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Bus tours gain in popularity

February 19, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Geri and Robert Royer of Waynesboro, Pa., have seen every state except Alaska. Since the 1970s, motorcoach has been their main mode of transportation.

Many Tri-State area residents are discovering there are advantages to taking the bus and leaving the driving to others, travelers say.

On a bus, passengers can avoid the hassles of driving, know in advance exactly how much the trip will cost and have fun with friends along the way instead of having to watch the road.

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In 1995, 23 million people took group tours, according to the United Motorcoach Association of Alexandria, Va.

Tours were up for the third straight year in 1995, the association reported.

Historically, bus trips have appealed primarily to the older set, said Smedley Lynn, owner of Atlantic Coast Charters in Hagerstown.

With the population getting older, that means more potential tour bus passengers, he said.

"It's harder for us to convince the baby boomers, but as they get on the coaches and experience the trips they have a good time," Lynn said.

When gas gets more expensive and the roads get more congested, bus trips get more popular, he said.

They can be short day trips to shopping centers and concerts or extended vacations to Boston or Branson, Mo.

The industry lost one popular destination, at least temporarily, when the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pa., burned last month. Atlantic Coast Charters traveled to the theater about 10 times a month, Lynn said.

Buses also may be chartered for one-time events such as weddings and business trips.

Unlike car trips, bus trips offer a wide range of activities.

The Royers, on their many cross-country trips by bus, often played cards in a bus fitted with a card-playing area in the back.

"We can play cards anywhere," said Geri Royer, 74.

Dottie Martin, 58, of Waynesboro, organizes bus tours as a hobby.

Martin organized her first excursion, a shopping trip, at the request of her mother-in-law.

The idea caught on among her friends and family. This year she has 27 trips planned. Some of the buses, but not all, will be driven by her husband, Don, a bus driver for Atlantic Coast Charters.

"I look at it as our traveling family," she said.

Organizing the trips is a hobby for Martin, who works full time as a receptionist at Hess Manufacturing Co. in Quincy, Pa., and has always loved to travel.

Although she has taken trips on her own, she'd rather have the company of a busload of about 40 people.

"I just enjoy being with people. I love people," she said.

They don't always go far. Martin has organized trips to destinations as nearby as the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Arranging bus trips has become a full-time job for Gary Kline, 42, of Greencastle, Pa., also a part-time sportscaster at radio station WCHA.

Last year, he took 110 busloads of people to destinations such as Orioles baseball games, Atlantic City, N.J., and New York City. Ice shows and country music concerts also are popular.

"It seems like every year I expand my schedule," he said.

Trip planners list some advantages to motorcoach travel:

  • No time is wasted looking for hotels or restaurants. Everything already is planned.
  • All expenses are included in the cost of a trip.
  • Groups of travelers are eligible for discounts.
  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Tour guides are on hand to give facts about the destination.
  • The ride is not boring. Some riders play games and watch videos.
  • You don't have to carry any luggage.


"When you have a good bus driver, you sit back and relax and leave the driving to him," Royer said.

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