As the Media Relations Writer for Traverse City Tourism, Mike Norton is your go-to when looking to charter a bus to Traverse City.
By Mike Norton
On the unspoiled northeastern shore of Lake Michigan, there’s a place of deep clear water, pine-scented forests and endless sandy beaches. It’s called Traverse City, and it’s like no other place on earth.
I never intended to live in Traverse City -- I came here for a job. But very quickly this place started getting to me. The beaches here are as lovely as any place else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
Nestled along the deep blue waters of Grand Traverse Bay, this relaxed community of 15,000 people is the cultural and social center of a four-season recreational paradise. Here you can relax on a magnificent golden beach, enjoy a round of championship golf, or amble through the shops and stores of a friendly, tree-shaded downtown. You can cast your line into one of America’s most famous trout streams, steer a schooner down the bay, or pick a quart of fresh cherries straight off the tree.
Carved by ancient glaciers, the long deep lakes and roller-coaster hills of the Traverse City area are a sight to see. Perhaps the best example of this beauty is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a 64-mile curve of beaches, coves, islands and hills that was voted “Most Beautiful Place in America” by viewers of Good Morning America. It’s a wonderful place for a hike, a beach picnic, a scenic drive or even a ferryboat excursion.
Thanks to its many bays, coves and islands, the Traverse City area has 234 miles of continuous Lake Michigan shoreline, and the sheltered waters of Grand Traverse Bay are a sailor’s paradise. The town is surrounded by thousands of acres of national and state park and forest with miles of trails for hiking and cycling, while its streams and rivers of this region are perfect for canoes and kayaks.
The region’s distinctive landscape has attracted talented golf architects like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who have helped turn Traverse City into one of America’s best golf destinations. Golf Magazine selected Traverse City as one of America’s top six golf regions (they call it “America’s summer golf capital”), and Golf Digest gave it the No. 12 spot on its list of the world’s 50 top golf destinations.
Fortunately, those heart-stopping views don’t disappear when summer is over. Autumn here is a gentler, more romantic season -- a time of crisp clear mornings, mellow golden afternoons and cool, lingering evenings. The summer crowds have vanished with summer’s heat, and by late September the hills are ablaze with color. (TripAdvisor.com calls it one of America’s Top 10 fall foliage destinations!)
As winter arrives, the entire region becomes a sparkling white playground for skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoe hikers. More than 200 miles of the country’s finest and most diverse ski and snowmobiling trails are in the enchanted Boardman and Jordan River valleys, and the downhill skiing at Shanty Creek is some of the best in the Great Lakes region.
Traverse City is rich in history, too. Reminders of the past are everywhere: lonely lighthouses and humble mission churches, grand old hotels, quaint summer cottages and the palatial homes of lumber barons. Picturesque villages like Suttons Bay, Bellaire, Leland, Old Mission and Glen Arbor are filled with hidden byways, cozy studios and quaint shops. Traverse City’s tree-shaded and pedestrian-friendly downtown is a great shopping destination – and so is the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a former mental asylum whose castle-like buildings are being transformed into a community of shops, restaurants and homes.
Long known as the Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City is now establishing an international reputation as a wine and craft brewing destination. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are dotted with vineyards and wineries that consistently bring home awards from regional, national and international competitions. Talented and inventive new chefs are also making their presence felt throughout the region, developing a homegrown cuisine based on fresh local ingredients from our woods, waters and farms.
For nearly a century artists, craftsmen and musicians have made their homes in and around Traverse City, giving the community a surprisingly rich cultural life and providing almost endless opportunities for shopping and browsing in its many galleries and studios.
Can you see why I’m hooked?
This blog is a special treat. It is written by Julie Pingston who is THEEE expert if you want to charter a bus to Greater Lansing. Why? Because Julie works for the Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau.
By Julie Pingston
Is it up to you to plan the next group getaway or family get-together? Book your motorcoach for easy group travel and then head to Lansing for a visit that will exceed your expectations. The team at the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau can help plan the entire visit by helping you locate overnight guest rooms or helping to plan out customized itineraries just for your group.
Located in the heart of Michigan, Greater Lansing enjoys a combination of warmth, convenience and diversity. With its small town friendliness and big city sophistication, Greater Lansing has something for everyone.
Downtown Lansing possesses a wealth of fascinating and entertaining activities including museums, theaters, parks, gardens and a four-season zoo. Trace the path of Michigan history at the Michigan Historical Museum, enjoy the beauty of the restored Michigan Capitol Building, explore the wonder of science at Impression 5 Science Center, relive automotive history at R.E. Olds Transportation Museum or catch the excitement of minor league baseball with the Lansing Lugnuts. The Grand River, with walking or biking trails for miles, flows through downtown and connects to Old Town which features a variety of unique music festivals, specialty shops, eateries and bakeries. Downtown Lansing and Old Town also offer a multitude of festivals and events throughout the year.
Visit Michigan State University--home of the Spartans. Established in 1855 as the first land grant college, the 2,000-acre campus in East Lansing is the home to more than 48,000 students. Explore over seven acres of the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens which includes the 4-H Children's Garden, Perennial Garden, Annual Trial Garden, Rose Garden and Idea Garden or stroll through the Beal Botanical Gardens, the oldest continuously operated garden of its type in the United States. During your MSU visit, be sure to stop at the MSU Dairy Store to savor a variety of homemade ice creams and cheeses. While on campus, you can visit the MSU Museum to see exhibits of Michigan life and ecology or the Broad Art Museum, a cutting edge contemporary art museum located in an award winning and uniquely designed space. Besides having a renowned reputation for academics, MSU offers endless opportunities for things to do and explore.
Within the Lansing region are charming and unique communities offering a quaint setting for an assortment of activities. Set out on an adventure of kayaking or canoeing along the Grand River; celebrate everything from mint farmers to arts and culture at our festivals and fairs; sit back and relax on a tour aboard a riverboat; or soak in the country charm of a local farmers market.
