With everything that goes into group travel—itinerary planning, budgeting, outfit selection—it’s easy to forget about some of the logistics that go into efficient charter bus travel. Choosing a good spot to load the bus sounds burdensome, but, with a little guidance, it’s easier than you’d think. It just requires communication and forethought. Having a clear pick-up plan reduces costs, saves time, and avoids parking tickets. Use this guide to find and secure the best pick-up point for your group.
Talk the talk: Charter bus terminology
Being able to clearly communicate to bus operators, municipality officials, and booking specialists is going to make it a lot easier to get what you want out of your charter bus experience. And you’ll sound cool too! Here are a few key terms:
Staging refers to the period of time between the bus’s arrival to your group’s departure.
Loading time depends on your passengers. It covers the time it takes everyone to check in, put their luggage in the undercarriage (if you’ve booked a coach bus), find seats, and get comfy.
On-duty time consists of the hours your driver is “at work.” This includes time when they are not driving, but responsible for the vehicle.
This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the time your driver is driving.
Deadhead is the time it takes your driver to get from the bus depot to your departure point, and it is part of the price of the bus rental. It’s also the reason why we try to match you with the closest carrier to your pick-up point.
What makes the ultimate pick-up point?
Space! The more the better! Not only do you need space to park your bus, you need space for your passengers and coordinators to mill about and get organized. If you’re in a parking lot, reserve 3 or 4 parking spots (depending on whether you’ve booked a minibus, a school bus, or the full coach). Your pick-up point also needs to be clearly marked to help both your driver and your group members find it. Finally, it needs to be legal. That means speaking to the owner of the space, be that a business owner or municipality. You’ll need them to sign off on your use of the space. Would you want someone parking a bus at your house without telling you?
If you find yourself traveling with a group of 15 individuals or less, then it might make more sense for you to rent a sprinter van. A sprinter van is a type of small but spacious vehicle rental that can even be driven by a member of your group with a valid driver’s license. Of course, Bus.com also offers the option to rent a vehicle that comes with a professional driver.
How to find pick-up points
Figure out where your passengers are coming from. If you’re representing a school group, office, or team, it should be easy. This step can get complicated when you’re transporting wedding guests and other social groups. Once you have a general idea of where your passengers are, get on Google Maps and look for big open spaces that are easily accessible by your passengers. If you already have access to a parking lot, you’re in luck. You simply have to coordinate with your bus operator to be in the predetermined spot at the right time.
How to schedule staging and loading
As you plan your schedule, remember to add buffer time. Traffic and weather can always impede your timing. If you build in time to respond to unexpected circumstances, you’ll keep calm when it comes to arriving on time. For staging time, you’ll need 15 to 30 minutes. We recommend planning for the full 30, just in case. Schedule your group to arrive 15 minutes before departure, but tell them 20 minutes.
Note: Staging counts as on-duty time which affects the price of your bus rental.
It’s tempting to skip permits, especially when you have to pay for them, but permit violations are far more costly than the permit itself. If you’re in a parking lot, get the owner’s written permission to use the space. If you’re in a pay parking lot, pay for it. If you’re in a city-sanctioned loading zone, get a permit. Just make sure that whatever location you choose, you’re allowed to be there.
Airports are one of the busiest places charter buses frequent, so it’s important to have a plan. Most airports expect charter buses and have designated loading zones. You may not be able to plan a long staging time, so make sure your passengers know where to go. Email everyone a map of the airport with the pick-up point highlighted. You should be able to get a copy of the parking map on most airport websites. It’s also important to account for customs and baggage claims when making your schedule. And be ready for unexpected flight delays.
Depending on the size of your hotel, there might be a parking area designated for charter buses. If not, you’ll need to reserve 3 to 4 parking spots, especially if your bus is staying over night. Your hotel will be more than happy to advise you on loading zones, so give them a call. Hotel staff are notoriously polite, just like the Bus.com booking and customer service team!
Landmarks and Museums
Things start to get tricky when you’re dealing with landmarks, especially when they’re historic and from a time before buses. If no bus parking is available at the location, you’ll need to have your driver drop you off and park elsewhere. If the parking zone is close enough, take a walk and enjoy the neighborhood.
Sports Facilities and Team Travel
You’re in luck. Sports facilities are charter bus pros. They’re used to accommodating teams, so they can handle yours. And if you’re just a bus full of fans, stadium staff can direct you to designated large vehicle parking. Despite how accustomed to charter buses sports facilities are, it’s still important to call in advance and reserve parking. The lots get crowded quickly.
Parking pro tips:
Big box stores are hidden gems for bus operators. They have massive parking lots that are often pretty empty on weekdays. Talk to the mall manager to request a corner. You can also look for major municipal parks. They usually have designated loading zones for charter buses, and they’re easy to find. Talk to a municipal official to secure a permit.