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Tour Buses that Defined a Generation and Changed the World

 

tour bus There is something about buses—especially tour buses—that captures our collective imagination. 

Throughout history, literature, and popular culture, buses have always held the elusive possibility of adventure, romance, even magic—a symbol of the American spirit.  In fact, if you want to sum up the American experience, just take a look at some of our buses.

The “Trip” of a Generation

In the summer of 1964, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey, along with his band of “Merry Pranksters,” drove a customized school bus—painted in psychedelic colors and filled with (then-legal) LSD and other hallucinogens—cross-country from San Mateo, California to the New York World’s Fair.  Their drug-infused road trip inspired journalist Tom Wolfe’s classic book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the definitive chronicle of 1960s American counterculture.

“C’mon, Get Happy”

Who can forget “The Partridge Family”—the primetime TV hit show about a widowed mom (Shirley Jones) and her five kids (including teen idol David Cassidy) who form a pop music group and tour the country in a 1957 Chevy bus painted in Mondrian-inspired color blocks. The sitcom aired from 1970 through 1974 and spawned such unforgettable hits as “I Think I Love You” and “I Woke Up in Love This Morning.”  The bus was featured in every episode—with lots of dreamy musical montages on board.

“On the Road Again”

When Willie Nelson crooned, “On the road again -- like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway,” you can bet he was referring to life on his rock star tour bus, Honeysuckle Rose.  Never mind that Willie Nelson is a country music star; his home away from home is the quintessential rock star bus nevertheless, a legend on wheels, a rolling party.  The bus logs 135,000 miles a year, all of them powered by BioWillie, a proprietary biodiesel fuel blend of soybean and other vegetable oils.  Now, if that’s not a “rock star” bus, we don’t know what is.

“Bus, do your stuff!”

That’s what science teacher Ms. Frizzle would say every time her shape-shifting school bus was getting ready to transform itself into something like a space ship, or submarine, or time machine. “The Magic School Bus,” which began as a series of children’s books, became a popular animated PBS children’s program in the 1990s, featuring the voices of Lily Tomlin (as the kooky Ms. Frizzle), Little Richard (on theme song vocals), and guest stars Ed Asner, Dolly Parton, Tom Cruise, Carol Channing and dozens more.  Each episode featured a wildly adventurous field trip aboard a magic bus that transported students into the solar system, to the depths of the ocean, inside the human body, and even to prehistoric times.

“When Momma Parks sat down, the whole world stood up.”

You might say the civil rights movement began on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus.  It was the evening of December 1, 1955, when a 42-year-old African American seamstress, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat in the “Whites Only” section and stand at the back of the bus to make way for white passengers.  She was arrested, sparking a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery city bus system and, ultimately, the 1956 Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.  The actual bus that Rosa Parks rode is on display at the Henry Ford Museum at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/rosaparks/home.asp

“We shall not be moved”

The Freedom Riders were a racially mixed group of civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated south in 1961 to protest rampant non-compliance with anti-segregation laws there.  The further south they rode, the more violence they encountered at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, angry mobs, and even the police.  Hundreds of freedom riders were arrested and jailed in maximum-security prisons for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violation of local Jim Crow laws.  One of the buses was firebombed in Anniston, Alabama; another made it to Birmingham, where it was met by a vicious mob and brutal attacks.

The Campaign Bus

Like the whistle stop train tours of 20th century presidential campaigns, today’s campaign buses serve as a mode of transportation and a mobile campaign office for candidates making brief appearances in towns all over the country.  Road trips with would-be presidents have become the stuff of legend.  We know them by their names—like John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express,” or Mitt Romney’s “Every Town Counts” tour, or John Edwards’ “Main Street Express.”  Then there are the parodies, like “Driving Miss Crazy” (the name liberal democrats gave to Sarah Palin’s bus tour) or the “Blame the Other Guy” tour, a Republican nickname for President Obama’s 2012 campaign bus tour.  The Obama administration drew criticism in 2011 for spending $1.1 million to purchase a state-of-the-art armored bus—made in Canada—for the president’s re-election campaign.

• • •

 These are buses that helped to define a whole generation, buses that changed the world.  But buses also touch us on a personal level.  Think about a significant bus in your own life.  Maybe it was your first trip away from home, or the beginning of a great adventure, or a bittersweet journey toward a new life.  Whatever the connection, buses seem to mean something to almost everyone.  What do they mean to you?

 

 

Travel and Event Planning Tool

 

 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Shuttle Bus Contracts But Weren’t Sure How to Ask

 

Bus shuttles

If this is your first foray into the world of shuttle bus contracts, please rest assured:  This is not rocket science.  (Unless, of course, you’re talking about space shuttles, which we’re guessing would require a certain amount of rocket science.)  But this post is all about Earthbound shuttles – of the bus and van variety.

Not unlike a space shuttle (which transports people from Earth to space and back again), a shuttle bus transports people back and forth between two designated points, typically at regular intervals.  And while it’s clearly not rocket science, there is an art to seamless shuttle bus service.

Who needs shuttle bus transportation?  Convention planners, residential communities, retailers, and entertainment venues, to name a few. 