All around town, you will find many fine restaurants and eateries that feature everything from innovative casual fare to world-class cuisine. The shopping opportunities vary from specialty stores and art galleries to large shopping malls.
Greater Lansing is located within 90 minutes of 90% of the state's population. We hope you will join us for the fun and festivities in Greater Lansing! Be sure and get the free visitor's guide or contact the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau for further details about planning a Lansing visit.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to book a party bus. Prom night. Graduation. Bachelor and bachelorette parties. A night on the town. These are the celebrations for which only a party bus will do. Here’s what you need to know before you book.
1. Define your group.
No two groups are exactly the same. To emphasize this point—and to demonstrate how differences in groups can affect your party bus choices—we came up with three fictional scenarios describing “typical” party bus group events.
For months, high school senior Emily B. and her girlfriends have been planning every detail of their prom night, down to the precise shade of their dates’ cummerbunds. Like many of their classmates, they’ve decided to attend senior prom as a group—12 couples in all—beginning with photos in the park, followed by dinner at a steakhouse, culminating in the dance itself, and winding down with a school-sponsored post-prom afterglow.
After working 36 years as a claims adjuster for a family-owned insurance agency, Jim G. is retiring. As is the agency’s custom, the entire staff will take the afternoon off to honor Jim with a retirement luncheon at a nearby country club. There will be speeches, toasts, a gift, and a cash bar.
Amanda H. is getting married. Her maid of honor and bridesmaids—all eight of them—have decided to throw her a fabulous bachelorette party a few weeks before the wedding. They’ve invited a total of 25 women for a “martini run”—with plans to hit two local cocktail lounges before settling in at a downtown nightclub famous for specialty martinis and Chippendale-style male dancers.
2. Plan your itinerary.
Once you’ve defined your group, you’ll need to decide on the itinerary. What day is your event? When and where do you want the bus to pick up your group? Where are you going? What time would you like to arrive? How many stops, if any, will you make along the way?When you reach your destination, do you want the bus to wait for you or come back for you?
When the time comes to book your party bus, you’ll need to know the answers to these questions, along with the address of your destination or destinations, the preferred entrance, and any other details the charter bus company may need in order to plan the best route. Let’s return to our three fictional groups to work out their itineraries.
Emily’s group will be making multiple stops on prom night—before and after the dance—so it makes sense to use a back-planning approach to determine the itinerary. Here’s how back-planning works. Since the dance starts at 7:00 p.m., the planners use 7:00 as their target time and work backward from there.
To arrive at the dance no later than 7:00, they know they will need to pull out of the restaurant parking lot by 6:45. To allow enough time to pay the check, use the restrooms, and board the party bus, they must be done eating by 6:30. With this timeframe in mind, they decide on a 5:00 reservation to allow an hour and a half for getting seated, ordering dinner, being served, and enjoying their meal. To keep that 5:00 reservation, they’ll have to wrap up their pre-prom photo session by around 4:30, meaning everyone should get to the park by 3:30. To make that happen, the planners have asked everyone to meet in the parking lot of the high school at 3:00, where they will “count heads” and board the party bus. Immediately following the prom—which ends at 11:00 p.m.—Emily’s group will attend a school-sponsored afterglow, scheduled for 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., after which their bus will return them to the high school parking lot in time to meet their 2:30 a.m. curfew.
- Retirement Party Itinerary
Transportation for Jim’s retirement party will be straightforward. The guest of honor and his co-workers will board a party bus in the parking lot of their office building at 11:30 a.m. and ride straight to the country club, a 20-minute drive in light traffic. At 3:00 p.m., after the luncheon, the bus will return the group to their work place.
- Bachelorette Party Itinerary
Prior to the evening’s festivities, Amanda and her friends will be checking into a block of rooms at a downtown hotel, where they’ve planned to have an old-fashioned slumber party after their evening out. So the bus will pick everyone up at the hotel at 8:00 p.m. The group wants to stop at two cocktail lounges for martinis, with each stop scheduled for around 45 minutes to an hour. Their final stop will be a downtown nightclub, where they’ve reserved (and decorated) a private party room for a night of games, gifts, entertainment, a bachelorette party-themed cake, and specialty martinis. They’ve booked the room for four hours (from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.), so some time after 2:00 a.m., the women will board their party bus and return to the hotel.
3. Choose your amenities.
By the time you’re ready to book your party bus, you should have a good idea of the amenities you desire. Today’s motorcoaches offer a variety of luxury features such as Wi-Fi, power plugs, DVD players, public address systems, reclining seats, and onboard restrooms; but buses that are specifically designated as “party buses” may offer additional amenities such as wrap-around seating, strobe lights, fog machines, dance floors, wet bars, and even stripper poles. As you plan your event, you should also decide whether the bus will be used for transportation only … or if it will be part of the festivities.
Let’s return to our three fictional groups one last time to see what amenities they’ve chosen for their party bus experience.
To create a festive mood for their special night, Emily and her friends have booked a party bus with wrap-around seating, colorful lights, and a great sound system through which they plan to blast their pre-selected playlist all the way to the prom. They’ll also stock their party bus with bottled water, soft drinks, and snacks.
- Retirement Party Amenities
For Jim’s retirement party, his co-workers have produced a short tribute video—equal parts sincerity and humor—to watch on their way to the luncheon. They’ve chosen a luxury motorcoach with DVD players and monitors so they can watch the video together en route.
- Bachelorette Party Amenities
Meanwhile, Amanda’s friends have decided to go all out for her bachelorette party—with strobe lights, dance music, a slide show, and plenty of champagne to create a celebratory mood. They want the bus ride to be very much a part of the evening’s entertainment, so they’ve booked a party bus with all the “bells and whistles.”
Chaperones. For party bus passengers under the age of 21 (like our Prom Night group), it’s a good idea to have at least one adult chaperone on board. Some bus companies require it.
