Category Archives: Planning Transportation

Tips for Making the Most of Your Bus Budget

Summer Camp is awesome! As a kid I never considered the bus budget or quality of the buses I traveled on.

Many of my favorite kid-memories started and ended on a bus.  I can still feel the adrenaline and expectation of loading the summer camp bus. Mom and Dad waving goodbye.  Running into the 7-Eleven  “investing” my $5 spending money for the ride. Snickers, Twinkies and a Coke was a prerequisite to getting on the bus…racing to sit next to friends, and planning our assault on the camp lake row boats. After camp, we swapped legends of heroic launches off the diving board, and our red team dragging the blue team through the mud on the other end of the tug-o-war line.

Saddleback Church Summer Camp
Camp for Saddleback Community Church starts with a phone call, and ends with 25 buses staged and loading in grand fashion. –
“I love working with (you). Your company is always very accommodating to our large needs”
–Alaina Hart / Saddleback Church

I planned for different things then than I do now.

AS A PARENT. Now I think about safety, chaperone ratios, and if the driver has a habit of texting or talking on the phone while driving.

AS A CHARTER BUS PROVIDER. I care about quality, clean safe equipment. No matter what size, color, school bus, or motorcoach; I strive to provide the best. It’s critical we partner with companies that get great reviews.  and follow up with our customers to assure the experience was all we promised and that our partners committed to provide.

Summer is gone, but not forgotten, and will be back before you know it. As a planner you know the importance of bus budget and quality.

The best advice we can offer to help you win with your Bus Budget and Quality Experience

Book your Bus Early.

There are a few reasons:

  1. Availability is best now, rather than last minute
  2. With better availability comes better prices for your bus budget
  3. Prices now reflect this year’s rates. Booking now can improve the “cost factor” by locking in next year’s bus contract at this year’s rates
  4. Booking ahead helps you set the bus budget, and allocate the right resources and price your “bus ticket” prices as you begin to market your trip or set your department’s budget.

So, as the camps are announcing their dates, and restaurants are accepting Christmas and Year End party reservations, you should be reserving the buses you will need.

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Group Leader’s Bus Transportation Plan

Create a Group Leader’s Bus Transportation Plan to help leaders and guests have the most organized and best bus ride experience they’ve ever had.

Creating your Group Leader’s Bus Transportation Plan:

Organizing your operation is the key to any Bus Transportation Plan. Make it simple but complete, successful leaders (AKA “Sane leaders”) include a workflow from arrival on the departure date till their return date. When you’re organized you can avoid additional fees like late departures, or cost of shipping items left on your bus after the group unloaded.

students loading bus Bus Transportation Plan

Include these key components:

  • Write your itinerary and send it to your charter bus provider.
    • Make sure they correspond with proof the changes have been made on their work order. It’s a simple “this is what I want”, and hearing back from them “this is what I hear you saying you want”. (Heaps of mistakes on execution of an itinerary can be avoided at this point).
  • Create a plan. A good plan includes:
    • Create a messaging platform to communicate changes or updates with passengers
      • This can be done via text blasts, facebook, leaving updates at the central office, or posting on a facebook page.
    • Assign a bus “captain” to each bus
    • Have a master list with all bus captains cell phone numbers, and group leaders’ cell phone number (distribute to each core leader and bus captain)
    • Assign or determine how you will load the bus(es). Will guests, volunteers, or staff help the driver load the luggage bays.
    • Designate a bus NUMBER or COLOR for each bus (we like colors, keep reading for why).
    • Create a passenger manifest to each bus (manifest is fancy for passenger list)
    • Mark where the buses will “Stage” on arrival (cones with a bus NUMBER or COLOR work well here. (NOTE: the longest standard bus is a 45′ motor coach, so if you set up staging to accommodate this bus size you can pre-stage and have luggage staged for when buses arrive.
    • 8:00AM – Passengers arrive, check in
      • Check off name on passenger manifest
      • Share assigned bus
      • Hand a Bag Marker to each passenger (bag markers can be a simple ribbon, colored to match the bus “Color” so it’s easier to find the bag or have volunteers/staff load the buses according to the passenger manifest.
      • Passengers go through any medical check-in or specific group requirements at this point.
    • camp medications Bus Transportation Plan
      Some camps require medical physicals for each participant, and student camps collect meds for the staff nurse.