Let’s break it down:

Convention planners often need to shuttle attendees from one location to another—from a headquarters hotel to an exhibit hall or meeting venue, for instance.  To accomplish this, planners hire a reliable company to provide shuttle buses or vans to get their people where they need to go—no small feat, especially at a large convention.  For example:  When 93,000 convention goers descend upon Las Vegas to attend the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in 2015, they’ll pick up their badges at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, attend sessions and visit exhibits at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and stay at any one of 30 NAB-approved lodging establishments in the bustling resort town.  Shuttle buses must run seamlessly between these venues, at 20 minute intervals, all day, every day, throughout the event—a magic act to rival anything attendees might see at a Las Vegas floorshow.

Residential communities.  Large apartment and condo complexes—especially those specializing in senior adult or student housing—may provide shuttle service as a selling point for the convenience of their population. Look at Century Village, for example.  Residents of this sprawling south Florida condo community (which houses 10,000+ senior citizens  in four locations) can take a free shuttle bus, daily, to area shopping centers, libraries, medical buildings, golf courses, and grocery stores—an essential service for people who want to remain active and independent but no longer drive.

Retailers. With internet shopping at an all-time high, the idea of using shuttle buses to attract customers to physical stores may be a promising concept for big box retailers (like Walmart), specialty stores (like Ikea), and outlet malls.  Michigan Walmart stores are already doing it, with impressive results.  Several times a week, a free shuttle bus stops at senior facilities, apartment complexes, and community centers to take customers to a local Walmart; a few hours later, the bus takes them back home.  Not only does the Walmart shuttle bus provide an essential community service for people who don’t drive; it also builds customer loyalty, enhances Walmart’s visibility in the community, and boosts sales.

Entertainment and Festival Venues.  Anyone who’s ever attended a concert, art fair, sporting event, or festival of any kind knows that traffic and parking at events can be a nightmare.  The coordinators of these events hire shuttle buses to take guests from remote parking lots (sometimes miles away) to the event.

Shuttle buses are commonplace on college campuses—especially sprawling ones, where students may have to cover several miles on any given day.  Even high school honors convocations and swim meets need them sometimes.  And when church and synagogue parking lots mysteriously overflow during Easter or Yom Kippur … a shuttle bus is often pressed into duty. 

Any time people need to get from here to there and back again (and again and again), a shuttle bus makes a lot of sense.

Tour Bus Rental Ideas for Your Michigan Summer: Art Fairs

 

Tour Bus Ideas to Michigan Art Fairs

Art fairs are at the top of everyone’s list of tour bus rental ideas for summer in Michigan.

Around the time when the first daffodils and hyacinths start popping up, so do the rows of little white tents.  You know the ones: those unassuming 10’ x 10’ booths that line a city’s downtown streets for one glorious weekend every summer, revealing—like Ali Baba’s cave—a treasure trove to all who enter.  Inside, you’ll find colorful displays of jewelry, textiles, sculpture, glass, woodwork, paintings, ceramics, photographs, even toys.  Outside, familiar streets are transformed: overflowing with pedestrians, food vendors, children’s activities, and live entertainment.

Michiganders flock to these fairs (with visions of waffle cones, painted-faced toddlers, and the perfect garden sculpture dancing in their heads).  But along with the magic, art fairs also portend street closures, traffic detours, and the inevitable trudge (with aching feet and oversized packages) to a remote parking garage or muddy field at the end of the day.

There is a better way.

Charter a bus!  Art fairs offer something for everyone, so they make an ideal day trip—or even a weekend getaway—for all kinds of groups.  And when you’re traveling with a group, chartering a motorcoach is affordable, convenient, and fun.  Consider the benefits:

  • You can enjoy a comfortable air-conditioned ride with luxurious amenities;
  • Your group gets to spend time together in transit instead of driving to the destination in separate cars.
  • You won’t have to negotiate street closures, event traffic, or parking.  It’s taken care of.
  • Art fairs are staged in interesting places (like Ann Arbor or Charlevoix); a bus at your disposable gives you the freedom to explore the area’s dining, scenery, and other attractions (maybe even an overnight stay in a B & B) in conjunction with your art fair visit.
  • If (when) the beer tent beckons, you won’t have to worry about a designated driver.  You already have one. 

Here, in brief, are some of the top art fairs this summer in Michigan.

The 20th Annual Clay, Glass & Metal Show

Royal Oak, Michigan

Saturday, June 14 – Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the 20th annual Clay, Glass & Metal Show in June, bringing 125 artists to Washington Avenue where they will display fine jewelry, decorative art, pottery, beads, and architectural pieces that share one thing in common:  All of the art featured at the show “is manipulated by heat and comes from the earth.”  Visitors can watch demonstrations in metal work, glass, and pottery; participate in family-friendly hands-on activities; and enjoy specialty foods.

 

Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff

St. Joseph, Michigan

Saturday, July 12 – Sunday, July 13, 2014

For 53 years, the Krasl Art Center has sponsored the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, one of the nation’s top-rated juried art fairs.  This year, 200 artists will draw an estimated 70,000 visitors to St. Joseph, the southernmost west Michigan lakeshore towns designated as “Michigan Beachtowns.”  Along with the art, festival guests can sample local, organic, and farm-to-table food items and listen to Smooth Jazz at Sunset, a Saturday night concert featuring saxophonist Jessy J.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair

Ann Arbor Michigan

Wednesday, July 16 – Saturday, July 19, 2014 

The granddaddy of all art fairs, the Ann Arbor Art Fair is actually four distinct art fairs, making this annual event the largest outdoor art experience in the country.  That means a virtually endless selection of fine art and crafts—from decorative to functional, from wearable to collectible.  It also means 600,000 visitors descend upon Ann Arbor over a four day period in July. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is notoriously crowded.  Pull up in your private motorcoach and you will be the envy of the throngs.  Here’s a quick rundown of the four fairs.  Check out the official website for details.

