The first step in any student travel happens long before anyone steps on board a motorcoach, but it’s the very first and most important safety factor: the planning. Where do you want to go? How many people will make the trip? How far from home is the destination? Where and when will you stop? How long will you stay at the destination and what time do you expect to arrive or depart?
Many, if not most, student travelers leave “the details” to someone else. They select a starting day and an ending day, a destination and the size of the group and then leave it to others to “fill in the blanks.” And very few travelers fail to add the caveat to “get it as cheap as you can.” In terms of safety, that approach is a recipe for disaster. Let’s address each element in the proper order of importance. We’ll start with the issue of the cost of the trip because that’s often the first criteria considered by student travel organizers. COST — There’s no question that the price of transportation to and from your destination is important; it often comprises a third or more of the total travel budget, almost without regard to the mode of travel used: coach, air, rail or auto. Comparative cost is often the reason why travel groups turn to the motorcoach. Even after discarding the comfort and convenience advantages of a motorcoach, on a person-by-person basis, the coach represents a bargain. The problem is often those planners who try to stretch too far, to find “a bargain within a bargain.”
Just as it is with so many consumer goods and services, individual motorcoach companies offer a wide range of quality and prices. Most often, the price difference between companies will reflect the company’s use of new or older coaches, the availability of “extras” like videotape or DVD players, the cost of labor in your region of the country or the level of care and amenities offered by the company. But unlike most consumer goods or services, the price difference may also reflect a company’s level of preparedness or its dedication to safe operations.