Risky behavior. Prom night is rife with temptations … and notorious for risky behavior. Chartering a party bus for prom night is one way to guarantee that young people don’t drink and drive. Many schools already participate in programs like the Safe and Sober Prom Night Program, which encourages students to sign a pledge promising to stay safe and sober on prom night. Emily’s group (or their parents) might consider asking everyone to sign a similar pledge before they’re allowed to board the party bus.
Deposit. If you are serving alcohol on your party bus, expect to make a refundable deposit to cover any necessary cleaning or repairs.
Identification. Be sure your guests bring identification to show proof of legal drinking age.
The Company. Always vet your party bus company. Beware of scams, bait-and-switch schemes, and unauthorized operators. Before signing a contract, check the carrier’s DOT number, insurance status, safety and inspection record, and accident history.
Now you know how to book a party bus for any celebration: Define your group, plan your itinerary, select your amenities . . . and get the party started!
If you are considering a bus rental for your next group trip, chances are you have questions. That’s great, because we have answers! Here’s the 411 on your FAQ.
Q. What are some of the top reasons to travel by charter bus?
A. Here are our top five reasons to travel by charter bus: luxury, safety, affordability, convenience, and even the environment.
- Luxury: Expect amenities like reclining seats, plenty of legroom, individual lighting and climate controls, onboard restrooms, and special features such as WiFi, DVD players, and power outlets.
- Affordability: Per passenger, chartering a bus compares favorably to the price of a train ticket and is around half the cost of flying.
- Convenience: A charter bus picks you up at your chosen location and takes you wherever you want to go. Plus, you won’t have to hire a taxi or rent a car for local transportation when you reach your destination.
Q. How much does it cost to rent a bus?
A. The cost of a bus rental varies, depending on a number of factors: the size of the coach, the age of the coach, the amenities provided, the distance and duration of the trip, fuel prices at the time of travel, time of the year, and sometimes even the day of the week. A reputable charter bus company will be happy to offer a free, no-obligation price quote based on your specifications.
Q. How far in advance should I book a charter bus?
A. It’s a good idea to book a bus as soon as you know the dates of your trip. Depending on the season, even companies with large fleets may sell out. Experienced travel planners like to firm up their transportation two to six months in advance of a “high season” trip (April to October) but may find one to three weeks to be sufficient lead-time during slower periods (January and February, for example). It’s worth noting that bus companies can sometimes accommodate last minute requests—so it never hurts to check.
Q. Can my group eat and drink on the bus? What about alcohol?
A. Yes, most charter buses permit food and beverages on board—including alcoholic beverages for adult passengers. The chartering group typically establishes the guidelines for eating and drinking. Your passengers will be expected to use trash receptacles to clean up after themselves, and you may be required to leave a refundable deposit if you are serving alcohol.
Q. Is smoking permitted?
A. Probably not. The vast majority of charter bus companies have strict “no smoking” policies.
Q. How can I be sure the bus is safe and insured?
A. You can review the records of any charter bus company you are considering. Go to the Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration’s SAFER Company Snapshot to view the company’s safety record and rating (satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory). Never settle for a carrier with a less than satisfactory rating. The Company Snapshot also lets you:
- Review the company’s record of violations or “out of service” incidents.
- Check the company’s accident record.
- Verify that the company is properly insured ($5 million in liability coverage for buses transporting 16 or more passengers).
Q. Can charter buses accommodate passengers with handicaps?
A. Yes, many charter bus companies own buses equipped with wheelchair lifts. Some may even offer hearing loops for the hearing impaired. Be sure to make your needs known in advance so the company can reserve the appropriate vehicle or vehicles for your group.
Q. How far can my group travel and how long can our bus trip be?
A. Many charter bus companies are licensed to travel anywhere in the United States and
Canada—so you can go just about anywhere in North America. With adequate lead time, you can normally charter a bus for as long as you need it. However, be aware that your driver must comply with certain “hours of service” rules established by the Department of Transportation:
- 10 hour rule. An operator cannot drive for more than 10 hours, following eight consecutive hours off duty.
- 15 hour rule. After 15 hours on duty—performing both driving and non-driving tasks—an operator must take at least eight hours off before driving again.
- 70 hour rule. On-duty time cannot exceed 70 hours for any eight day period.
Q. How much should we tip the driver?
A. Any gratuity for the driver is at the discretion of the customer. For groups that choose to tip, a typical gratuity might be $1.00 or $2.00 per passenger, or up to 15-20 percent of the booking fee.
Q: Who takes care of the driver’s lodging?
A. Most charter companies request that the customer arrange for the driver’s lodging; and most recommend that the driver and group stay in the same hotel. Keep in mind, many hotels will discount (or even comp) the driver’s room, especially if you’re booking a large block of rooms. Ask about the hotel’s policy when you make your reservations.
Q: How should I go about selecting a charter bus company for my group trip?
A. Selecting a charter bus company starts with asking the right questions! Want to know more? Read “How to Book a Bus: The Top ‘Lucky 13’ Questions to Ask.”
Party buses are surging in popularity across the country, and for good reason. In many ways, a party bus is the perfect transportation solution for bachelor/bachelorette parties, weddings, birthdays, family reunions, proms, fraternity/sorority formals, office parties, and many other events. But if these so-called “rolling nightclubs” get out of control, they can also be dangerous.
To be fair, any bus with “party” in its name is supposed to be fun. Party buses can and should be an enjoyable part of your event. But when alcohol is part of the celebration equation, a party bus should increase guest safety and reduce your risk – not the other way around.
With fun and safety in mind, we’ve compiled ten common sense do’s and don’ts for your party bus rental:
- Make a clear distinction between what a party bus is and isn’t.
What it is: A party bus is a mode of luxury transportation, to and from a celebratory event, in which the bus ride contributes to the festivities and, at the same time, ensures the safety and comfort of the guests.
What it isn’t: A party bus should NOT be a no-holds-barred drunken bash in which over-intoxication and raucous behavior are condoned and even encouraged.