  • The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the Original (the oldest of the art fairs, established in 1960) is located on the University of Michigan’s central campus in the shadow of the Burton Memorial Tower.  Featuring 200 artists, hands-on activities, and live performances, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair consistently ranks on AmericanStyle magazine’s “Top 25 Fairs & Festivals” list.
  • The State Street Area Art Fair (produced by the State Street Area Association since 1970), offers a mix of contemporary art, traditional crafts, and area merchant displays in the university’s downtown area.
  • The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair (established in 1972 by the Guild of Artists and Artisans) transforms Ann Arbor’s Main Street business district into a festival showcasing fine art, crafts, entertainment, artist demonstrations, and children’s activities.  The Summer Art Fair also has a campus location on State Street.
  • Ann Arbor’s South University Art Fair (established in 2002), is the venue for emerging artists (local and international) with a hip and quirky vibe all its own. 

The 56th Annual Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair

Charlevoix, Michigan

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Every August, this juried and invitational show draws 25,000 art lovers to the northern Michigan resort town of Charlevoix, bordering Round Lake, Lake Charlevoix, and Lake Michigan.  For your quintessential “up north” vacation, check out the area’s golf courses, sailing, bike trails, dining, shopping, performance pavilions, and beautiful beaches.

48th Annual Art & Apples Festival

Rochester Park, Rochester, Michigan

Friday, September 5 – Sunday, September 7, 2014

An annual production of Paint Creek Center for the Arts, the Art & Apples Festival is the second largest juried fine art fair in Michigan, with 290 artists and 125,000 art lovers converging in downtown Rochester every September.  There’s art, live performances, an Art Zone and Activity Zone for kids, three food courts and – you guessed it – lots of apple treats, including homemade apple pies.

Any one of these art fairs can be the centerpiece of a day trip or weekend getaway to an interesting area you’ve been meaning to explore.  Whatever your destination this summer, a luxury motorcoach can take you there. 

For more ideas about Michigan art fairs, check out the Art Fair Calendar

 

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Ideas for Your Bus Groups: Michigans' Summer Festivals

 

Pure Michigan FestivalsIf you’re looking for bus group ideas this summer, we’ve got you covered.

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of summer in Michigan?  Aw, c’mon … did you really just say “road construction”?  Isn’t it time to think outside the traffic cones?  Everyone knows summer is festival season in Michigan!  “If you seek a pleasant peninsula …” well, you already know where to look.  But if you seek a celebration of fishflies, baby food, magic, bologna, or llamas … scroll down.  There’s a festival for that.  (And a motorcoach to get you there.)

National Baby Food Festival

Wednesday, July 16 – Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fremont, Michigan

Fremont, Michigan, population 4,400, is home to the Gerber Products Company—beloved producer of pureed peas, strained squash, and those little pink hotdogs in a jar—making it the Baby Food Capital of the World and site of the annual National Baby Food Festival, a four-day celebration of all things baby.  There are the usual baby-oriented events, like “Rock and Rest,” the “Baby Crawl,” and a baby photo contest to find the cutest babies in west Michigan and crown them the “prince and princess” of the National Baby Food Festival.  There’s a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting, a midway, and all kinds of friendly competitions:  hula hoop, bubble gum blowing, and pie-eating contests; bicycle and rolling bed races; and an adult baby food eating contest, in which blindfolded contestants attempt to feed each other baby food—a surefire way to invoke their inner babies (and get sweet potatoes in their hair).

Fremont is in Newaygo County, between Muskegon and Ludington, with 356 river miles, 256 inland lakes, and proximity to Lake Michigan beaches and the Manistee National Forest.  If you attend the National Baby Food Festival, be sure to spend some time window shopping in Fremont’s charming Main Street district, sample a local brew at one or more of the areas breweries, and don’t miss the Saturday night Public Star Party at the Stephan F. Wessling Observatory.

Yale Bologna Festival

Friday, July 25 – Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yale, Michigan

“It’s all about the bologna!”  That’s this year’s catchy slogan for the Yale Bologna Festival, an annual tradition since 1989.  Yale, Michigan (population 2,000), located at the bottom of the thumb region in St. Clair County, is the unofficial bologna capital of world.  So, as you can imagine, the townspeople take their bologna and its festival pretty seriously (if your idea of “seriously” includes an outhouse race, bologna sandwich eating contest, and the crowning of a King and Queen of Bologna).  Along with these solemn events, the festival also features crafts, a cardboard boat race, a car show, fireworks, food vendors, live music, and a parade down Main Street.

If you visit Yale this summer, stick around to explore the Blue Water Area—140 miles of shoreline on Michigan’s eastern shore—famous for its lighthouses, museums, wineries, beaches, trails, water sports, and many of the state’s berry farms, wineries, and apple orchards. 

