How To Organize A Bus to a Climate March
Organizing a bus (sometimes called a coach) to get people to a climate march or protest is something that every activist should know how to do. Learn how to be a bus captain or to organize a bus from your city to an event in a faraway (or not so far) place.
Once you know the date of your event, jot down a proposed schedule with the dates you'll need to leave, desired arrival time, how long the event is, and when you want to return home. Long distances can be traveled without the need to stay overnight at a hotel (people can sleep on the bus to save money). When a bus was organized from Traverse City, Michigan to Washington DC for the People's Climate March, the trip took 15 hours without stopping overnight at a hotel.
Ride a Bus from Michigan
We are listing all buses from Michigan to the People's Climate March here.
You should also determine how close the bus can get to the event. For large events, you may not be able to find parking for the bus at the destination. Your coach company may be able to help you determine this.
Once you have the dates, here's a handy checklist to set up your incredible trip:
1) Book a bus. Buses often fill up fast (sometimes months in advance depending on the size of the event and the season) so you’ll want to secure a bus for your event as soon as possible.
- There are several charter bus companies to try depending on your location. Indian Trails, Blue Lakes Charters, Lakefront Lines in Toledo and US Coachways are charter companies we’ve used before. Do a Google search for "coach companies" or "charter bus rental" along with your state to begin your search.
- A charter bus has about 50-56 seats. Many companies have smaller buses available too. It is more cost effective to go with a larger bus if you can fill it.
- You tell the charter bus where and when you want to go. For Saturday events and depending on how far away you are, a typical (and the least expensive) itinerary is to leave Friday afternoon, drive through the night, and arrive Saturday morning. The buses then pick up travelers Saturday after the event and travel again through the night to get back to your city. Another way to do this is to have the bus leave Friday morning and stop to let people stay at a hotel Friday night, then return on the bus Saturday night after the March.
- If you opt for the hotel option, you'll need to figure out a good stopover point, and then do a search for a hotel. Ask for the hotel's sales or convention department, you may be able to negotiate a group rate. We like to hold a block of rooms and leave it up to travelers to make their reservations and pay on their own by sharing the reservation number or website link.
2) Paying for the bus. Most bus companies require a deposit (roughly 10-30%) shortly after booking the bus and then require full payment about two to four weeks before the event.
- If you need help paying for the bus up front, look for a fiscal sponsor (either an organization or an individual) to front the money and get reimbursed once tickets are sold.
- We always work on getting funding from multiple sources to help keep costs down. Donations from like-minded organizations or people can range from $500 to $5000. With a few phone calls, and mining your and other's contacts, it's not uncommon to find a few people that will donate $1000.
3) Sell tickets. Create a ticket website that lets attendees pay online – we like Eventbrite. If you have a web-savvy person in your organization, they can create a way to sell tickets via Wordpress and by adding a shopping cart. We like Ecwid for a shopping cart (free to use - it hooks up to your PayPal account). This can be a less expensive way to go by avoiding fees - which can be about 3% of the cost of each ticket.
- Set a ticket price so that it covers the cost of the bus plus a 20% driver gratuity.
- You may want to give yourself some cushion in case you don’t fill a few of the seats.
- You can also set some discounted tickets for students or scholarship seats. Offering discounted seats is an excellent way to solicit donations - encourage people that can't attend to donate and offset the cost of student seats.
- The person or group that paid for the bus will get the money from the ticket sales right after the trip.
- Ask for the names of the riders and a cell phone when you sell tickets. This will be handy when it comes to check-in. Keep a list - we like using an online spreadsheet like Google Sheets to share between organizers. People may add and drop at the last minute, so being organized is key.
4) Spread the word. Talk this up with friends, colleagues, and organizations in your community - this is going to be a great event that is not to be missed!
- Create a Facebook event page for your bus to the March that links to your Eventbrite or other ticket sale website. Share the page with all your Facebook friends, and ask other like-minded organizations to share as well.
- Ask organizations and faith groups to share the trip with their networks on social media or through email or (if time allows) print newsletters, make and post posters around town.
- Get in touch with local news media (radio, TV, newspaper). A bus to a march or event is a good news story, and you may get some free media.
5) Host a pre-party to create signs and artwork for the march. Start community building and preparing for the big trip with an art-making event.
6) Load 'em Up! Before you're ready to go, decide who will be in charge of checking in your passengers. Bring a printed out list of riders, along with a clipboard, and make sure everyone gets on board. If you don't have everyone, make a call to the cell phone number you collected earlier. Do the same on the return trip, so you don't leave anyone behind.
Organizing a bus to a climate march can be done by just about anyone! It just takes a little patience, planning, and it helps to have a few people to double-check all the details. Most buses have monitors and a way to play video. Think about showing movies or climate-related documentaries on the trip to help pass the time. HAVE FUN!!
Share Your Experience
Do you have any tips, ideas, questions, or other websites that helped you to plan a successful trip to a protest or climate march? Did you have a good or bad experience with a coach company? Let us know in the comments below.