Coach travel tips – How to holiday by coach

Coach travel tips - how to holiday by coachAs someone who commuted on a coach to work for several years, nearly 40 miles in each direction, I know what makes good coach travel tips. During my travels I have spent many hours on coaches in various parts of the world and know which coach travel tips just make the journey more enjoyable and help pass the time. Coach holidays are a great way to see a lot in a short space of time, while you just relax and let someone else take the strain of driving. Follow the tips below to learn how to holiday by coach the easy way.

I use the term “coach” and “bus” interchangeably in the text below. Both mean the same thing.

Please feel free to add your own Coach travel tips.


Before you go

Check when does your passport expire

If you are going abroad on your coach holiday for more information on passports and passport renewal see the Do I renew my passport before it expires section on the Air travel how to guide page.


Print off your documentation in duplicate

Even though you are being transported around from point to point on coach holidays you will still need to carry documentation with you. The booking company or tour operator will issue you with receipts, travel itinerary and possibly other documents related to your trip. You may also have travel insurance documents with you. Print off 2 sets and carry one in your hand luggage and one in your suitcase just in case one set gets lost. Photocopy your passport and keep this separately in your suitcase to your real passport or scan your passport and upload it to secure on-line storage.


Should I buy travel insurance?

Coach travel tips - travel insurance

It is strongly recommended that you buy travel insurance to cover you whether your trip is in your home country or abroad. Travel insurance policies usually cover cancellation and delays as well as medical cover, plus a range of other things are covered. For more information see these pages How to buy travel insurance online and Where do you buy travel insurance.


What to pack

What to pack for coach travelIf you are planning to go on a coach tour you are likely to be staying in a range of different hotels throughout the duration of your trip. It is advisable to pack as light as possible. Bearing in mind that you will need to haul your suitcase and any other baggage from the coach to the hotel and back again each time you stay somewhere different. This could become a real chore if you have a big heavy suitcase. Ideally you should take a medium-sized suitcase or soft luggage that can be wheeled and is not too heavy, plus a small holdall or day bag that you can take on board the coach. For more ideas on things to take and things to do before you go see – Printable holiday packing list – what to take on vacation – this page has printable lists that you can customise for your own use. Your suitcase will be stowed in the hold section of the coach and won’t be accessible during the journey, so you need to consider what to pack in the bag that you take on board with you – see the “what to bring during the journey” section below.


During the journey

Where to sit on the coach

Where to sit on the coach

I find the best place to sit is somewhere between the front few seats and the centre of the coach. This has several advantages:

  • You don’t have to make your way all the way to the back of the bus to get on and get off again. Plus it is quicker to board and disembark the bus the nearer you are to the front.
  • You can look over the seats and see what is happening on the road in front of the coach if you need to.
  • Sitting in the centre means you are between the wheels and less likely to feel the bumps in the road. This can be particularly important if you suffer from motion sickness. See this post For tips to give you motion sickness relief
  • If you are in any way nervous at all of coach journeys, it is best to sit a bit further back down the coach and preferably next to the window. That way you can hide behind the seat in front and your view of the road ahead will be naturally restricted unless you make the effort to look around or over the seat in front you. An alternative is wearing eye patches and using earplugs to block out the world, so you can’t see or hear anything while you are wearing them.


What to bring during the journey

What to bring on a coach journeyYou will be allowed to take a small holdall or small backpack/day bag on board the coach with you for the journey. You just need to pack a few essential items in this bag but here are a few things worth considering when you are cooped up on the coach for long periods:

