I have learned a few coach holiday hacks over my 25 year career as a Tour Manager taking holidays all over the world.
This list of coach holiday hacks is made up of things that I have learned myself, I’ve learned from guests and the little differences between coach holidays and other types of holiday.
Over time experienced guests generally learn these coach holiday hacks for themselves but here’s my list to give you a shortcut to an even better holiday experience.
So let’s jump in to our list of 10 coach holiday hacks to help you travel like a professional!
1. Research, Research, Research
Coach holidays are great holiday experiences, but like anything they can be varied and different. Different companies provide different types of experiences. Some of the larger coach holiday companies offer different types of experiences – some with lots of free time to explore, some with less, some with more immersive experiences, some requiring a higher level of fitness to manage the more active options etc.
Coach holiday companies have different approaches to Tour Manager, guides, room allocations, luggage, dining, optional excursions – the list goes on.
Spending time on pre holiday research can help to ensure that you find the best coach holiday exprience for you, at a pace that suits your needs.
It can be very difficult to drastically adjust a tour once guests have arrived if the pace is too fast or slow for some guests for example, or if some guests find there is too much free time.
To help with this pre-trip research I wrote ’10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Coach Tours’. It gives detailed information into coach tours, including terminology and differences between companies to help you ask the right questions to find your ideal coach holiday.
One of the reasons research is top of the list of coach holiday hacks is that it is, in my view, the most important.
Finding the right trip for you depends on good research and my guide is a helpful shortcut to the questions you need to be asking more about.
2. Request, Request, Request
Many holiday guests assume that if they make several bookings under one booking number that will show that a particular group of guests are travelling together. However, for various reasons that is not always the case. Hotels may receive rooming lists in priority guest order or alphabetical order rather than in booking reference order. This also applies to the paperwork that Tour Managers receive.
As a result hotels and Tour Managers may not be aware that guests are travelling together, so rooms could be allocated separately, on different floors etc depending on the room type.
If guests book separately but are travelling together this often doesn’t show up on the rooming lists or tour paperwork unless guests specifically highlight this which shows up as a comment.
This can often mean in rooms not matching guest requirements particularly on the first night or at the first hotel of a coach holiday.
The same thing applies to room type requests. Lots of rooms for coach holidays are requested as standard twin bedded rooms. As such double bedded rooms generally need to be requested in advance.
If you need to be located in certain seats in the coach, perhaps because of travel sickness, then requesting seats ahead of the front wheels might be a good option.
Dietary requests are also really important and the earlier these are requested the easier it can make it. Not every country has the same availability of gluten free, FODMAP, Vegan and other special diets so they may need to order in supplies.
If you have any special occassions happening while you are on your holiday then also advise this in advance. Hotels will often do something if there is a special occassion, whether it be a free drink for a birthday or perhaps a room upgrade for a special wedding anniversary. Likewise the coach holiday company may do something and it will hopefully make your holiday a little bit more special.
Requests are of course that, requests. However, the earlier the requests are put in the more chance of having them fulfilled.
If particular dietary requests, seats or rooms are really important to your holiday experience then it might be worth checking on these options before you book your coach holiday.
If you do have the opportunity to correspond with your Tour Manager ahead of the tour it is always worthwhile reminding them of these requests, because they are the ones who will be working with suppliers to arrange them and of course they want happy guests on their tour.
Request things seems obvious but it’s one of those little coach holiday hacks that can make such a difference for your first hotel and meal for example.
3. Lighten the Load
Some tours include porterage which generally means that one main suitcase per person will be delivered to your room at each hotel you visit.
It can be easy to overpack, particularly if you don’t have to carry your suitcase yourself.
Often guests arrive on day one of their coach holiday with a completely full suitcase. This can mean that there is no space for any gifts or purchases made along the way. I can’t tell you how many times guests have left clothing at hotels to make room in their case to take things home, or they have had to buy additional bags and carry these or pay for extra luggage if they are flying home.
I have seen lots of guests repacking their luggage at the airport to try and meet the weight requirements and trying to squeeze everything into their hand luggage. This can make quite a stressful airport experience.
Something to Consider?
I have often posted things home to save carrying them in my luggage. In some countries the Post Office can be a really cheap way to send parcels, cheaper than paying excess luggage fees anyway. Another of my favourite coach holiday hacks!