- Consider renting a party bus when you need to transport people to and from a party, celebration, or other event.
- Rent a bus from a reputable company. Verify that the company has a current permit, license, and insurance. Check references to make sure it has a good reputation.
- Beware of rogue operators. If you are offered a cut-rate price, it could mean that the operator is cutting corners in important areas—such as liability insurance, safety inspections, and properly licensed drivers. Some may be operating illegally—without the necessary Department of Transportation (DOT) authority to transport passengers for hire.
- By all means, enjoy snacks and beverages as part of the hospitality and entertainment while onboard your party bus. Most charter buses—especially those that market themselves as party buses—allow adult passengers to consume alcohol onboard. But use common sense about it. Serve and drink responsibly.
- Alert the charter bus company in advance if you intend to serve alcohol onboard. You may be required to make a refundable deposit to cover any necessary cleaning or repairs. Be sure your guests are prepared to show proof of legal drinking age.
- Find out if the company allows coolers onboard. If they do, keep in mind that coolers must be small enough to fit under your seat or in an overhead bin so they don’t block the aisles.
- Follow all safety rules, listen to the driver’s instructions, and refrain from any behavior that could damage the bus or injure a fellow passenger.
- Clean up after yourself. Motorcoaches provide trash bags and receptacles for the convenience of their passengers; these should be passed around several times during the trip.
- Provide two or more responsible adult chaperones for any party bus carrying minors.
- Never hire a bus company without doing your due diligence. A company’s DOT number, insurance status, safety and inspection record, and accident history are all a matter of public record. Take five minutes and review that record.
- No underage drinking. Period. When minors are onboard, the chaperone is responsible for making sure underage passengers do not drink. The bus driver may ask to see identification, and reserves the right to terminate the charter with no refund if underage drinking is discovered.
- No illegal substances.
- No weapons.
- No smoking. (With rare exception, the majority of charter bus companies have strict no-smoking policies.)
- No standing or dancing on upholstered seats.
- No behavior that distracts the driver.
- No over-intoxication or disorderly conduct such as fighting, verbal abuse, or behavior that could be deemed “indecent.” (Any of these are grounds for the driver to terminate the charter with no refund.)
- No “bus surfing” (i.e., breaking open an emergency exit hatch and climbing onto the roof of the vehicle while in motion or stopped). For that matter, no putting any body part outside of the vehicle’s windows or emergency exits at any time. Not only are these behaviors against the law, they could result in serious injury or death.
- Don’t leave anything behind. Check for your purse, wallet, keys, phone, and jacket before you disembark at the end of the night!
There you have it: Ten do’s and ten don’ts for a party bus experience that’s memorable for all the right reasons.
Long, long ago—in a land before the luxury motorcoach, in an age when private bus rental was but a distant dream—there were no party buses, no limousines. In fact, there were two kinds of buses: the yellow school bus and the Greyhound bus. The former took you to school and back; the latter took you everywhere else you needed to go.
Today, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the charter bus industry accounts for $6 billion in annual sales, with more than 35,000 private charter buses available for hire throughout the United States. But what, exactly, constitutes a charter bus?
To answer that question, we’ve compiled a little “cheat sheet” to familiarize you with all the different kinds of vehicles available for charter.
• • •
Also Known As: Limo Bus, Party Van, Party Ride
Seating Capacity: Party buses come in different sizes, and can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 60 or more guests.
Description: A party bus is a luxury motor vehicle—either a bus, van, or limousine—designed to transport 10 or more people to a party, celebration, or special event. Party buses are sometimes modified to provide wrap-around limousine-style seating and special features like strobe lights, fog machines, dance floors, wet bars, and—brace yourself— stripper poles.
Typical Customer: Party-goers! A party bus is often the ride of choice for bachelor/bachelorette parties, weddings, proms, office parties, graduations, concerts or any other event where people want to be together and celebrate.
Benefits: Bottom line: Partiers can enjoy themselves and leave the driving to a sober professional. A party bus rental is cheaper, safer, and a lot more fun than driving.
Insider Tip: Get the most out of the multimedia aboard party buses. Load up your iPod, smartphone, or flash drive with your music playlist in advance. If the bus has flat screen TVs, consider setting up a video or slide show for your party.
• • •
Also Known As: Full-size Motorcoach, Luxury Motorcoach, Charter Bus, Tour Bus
Seating Capacity: Full-size motorcoaches are built in a few sizes—all of them large—with seating capacity ranging from 45 to 57.
Description: A full size motorcoach typically has a roomy interior and luxury appointments like reclining seats with footrests and headrests, individual climate and lighting controls, cup holders, overhead parcel racks, an onboard restroom, and plenty of underbody storage space for luggage. Passengers can expect amenities like WiFi, 110V outlets, public address systems, and DVD players, plus safety features like directional and diagnostic GPS. Many charter bus companies have one or more handicap-accessible coaches in their fleets, with wheelchair lifts and flexible seating arrangements to accommodate wheelchairs.
Typical Customer: A motorcoach charter is ideal for sports teams, church groups, social clubs, professional organizations, schools, companies, families, and other groups traveling together out of town. For day trips, overnights, and multi-day excursions, groups appreciate the roominess, cargo space, onboard restrooms, and other amenities found on a charter bus.
Benefits: Travel planners say that charter buses are cost-effective, convenient, and very comfortable. Plus, they’re reliable. Everyone gets to the right place, at the right time, as a group. (No one gets a late start, no one gets lost, no one has car trouble, no one runs out of gas …) Having avoided the hassle and expense of driving and parking, your group arrives relaxed, refreshed, and ready for work or play.
Insider tip: You can’t beat the convenience of having your own personal bus and driver at your disposal for local transportation once you’ve arrived at your destination.
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Also Known As: Mini Charter Bus, Mini Coach, Mid Coach
Seating Capacity: 18 – 39 depending on the vehicle.