11th Annual MagiCelebration Magic Festival

Wednesday, July 23 – Saturday, July 26, 2014

Colon Magic Week/Abbot’s Get-Together Convention

Wednesday, August 6 – Saturday, August 9, 2014

Colon, Michigan

Colon, Michigan (named after the punctuation mark, not the large intestine, in case you were wondering) is the burial place of illusionist Harry Blackstone (aka “The Great Blackstone”), home to three magic shops, and, not surprisingly, the self-proclaimed “Magic Capital of the World.”  Prepare to be amazed this July and August as villagers say “abracadabra” and make their small town’s population double right before your very eyes for two big events: 

  • July 23-25:  the 11th Annual MagiCelebration Magic Festival, sponsored by Colon’s own FAB Magic Company.  Organizers promise spectacular comedy magic shows every night, two family fun nights, magic contests with cash prizes, and more.
  • August 6-9:  Colon Magic Week and Abbott Get-Together Convention, sponsored by Abbott’s Magic Company in celebration its 80th anniversary.  The get-together is a gathering of professional magicians and a profusion of magical events: shows, lectures, street performances, fireworks, talent contests, and even an arts and crafts fair sponsored by the Friends of the Colon Library.

If you visit Colon this summer for one or both festivals, stay a while and make a little magic of your own.  Situated in southwest Michigan on the Indiana border, Colon Township's 1,000 acres of water (eight lakes and the St. Joseph River) offer boating, swimming, fishing, beaches, and every imaginable water sport (from tubing to water-skiing).  There are campgrounds, picnic areas, historic walking tours, and shopping.

Lamafest and Alpaca Showcase

Friday, August 29 – Sunday, August 31, 2014

Michigan State University Pavilion, East Lansing, Michigan

If you are a “llama person,” you already know fact from fiction when it comes to these cuddly, smiley-faced members of the camel family.  For example, you know that llamas are social animals that live in herds, within a family group, and that they only spit and kick when they feel threatened or need to discipline a lower-ranking member of the herd.  If you are a breeder or owner, terms like “get of sire,” “kush,” and “pronking” roll right off your tongue.  You probably even know why llamas hum.  For the rest of us, the cool thing about the annual Lama Fest—the largest show of its kind and one of the longest-running in the country—is that it caters both to owners and the general public.  Along with watching llamas and alpacas strut their stuff in the ring, visitors to the Lamafest can participate in a scavenger hunt, enter a costume contest, and shop for unique llama- and alpaca-themed gifts.

If you go to Michigan State University for the Lamafest, you really owe it to yourself to take a tour of the nation’s first land grant university.   Beaumont Tower, with its 47-bell carillon, marks the site of College Hall, the first building in America erected for the teaching of scientific agriculture, and is a must-see.  The MSU Museum, the Abrams Planetarium, Beal Botanical Gardens, MSU Farms, the Kresge Art Center, the MSU Dairy Store (for homemade ice cream), the MSU Union Building, and the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory are among the most popular campus attractions.

There you have it:  all the ingredients for a memorable getaway for your group this summer.  And here is the recipe: 

  • Start with a Michigan festival—the quirkier the better. 
  • Mix with an interesting location in a beautiful part of the state. 
  • Add a group of people who enjoy being together.
  • Fold in any combination of festival-going, shopping, dining, sightseeing, exploring, relaxing, and playing in the great outdoors.
  • Top it off with a luxury motorcoach to get you and your group everywhere you want to go—safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. 

Try it.  Tweak it.  Tell us about it.  And be sure to file it with your favorite recipes for quintessential summer fun in Michigan.

 

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Charter Bus Trips to Cedar Point: The Best Day of Summer

 

Cedar Point Rollercoaster

This is a blog post about planning charter bus trips to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio—the largest amusement park in the world.  With 72 rides, 17 roller coasters, three kids’ areas, live entertainment, restaurants, overnight accommodations, and a mile of sandy beach, Cedar Point has been voted “the best amusement park in the world” for 16 consecutive years by the readers of Amusement Today magazine.  With lots of special offers for student and youth groups, company outings, and even marching bands, it’s no wonder Cedar point is a top summer destination for day trips and overnight excursions. 

We’ll get to those special offers in a moment.   But first, one quick question:  What’s the deal with thrill rides?

No, seriously.  Why do so many of us—being of sound mind and body—plunk down perfectly good money and wait in long lines for the privilege of screaming in terror as we are catapulted through space against our will and out of our control?

Turns out, there are theories about that.  

Psychologist Barrie Gunter says it dates back to prehistoric times when danger—actual danger—was a reality of daily life.  Gunter believes there is still a fundamental drive within us to test whether we can muster the courage to face up to danger and conquer our fears.  Riding a thrill ride is a relatively risk-free way to satisfy that urge.

Temple University psychology professor Frank Farley theorizes that the more stressful our lives, the more likely we are to seek the escape of thrill rides.  Try worrying about your job, college tuition, or the state of the economy while you’re riding Millennium Force.  You simply can’t do it.  Type A personalities may seek to relinquish control, however briefly, by abandoning themselves to a thrill ride.

