The Beginner’s Guide to Long Charter Bus Rides
If you’ve never been on a charter bus before, the idea of spending 8 or 10 hours straight on a bus can be intimidating. Sure, maybe you’ve been on long road trips, but how does it work when someone else is driving and you’ve got up to 56 other people with you?
National Charter Bus is here to help. Since we have locations in more than 30 cities, we’re used to working with groups who need to travel between states and will be spending quite a bit of time on their bus. Give us a call at 1-844-755-0510 to book your interstate trip, and keep reading for advice on how to make the most of a long bus ride.
1. Pack a carry-on bag with essentials
Full-sized charter buses come with storage space beneath the bus, but you won’t be able to access your suitcase while the bus is in motion. You’ll want to pack a carry-on bag that you can stash in the storage space above your head, much like on an airplane. Make sure your carry-on bag contains:
- Your wallet
- Your cell phone
- Your keys
- A phone charger (you can request power outlets at each seat when you book your bus)
- Medication (ex: ibuprofen, motion sickness medicine, prescriptions)
You may also want to pack a kit with any basic toiletries you need for a long trip, like dental floss, tissues, hand sanitizer, lip balm, lotion, feminine hygiene products, and Band-Aids.
2. Plan for entertainment
In addition to the essentials, you’ll want to make sure you bring along everything you need to have fun during the trip. If you request a bus with free WiFi and power outlets, you won’t have to worry about blowing all your data and using up your battery playing games or checking your email. Here are a few suggestions for ways to make the time go quickly:
Be your most productive self: It’s kind of amazing how much work you can get done when you’re sitting in one place and have the opportunity to concentrate. Connect your laptop to free WiFi, turn on your “focus” playlist, and knock out the work assignment you’ve been putting off.
Beat a video game: When you have 8 or 10 hours of traveling ahead of you, you don’t have to limit yourself to short spurts of Candy Crush. Bring along a handheld device and dive into that 50-hour game you’ve never had quite enough time for. If you have a Switch, this is a great time for a behemoth like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Binge a show: You’ve got hours to kill. It’s time to break out Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+. Although many of the buses do have free WiFi, you’ll probably want to download some shows ahead of time so you won’t use up all the bandwidth for other passengers. Then, sit back and catch up on what the person who sits next to you at work keeps talking about.
Read a book: You can download multiple books to your Kindle or iPad so you never run out. Or, if you want a form of entertainment that won’t require charging, just bring along that physical book you haven’t finished yet. Road trips are the perfect chance to read with minimal interruptions.
Play cards: Sure, it’s a tad old-fashioned, but a deck of cards can be a cheap way to keep you and your seatmate entertained for hours. And how long has it been since you’ve gotten to play crazy eights or hearts with your friends?
Get your listen on: If looking at screens or pages in a vehicle makes you motion sick (I’m right there with you), you may be panicking at the thought of 10 hours with nothing to do but listen to music. But there are still plenty of options for those of us who can only listen while we look out the window:
- Create an awesome playlist with several hundred songs ahead of time. Or, if you’re intimidated by the thought of creating your own, choose a pre-made one. It’ll save you an awful lot of skipping and shuffling.
- Download an audiobook. You can still finish that book you’ve been working on, even if you can’t look at the printed page.
- Catch up on a podcast. Before you leave for your trip, choose a new podcast that you’ve only listened to one or two episodes of so you can steadily work your way through the back catalog during the trip.
Don’t forget chargers and headphones for all of your electronic devices! Nothing puts a damper on a road trip like settling in to binge Stranger Things and realizing you don’t have headphones.
3. Bring extra entertainment for kids
Keeping adults entertained on a road trip might be hard, but it’s nothing compared to keeping kids entertained. Some of the activities above are great for kids as well as adults (books and movies on an iPad are always good choices), but here are some additional items you can bring along to make sure kids don’t get bored:
Coloring books with colored pencils or crayons: If you have older kids, try an all-ages coloring book with more intricate designs that take a long time to fill in. Adults can join in too, of course–coloring can be a stress-relieving activity as well as an entertaining one.
A map: No, you won’t need to know where you’re going. Your charter bus driver will take care of that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help your kids follow the trip on a road map. Knowing where they are and where you’re trying to get to can help the trip go faster, and they’ll learn more about the geography of the U.S. You may also want to give your kids an itinerary so they can see when you’ll be stopping for a break without having to ask.
