Posted on July 21, 2021 in Buses
Guide to Charter Bus Parking and Loading Logistics
When you’re planning a business outing or a field trip, you probably aren’t thinking about where your charter bus will park while your group is having fun. But considering parking, loading, and staging ahead of time will save you a ton of stress once you’re actually on the road. You don’t want to hear your driver ask “where should I park?” and realize you don’t have an answer while your basketball team is already off the bus and racing into the nearest store or restaurant.
Don’t be intimidated, though! At Shofur, we have a network of charter buses that stretches across the U.S., so we’ve learned a thing or two about parking, loading, and unloading charter buses. Here’s our advice for how to navigate the parking and loading process.
Learn your terminology.
Cities will often have separate areas for charter bus staging, loading/unloading, and parking. You’ll need to know the difference between these terms to make sense of all the information about where your bus can and can’t go.
Staging: A staging area is where your bus waits before it can move into the loading area and let you get onboard. Your bus should only go to the staging area a few minutes before it picks you up. Some destinations don’t have staging areas. If yours does, it means a lot of buses come there, and your bus will probably have to wait to use the loading area.
Loading/unloading: The loading and unloading area is where passengers get on and off the bus. This is not a place to linger. These zones often have 5-, 10-, or 15-minute limits, so don’t ask your driver to come to the loading zone until your group is waiting and ready to board.
Idling: There’s no such thing as an idling area, of course, but many buses choose to idle when in the staging or loading area. Think carefully before you ask your driver to leave the engine running while they wait for you, though: 23 states and Washington, D.C. set time limits on how long vehicles can idle.
Parking: If you ask your bus to drop you off in the unloading area, you’ll need to figure out another place where your driver can park. When your destination doesn’t have its own parking for oversized vehicles, you may need to look up nearby paid parking lots. You can also send the bus back to your hotel, but that only works if you’ve reserved lodging at a hotel and it’s nearby. You must pay for all parking permits and parking fees, so account for that in your budget when you’re planning.
Research the cities you’re visiting.
Your experience on a full-sized charter bus will depend on which city you’re visiting and which parts of the city you’re spending the most time in. Massive sporting arenas or hotels in suburban areas will usually have space to park a full-sized charter bus, but historic districts or downtown areas may not. Parking a charter bus in Lower Manhattan or the French Quarter will be difficult or impossible, while parking one at a hotel in Athens, Georgia could be much easier.
You’ll also have to take your individual destinations into account. The monuments and museums along the National Mall in D.C. won’t have designated parking, but Nationals Ballpark does. Before your trip starts, look up each destination on your itinerary and note its parking policies. If you can’t find any information online, try calling the attraction directly. You can often get the most up-to-date parking information over the phone.
See if the city has a DOT.
Some larger cities have their own Department of Transportation you should contact if you’re traveling via charter bus. Cities with a local DOT include NYC, Los Angeles, D.C., Chicago, and Detroit. When you call, let the DOT know you’re bringing a charter bus and ask whether you need a permit to drive within the city. You should also ask if they can provide a parking map, since these cities often have very specific guidelines for where charter buses can park, stage, and load.
Check out specific airport regulations.
If you’re going to be flying in, a charter bus offers a safe and easy way to get your group from the airport to your hotel. That said, most airports have strict regulations about where charter buses can go. Your driver will probably need to wait in a cellphone lot or in another lot that can accommodate oversized vehicles until your group has disembarked from the plane and gone through baggage claim. Your bus will then meet you at your terminal or in a designated bus pick-up area.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t worry! Just call the guest relations line at the airport you’re flying into and let them know you have a charter bus coming to pick you up. They’ll provide you with parking and loading instructions and tell you if you need to purchase a permit for your bus.
Find a hotel with bus parking.
When you’re booking a hotel, you have two choices for what to do with your bus. You can book a hotel with bus parking for your entire group, or you can book a separate hotel for the bus and driver.
If you choose to have everyone stay at the same hotel, you won’t have to wait for the bus to pick you up every morning. You’ll also know that your driver has comfortable accommodations. Drivers are required to sleep 8 hours for every 10 hours they drive (or every 15 hours they spend on-duty), and you’re required to provide lodging for them in a hotel that has at least 3 stars. That’s easy to achieve if you keep everyone together, and some hotels even offer free lodging for the driver.
But maybe you’re staying at a hotel that can’t possibly accommodate the bus, like one in the center of New York or D.C. You’ll need to book lodging for your driver at a hotel that does have bus parking, which may mean looking at hotels in the suburbs. Book a hotel in New Jersey if you’re visiting Manhattan, or opt for a hotel in Arlington if you’re headed to D.C. Just make sure the hotel is nice enough for your driver to get a good night’s sleep, and understand that you’ll have to wait for your bus to reach you in the morning.
Decide where you can walk between destinations and where you can’t.
In some cities, you’ll find several major attractions within easy walking distance of each other. For example, the San Diego Zoo and 17 of the city’s museums lie within Balboa Park. When that’s the case, you can save time by letting your charter bus drop you off, walking with your group from destination to destination, and having your bus return to pick you up when you’re done.
Of course, you’ll need to decide how far you can walk based on the people in your group. If you have young children or people with mobility-related disabilities traveling with you, you may need your charter bus’s assistance more often. That’s no problem! Just make sure you look up where drop-off areas are located for each of your destinations and where the bus can park in between stops.
Check out parking lots near stadiums or convention centers.
If you need a place to park your charter bus while you explore attractions that don’t have parking of their own, see if there’s a convention center or stadium nearby. These facilities sometimes have large, open parking lots instead of parking garages, which increases the chance you’ll find a place to leave your bus. For example, the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta has a parking lot that can accommodate your charter bus while you visit the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coke, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
As always, you’ll want to do your research online or call the facility to ask about their parking options. Parking policies can vary based on location, season, and even day of the week, so contact a destination directly to make sure it’s okay to park there. You should also ask if there are any parking fees, since you will need to provide your driver with money for those.
Now you’re ready to navigate charter bus parking and loading.
The process of parking, loading, and unloading a charter bus can seem complicated, but with the tips we’ve provided and some research on your part, you can create a foolproof plan for your next charter bus trip. Contact your destinations, set aside money to pay for parking, and get ready to have an amazing, stress-free time with your group. Book your bus by calling Shofur today at 1-800-436-8719.
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