There comes a moment during every long bus charter (sometime after you board your motorcoach – fresh and full of energy – and before you actually pull into your destination hours later) when it hits you like a ton of bricks: You’re hungry. Or, you’re tired. Or, you need desperately to use the facilities. Or, you’re bored. You get the idea. You’re only human, after all, and we humans need to eat, sleep and “freshen up” regularly. And while boredom probably never killed anyone, who among us doesn’t like to be entertained?
The good news, according to travel experts, is that you don’t have to forego your creature comforts just because you’re riding a bus. You simply have to plan ahead. So do what smart travelers do: Pack a few provisions to guarantee a comfortable and relaxing ride, so you will arrive rested and refreshed at the other end.
Keep in mind, you probably won’t have access to any luggage you stow until you arrive at your destination. So pack a carryon bag or tote where your essentials will be close at hand.
Even if you plan to stop along the way for meals, you’ll still want to pack a few snack items for the long ride – especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Let’s start with what not to pack:
- Food that can go bad. Avoid milk, anything prepared with mayonnaise, and highly perishable foods.
- Messy food. Powdered donuts, watermelon, and barbecued chicken are best on a picnic, not on a bus.
- Stinky food. Leave the sauerkraut and limburger cheese home.
- Food that requires preparation. In other words: DO bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; DON’T bring jars, knives, and a loaf of bread.
- Food in storage containers that are not disposable. Like all “rules,” there are certainly exceptions. (There’s nothing wrong with taking a thermos of coffee or soup if you want it.)
- Food that cannot be eaten with the fingers. If you do pack something that requires a fork or spoon, consider using disposable utensils.
Here are a few recommended items:
- Bottled water and juice boxes
- Granola bars
- Raw vegetables
- Individually wrapped sandwiches
- Fresh fruit (like apples and grapes)
- Dried fruit
- String cheese
- Individual portions of nuts, crackers, trail mix, or chips
- Rice cakes
- Animal crackers
- Napkins and/or hand wipes
Not everyone is on the same sleep schedule. When your circadian rhythms signal sleepy-time, others might still be talking, laughing, watching movies, or listening to music … with the lights on. Plan accordingly.
- Ear plugs. If you need to reduce the sound of conversation, music, or crying babies, good ear plugs can do the trick.
- An eye mask. Also known as a sleep mask, this inexpensive little device shuts out the light and tells your brain to produce melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleepiness.
- A pillow. Savvy travelers often pack inflatable pillows or those neck-hugging support pillows; but even a make-shift pillow (a rolled-up sweatshirt or towel) can suffice.
- A light blanket or throw. (A sweater or hoodie can double as covers.)
- Nasal strips. If you think (or know) that you might snore, a nasal strip is a neighborly touch.
- Ear buds and an MP3 player loaded up with soothing music or white noise.
If you are traveling on a modern motorcoach, you should expect a clean, well-equipped restroom. But it’s still a good idea to come prepared. You never know when you might encounter a less-than-ideal rest area. And, of course, you’ll need a few personal items of your own. Here are some ideas from experienced travelers:
- Hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial hand wipes
- Disinfecting wipes for surfaces
- Toilet paper
- Stain stick
- Lip balm
- Contact lens solution, contact lens case
- Reading glasses
- Oil-absorbing facial sheets
- An extra pair of socks. (This is one of those suggestions that may seem weird at first, but seems like a stroke of genius later.)
- Foot powder or spray. This falls under the category of bus etiquette, which is covered in a separate blog, but if you know your feet are smelly, do your fellow passengers a favor and take preventive action.
- Medication. Carry a dose of any medication you would normally take during the time period of your travel.
- Non-prescription meds. Pack some over-the-counter remedies for pain, indigestion, diarrhea, motion sickness, nausea, or any other torment the universe may inflict upon you or your companions.
- Sewing kit
- Feminine products
- Travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste
Experienced travelers always seem to have a bestseller, or a book of crossword puzzles, or a knitting project to keep them busy. Here are the most common take-alongs for long trips:
- MP3 player (or smart phone) with head phones or ear buds
- Cell phone and charger
- Book or e-reader (with charger)
- Laptop or tablet
- Hand-held electronic games (like Solitaire, 20 questions, etc.)
- Rubik’s Cube or other puzzle
- Knitting project or other portable craft
- Sketch pad or notebook