      8:15AM – Buse(s) Arrive.

      • Load bus with luggage, and if you will allow the group to place items on the bus, near their seats this can be done at that time.
      • Communicate with each driver the plan for departure, and drop off.
      • Introduce each bus captain to driver and communicate they are in charge of guests, and any key decisions, including RELEASING THE DRIVER AT THE DROP OFF. (More on this in a minute)
      • After luggage has been loaded have the passengers line up outside the bus door (It is our experience that everyone off the bus is the easiest way to complete an accurate headcount using your passenger manifest)
    • 8:35 – Bus captain checks off each name on passenger manifest as passengers load.
      • After all passengers have loaded bus captain count the manifest passengers listed
      • Bus captain to do a physical head count
      • Bus captain communicates directly with group leader the findings and receive the green light or further instructions regarding departure
      • After all passengers are loaded, and communication with group leader is confirmed, the group leader will dismiss each of the busses according to the itinerary
      • Repeat the bus manifest check of passengers, and match with a physical headcount
      • Repeat after me “No Passengers Left Behind”
      • Bus captain releases the driver to proceed as planned on itinerary
      • Tell Passengers to check around and under their seats to take all property off
      • Have passengers help load bags of any remaining trash (to avoid costly cleaning fees from some bus providers)
      • After passengers have collected backpacks, pillows and electronics bus captain dismisses group.
      • Unload luggage bays onto parking lot, or designated unloading space.
      • REMEMBER that handy Bag Marker now the passengers can use that as a sorting tool to find bags that might get mixed up with other buses’ luggages.
      • INSPECT INSIDE AND LUGGAGE BAYS OF BUS for left behind baggage, or personal property.
      • “Lost” forgotten property, is the number one reason passengers call a provider post-trip. Save the postage and time of a phone call, by a simple check before bus captain signs the driver’s time sheet.
    • Communicate back with the office, parents, or any messaging platform you have, to share you’ve arrived safely.
  • Return Trip
    • Communicate back with your message platform (texts, facebook, office, etc) about the scheduled time of departure (ontime, late, weather dependent, etc.).
    • Follow the above loading procedure and drop off procedure to facilitate a successful end of your bus trip.
  • Run through the bus one last time looking for personal items left behind.

Driver’s Gratuities: “How much should tip my driver?”

United States service mantra seems to be consistent at 10%. However on a $500.00 airport transfer versus a $15,000.00 Yellowstone 13 day “over the road tour” a 10% service fee poses quite the difference. So what’s right, fair or expected?

First: Gratuity for a driver is a PRIVILEGE for them, not an OBLIGATION for you.  So, if you’re pleased with the service, awesome give them an expression of your gratitude in cash. If not, then your gratuity percentage or amount should reflect that.

Day Trip Gratuity: We see customers tip from $40-$150 per direction on a local mountain transfer that costs approximately $1,000 per direction on a motor coach bus.

Over the Road Gratuity: Often on an “over the road” tour type trip, customers will tip daily as the trip is going along, to share their continual gratitude and foster driver engagement. Remember, drivers are people too (we know not all people act like nice people, regardless of profession or expertise…people none-the-less) .  Rates vary by destination, but on an Over the Road trip in the US a $100-$150 gratuity is generous, and communicates your satisfaction with the service provider.

A good Group Leader’s Bus Transportation Plan takes the guessing out of the equation, plan for the expected tolls, gratuities, and staff meal costs. But never rule out the unexpected possibilities along the way.

Be prepared for the unexpected:

Communication is key. Stay in touch.

No matter how prepared you are, and how good your bus transportation plan is, remember, stuff happens.

The variables are endless, and beyond the scope of your ability to prepare, so remember to stay a little bit pliable. As changes occur the decision order should be bus captain and driver combined knowledge and experience used to assess the circumstances, then communicate with the group leader, and operate the collaborative plan.