Some people are just adrenaline junkies.  They crave the physiological effects of real or imagined danger: the racing heart, adrenaline surge, and mobilization of blood sugar that occur when our bodies confront a perceived threat (like spinning upside down hundreds of feet in the air—that kind of perceived threat). 

The Best Day of Summer

Now, about your bus trip.  

Cedar Point bills itself as the “best day of summer,” and for the 50,000 visitors who flood the gates daily, that description is apt.  Going with a group makes it even more fun, and chartering a luxury motorcoach for the occasion is a convenient, cost-effective, and comfortable way to get there and back.

Bus-friendly

Right at the admission gate, buses get their own lane, where they are directed to a special parking lot just for motorcoaches.  Cedar Point offers free parking for buses and a courtesy admission ticket for the driver.  That’s our idea of bus-friendly.

Student and Youth Groups

 Cedar Point caters to youth groups, with a number of incentives:

  • Discounted admission for groups of 15 or more;
  • One free ticket for every 15 purchased tickets;
  • Optional all day drink wristband; 
  • Optional all-you-can-eat catered buffet (groups choose from deli sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs, or a picnic buffet of fried chicken, hotdogs, and classic sides). 

Overnight packages for student and youth groups start at $59.99 per person and include:

  • Cedar Point admission;
  • Early entry (an hour before the park opens to the general public);
  • Hotel accommodations (at the Hotel Breakers, Breakers Express, or Castaway Bay Indoor Water Park);
  • At least one meal (depending on the hotel package).

Student Performers

Marching bands, school choirs, jazz ensembles, and other performing groups are invited to march down the midway or entertain on one of Cedar Point’s stages.  With an advance reservation and a group of 15 or more performers, this is a memorable way to spend the day at Cedar Point.  Performers get discounted admission and one courtesy chaperone ticket for every 15 paid tickets.  

Whether you’re planning a field trip, company getaway, end-of-the-year party, or some other group celebration . . . and no matter why you love those scary rides . . . Cedar Point is the perfect backdrop for a day of fun and thrills.  And here’s an insider’s tip:  Charter a motorcoach for your trip to Cedar Point, and the best day of summer gets even better. 

 

Professionals Guide to Bus Trips with Kids

 

 

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Professional Charter Bus Driving Jobs: Unsung Heroes of the Road

 
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When you think about it, doing a professional charter bus driving jobs, these guys are really the unsung heroes of the long haul driving world.  First and foremost, they must be excellent drivers, with the stamina, disposition, and aptitude to safely operate a 20-ton passenger vehicle, day and night, rain or shine, over terrain both familiar and unfamiliar.  But they also need to excel in trouble-shooting, vehicle maintenance, conflict resolution, emergency management, customer service, and even small talk.  In a job that requires a blend of driving skills, mechanical skills, and people skills, it’s hard to put bus drivers into any single occupational category:  Safety?  Transportation?  Travel and tourism?  Hospitality? Diplomacy?  A bus driver must be proficient in all of these areas—with a healthy dose of mechanical aptitude thrown in for good measure.

Safety

Passenger safety is a professional bus driver’s number one priority. Most states require drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) signifying that they’ve passed rigorous tests geared to the highest standards for knowledge and skills.   Drivers must also pass a drug and alcohol screening and a qualifying physical exam (to rule out heart trouble, seizure disorders, sleep apnea, or any other condition that could interfere with safe driving).  To prevent fatigue, drivers must adhere strictly to the hours-of-service regulations established by the Department of Transportation (DOT). And, of course, they should possess—and maintain—a good driving record.

Transportation

While safety is the driver’s number one priority, his or her primary job function is transportation: getting groups of people from point A to point B and back again.  And by “groups of people,” we mean school kids, business travelers, sports teams, church groups, civic organizations, social clubs, day trippers, commuters, and anyone else who needs to get from here to there.  We’ve all seen bus drivers on the job, where they spend around 70% of their time driving and 5% of their time loading and unloading passengers and baggage. The remaining 25% of the job takes place behind the scenes.  Drivers spend around 10% of their time planning trips and coordinating itineraries with company personnel and other drivers, 5% on maintenance and inspections, and another 5% on training and professional development. The final 5% of a driver’s time is devoted to paperwork.

Travel and tourism

“Travel and tourism” can be defined as the business or industry of providing information, accommodations, transportation, and other services to tourists (i.e., people who travel outside of their usual environment for the purpose of leisure or business).  So when people use a charter bus for vacation travel, group tours, family reunions, and business trips, they are engaging in travel and tourism.  Drivers play a part in the overall customer experience and, at times, when knowledgeable of the local area, can offer commentary of sights and attractions, answer questions, and help passengers navigate their way through unknown territory with the help of GPS and the route plan from their customer service representative.

Hospitality and customer service

Which brings us to the topic of hospitality and customer service.  The motorcoach company provides luxurious amenities and comfortable transport—with reclining seats, footrests, individual climate and lighting controls, Wi-Fi, and DVD players.  The chartering group may provide beverages, snacks, and even entertainment on the bus.  The driver serves as the ambassador of customer service, fostering the spirit of hospitality throughout the trip.

Diplomacy

On a long trip—no matter how comfortable the bus, how smooth the ride, how ample the amenities—there may come a time when some people get restless, tired, rambunctious, irritable … or all of the above. This is to be expected.  The bus driver just can’t be one of those people.