Description: A lot of minibuses offer the same luxurious amenities as larger motorcoaches, such as reclining seats, climate and lighting controls, tinted windows, free WiFi, and DVD players. Your minibus may or may not be equipped with an onboard restroom. Most have overhead parcel racks; most do not have underbody luggage compartments.
Typical Customer: A minibus is ideal for shorter-distance trips and/or smaller groups. For example, a company’s sales department might use a minibus to transport employees to a meeting or retreat; a social club might book a minibus for an afternoon museum tour, shopping trip, or live performance; a Cub Scout den might charter a minibus for a field trip or cookout; a group of friends or coworkers might rent a minibus to go to a concert or sporting event.
Benefits: A charter takes the stress out of transporting a group. There’s no need for a designated driver, no need for multiple vehicles, and none of the hassles that go along with traffic, parking, and navigating in an unfamiliar area.
Insider tip: Renting a minibus is surprisingly affordable. When a motorcoach is too big and a shuttle bus is too small, a lot of travel planners find minibuses to be “just right.”
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Also Known As: Shuttle bus, Shuttle Van, Passenger Van, Luxury Van, Club Wagon
Seating Capacity: Shuttle vehicles can carry between 7 and 70 passengers.
Description: Shuttle buses can vary in size and scope. The term really applies to the act of shuttling passengers. These vehicles can be anything from full size passenger vans to buses that are 35-40 feet long and carry up to 70 people. Often, vans that are fitted for shuttle service will have extra features like more comfortable seats, tinted windows, central heating and air-conditioning, and an audio system. Some may be fitted with facing seats.
Typical Customer: Large convention groups, shoppers from residence to a mall or store (http://www.indiantrails.com/sites/default/files/wmrt/index.html), corporate, executives, air travelers in need of an airport transfer, party and event planners, and vacationing families are among those who might charter a shuttle bus. When a group of any size needs to get from one location to another within the same vicinity, a shuttle bus is often the best solution. For example: If you were hosting a group of visiting executives or delegates from your parent company, you might charter a shuttle bus to transport them between the airport, your office, a downtown restaurant, and their hotel. If you invited out-of-towners to attend a retirement party or wedding, you might book a shuttle to transport your guests between the airport, hotel, and the reception venue. The shuttle could transport a small group of riders to thousands of riders, as the occasion requires.
Benefits: A shuttle bus is more convenient and cost effective than renting multiple cars or taking taxicabs. Whether using it for simple airport transfer or booking it for multiple days, a shuttle lets your visitors to focus on the meeting, or party, or whatever you’ve planned for them.
Insider Tip: Chartering a shuttle bus with a group of friends (to a concert, ballgame, or festival) could be more efficient than driving and parking separate cars.
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Also Known As: Stretch (or Super Stretch, depending on the size), Limo, Limousine
Seating Capacity: A stretch limo seats up to six passengers; a super-stretch can seat up to 12.
Description: You’ve seen them. They’re those loooooong, glamorous rides that turn heads wherever they go—making everyone wonder who might be sipping champagne behind the tinted windows. A chauffer-driven limousine is considered by many to be the epitome of elegance, luxury, and class on wheels. Expect plush perimeter seating, a wet bar, surround sound, mood lighting, and a privacy divider. There may even be champagne flutes.
Typical Customer: Wedding parties, high school kids going to the prom, celebrities going to a red carpet event, couples celebrating an engagement or anniversary, groups going out for a night on the town, James Bond, and people who live to make their friends and neighbors jealous.
Benefits: A stretch limo makes sense for people who want a luxurious, memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience and don’t want to worry about a designated driver. So, a stretch could make sense for a bachelorette party (where guests may have “a drink or two”) … a wedding party that wants to travel in style and arrive at the venue together … or a night out with an important corporate client.
Insider tip: Limousines can usually be chartered by the hour or the day.
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Also Known As: Luxury Sedan, Black Car, Town Car, Executive Car, or just Car—as in, “I’ll send a car to meet you at the airport.”
Seating Capacity: 1 to 3 passengers
Description: Executive sedans are equipped with luxurious leather seating, tinted privacy windows, individual climate controls, sound system, and WiFi on request.
Typical Customer: Luxury sedans are for executives who prefer to use their travel time for work or relaxation, meeting planners who want to roll out the red carpet for VIP guests, someone who wants to add a touch of class to a special occasion or night on the town, and business travelers who want private transport between airport, hotel, and meetings.
Benefits: An executive car with a private driver is comfortable, convenient, customized transportation that makes a statement.
Insider tip: Executive sedans are usually chartered by the hour, with a minimum of three hours.
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Depending on where you live, there may be other options for vehicles to charter:
- Sleeper buses (also known as Entertainers) are converted motorcoaches with sleeping berths and galleys for touring groups (like rock and roll bands or movie crews).
- Trolleys and double decker buses are popular in cities like Boston and Chicago for sightseeing tours, family reunions, and special events.
- For those who want to feel like Cinderella, you can even rent a horse-drawn carriage for the evening … guaranteed not to turn into a pumpkin at midnight.
There have been seismic shifts in American driving and shopping habits, and retailers are feeling the threatening winds of change. Could shopper shuttles turn the tide?
It’s no secret that American values, attitudes, and behavior have changed dramatically since the turn of the 21st century . . . and they keep changing every day. Name a topic, any topic: diet, exercise, the environment, charitable giving, marriage, smoking, media consumption—whatever it is, our feelings about it have changed. And how we feel affects what we do.
Retailers are among the first to experience the ripple effect when people’s behavior changes. The most successful retailers are those who are willing to change, as well.
First, a little background.
