If you are certain that you can commit to a bus rental, do
so immediately! Some companies require a sum, such as 25%,
to reserve, with full payment due anywhere from departure
date to weeks before that. Others may let you reserve with
WHAT TO RENT:
Long-range buses with good seats are often referred to as
"tour" buses, "tour" coaches or "deluxe
motor coaches." They range from 45 to 58 seats and usually
have a microphone and PA for the group leader and a bathroom
(if only for very limited use). Some have VHS or even DVD
playback, with monitors above the seats. It may seem like
a small thing, but ask if the buses have footrests -- it's
a sign of a modern, well-equipped vehicle. Probably the most
respected brand of bus is Prevost. Regardless of brand, ask
for the model year or inspect the bus beforehand.
Some companies may have smaller 36 or even 25 passenger "buses"
-- but make sure they are fit for highway travel; many such
vehicles are just airport shuttle buses, which are not safe
for prolonged high speed travel. They usually do not have
bathrooms and may have limited storage. Such small buses are
priced at most of the amount for a full-size bus and are rarely
cost effective. Consider vans instead (see below).
WHERE TO RENT:
If you are searching for companies on the web or in your phone
book, be aware that the kind of bus you are looking for may
be referred to as a "tour bus," "coach,"
"tour coach" or "deluxe motor coach."
Consider also searching for both "rental" and "leasing."
You may also find them at local companies that rent limos.
Some nationwide bus/coach charter/rental resources include:
- www.usabuscharter.com — 800-979-4498 x102; fax 858-509-8909;
- www.coachquote.com — 866-697-5263; Nathan, ext. 120
If you can find a small local company, it may be easier to
contact and also less expensive.
PLAN YOUR BUDGET:
If you book a bus for four days (travel on Friday, with return
after lobbying on Monday), 50 passengers would each have to
contribute $80 toward a $4,000 total, based on a hypothetical
rate of $1,000/day including tax, tip, surcharges and driver's
Previous experience has shown that it can be difficult to
predict passenger intentions: Many confirmed passengers fail
to show up and many, many book only in the last day or two.
You may consider getting donations in advance to discourage
cancellations and keep from taking a financial loss on the
Obviously you could reduce your rental charges by traveling
early Saturday and/ or returning Sunday night. If you are
close to D.C., another cost-cutting measure, especially for
those wishing to lobby on Monday, would be to use the bus
only to drop you off for the rally and then pick you up on
Sunday or Monday. That way you would not be paying for full
days of use or for the driver's motel. This plan assumes available
transportation from local hosts while in D.C., etc.
To protect yourself and your group in case there is any dispute
with the bus company, try to pay via credit card. Some companies
also provide for payment via PayPal.
Local outfits often offer better prices than large national
companies (and are easier to contact). You may be able to
negotiate reduced prices if booking multiple buses.
If you do book from a small, local company, check their safety
record. You can request it from the US Dept. of Transportation
(tel. 202-366-4000), or from your state DMV. As stated above,
try to rent a recent model year and inspect the bus and the
company's office long before the trip.
PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE:
If you are more than a couple of hours from D.C., you should
plan on traveling on Friday in order to be there for the Saturday
morning rally. Keep in mind that many travelers will wish
to return on Sunday, while others may want to stay for the
lobbying on Monday. If your group is booking several buses,
perhaps their return schedule could be staggered so that people
could leave on either day.
If you are traveling a very long distance, note that bus
drivers are only allowed to work for about ten or twelve hours
a day, including their travel time to pick up the bus and
then pick up your group. Plan accordingly. If you do keep
the driver with you all day, don't burn him out; keep him
on your side with limited side trips and few last-minute changes.
For smaller groups, or if you cannot book a bus, vans may
be a good option. With at least seven people in an inexpensive
minivan and about twelve in a "passenger" van, vans
can cost less per person and allow for more flexibility to
deal with last-minute changes, as well as more versatility
on-site. Unlike buses, you can reserve vans through a car
rental company without penalty for cancellation. They also
offer the advantage of being available for off-hour use at
your destination, when bus drivers are off duty. You will
need to plan on vehicles being rented by mature, licensed
drivers with a clean record and good credit on a major credit
card. You should also figure into the rental price the cost
of extra insurance, as needed, to cover your travelers.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Bring signs and banners as well as literature, tables
and chairs for tabling (tour buses have vast storage compartments
at the outside bottom of the bus).
- Encourage all travelers to bring their cell phones and
make sure you have all their cell phone numbers!
- If you have a long trip, encourage travelers to bring
snacks and water. Either way, dedicate one seat of the bus
for the group's own supply of water, etc.
- If your bus has a VHS or DVD player, consider bringing
pertinent materials for the ride down and entertainment
for the ride back -- it really helps on long trips.
Travelers should be reminded to bring:
- comfortable shoes (for lots of marching and standing!)
- sleeping bags for those who may be crashing on a host
PLAN FOR PERSONNEL:
- Identify experienced volunteers who can act as bus "captains,"
and be responsible for making sure people have a plan to
meet up after the event. Distribute to all these captains
pages with the cell phone numbers of all other captains
and all bus drivers. Each captain should have a spreadsheet
with the contact info for all the travelers on his or her
- Print an itinerary for events and meeting points and distribute
this to all travelers.
- Generate a spreadsheet of all travelers' contact info
& preferences (allergies, smoking, etc.) if using host
- Bus contribution: $50.00
- Water: $ 1.00
- Helping send a message to America: priceless