  • Important documents and passport – carry these with you for security and if your get off the coach at rest stops always take your bag containing these with you.
  • Wear loose clothing – You need to be comfortable when you are sitting on a coach for long periods. Wear loose clothing in layers so you can shed or add layers to adjust to the surrounding temperature. Some coaches can have the air-con cranked up and it can get quite cool, so some kind of a zip up top is a good idea. Wear socks so that your feet stay warm even if you remove your shoes.
  • Carry bottled water – It is important to keep hydrated when travelling for long periods so drink plenty of water. These days long distance coaches have on-board toilet facilities so no need to worry about drinking too much water then bursting for the toilet for miles until the next rest stop.
  • Carry some food – Take some snacks or other food with you for something to munch on if you get hungry. You can always something more substantial when you get to your next rest stop. Don’t skip meals as an empty stomach can help bring on motion sickness.
  • Neck pillow – the motion of the coach may make you feel like a snooze as you travel along and a neck pillow will support your head and stop you getting a strain in your neck.
  • Mobile phone – Smart phones are an invaluable tool when you are travelling. You can download free apps, such as:
    • A GPS navigation app that lets you download maps at home, is voice guided and lets you track the progress of your coach journey or use it so you don’t get lost in strange cities (Navmii)
    • Travel guides that you can download at home for all the places you are planning to visit (Triposo).
    • Both are free, work offline which means no internet connection is required when you are using them and they are available for all the main mobile phone operating systems.
  • If you use the camera on your mobile phone to take photos and video of the places you visit, you can also use your mobile phone to record voice notes to record a visual diary.
  • MP3 player – If you don’t have music loaded on your mobile phone take an MP3 player so you can relax listening to music.
  • e-Reader or Tablet – An e-Reader such a Amazon’s various types of Kindle or any other make of e-Reader are an invaluable piece of technology enabling you to carry lots of books for your holiday reading in one small lightweight device. The battery life on e-readers are astounding these days with some lasting weeks between charges. Tablet computers can be used as an e-reader of course but can also do so much more particularly if the coach you are travelling on has WiFi allowing you to stay in contact with people at home, play games or if you must, do some work.
  • Charger for your electronic gadgets – Some coaches these days are equipped with power points so you can charge your electronic devices.
  • Books – if you don’t have an e-Reader such as a Kindle take a good book to engross yourself in and while away the time. Reading either real books or those on e-Readers while travelling on a coach is not suitable for everyone as it can lead to motion sickness.
  • Camera – The advantage of coach journey is that you get to sit back and watch the outside world go by. There will often be plenty of interesting things to see and having a camera with you on board allows you to capture some holiday photos you would not otherwise have the opportunity to take. The scenery alone in some places is worth a few snaps.
  • Toiletries and Wet wipes – Take some toiletries on the bus with you, even if it’s just a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and some wet wipes. That way you can freshen up easily using the wet wipes any time and brush your teeth at rest stops. Both will wake you up and make you feel better after long period cooped up on the coach.


What you need if you are travelling overnight

Coach travel at nightMost modern coaches have reclining seats making it easier for your to sleep but for coach travel overnight there are a few extra items you should consider taking:

  • Blanket – As the temperature outside drops at night it can feel cooler on the bus particularly if the air-conditioning on the bus is still be going. A lightweight blanket will help you to feel cosy.
  • Neck pillow – One of these is a valuable piece of kit to make sure you don’t wake from your slumbers with a sore neck. You fall asleep with your head resting straight back against the seat headrest and with the motion of the coach it’s so easy to end up with your head tilted over to one side. A neck pillow will support your head and neck and stop this happening.
  • Eye masks and earplugs – Even at night there are lights from street lights and oncoming vehicles which flash through the coach interior, wearing an eye mask helps blot these out. Wearing ear plugs also helps block out surrounding sounds. Both will help you nod off.


Consider other passengers

Coach travel - consider other passengersWhen travelling in the confined spaces of a coach please be aware of and have consideration for the other passengers around you. It is their space too and makes for a more comfortable journey for everyone on the coach.

  • If you are listening to music via headphones on your MP3 player or mobile phone, keep the sound low so you other passengers can’t hear what you are listening to. Use noise cancelling headphones which block outside sounds allowing you to listen without having to raise the volume too loud.
  • Occupying 2 seats on a busy coach is not being considerate, especially if you fall asleep across two seats when there are still more passengers left to board. If you board the coach and find two empty seats, by all means sit in the aisle seat but be prepared to let another passenger sit next to you if the number of remaining seats is limited.
  • As I already mentioned most modern coaches are fitted with reclining seats. BUT, if you do want to recline your seat be aware of the person in the seat behind you. I am 6’ 3” tall and one of my main complaints about public transport is the legroom on coaches, aircraft and trains. If the person in the seat in front of me carelessly reclines the seat without warning I can end up with crushed knees. Invariably I’ll ask that person to put the seat back upright as it can get just too uncomfortable to bear. So make sure you are not making the person behind you extremely uncomfortable while you get comfortable.
  • If you are travelling alone watch out who you sit next to. If you end up sitting next to someone of large size who is taking up a seat and a half it can make for a long and tightly squeezed journey in your half seat. There is no excuse for kids jumping around, running up and down the aisle or being excessively loud, so parents need to control their kids to stop them disturbing other passengers. Women travelling alone should be mindful of sitting next to strange men, best to sit next to another women or teenagers if possible.


Avoid going during peak holiday season

If at all possible avoid travelling during peak holiday seasons. This should also work out cheaper travelling in off peak season. The roads can get notoriously busy during peak holiday seasons such as the school holidays during summer, Christmas, New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving and other bank holidays.


Dealing with Motion sickness

If you suffer from motion sickness during coach journeys, see the post on Tips to give you motion sickness relief for some solutions to help relieve the symptoms.