Travel games: A lot of classic games come in travel forms. Bring portable Connect 4, Clue, or Scrabble and challenge your kids during the journey. Or play games that don’t require any pieces at all. Check out this article for 7 fun games to play on a charter bus and give a few of them a try throughout the journey.
Movies for the entire group: If you’re traveling on a bus with one flat-screen TV, bring a selection of movies that are great for both kids and adults. Pixar or animated Disney movies are always a solid choice, but you could also select something a little more adventurous, like Harry Potter or Star Wars.
Surprise bags: Pack small bags full of surprises that you can give to kids if they start getting bored a few hours in. Fill the bag with crossword puzzle and word search books, stress balls, more portable games, snacks, and any other treats you can think of. And, of course, don’t let your kid know the surprise bag exists until you whip it out at the perfect moment.
4. Pack snacks and drinks
Your charter bus will stop for meals, but since the stops are pre-set on your itinerary, you’ll want to bring snacks and a water bottle with you. Make sure you opt for healthy snacks that won’t upset your stomach, and though you should stay hydrated, don’t overdo it on the water. Rest stops will be limited, and even if you request a bus with an on-board restroom, you’ll have to share with everyone else you’re traveling with. Still, you don’t want to be craving water or food when you know you won’t stop again for hours.
5. Prepare for naps
Sleeping is one of the best ways to kill time on a long bus ride–and if you have a busy trip planned, you may need the rest. If you’re one of those people who can sleep anywhere, you don’t need to worry about how to nap on a charter bus. But if sleeping in the car is hard for you, here are some items you can bring to help you get better rest:
- A travel pillow (also good for preventing neck pain)
- A blanket
- Noise-canceling headphones
- An eye mask
For especially long journeys, make sure you request a bus with reclining seats. It will make it easier for everyone in your group to sleep as well as to stretch their legs.
6. Be courteous
While being comfortable on a charter bus trip is important, so is making sure you don’t stop anyone else from being comfortable. A lot of guidelines for being courteous on a charter bus are common sense, but they may be hard to remember if you don’t travel as part of a large group often. These are also great tips to share with your kids if they’re coming along for the trip.
Be on time: If you’re late for your pick-up time or late to get back on the bus after a stop, it won’t only prevent your entire group from leaving–it could also throw off your itinerary and cost your group extra money. Try to arrive 10 or 15 minutes early to all of the pick-up points throughout your trip.
Give others space: It’s okay to stretch out, but make sure you don’t lean back so far that you take away all of the legroom of the person behind you. If you have someone sitting beside you, you should also be careful that your belongings don’t end up on their chair.
Don’t be loud: Bring headphones if you’re planning to watch movies and TV shows or to listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. If you need to make a phone call, keep the call brief and your voice at a reasonable volume. Make sure you also watch your volume when chatting with other people on the bus. (I have a loud voice, so this is a constant struggle for me, but it’s important!) Too much noise on the bus can become overwhelming, especially when people are trying to work or sleep.
Clean up after yourself: Take your trash with you and throw it away at rest stops or at your hotel. If you leave trash on the bus for several days the entire bus could begin to smell, and who really wants to sit on a garbage-covered bus? This is especially important if you’ll be eating or drinking on the bus. Clean up any spills right away, and remind kids to hold onto their food trash so they can throw it away. If you leave behind stains or damage, you may have to pay a $250 cleaning fee at the end of your trip.
7. Add fun stops along the way
If you have the time and the money, it may add a special touch to your trip to stop at an attraction on the way to your final destination. For example, if you’re traveling from Charlotte to New York City, you could stop in Washington, D.C. to visit the National Mall. It can make everyone feel better to get out of the bus, stretch their legs, and walk past beautiful monuments or through fascinating museums.
Touring other destinations can also make you feel like you’re getting a true taste of the cities you pass through, and it’s great for keeping kids entertained. After all, having an amazing bus trip is all about where the bus stops (though free WiFi and comfy seats definitely help.)
Start planning your long charter bus trip
There’s no need to be intimidated if you have to take a charter bus from Tampa to Boston or San Diego to Seattle. National Charter Bus can provide comfortable buses with plush, reclining seats, free WiFi and onboard restrooms. All you have to do is read the tips above and bring your carry-on full of essentials, snacks, and entertainment.
Ready to get started? Call National Charter Bus at 1-844-755-0510. You tell us which amenities you need. We’ll do our best to find them for you before you set off on your epic road trip.