Driving Habits Are Changing
An unprecedented number of young people don’t drive, won’t drive, or wish they didn’t have to drive. It’s true. In 2014, the Global Strategy Group surveyed Millennials in 10 major American cities and found that a majority of 18- to 34-year olds would like to be less reliant on cars. Of those surveyed, 66% said that access to high quality alternative transportation is one of their top three criteria for choosing a place to live, while 80% think it’s important to have a wide range of options for getting around—including public transportation, ride-sharing services, and walkable neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, adults age 65 and up—for whom automobiles have always been an essential part of daily life—are driving less. And the trend is expected to continue. A 2011 study by Transportation for America predicted that rising life expectancies and an aging population will inevitably lead to large numbers of baby boomers who no longer drive. “These millions of older adults will need affordable alternatives to driving in order to maintain their independence as long as possible,” the study said, adding that senior adults who rely on others for transportation make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family, and 59% fewer trips to shop or eat out.
Shopping Habits Are Changing
Surprise, surprise: Up to half of consumers make online purchases. Internet shopping has surpassed travel, e-books, and music downloads in terms of how people spend their time and money online. And we’re not just buying fashion and jewelry. We’re using our computers, tablets, and smart phones to order health and beauty supplies, electronics, prescription drugs, groceries, wine, and even cars—to the tune of $200 billion a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ever since the slap-in-the-face recession of 2008-’09, customer loyalty isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, people simply don’t shop as much, and when they do shop, they’re more cautious and less likely to spend impulsively. Shoppers who want added value for their retail dollar almost always shop around—online and in stores—before buying big-ticket items like appliances or furniture. And while we don’t have statistics on this, let’s be honest: few of us have any compunction about “show-rooming”—i.e., trying something on in a retail store and then ordering the same product online for less. (So much for customer loyalty.)
Add to these new tendencies the fact that Millennials—the generation on the verge of having some disposable income—seem to value access over ownership, meaning they’d probably rather have a Netflix subscription than a DVD collection.
Retail is Changing, Too
Clearly, brick and mortar retailers need new ways to attract customers and garner customer loyalty. Ernst & Young (EY), in its 2014 report, Digital Retail: Analyzing the Effect on Retailers, warns that customers are migrating away from retail stores and that retailers must respond now. To expand upon EY’s findings:
- Because their customers are shopping online, retailers will need a superlative and multi-faceted digital presence—websites, social media, and even virtual stores—to complement their physical stores.
- By the same token, retailers will have to differentiate the in-store experience from the online experience. In-store incentives like gifts, refreshments, contests, parties—whatever it takes to draw a crowd—will replace the “door buster” sales of yesterday.
- Enhanced customer loyalty programs, irresistible offers, and personalized service will make shopping an “event” and give creative retailers a competitive edge.
And here’s one last, simple idea whose time has come. You’ve heard the expression, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammed, Muhammed must go to the mountain.” Translated for today’s retailer, this means: If your customers won’t come to you, you must go to your customers. Figuratively, yes . . . but also literally: Go to your customers. Go pick them up and bring them to your store. Smart retailers have been doing it for years. Take Walmart, for instance. In communities everywhere, Walmart-branded buses pull up to housing complexes, community centers, and senior adult facilities several times a day for no other reason than to give their customers a lift so they can go shopping.
Shopping at Walmart.
So far, so good. It seems loyalty works both ways.
Walmart Shopper Shuttle services are available in Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing/Okemos, and Muskegon. To see the schedule, click here:
For more information about getting a shopper shuttle for your organization, contact James Sawyer at email@example.com or follow the link below:
Have you ever been out driving and spotted one of those big, sleek charter buses gliding along the highway and thought to yourself: Who’s behind those tinted panoramic windows? Where are they going?
We’re glad you asked.
Who is Onboard?
According to a 2012 survey by the American Bus Association (ABA), there are more than 3,600 motorcoach carriers in the United States, operating some 35,000 motorcoaches, providing 637,442,000 passenger trips per year. Half of those passengers are either students (24.1%) or senior citizens (26.1%). The other half? Business travelers, athletes, shoppers, party-goers, special interest groups ... and others. Read on to learn more.
Where is Everybody Going?
A “typical” carrier offers charter service, shuttles, group tours, and scheduled runs. So, when you spot a charter bus on the road, it could be going just about anywhere. It might be transporting second graders to the MSU Dairy Farm for their spring field trip … or local Red Hatters on their way to a matinee performance of “Pippin” . . . or a college swim team heading to Divisionals . . . or, for that matter, it could be taking a group of strangers to Greektown Casino for the day.
All kinds of groups rent buses for all kinds of reasons. Here are some of the top trips:
School trips. Whether it’s a half-day field trip to a local museum or a three-day visit to Washington D.C., schools hire charter buses for all kinds of transportation needs.
Youth group trips. Boy Scouts on their way to summer camp. Future Farmers of America heading to the national leadership conference. A church youth group going on a weekend retreat. What do these groups have in common? They all travel by charter bus!
Office functions. Companies host summer picnics or staff retreats so coworkers can enjoy each other’s company away from the stress of the workplace. A charter bus is the perfect choice for these get-togethers, so that getting there can be part of the fun.
Corporate travel. For sales meeting, conventions, and training events, more and more businesses are opting for the convenience, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of bus travel.
Shopping excursions. Serious shoppers know that a day at a Premium Outlets mall, or Ikea, or [fill in the blank with your all-time favorite shopping venue] is SO much more than just shopping. It’s an event. They can’t be bothered with traffic, parking, and long walks to the visitors’ lot. But even more important: serious shoppers know that many of the best shopping venues offer discount vouchers, gifts, and free food to bus groups. How great is that?
Team travel. High School, college, and professional sports teams typically take a bus every time they play away from home. (So do robotics and debate teams, for that matter.) When safety and affordability are key, a bus is the best way to move a group.
Casino runs. Lots of charter bus companies offer casino runs on a regular schedule. And casinos offer special packages for bus groups – like free or discounted food, slot vouchers, and players cards.
Family reunions. For large family reunions, a charter bus is a great way to make sure everyone gets where they’re going, keep the group together, and enjoy each other’s company on the way. Families also like having transportation throughout the reunion for picnics in the park, sightseeing, and other group events.
Weddings and other events. Charter buses are great for local travel whenever people have to travel from out of town, and/or where the ceremony and party(ies) take place in two or more separate locations. Think bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, baptisms, and other group celebrations.