Likewise, in heavy traffic—whether it’s caused by construction, an accident, rush hour, weather conditions, or a combination of factors—certain motorists may get impatient, frustrated, and angry.  That’s human nature.  The bus driver just can’t be one of those motorists. 

A bus driver must be well rested, even-tempered, and well suited to the demands of long hours with little entertainment, exercise, or breaks.  The driver is the one who has to stay cool so that, no matter what’s happening outside of the bus, the world inside the bus is a cocoon of calm.

 

 

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The Life of a Bus Driver

 

Have yoindian trails bus driveru ever wondered what it would be like to be a bus driver?  Have you ever pictured yourself skillfully (and cheerfully) maneuvering a 45-foot, 15-ton behemoth filled with high school football players in the middle of the night?

Let’s just say, it’s not for everyone.  If you still think it sounds interesting, read on.

When a driver gets behind the wheel of a bus, he or she takes responsibility for the safety and well-being of every passenger on board.  It can be a daunting responsibility, and it is one that the Department of Transportation (DOT) takes very seriously.  DOT, through its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and in cooperation with all 50 states, enforces strict regulations to ensure that bus drivers meet the highest standards of knowledge, experience, and skill before they can transport passengers.  All U.S. bus drivers are required to have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a “passenger” endorsement; this license is issued only after drivers have demonstrated their qualifications through rigorous tests of knowledge and on-road driving skills.

It goes without saying that, first and foremost, a professional bus driver should be an excellent driver, with a solid grasp of highway and traffic regulations.  A driver in the U.S. should be able to read, write, and speak English well enough to follow directions, understand highway signage, keep logs, and communicate effectively with passengers and company personnel. 

A qualified driver should also have a verifiable history of safe driving with no license suspensions for at least 10 years and no drug- or alcohol-related violations (ever).  Most charter bus drivers are expected to handle baggage—frequently lifting or moving 50 to 100 pounds.

Furthermore, reputable bus companies and their hired drivers comply with DOT guidelines by:

  • enforcing hours-of-service regulations;
  • conducting drug and alcohol tests; and
  • requiring a clean bill of health issued by a DOT-approved medical examiner.

These qualifications are some of the prerequisites to becoming a professional bus driver; but possessing them doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a particular individual is well-suited to the job.  There are certain predictors of success that can’t be scored on a test or certified in a medical exam—characteristics that seem to describe most successful bus drivers.  For example:

  • A successful driver is a “people person.”  The ideal bus driver is someone who enjoys being around people and has excellent interpersonal skills.
  • A successful driver knows how to strike the right balance between diplomacy, assertiveness, and authority when dealing with difficult passengers … and knows when and how to lay down the law.
  • Asuccessful driver usually has a pretty good sense of direction (or at least a solid knowledge of geography) but, then again, does not hesitate to use a GPS.
  • A successful driver is professional in appearance and demeanor—with a neat uniform, well-groomed hair and nails, and a clean shave.  A driver can (and should) be friendly and outgoing, while at the same time always carrying him/herself in an appropriate, businesslike manner. 
  • A successful driver is flexible.  Driving a bus—especially a charter bus—is rarely a 9 to 5 job, and a driver’s hours may vary from trip to trip.  Depending on the charter, a driver may have to alter his or her sleep schedule in order to be rested and alert for the long haul.  Also, it’s not unusual for charter customers to make last minute schedule changes or special requests.  The most successful drivers are those who are able to “go with the flow.” 
  • A successful driver puts safety first.  Like an airline pilot or captain of a ship, the bus driver is in charge of the bus and has ultimate authority and responsibility in matters of passenger safety and well-being.  It is the driver who enforces rules, assists the chaperone or group leader with discipline problems or disputes, and decides whether an onboard incident warrants stopping the bus.
  • A successful driver can handle basic inspection and maintenance tasks and performs an equipment check prior to each and every trip.

Do you have what it takes to be a professional motorcoach driver?  Are you a people person?  Would you rather be on the road—seeing new places and meeting new people—than at a 9 to 5 desk job?  Do you enjoy the kind of job where no two days are the same?  Are you the type of person who “just can’t wait to get on the road again”?

If you answered “yes” to these questions and you’re an excellent driver, the life of a bus driver could be the life for you.

 

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Charter Bus Driver Jobs as a Second Career for Baby Boomers

 

charter bus driver job

Every day in America, 10,000 post-World War II baby boomers turn 65—a demographic wave that started in 2011 and will continue through 2029.  But as they approach “normal retirement age,” members of the baby boom generation—renowned for flouting the status quo—are starting to “reimagine” retirement.  Rather than retire at 65 like their parents did, older workers are launching second careers in record numbers … and according to the Retirement Café, driving a bus is among their top ten choices.

In a recent study, the Pew Research Center discovered that most 65-year-olds (more than half) aren’t ready to stop working.  In fact, 16 percent of baby boomers say they’ll never retire—at least not in the traditional sense of moving to a warm climate and taking up golf and gardening.

The economy—especially the impact of the 2008-2009 recession—is just one of the factors keeping baby boomers in the workforce.  But financial considerations aside, a lot of baby boomers just don’t feel old enough to retire. With Americans living longer and staying healthier than ever before, most people expect to live 20 or 30 years beyond retirement age.  Many baby boomers prefer to define “old age” as 72 or older, and the majority (61%) say they feel nine years younger than their chronological age. 

