You’re planning an upcoming tour, much of it on board a coach, van, bus – whatever the term. The success of your trip can often depend on this vehicle, so it’s wise to plan professionally.
Is Your Bus Safe?
Our first and most important duty in undertaking any tour is to check that the coach has cleared all the requirements for operating in the state (or foreign country) in which you will be touring. This will mean getting a copy of the company’s insurance, checking the validity dates, and learning of its maintenance, driver training and other compliance requirements.
Last November many of us who live in Northern California turned on our evening TV news to read about a double-decker runaway tourist bus accident that had occurred in the center of the busiest shopping area in downtown San Francisco, causing property damage and injury to pedestrians.
How would you feel if you and your company/organization had been the one who had hired this vehicle or if you had depended on a tour operator who had hired it for your group as part of their services? What if you or they, in turn, had not provided the diligence in checking out the coach company that was hired for your group?
Is it Comfortable?
The next thing you’ll want to be assured of is that your coach will be comfortable. This can be particularly important if your itinerary is covering a lot of territory. Is the seat padding suitable or are you trying to save money by utilizing the school bus? Is the window visibility adequate? Is the coach airconditioned? Is the coach equipped with wi-fi and video screens? Does the coach company provide bottled drinking water as part of its amenity package? Is there an adequate overhead storage area for your travelers to put jackets and en route purchases? Is there a restroom on board – important in areas where there are inadequate clean and frequent restroom stops. And very importantly, does the microphone come through loud and clear so everyone can hear the guide easily or enjoy music at times on the sound system. When hiring a van or mini-coach, it is important that all seats face forward, that all seats have arm rests, and that there is adequate luggage space at the back or under the vehicle.
What About the Driver?
Second only in importance to the vehicle safety issue, in my opinion, is the driver. To me a good driver not only drives well and conducts him/herself in a professional manner, but also interacts graciously with the passengers, works well as a team with the guide and simply goes the extra mile.
On my last tour to Holland and Belgium, I had a scary moment when one of my tour members fell on the cobblestone street, hitting her head on the storm sewer. I helped her up and headed for our bus, looking up to see our wonderful driver running towards me with a large first aid kit in hand, carrying her in his arms back to the bus and heading right to the hospital, which he knew well. We let the other tour members off at our hotel, and he then remained with me at the hospital until 2 a.m. when we were able to bring her back to the hotel.
Plan to rotate seating – giving everyone in turn a chance to sit in the forward seats, if they want to. En route be sure the tour members all know the coach number. And lastly, be sure you have signed a contract with the coach company so that you know you have the coach reserved well in advance and jot down the payment dates so you comply with your part of the bargain.
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