I’ve got a wonderful set of polished wood with pearlised figures pictures hanging on my wall that made it safely from Australia to Scotland.
Sometimes places are able to offer free or cheap shipping because they want you to be able to buy their products so it’s always worth checking this option out too.
4. Label and A Spare
If your coach holiday includes porterage then generally your luggage is taken off the coach and delivered to your room by portering staff. They go through the luggage and mark it up so they know which room to deliver it to. Sometimes they use chalk, sometimes they add their own tie on labels and sometimes they use stickers.
By the end of your holiday you can have lots of stickers on your case, which if it is a hard sided case can be difficult to get off.
If you add a spare, blank, luggage label to the top handle of your case this should encourage portering staff to add labels there rather than sticking them over your suitcase.
This is one of those simple little coach holiday hacks that can not only save your suitcase becoming covered, but also prevent it getting delayed on arrival at your hotel. It’s amazing how many hotels have the same room numbers so multiple stickers can be confusing.
5. Pack for 1 Night
If you are flying at the start of the your holiday, perhaps to your holiday destination where you will meet your coach then it is worth packing your medication and 1 set of spare clothes (including nightwear), and any essential toiletries such as your toothbrush in your hand luggage i.e. enough for 1 night.
This means that if your main luggage does go missing or arrives late you have the most important things with you, enough to get you through one day or night without your main luggage. Most missing luggage will arrive in that time, particularly if your main luggage was delayed because of an overbooked flight or late connection.
If luggage does go missing for longer you will be able to claim expenses for buying toiletries, clothing and essentials until your main luggage arrives.
Whilst this tip is on a list of coach holiday hacks it can equally apply to any holiday that involves a flight with checked in luggage.
6. Smaller Space – Smaller Case
Many guests on coach holidays take hand luggage bags that are the same size as airplane hand luggage. However, the overhead luggage racks on coaches can be much smaller than on an airplane. For small wheeled cases it often means they end up in the locker underneath the coach.
If a coach is air conditioned this can often mean that air flows through overhead vents or through a system located on the floor of the coach. If this air system is blocked, because there is a great deal of luggage in the overhead lockers, or luggage too big it needs to be on the floor for example this can really affect the air flowing around the coach, leading to hot spots developing.
Keeping your hand luggage smaller will not only make it easier to handle, it will also help to keep everyone on board more comfortable.
Personally I think this should be one of those coach holiday hacks that guests get advised of in advance. It can be easy to assume that the overhead luggage space on a coach is the same as a plane.
6. Talk To Your Tour Team
Many guests assume that Tour Managers or Drivers have had plenty of time to review the holiday paperwork in advance. As highlighted in the first point it’s worthwhile requesting in advance, but don’t assume all that information has made it way through to the Tour Manager or Driver, because it may not have done.
As such it is worthwhile just letting your Tour Manager know about room requests, meals, special occassions and other requests when you meet them. They may well know already, but it’s always worthwhile to double check.
It is also worthwhile talking to your Tour Manager or Driver about any particular highlights you are looking forward to on the tour. I have regularly have guests who have visited a place on tour before, perhaps many years ago for example, so if I can do something like giving them the front seats for that day I will to try and make it a bit more special for them.
Highlights may be a particular reason you booked the tour, perhaps something you are looking forward to visiting or doing. Again a Tour Manager or Driver will want to do everything they can to make that visit or day even more special so let them know if there is a particular highlight you are looking forward to.
7. Enjoy The World Wide Window
One of the great things about taking a coach holiday is that you get to see what the places you are visiting are like. You can see daily life all around you. You can see different views, different vehicles, different people – there really is so much to see not to mention wildlife.
Some people focus on the visits, the attractions and the stops on the holiday. This means the journey can become something that has to be done to get between those stops. The danger is that time on the coach can become viewed as wasted time.
Often people read books, do puzzles, or play games to pass the time when travelling on a coach. That is great for some of the time but it can mean guests miss out on a great bit of their coach holiday experience – the journey.
So embrace the journey, it’s an important part of your coach holiday, and enjoy it – there is always something to see.