Whether they need to work, want to work, or both, one thing is clear:  most baby boomers plan to stay active, productive, and busy well beyond the age of 65.

Encore Careers

Staying in the workforce beyond retirement age doesn’t necessarily mean keeping the same job you’ve held for decades. Millions of workers between 44 and 70 have already launched second careers—also known as “encore” careers—for all kinds of reasons. 

After spending 35 years behind a desk, plenty of workers long to quit the 9 to 5 grind. Some of them are trading the stress and long hours of the business world for something completely different: like teaching yoga, or tutoring English language learners, or driving a bus. 

Bus Driving Careers

Bus driving—especially charter bus driving—offers a lot of the perks older workers seem to desire, such as flexible hours, a change of pace and scenery, and the opportunity to learn new skills.  Folks who have held sedentary jobs often enjoy being “on the move” for a change; workers tied to one locale during their career may appreciate visiting new places; those who’ve worked alone—like accountants, lab technicians, or computer programmers—may enjoy the opportunity to meet and converse with many new people every trip.

While age discrimination is a very real consideration for older job seekers, a few gray hairs can actually be a plus for aspiring bus drivers.  Passengers might equate age with experience, authority, and sound judgment.  And they could be right.  A little life experience can go a long way on the open road.  For a generation pondering how to transition into the next phase of life, a stint as a bus driver might be the ticket.

Visit Indian Trails employment opportunities and see current open positions by clicking the icon below: 

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With Bus Charter Service Comes Connectivity

 


How does a bus charter service help you stay connected? The answer lies in technology. Just when you thought you’d heard it all … there is a brand new phobia on the ever-expanding continuum of anxiety disorders. This new phobia plagues its sufferers with a morbid fear of—get this—being without technology. We are not making this up.  Atechagoraphobia is real.  And someone you love may have it.  Actually, you may have it.  Ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • atechagoraphobiaDo you feel uneasy (or do you actually start to panic) when your smartphone is out of your sight for even a moment?
  • Does your heart race if you are asked to turn off your mobile device, or if you lose your signal, or if your battery dies?
  • Would you hesitate (or even refuse) to go camping, or sailing, or into outer space if you knew you would not have an internet connection while you were there?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may be suffering from Atechagoraphobia.  You are not alone.  The only known cure is 24-7 connectivity.  Fortunately for you, that can be arranged. 

Plugged In

Twenty years ago, traveling meant being incommunicado for hours at a time.  Everyone understood that to be in transit was to be out of touch.  The moment you arrived at your destination—airport, train station, or bus terminal—you and your fellow passengers would make a mad dash for the payphones (remember those?), where you’d fumble in your pockets for a quarter so you could call home or the office.  

Ten years later, most payphones had quietly disappeared.  Everyone—and everyone’s grandmother—had a cell phone. With wireless technology already in place, it wasn’t long before travelers wanted more.  If they could talk and text in transit, why couldn’t they also access e-mail, social media, and the rest of the internet?  Wi-Fi “hotspots” started popping up in public places.  At first, public internet access was a novelty—and it often came at a price.  Today, wireless internet access is a fairly standard amenity, and users expect it to be free.  A study by the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University found that the availability of Wi-Fi—or the absence of it—makes a difference to travelers choosing a mode of transportation.  Bus companies have responded by integrating mobile Wi-Fi into their fleets so that their technology-dependent passengers can stay connected while they ride.

Wi-Fi in motion

free WiFi

First, some definitions: 

  • Wi-Fi is high speed internet access that uses a radio signal instead of wires to connect a computer or other device to the internet. 
  • A Wi-Fi hotspot is a place that has an accessible wireless network. 

In the past, hotspots were typically found in coffee shops, airports, hotels, libraries, and other public places.  Now buses and trains can operate as Wi-Fi hotspots, too, allowing passengers to access their e-mail, social media, and the World Wide Web while they travel.

Here’s how it works.  The bus is outfitted with a modem—which receives data 

Security considerations from and sends data to cell phone towers—and a wireless router (or a gateway device that combines the modem and router in one unit).  The modem provides access to the internet; the router broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal within the bus, allowing passengers with Wi-Fi-enabled devices to “tune in” to that signal to connect with the internet.

Because wireless networks use radio signals, the data that travels through them can be intercepted.  A wireless network is not as secure as a wired network.  So users should be careful about passwords and confidential information when communicating over a wireless network. 

When bad things happen to good connections

On a bus, internet connectivity is achieved via a cellular connection to a mobile router.  Since the onboard hotspot gets its signal from cell towers, it is subject to the same service interruptions and outages as a cell phone would be.  The reliability of a moving hotspot is influenced by a number of factors:

  • physical obstacles in the environment such as tunnels, mountains, and buildings;
  • natural disturbances such as steep hills, deep valleys, and severe weather;
  • proximity to the cell tower with which the wireless network is communicating.  Ideally, as the bus moves in and out of cell zones, one cellular transmitter hands a connection over to a second transmitter so seamlessly that the user never notices it happening.  But in the occasional remote location where no cell tower exists, the internet connection—much like a cell phone connection—is temporarily lost.

