I asked a bunch of coach bus drivers what are the most important things they pack when they leave on a bus trip, and I got some really unique and interesting answers. So here’s what they had to say:
Fabric steamer and dish soap. “I have a separate bag of toiletries that just stay in my suitcase for travel so I don’t have to pack my home ones every time,” says Rachel Greenwell, with Eagle.
A fan. “A FAN is a must for me – sometimes the hotel room’s a/c doesn’t work well or you just like to hear the noise like me. … an extra pillow, lots of cleaning supplies, vitamins and healthy snacks,” says Jeannie Ann, with DC Trails.
A bag of meds. Penny Back, with Empire Coach lines, has a makeup bag filled with over-the-counter meds such as Dayquil, Nyquil gel caps, Imodium, Benadryl, ibuprofen and Pepto Bismol Chews. She also adds fingernail clippers and at least two laundry pods and two dryer sheets in baggies. A baggie with laundry scent beads keeps the suitcase smelling fresh.
Cologne/body spray. “We all have those long hot days where we’re in a no-idle area from time to time. I’m very lucky to have an assigned bus that only I drive 99% of the time, so most everything else important is kept on board. However, some of the things in my bag for every trip are; paperwork and clipboard, tablet, paper logbook (required), FMCSA rule book (required), some OTC meds (ibuprofen, Aleve, Benadryl, Tums, etc.) and an extra phone charger are my most important things. Also, as soon as I park my truck, I put my personal keys in my bag, and they remain there until I get back to the shop, I NEVER carry them around!” says Tommy Von Morrison, with Brewster Travel out of Martinsburg Ohio.
Plastic silverware. “Nothing worse than getting to your room with food and realizing they didn’t give you utensils,” says Jack Kaufman, of Timi Tours in Moweaqua, Illinois. He also carries RAM phone mount, Garmin Dezl GPS, AirPods, Shox Bluetooth headphones, sleep mask, reclining lawn chair, two days worth of clothes, even if it’s a day trip, lots of candy and basic tools for simple repairs.
Power strip and extension cords. “I always travel with a power strip and at least 10 foot of extension cords. My new favorite is a 15-foot USB extension cord. I can plug it in the bus and sit outside on Canal Street (when in Chicago) in my lawn chair for hours on end fully charged. This would be where I fess up to the lawn chair and cooler too,” says Aaron Halliday, with Peoria Charter Coach.
Extra paper logbook. This one is suggested by Jason Wuthrich, who drives for Coach U.S.A. It’s very, very important. Actually, it’s a law. Some companies keep an extra logbook on board. But Jason likes to keep one in his driver’s bag regardless. I think that’s a really good idea.
Pillow. Colin Fogarty, with Holt Peterson bus and who is a school bus driver as well, says his bag includes a change of clothes, pillow for those long layover naps, and movies in case he gets bored.
Sewing machine. Jennie Gazdik, with Lorenz Bus Service out of Minnesota, spends her downtime on her awesome side hobby. She brings a sewing machine with her and sews on her bus when waiting for her passengers. Jennie takes customer service to a whole other step with what she calls a ditty bag in the bathroom for passengers, with individual wet wipes, tampons and feminine supplies – along with bags for disposing of them so they don’t get dropped in the toilet – along with little bars of soap and shampoo bottles and a few hair elastics. She also keeps sealed packages of soda crackers and small bottles of water for folks who need them due to low blood sugar or upset tummies.
Jug of water. Amanda Leonard, another driver, likes to bring a five-gallon jug of water, which comes in handy to clean bugs off the front windshield, or for emergency toilet dumps when you don’t have access to water.
Electric skillet. Kathy Mcintosh, with ECS Transportation, says she likes to bring an 8-inch electric skillet and utensils so she can make her own meals. It’s one way to stick to your diet plan, and save money.
Portable pressure washer. That’s on the list of top 10 things Keith Belanger, who drives for Premier coach out of Milton, Vermont, takes on his trip. The pressure washer is accompanied by a crate filled with cleaning supplies. Both go into the luggage bay.
A goodie bag is a must for Judy Dickinson, who drives for Across Country Travel. She describes it as a “freezer zip-lock bag that has a couple foodies, caffeine, batteries, Gas-X, ChapStick, breath mints and other goodies I need while driving. It sits on my side panel and gives me easy access to items I need while driving.”
A roll of weatherstripping is always in the book bag of Dru Huggins, MacArthur Coach and Tours: “I can’t stand the wind coming in around the door. Especially in the J’s. Sometimes all you need is some new weatherstripping and it’s as quiet as a church mouse.”
A red carpet is among the items that Joshua Transp Henley from Lewis Coach takes, because he lays it at the entrance to his coach to add a touch of luxury to the passenger experience.
Barbasol shaving cream is something Ed Summers, a former driver for Windy City, always bought along on his trips, both for shaving and to keep windows from steaming up. “I learned this from a senior driver at Windy who drove for Greyhound for 40 years,” he says.
A picture of his kids is what Joseph Baumbach, a single dad and dispatcher/CDL Instructor/third party tester at Powhatan County Public Schools, packs when he takes trips.
A BlueTooth earpiece of some sort (AirPods, Beats, Plantronics) is a must-have for Braden Lewis of Lewis Coaches.
And I agree. Sometimes I’ll stop at a truck stop just to buy another one because I cannot be over the road without it. Now, just to set the record straight, it’s not because I’m constantly chatting with my buddies while I’m driving a bus load of passengers. I do use it for phone calls when dispatch is calling me or I need to call the destination my passengers are heading to ahead of time so that it is ready for us, and I use it to listen to music out of one ear sometimes.
An alternator is what Jackie Denny from Todlow Coach says he likes to bring. And there have been times where I wish I had an alternator with me. You just never know what can go wrong with these things. But I have to ask though … How heavy is your travel bag??
A hammock is what Mat Broad, with Academy Coach, likes to bring. He says, “This is my go-to for a one-day with a lot of down time.”
Hairbrush is an essential item for Sandro S. Tadic, with Signature Transportation out of Chicago, who says “forgetting to pack your preferred hairbrush is a traumatizing experience that you will never allow to happen again. … Everything else can be bought at Walmart.”
Now I don’t really ever have issues with my hair as I wear a hat most of the time and my hair is pretty short, but I do love the concept that Sandro mentioned that you can get almost everything from Walmart. In the U.S. for most bus trips, you are always within reach of a Walmart or convenience store of some sort, so that allows me to pack light sometimes.
Here’s what some of you had to say about what’s important to take on a trip.
Brad Bmwrs: These are some great ideas that I hope to remember. lol
I actually just landed my first paying job as a motor coach driver. It’s not for a charter service, but driving the team bus for a university here in Texas. I’ve always enjoyed your videos and have found them to be quite informative and inspiring.
Tom Morrison: Great video, James! I’ll have to make a short video of the things I keep on board at all times. I also have a red carpet that the groups and the college teams love, especially when arriving at the away college and after a win! We are the house carrier for a local college, so I dress in their uniforms and I hang a sign with their name in the upper right windshield so people know who’s arriving.
JD CAR & BUS PRODUCTIONS: I’m not a bus driver (or even old enough to drive a bus, I’m only 14) but I bet you probably do have to pack a good amount of stuff, especially if you have to stay at a hotel. But I definitely think having some extra food and toiletries, at a bare minimum, is necessary.
Bus & Motorcoach News columnist James Wang is co-owner of Peoria Charter Coach Company and a bus geek who shares his passion for the motorcoach industry on his two YouTube channels, J Wang and Motorcoach World.
Read more James Wang’s columns here.