Anti embolism stockings and DVT

If you are taking a coach journey of more than a few hours duration it is worth considering wearing anti-embolism stockings. This is particularly true on coach holidays where you may be sitting on the coach for long periods. Not moving around and sitting in cramped conditions can cause the blood flow to become sluggish, which can lead to DVT. For more information on DVT see the section Wear anti embolism stocking to prevent DVT on the Air travel how to guide

Preventative measures on a long coach journey are:

  • Wear loose comfortable clothing.
  • Exercise and walk around regularly during rest stops to get your circulation moving in your legs.
  • When you are in your seat on the coach, keep your circulation active by flexing your feet, rotate your ankles and wriggle your toes frequently.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that can be removed easily or at least loosened so you can move you feet and flex your toes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear anti-embolism stockings. These are available at all good pharmacist in various sizes. Be sure to measure yourself and follow the size chart on the packaging so you buy the correct size for you. If the stockings are too loose they won’t work and if they are too tight, they will restrict circulation like a tourniquet.


Coach travel with disabilities

For travellers with disabilities see the following links for further information on assistance and what to expect regarding coach travel

UK and EU passengers

US passengers


If you found the above coach travel tips helpful, please share so others can benefit from the information as well or if you have any questions or tips of your own on how to holiday by coach, leave a comment below.


  1. Hi

    I enjoy coach tours but was upset on 2 occasions where my husband and my seat was taken by someone else when we returned after a stop. We got there early to get the best seat in front and after our first stop another traveller just sat in our seats, I was so annoyed but was embarrassed to make a fuss. On another occasion the same thing happened and this time my husband and I had to sit apart as there were only single seats left😡
    How can I avoid this happening again?

  2. Really very helpful guide. very detailed explanation and tips to consider for holidays to really enjoy the vacation.

  3. hi Neil!
    Holy is this ever a complete article! I think you have covered literally everything 🙂 I have to say that I have not traveled by coach since my high school days and end of the year trips. Different crowd back then….I travel mostly by plane at the moment but most of those recommendations would certainly apply. I am not good at packing light. I mean I try but every time it ends up being super heavy…It’s a family thing! But I work out so I can lift my suitcase in and out 🙂 And boy do I get it about the seat reclining. I hate it when people just recline it without even looking. It’s pretty inconsiderate. So is listening to music so loud I can follow along. Respecting fellow passengers is huge to me.

    • Hi Emily,
      Yes respecting fellow passengers is also something I am careful and considerate about and when that is not returned it can be a bit irritating. Some people seem to be oblivious to those around them. You are right, most of the tips for what to bring on the journey, travelling overnight and consideration for others could easily apply to travel by air, sea, road and train as well as coach travel.

  4. The info in this article is incredible. With all those helpful tips and ideas I won’t have to worry too much about preparations. Thx for sharing Neil.

    • Hi Keye,
      You could take a look at the following post on this site which give reviews of UK, US and global companies that sell travel insurance. Of the companies reviewed some are general travel insurance and some are more specialist, such as over 50s or those with pre-existing medical conditions – where-do-you-buy-travel-insurance

  5. I really liked this article. I reminded me of a few trips i have made when i was younger. good tip about sitting in the middle as i do suffer from motion sickness a bit and as you say sitting in the middle may help with the bumps in the road. On a funny note…it reminded me that i once forgot my passport the day before i was meant to travel! wont be doing that again. Thanks fo a very informative post!

    • Hi Pete,
      I used to sit in the middle of the coach on my daily commute, I just found it was the area least likely to feel the bumps in the road. Sitting over the back wheels always seemed the bumps more than sitting over the front wheels, but in between the two is a good compromise. I renewed my passport earlier this year knowing it would expire days after returning from my planned travel. I didn’t fancy dealing with the problems that might cause so renewed it early.

  6. I used to take many a journey from west Wales to London throughout the process of my week – used to kill me with boredom! Great tips you’ve covered here – especially the section on the motion sickness ( I used to read on the bus a lot! )

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your comment. A lot of these tips can be used for people like you, who do more like a regular long distance commute, as opposed to using the tips just for coach holidays. I commuted daily by coach and found reading a great way to pass the time. It doesn’t suit everyone due to motion sickness, but I am one of those who doesn’t suffer from it too much.

  7. This is a fantastic post, Neil. Many really great hints and tips for coaching holidays – I would never have thought that where you sit on a coach is important 🙂 And advising on what exactly to pack etc is helpful. Bringing documents in duplicate is one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ ideas 🙂
    I have an aunt and uncle who have traveled the whole world over the years on coach holidays, and I love listening when my aunt tells the stories of where all she’s been. There is so much to do that you could never get bored – she wouldn’t go on any other type of holiday. The itinerary is worked out for you so you go to all the important ‘hot spots’ and miss out on all the wastes of time.
    I enjoyed reading this, thank you Neil 🙂

    • Hi Jyl,
      Thanks for your comment and glad you liked the information. You are right about there being so much to see and do when travelling by coach, you can while away the hours gazing out of the window at the passing scenery. I find if I am driving on holiday I miss so much because it is just not safe to take your eyes off the road and look around, so in this regard coaches are great. The point you made about a pre-arranged itinerary is also very valid one on coach holidays, you know before you set off where you will be going and the places you’ll be visiting. This takes much less effort than if you have to plan the itinerary yourself.

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