8. Personalise The Pace
Travelling can be really tiring, and coach holidays are no different. Coach holidays can include lots of great activities, group meals, entertainment and of course there are lots of other guests to mix with too.
It’s natural that when on holiday we want to do and experience as much as possible, because you have paid for it of course. However, that can sometimes mean guests become so tired that they can’t enjoy their holiday experience as much.
They can be reluctant to take a day off or a bit of time outbecause they don’t want to miss anything (and because they have paid for everything). However, taking a bit of time out can mean they get the most out of their holiday overall.
Just because everything is included in the coach holiday experience doesn’t mean you have to do it. Adjust the pace to suit yourself.
If you are finding the pace difficult then talk to your Tour Manager who will be able to help you with adjusting it to suit you.
This is one of my favourite coach holiday hacks because it often seems to come as a surpise to guests when I suggest it and of course it helps them to enjoy their holiday even more. As a Tour Manager all I want is happy guests!
9. Have a Flexible Focus
I am all for plenty of unplanned exploring, slow travel and serendipity but sometimes having one or two ideas about what do in your free time can help give some structure to that time.
You may decide, after arriving and learning about other things to do that you no longer want to do your visits as you had planned, but having one or two ideas can be really helpful in giving some focus to free time.
If you are visiting somewhere where the weather is changeable then why not have an idea for good weather and an idea for poorer weather. You can always change these if you find something better, and of course if the mood takes you your plans can change.
Having a bit of focus can help you make the most of your free time and being flexible can help you make the most of anything else that you find to do instead.
Your Tour Manager or Driver will have plenty of ideas of things to do but having a few of your own is always a good idea because you know what you like to do best, and what your interests are.
Of course there is caveat here that if you plan to much you can just become frustrated and exhausted trying to fit everything.
The other caveat is that the very nature of coach and touring holidays means that plans might change so some flexibility is always required.
Guests I have travelled with, particularly those who are new to coach holidays or perhaps travelling with a different company for the first time, can often find the amount of free time daunting if it is much more than they are used to. This can lead to them becoming frustrated that the Tour Manager or Driver is not organising something for everyone at every stop, because that is what they have been used to previously.
This can make free time feel daunting for guests and without some structure or a focus it can feel like wasted time to them.
10. Utilise the Experts
If your coach holiday uses local guides, for city tours or other local visits, then make the most of them to get local recommendations for places to eat or things to do.
They really are the experts in their particular location, so they will be able to give you some insider tips that a Tour Manager or Driver may not have. This may not apply if the Tour Manager or Driver take the tour regularly, but getting some local insight is always useful.
Local guides can also give on advice on using local transport to get around or advise on any special events that may be taking place like local events and festivals for example.
As a Tour Manager I always ask local guides for recommendations and have found some great local places to eat as a result.
Use Local Laundry Services
Hotel laundry services can be really expensive and they can also be very hard on your clothes as the equipment is more suited to industrial washing such as sheets than clothing.
There are often local laundry services available that provide a same day or next day service for laundry with delivery and collection available. This can be much cheaper than using the hotel laundry service and it simply requires you to bag up your washing and leave it with the front desk/porters for the laundry servic to pack up.
As a Tour Manager I have often used these services when there isn’t much time between tours and I guests often use this service when travelling on more than one tour for example.
How lovely it is to get home without having to do a great big pile of laundry!
Coach Holiday Series by The Coach Holiday Expert
- Coach Holiday Myths
- Coach Holiday Trends
- 9 Reasons to Choose a Coach Holiday
- Coach Holidays are Not All the Same
- Coach Trips – 10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know
- Coach Holiday Terminology
- 6 Reasons to Avoid a Coach Holiday
- What a Coach Holiday Tour Manager Really Does
- Coach Holidays and Covid19 – Some Ways Your Holiday Could Be Affected
- Coach Holiday Comparisons – Holidays to the Azores
- Coach Holiday Comparisons – Australia Tours
- Coach Holiday Itinerary Review – Scottish Highlands Tour
- 10 Coach Holiday Hacks
Have a look at my Travel Inspiration section for ideas on places to visit.
I’ve also got heaps of resources on how to travel cheaper, helping you to see even more of the world!
Coach Holiday Companies
Here are some coach holiday companies I know. Head to their websites to get some coach holiday inspiration!