I am the Fleet Commander. I started out being the Bus Captain, but now there are more than a couple of buses so I gave myself a promotion. When I greet the bus drivers that are taking our students to various trips, I now let them know that I am The Fleet Commander. 🙂 In all seriousness, there are some things we’ve learned over the years from taking one to two buses, to over 12 buses on extended road trips.
1. You must have a bus manifest.
This is just a good rule of thumb on many levels. A bus manifest helps with quick roll call. In addition, for safety in an unexpected traffic incident, you need to be able to account for all persons.
2. Carry water on each bus to be used in emergency situations.
You should carry water on the bus in case of prolonged traffic issues where you are delayed on the road for hours. We have found ourselves on the highway in bumper to bumper traffic due to accidents. You never know when you need to supply students with water on the road. This is a great way to just be prepared for emergency situations.
3. Make friends with the bus drivers.
Over the years, I’ve learned that if you make friends with the drivers, it makes the journey so much better for everyone. I have taken it to a whole next level by wearing socks that say, “BOSS LADY”. It’s my first day event uniform. The drivers know that I’m the girl who is leading the buses and it makes it easy to initiate conversation with them. Also, it’s a great reminder to remember that not all bus drivers know Jesus. As they transport your student ministry, they are listening and watching what it looks like to be around Christ Followers. Make sure that they are included in your mission field scope.
4. Move around the bus
Don’t just keep your eyes on the road. Make regular trips to the back of the bus and look for students that are sitting alone. Observe relationship patterns and engage regularly in dialogue with students on the trip. The event doesn’t start when you get to your destination. The event starts at registration. That means that the ride is important to help students connect. We encouraged our bus to disconnect from their screens and to get to know each other. One of our girls came up to me and said, “Can I switch rooms? I just made new friends on the bus.” So it is possible to make new friends on the bus.
5. Create Memories.
We did some goofy things on our trip to Beach Camp but it created memories. I had the girls write one sentence about what they were excited about or something they wanted to share. Then they passed the card to the next seat. We ended up having a keepsake and it helped me know how to pray for them.
6. Utilize Glympse for travel announcements
If you are leading the buses, you will probably get asked this question multiple times: “Where are you?”. I have found that using the app Glympse is a great resource tool. You can personalize the app and allow parents the opportunity to “follow” your journey from start to finish.
7. Do recon work on your rest stops and meal stops
For years there was a rest stop that I remembered that had massive amounts of bathrooms and they offered free orange juice or grapefruit juice. It was not the most direct route, but when I considered the amount of time it took to unload 12 buses at a rest stop that only had 3 toilets for girls vs extra mileage, I realized that this was an ideal choice. We could get everyone refreshed and also complete our rest stop in about 30 minutes. I called the rest stop to confirm that they would be ready for our ETA. It was fabulous. In addition, I called the food courts ahead of time to give adequate warning to food places so that the wait is minimal. There is also an app called Point inside (https://www.pointinside.com/point-inside-shopping-and-travel-app/) that I use to share with students ahead of time so they know places to eat as they are dropped off. I also give boundaries for stops. They are allowed to eat in the food court. They are not allowed to shop in stores. They must be in groups of 3 or more.
Hopefully as you are doing your summer trips, this will be helpful information. Happy Trails to you!