trip basics.
When it’s time to start asking coach companies for quotes, you need to have the basics of your trip already figured out: where you’re going, your departure and return dates, and the estimated number of travelers. These details will factor heavily into the availability and price of your motorcoach, so having a firm grasp on them will allow coach companies to give you the most accurate quotes possible. If you’re flexible on your dates, let the vendor know as well, since flexibility could lead to lower prices.
2. Consider equipment types and prices.
Renting full-size motorcoaches can get expensive. BusRates.com estimates that the national average price for motorcoach rentals is around $960 per day. Vehicles typically include seating for about 50 people. If your group is smaller, you might save money by renting a minibus, which seats between 20 and 30 people and rents for an average of $820 per day. But if you plan to travel with around 30 people, a minibus could feel cramped, so it might be worthwhile to pay a bit more for a full-size coach.
3. Identify key amenities.
Motorcoaches have come a long way in recent years. Today’s newest coaches offer far more than just seats, storage and a microphone. It’s not uncommon to find buses outfitted with wireless internet service and power outlets at every seat, as well as other touches such as an electric cooler, double restrooms and even galley kitchens. All these perks come at a cost, of course, so carefully consider which amenities your group is likely to enjoy and which would go unused.
4. Ask what’s included in the quote.
Not all motorcoach quotes are created equal: In addition to the base daily price of a charter, there is a whole host of other fees and expenses that could factor into the final bill. To properly compare quotes from different companies, you should ask if prices include mileage, fuel, taxes, surcharges and driver gratuity. It’s also good to know who is responsible for the driver’s hotel room and meals if you’re going on an overnight trip.
5. Ask about payment structures.
Traditionally, motorcoach companies require deposits of about 20 percent to finalize a motorcoach reservation. After that, the balance may be paid in several installments, with full payment often due about 30 days before the trip begins. But some companies are now requiring 100 percent payment at the time of reservation, and with various factors driving up demand for coaches, this trend is likely to grow. Be sure you understand the payment terms before you sign on the dotted line.