Rock bands. Or film crews. Or touring theatre groups. You get the idea. When you have a lot of people, plus a lot of equipment, plus a lot of ground to cover, a charter bus makes a lot of sense.
Tour groups. Tourists from out of town ride charter buses to visit monuments, museums, natural wonders, or other area points of interest.
Geek gatherings. This is our affectionate way of describing any event where like-minded aficionados of a given popular culture phenomenon get together to celebrate that phenomenon in their own unique way: Civil War reenactments, Awesome-Con, and Star Trek conventions, to name a few. (After all, until Trekkies figure out a way to beam themselves to their destination, charter buses will still be the safest transport.)
Next time you see one of those big, beautiful luxury motorcoaches gliding down the highway, try to guess where it’s headed. Better yet, book a motorcoach for your group, and see for yourself how affordable, convenient, luxurious, and fun it can be to get from here to there on a bus.
In 2006, Lansing and Ann Arbor Michigan got a wonderful new airport shuttle transportation service, the Michigan Flyer. The Michigan Flyer bus shuttle is such a handy airport shuttle that it sparked the idea to do a blog about airport shuttles. They are one of the best loved services that bus companies provide.
When you think about it, an airport is a lot like a city, with many of the same concerns and priorities a city has: sanitation, utilities, land usage, public safety, and—possibly the most challenging of all—transportation. After all, an airport spans literally thousands of acres of land occupied by terminals, runways, hangars, parking lots, and other facilities—plus countless venues for eating, shopping, socializing, personal care (massage, anyone?), and even prayer. With an estimated 1.7 million passengers flying in and out of U.S. airports every day—under the constraints of rigid departure times and exacting security procedures—airports must make liberal use of moving sidewalks, shuttle buses, mobile lounges, and automated people movers to get passengers to their far-flung terminals, concourses, and gates all day every day.
But before all those people can get around the airport, they first have to get to the airport.
How do you get to the airport?
- You can still get to the airport the old-fashioned way: Somebody (preferably somebody who loves you) drives you there. This scenario comes complete with curbside hugs, an obligatory reminder to check for your boarding pass and photo i.d., and a promise to call or text the moment the plane lands.
- You can take a taxicab. Depending on where you live or where you’re staying, this may be as simple as hailing a cab on the street … or, if you live in the suburbs, it will mean calling a reputable company a day ahead and scheduling a pick-up. Fares range from around $1.80 per mile to around $3.60, plus an initial fee ranging from $1.50 to $3.50.
- You can drive yourself and park in a long-term garage or remote parking lot. Plan to spend anywhere from $8 to $25 per day, and be sure to leave enough time to catch an airport shuttle (typically frequent and free) to your terminal.
Other airport transportation options
Considering what we know about traffic congestion, fuel prices, parking hassles, and carbon emissions, it’s not surprising that travelers want other options for getting to the airport. Across the country, airport authorities—in cooperation with public transit systems, scheduled buses, and private rideshare or charter operators—are responding with airport transportation options in every price range.
Public Transportation: Airport Rail Links
For decades, air travelers in Europe and Asia have been able to hop on public transportation to get from city centers to the airport or from the airport to city centers. Several U.S. cities have taken a cue from their international peers and extended their rapid transit lines to area airports—with onsite stations within walking or shuttle distance to departure gates. The Transportation Research Board ranked 27 airports with rail link systems, on the basis of market share and overall success of the system.
A few of the services the study identified as “best practices”:
- At San Francisco International Airport, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station is located within the international terminal, offering bus and rail service throughout the Bay area. Domestic passengers transfer to the automated people mover to reach their gates.
- Four miles from downtown Washington D.C., Reagan Washington National Airport was reconfigured in the late 1990s to accommodate an integrated air-rail terminal, built around an existing Metro station.
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s largest airport, has a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail station in the arrival area of the main terminal, steps away from baggage claim.
- Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates the SkyRide bus service from six metropolitan locations to Denver International Airport at the baggage claim level, with service from 3:20 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., depending on the route.
- Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is served by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train service (the “L”) via elevated and subway trains that travel throughout Chicagoland and terminate in the lower level of Terminal 2. From there, passengers can walk or use the Airport Transit System (ATS), which connects all terminals and remote parking lots.
In the world of airport transportation, scheduled bus service refers to a dedicated bus that shuttles passengers between a local airport and one or more regional destinations along a fixed route. These airport shuttles are typically operated by private companies licensed by a regional department of transportation or airport authority. They are cost effective (anywhere from $8 to $30 per one way, flat-rate ticket) and reliable. Passengers can enjoy the deluxe amenities that come with luxury motorcoaches: WiFi, 110V outlets, DVD players, and reclining seats with individual climate and light controls, overhead racks, and room to stow luggage. Typically, scheduled buses drop off and pick up passengers at a designated spot at the airport.
Top performing operators from three U.S. regions (based on criteria established by the Transportation Research Board—including frequency of service, pick-up and drop-off locations, and the availability of express or semi-express service):
Michigan Flyer-AirRide is a public-private partnership between a private motorcoach company, Indian Trails, and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (“TheRide”), offering 12 daily round trips between East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Detroit Metropolitan Airport and one daily trip between Ann Arbor and DTW.
- Los Angeles International Aiport (LAX) – FlyAway
FlyAway is a shuttle bus service established and funded by LA’s airport authority—Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA)—as part of a ground transportation initiative to improve traffic congestion, reduce vehicle emissions, and increase passenger convenience. Each year, branded FlyAway buses (operated by private companies under contract with LAWA) transport 1.5 million passengers between LAX and five transit stations, with Union Station routes running every half hour from 12:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA) – NYC Airporter
NYC Airporter is the official shuttle bus operator for the Department of Transportation and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, offering shuttles between Manhattan and New York City airports (JFK and LGA). Privately operated buses transport passengers from 5:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily.
