Bus Tours: Fun on Wheels
Jul 01, 2017 10:27PM
● By Beth Gavaghan
Bus tours offer a stress-free way to travel, whether for a one-time event or multiple-day excursion. Yet the tours are more than a means to an end. For travelers, the journey is as important as the destination.
“The highlight is the people you are sharing it with,” said Kathleen Nye, tour department manager at Lenzner Tour and Travel, where she has worked for 28 years. “It’s like Facebook on wheels—very social.”
“My first trip for Lenzner was a 28-day bus tour to Alaska. All I could imagine was being with gray-haired grandmas,” Nye said. “Boy, was I wrong.” The passengers, who ranged in age from their mid-40s to an agile man of 85, were young at heart and had stamina to match.
“As soon as we stepped on, we melted together as a coach,” Nye said. And that is what makes bus tours special. Passengers get to know each other through the shared experience.
“There’s no stress about timing or driving,” Nye said. Travelers are free to look out the window, read the paper, sleep, play games on their devices or visit with each other.
Lenzner offers a large selection of coach, cruise and air tours; a popular destination is cruise ship ports. Coach customers do not pay for checked luggage or worry about literally missing the boat because of an airline delay or cancelled flight. They also don’t have to take off their shoes or be scanned by airport security.
Nye said New York and Washington, DC, are popular destinations as is the theater experience in Lancaster, PA. Other in-demand trips include the 15-day Western Tour, with transportation to national parks such as Bryce Canyon and Mt. Zion, and the five-day trip to Mackinac Island, MI.
Scheduled pickups are at Lenzner’s Sewickley headquarters, the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh downtown hotel and Monroeville Mall. If traveling east, additional pickups are in Irwin and New Stanton. If south, pickup is in Washington, PA. Visit www.coachride.com for more information.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of family-owned and operated Anderson Coach & Travel. Courtney Anderson Saylor, marketing assistant, said the company was founded by O.D. Anderson who used a converted truck to transport students to a one-room schoolhouse outside Mercer. That first day, he met teacher Dorotha Elder, who became his wife and business partner.
Today, the company still provides bus service to two Greenville, PA-area school districts. However, it is more well-known in the Pittsburgh area for its retail and charter tours. In addition to coach tours, it offers cruises and air tours all over the world.
Seniors mostly book retail tours and seem to appreciate that hotels, attractions and many meals are included. More young people can be found on its charters, since Anderson is a provider for colleges, schools and youth organizations.
“Our most popular trip is our New York City Express, which gives people 12 hours in the city, and we travel through the night so they can rest on the bus,” Saylor said. Like Lenzner, other popular destinations include DC, Lancaster and Mackinac Island.
Customers today desire free time to explore on their own, so the company builds that into its itineraries, Saylor said. She added that the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY, is hot right now as is the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Younger people seem to be interested in brewery and winery tours.
An amenity that customers of all ages appreciate is the free Wi-Fi and outlets at every seat, which keeps them connected to friends and family while on the road.
“When you travel by motor coach, you can still get out every few hours and get fresh air and stretch your legs. Plus, we stop at fun shops and attractions on the road. And you get to know the driver and make friends with the passengers. It’s more of an adventure and less of a chore,” Saylor said.
Depending on the destination, Anderson has tour pickups in Mars and Monroeville. Tours headed east have departures outside of Pittsburgh. Charter pickups are scheduled where needed. Visit www.goanderson.com for more details.
For people who want to stay closer to home, Urso Bus offers day trips to casinos, sporting events, concerts, weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and corporate events. In business for 16 years, the company’s new executive coaches can hold 14 to 28 people.
“Our uniqueness comes in both price and personal attention,” said Scott Urso, who co-owns the Shaler-based business with his wife, Michelle. “There is no middle man. Customers have a direct telephone line to us as well as the Urso Bus drivers. Many of our senior customers do not have computers or e-mail. They can pick up the phone and call us.
“We plan each trip as if it were our own,” he added.
Urso’s drivers are exceptionally committed to their customers. “If they drive a high school team to a basketball tournament, they will go to the game and cheer for the team,” Urso said.
New destinations for the bus company include craft beer tours and a trip to Lake Erie Wine Country.
Urso Bus has regularly scheduled casino pickup service on McKnight Road and Route 8. For its charter service, pick-up locations are as needed.
“For some of the elderly who do not drive, we provide an important socialization service,” Urso said. “We have regular trips to the Rivers, Meadows, Wheeling Mountaineer, Hard Rock and Rocky Gap. For many of these seniors, this is their only time out during the week and they look forward to it.”
Check www.ursotours.com for information or call 412-480-2756.
Whether for a one-time event or multiple-day excursion, bus tours offer riders convenience as well as a journey that can be as memorable and fun as the destination.