The good news is, technology continues to advance – with more cellular networks, higher speeds, and better onboard systems around every bend. 

Still have a touch of atechagoraphobia?  Take a deep breath and rest assured:  Wherever you go, your electronic universe can ride along.

 

indian trails charter serviceIf you would like to request a quote to charter an Indian Trails motorcoach, we can get you connected! Click below to go to our Request a Quote page. And, have a great trip.

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Travel Planning: How Do You Feed an Army?

 

travel meals, meal planning, meals on the goWhen travel planning involves meal planning, smart planners remember their history lessons. It was Napoleon who famously noted that “an army marches on its stomach.”  But any travel planner can tell you, it’s not just armies that demand their rations.  Bus groups need food, too. When it comes to basic human needs, food is right up there with shelter, clothing, and sleep.  But food is also an object of pleasure and enjoyment, replete with social, cultural, and even emotional significance.  Whether your group is a high school football team or the local women’s club, your passengers expect something tasty and filling as they travel from point A to point B. 

But on a bus – and a budget – it can be challenging to find meals that are satisfying, nutritious, and affordable.  Food at rest areas and truck stops is notoriously low in nutrition and high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Depending on the route, your choices may be limited to fast food or overpriced snacks at convenience stores.  Fortunately, there are other options for feeding your army.

Snacks

Most groups – especially kids’ groups – enjoy “a little something” every few hours.  Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks and drinks.  You can designate a snack time or let people help themselves along the way.  Don’t forget to pack plenty of napkins and hand wipes. 

A few ideas for easy and wholesome snacks:

  • Whole fruit, like apples, pears, grapes, and bananas
  • Nuts in individual serving packages
  • Crackers and/or pre-packaged peanut butter or cheese crackers
  • Granola bars
  • Raw vegetables with individual containers of dip (like Ranch dressing or hummus)
  • Bottled water
  • Juice boxes

Meals

Unless your bus trip is a food or wine tour, no one expects a gourmet spread at mealtime. But that doesn’t mean “bus food” can’t be healthy and delicious. Many travel planners opt for boxed lunches. They are hearty, wholesome, and – best of all – they have been prepared, packed, and labeled by someone else.

We’ve identified five popular restaurant chains that do a nice job packing boxed lunches that are convenient, reasonably priced, and – all things considered – pretty good for you.  Order in advance and your lunches – in stackable boxes complete with labels, plates, napkins, and utensils – will be waiting for you when you’re ready to roll.  Or, do what many savvy planners do, and arrange a pickup along the way. If you time things right, your lunches will be fresh and ready just when the bus (and its passengers) need to refuel. 

Here’s the low down on how to fill ‘em up.

Quiznos makes submarine sandwiches, grilled flatbreads, wraps, and salads.  For your lunch boxes, you can choose from a small or regular sub, flatbreads (two per order), or a salad (from $5.99 to $7.99) or let Quiznos provide a mixed selection. Sandwiches and flatbreads come with chips and a cookie; salads come with a cookie. 

Panera Bread is a chain of bakery-cafés serving fresh baked pastries and breads and a variety of sandwiches, salads, and soup. With a few hours’ notice, most neighborhood Panera restaurants will package up boxed lunches (from $8.99 to $10.99) and will even label each box with the food item and the person’s name.  Choose from the full menu of Premium, Premium Signature, and Café sandwiches, served with potato chips, a pickle spear, and a cookie.  Salad box lunches come with a French baguette and cookie. The half sandwich/half salad lunch comes with a cookie.

With more than 40,000 Subway restaurants worldwide, you should have no problem finding one along your route.  A boxed meal – known as “Subway to Go” – consists of a customized 6-inch sandwich of your choosing, a big cookie, and a choice of chips, apple slices, or a carton of yogurt (starting at $6.00).  A bottled beverage can be added for an additional charge.

Grab your boxed lunches at a Bob Evans restaurant, where they “treat strangers like friends and friends like family.”  Okay, the slogan may be a little corny, but admit it:  There’s something comforting about being on the road – a stranger in strange place – and finding something so completely familiar.  Boxed meal selections include a regular or half sandwich, served with chips, a chocolate chunk cookie, and your choice of fresh fruit or coleslaw ($7.00 - $9.00). Or, order a salad in a box (Cobb or Cranberry Pecan Chicken) served with bread and a cookie for $7.00.

You can find a Jimmy John’s franchise in most U.S. states, where they make “the world’s greatest gourmet sandwich,” if they do say so themselves.  Give them 24 hours to put together a large order (25 or more meals) and you can choose any sub or club sandwich, with your choice of chips, a giant cookie, and a pickle spear in your own personal box (from $9.82 to $10.88).

As with all your travel planning, give yourself enough time to call or visit the restaurant or its website to learn:

  • Guidelines for placing your order
  • Deposit, payment, and cancellation policies
  • Any discounts or specials your group may be eligible for

When you pick the food up, check (or at least spot check) the order.  Be sure you have plenty of plates, napkins, utensils, and condiments.

Bon appétit!

 

Professionals Guide to Bus Trips with Kids

 

 Bus trips with kids require more planning. Have a great trip and cover your liability with this comprehensive guide. Click on the button above to get yours free.

 

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