Keep the non-passengers informed of changes too: If you need to communicate back to your message platform to inform the destination, staff, parents, or connecting transportation, airlines, etc,.

Regardless of where you travel  by bus in the United States, you need to be confident you’ve got the right bus for the job.

Charter bus group has been serving customers since 1995 as they travel to the snow, concerts, beaches, sales meetings, weddings, and special events.  We’d love to help you love your next transportation experience, make your next trip go smoothly so you can enjoy the ride and the destination.

Can we help you find the right bus for your next trip?

Contact us for a free quote at 888-442-9865.

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Ski and Snowboard Group Trip Planning Guide

This Ski and Snowboard Group Trip Planning Guide will make your planning easy.

When  you’re planning a trip, some of the smallest details can feel like big hurdles. We’ve been working with groups since 1995 as they travel to the mountains and get ready for their bus ski trips to many Western US resorts including: Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Tahoe, Powder Mountain, and other Utah destinations.

It’s not a small task, but it’s 100% achievable, especially if you’ve already got your winter driving needs covered with our charter buses and professional drivers…then the rest is simply checking off the below boxes.


The key to a successful trip is planning!

Get organized early. Make a master calendar, which includes:

  • Payment dates
  • Due Dates for student deposits and final payments
  • Rental information
  • Additional travel needs besides your bus (es) (plan for borrowed vehicles, etc)
  • Dates when your information must be faxed or sent to resorts for lift tickets, and room lists
  • All Critical dates* Typically when payments are due, etc, but remember to review your contract documents.

Create a Winter Trip Operations File– Keep all trip info in the same place.

TRIP PRICING: Make sure that your “per person” price is correct. It is important to set a price that is high enough to cover all of your costs, but low enough that it is attractive to the participants (and their friends).

 How to set a price-

We have invoiced the portion of your trip you requested. REMEMBER, LIFT TICKETS AND SOME MEALS, ETC MAY NOT BE INCLUDED, DEPENDING ON YOUR CONTRACT.   Now you need to add buffer budget for staff, scholarships, miscellaneous food, additional transportation, programming, etc.  LEAVE A BUFFER!

STUDENT DEPOSITS / PAYMENTS: SET YOUR PAYMENT DATES EARLY, as participants are less likely to cancel their reservation if they are committed via the almighty dollar. Humans historically like to wait until the deadline to commit to events and trips. By asking your group to give initial payments you’ll save yourself countless headaches and money down the road.

Make a budget and stick with it! Increased costs make trips go “in the hole”. (ex. T- shirts, key-note speakers, rental vehicle costs, driver’s gratuity


You will  need to send the following info:

  • A detailed itinerary of when you will need the bus (departure time, and other during trip specifics – transfers to mountain, conference space, )

****A note on how to have a great experience with Bus drivers****

  • Introduce
  • Review your trip with
  • The bottom line: driver will work with you, and you are their buffer between your travelers and the driver.  Sometimes drivers need a little extra love, and sometimes travelers need a little grace from the driver. Hey, we’re all human. Communication will help all of this.


Collect a tip for the driver: $50-$80/day is a good guideline.



  1. Place the dates for deposit / cancellation dates on your
  2. Payment dates also equal decision dates: we’ll need to know your
  3. Failure to meet those dates and will result in potential losses

When you operate according to schedule and keep us as your bus provider, and other contractors, hotels, resorts, meeting spaces and meal providers informed we are much more able to work with you, should you experience changes;  a drop or increase in numbers, intermittent whether a delayed departure or late arrival.


Most SKI RESORTS: Require your lift ticket order TWO (2) weeks prior to your trip. Email or fax your order form on time. Check with the resort you’ll be traveling to for details.


SKI/SNOWBOARD RENTALS: Some of the people in your group are going to need rentals. You have two options:

  1. Rent at home before you leave: we recommend this.
  2. Rent at the mountain: Call your ski resort regarding rental arrangements, they can send you rates and order sheets.

We look forward to serving you with transportation, and are happy to lend a hand in your winter trip planning. We want your trip to be an amazing experience as we work together.

Please feel free to contact us as we plan.

It’s going to be an epic winter. And it just got easier.