Shared Rides and Charter Buses
Shared-ride vans and charter buses offer pre-arranged door-to-door ground transportation service for a set price (either a per-passenger price or a flat rate for the vehicle). The most common shared-ride vehicle is an eight-passenger van, but transportation companies also use SUVs, station wagons, executive limousines, and motorcoaches. Typically door-to-door, shared-ride vans and charter buses are pricier than the other options (somewhere between the cost of public transportation and a private taxi cab) but can be surprisingly affordable if you have a large group. This is the transportation of choice for conference planners, executives, and special event coordinators who want to oversee all the travel details and transport their people in style. This is the airport transportation mode you might select if you were entertaining out-of-town guests for a wedding, or hosting visiting executives for a factory tour.
Next time you’re planning airport transportation for yourself or a group, consider one of the many options—public transit, scheduled buses, or shared rides—for getting from here to there.
If you belong to a professional, social, or special interest club, you’ve done the golf outings. You’ve done the luncheons with guest speakers. Maybe you even went a little crazy one year and did a garden tour or attended a fashion show. (Yawn.) Sorry, but isn’t it time for your group to do something completely different? With a bus charter, planning a memorable day trip is easy, affordable, and fun.
Start by choosing a destination that is friendly to charter bus groups – like Frankenmuth, Michigan, 75 miles northeast of Lansing.
When your bus pulls into the quaint and picturesque downtown, you’ll think you’ve stumbled upon a Bavarian theme park. The Alpine architecture and gingerbread houses; the giant Glockenspiel on Main Street; the shopkeepers and restaurant servers dressed in lederhosen and dirndl dresses — everything you encounter here makes you feel like a character in a German fairytale.
This is Frankenmuth—also known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria”—where Bavarian tradition is more than just a gimmick. The folks in this proud town take their wiener schnitzel seriously. Most Frankenmuth residents trace their roots to the German Lutheran missionaries who settled here in 1845 intent on converting the area’s Chippewa Indians to Christianity. The Chippewa moved on; the missionaries stayed. Soon, Frankenmuth began to focus its attention on the tourist trade, attracting visitors with its special brand of old world hospitality and the chicken dinners that have been the town’s mainstay since 1895.
Make no mistake about it: This town is a tourist town. Some might even call it a tourist trap. But it’s a fun day trip by charter bus: easy to get to, clean and friendly, with lots to see, do, buy, and eat. What more can you ask of a day trip?
Shopping in Frankenmuth
With 60 billboards in seven states advertising the world’s largest Christmas store, chances are you’ve heard of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. But you have to see it to believe it. Charter buses are commonplace here. Your driver can drop you off at a canopy-covered entrance and park in one of the 50 spots designated just for buses. But he or she will want to come in: bus drivers get a free Christmas ornament. Give yourself anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours for what can only be described as an experience. This store occupies 320,000 square feet (try to picture five and a half football fields) with 12 departments filled to the rafters with ornaments, trims, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, decorations, nutcrackers, toys, Christmas stockings, collectables, animated characters, and people—throngs of people. Two million people come to Bronner’s from near and far every year just to marvel at the sight. There’s nothing quite like it. Actually, there’s not anything like it: 100,000 ornaments, 50,000 trims, 500 nativity scenes, 300 decorated Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths . . . and many partridges in many pear trees. If someone in your group is fainthearted (or lightheaded), there is an alternative activity, made possible by a stroke of marketing genius on the part of the wildly successful Bronner family: In the lobby of the world’s largest Christmas store is a giant flat screen TV, perpetually tuned to a major sporting event, with rows and rows of spectators’ chairs. Let ‘em shop ’til they drop. The Redwings just scored.
Back on the bus, your next stop is Main Street, where your driver will find plenty of parking close to the Visitor Information Center (635 S. Main Street), a great resource for maps, brochures, and advice on local attractions.
There are all kinds of interesting stores in the vicinity of Main Street, many of them offering demonstrations, displays, and tours. At the Frankenmuth Cheesehaus, home of 140 cheeses and specialty foods, you can watch the making of chocolate cheese and cheese spread. At the Covered Bridge and Leather Gift Shop, you can watch a video showing the construction of Frankenmuth’s covered bridge or catch a leather tooling demonstration. The Frankenmuth Clock Company has a huge collection of German cuckoo clocks. Rau’s Country Store is famous for “nostalgic candy” plus every imaginable dollhouse miniature, including some one-of-a-kind items. Family-owned and operated since 1949, Kern’s Sausages, at the corner of Jefferson and Main, sells 34 varieties of homemade Bavarian sausages, along with cheese, bakery goods, and German food items. And there are dozens more.
Dining in Frankenmuth
There are also dozens of places to eat in Frankenmuth. But if your group is having only one meal in town, forget about all of those other places and sit yourselves down for an all-you-can-eat, family style chicken dinner at Zehnders or the Bavarian Inn (separately owned and operated by members of the Zehnder family). Make a reservation, and either historic eatery will accommodate your large group effortlessly (the Bavarian Inn can seat up to 1,200 in its 12 dining rooms; Zehnders seats 1,500). For around $20 per person, you get platter after platter of homemade, hot, tasty fried chicken—all you can eat, no questions asked—plus chicken noodle soup, coleslaw, fresh baked bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, buttered noodles, a hot vegetable (such as locally grown squash), and ice cream. While family style chicken dinners are the specialty of the house, both restaurants offer other selections, as well as children’s menus.
May through October, the Bavarian Belle Riverboat offers relaxing one-hour narrated tours of the Cass River on a paddlewheel riverboat ($9 per person for groups of 20 or more). Or you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets of historic Frankenmuth ($40 per person for a 15 minute ride). You may want to end your evening with an award-winning beer at Michigan’s oldest brewery, Frankenmuth Brewery.
And there you have it. A little shopping, a little eating, a little sightseeing, a couple of beers, people you enjoy and a seat that reclines for your bus ride home. Not a bad way to spend the day.