Many travelers don’t want to drive in a downtown rush hour or get lost on a tiny country road. Consider taking a bus or motorcoach tour if you don’t relish the idea of driving in a new place.
You can take a one-day bus tour to an event or popular sightseeing destination, such as a show at New York’s Radio City Music Hall or to Rome at night. Traveling by bus relieves you of the need to plan routes and find parking garages. One-day bus tours can help you find your bearings in a new city; once you learn the locations of the major roads and landmarks, you’ll be able to use public transportation more confidently if you wish.
Many tour operators conduct one- or two-week motorcoach tours. You can visit American and Canadian national parks, see colorful fall foliage, or explore other countries, all without worrying about renting cars, buying gas or dealing with mechanics. You’ll usually have a tour guide, who will solve problems, keep everyone on schedule and tell you about each place you visit.
Choosing a Bus or Motorcoach Tour
If you’re thinking about a bus tour, the best way to find one that meets your needs and expectations is to ask around. Talk with a travel agent and ask for recommendations. Ask family members and friends if they have taken bus tours or know someone who has.
Here are some questions to ask before you book a bus or motorcoach tour.
- How long will I be on the bus each day?
- Will I have to change seats every day?
- Will we be able to explore when we stop, or will we only have a “photo opportunity” at each stop?
- What is the average age of the people who take this tour?
- Are children allowed?
- Will we have any free days or afternoons?
- Will we change buses, or can I safely leave personal items on the bus while we sightsee?
- How many people will be on the tour?
- May I bring a wheelchair? Where will it be stored?
Bear in mind that you’ll only be able to bring one carry-on item onto the bus; the rest of your luggage will be stored in the baggage compartments. You may be asked to change seats every day (“seat rotation”) in order to meet more of your fellow travelers. Expect to be discouraged from using the restroom on your bus; it’s meant for emergencies only.
If you use a wheelchair or walker, you’ll need to find out where it’s stowed and how easy it will be for the driver to get it out at each stop. In many countries around the world, motorcoaches and tour buses don’t have wheelchair lifts. Some tour operators flatly state that they will not provide assistance for people with disabilities; they advise disabled travelers to bring along able-bodied companions who can lift or otherwise help them.
You should also ask how long you’ll stop at each destination, sight or museum. Many travelers head for the restrooms as soon as they leave the bus. If you have to wait for your wheelchair or if you walk slowly, you may spend all your “sightseeing” time getting to and from the restrooms unless your itinerary includes a reasonable amount of time for comfort stops.
The Fine Print
Carefully read every word of your trip brochure and tour information before you pay for your tour. Overbooking, disability assistance and cancellation policies should be spelled out in detail. Insist on getting information about these topics in writing. If possible, pay for your trip with a credit card; you may be able to dispute the charges later if your tour operator fails to deliver what the brochure promises. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect your investment.