The HFO Guide to Coach Travel

The HFO Guide to Coach Travel

So, you've booked yourself a skiing holiday, and you've realised that you've got the prospect of a long coach trip ahead of you. A very, very long coach trip ahead of you. What are you going to do about it?

This page is one of the most frequently consulted bits of the whole HFO site. It seems that coach travel is not only very popular, but also considered to be a bit of an ordeal. Relax, for here in the HFO, we've been through it all before. We know the do's and don'ts. We've seen some pretty grisly sights in our time, but we came through it all to bring you the advice presented here today. We're just too good to you people...

Last update: October 2015


Be Prepared
On Board
On The Way
When You Arrive

First of all...

We'll put it bluntly: long distance coach travel is no fun at all, and the HFO are convinced that nothing whatsoever (apart from some exceptionally powerful sedatives or other strong drugs) could make it an enjoyable experience.

Depending on your destination, you could be sitting in your seat for a whole day or more, excluding stops. That's right: a whole 24 hours. Remember that when you're travelling by coach, the opportunities to get up and walk around are limited. You need to be realistic about whether you're prepared to cope with that before you off. Once you're on the road, it'll be too late to change your mind.

Make sure you're fit enough

As we've said elsewhere, you need at least a basic level of fitness to go on a skiing holiday, and the first place that could become apparent is when you're forced to sit in a cramped seat for two or three hours without a break. Make sure you're up to it.

Identification, please...

You might think it's really silly me raising the subject, but if you get to the border and find you've forgotten your passport, you're unlikely to get much further. Your passport is one of a number of things that come in very useful when travelling, so make a list of them all before you pack and check that you have them with you.

To labour the point still further, even if you have got your passport with you, if the person at the immigration desk at your destination notices that it expired last autumn, you're going to look really silly, aren't you? When does yours expire? Go and check it, right now.

And remember, it's got to be still valid when you come back to the UK as well - it's no good to you if it runs out half way through your trip.

It's good to talk

In these days of dual-, tri- and quad-band mobile phones, it's worth arranging for international roaming with your service provider. If you're travelling with friends, having your mobiles with you is a good way to make sure you don't lose each other!

If you don't sort out an international package, make sure that you remember to turn data roaming off or you could end up with a very nasty surprise on your next bill.

Comfort IS possible

While coach travel may be cramped and uncomfortable, you can do a lot to ease the situation by having the right gear with you when you get on board.

Most direct coach travel to European ski resorts involves an overnight trip, so make sure you're wearing something that you're comfortable sleeping in. Have something warm you can wear as well - your body temperature will drop once you fall asleep. While they're not the greatest of fashion items, a hoodie is great for coach travel. You can block out a lot of light by pulling the hood up and over your eyes when you want to sleep. It'll also keep your head warm, which makes it much easier to nod off.

I can recommend getting one of the horseshoe shaped travel pillows you see advertised in the papers. I've had one for a while and I actually manage to sleep during journeys these days. Pillows are usually either inflatable or filled with buckwheat husks. I prefer the buckwheat type; they're a little more expensive and bulkier to carry, but they don't deflate! A pillow stops your head lolling about and gives your neck some support. They really do make a big difference.

You can do this!

So long as you accept that your journey isn't going to be a particularly luxurious one, if you're adequately prepared, and if you're fit enough, then you'll be OK.

Making lists can help you if, like us, you're not particularly organised. Make sure you have everything you need, that your passport is up to date and that you've got it with you, and that you can cope with the process of carting all your luggage with you and getting it on the bus.

Don't load up with gear

Most of your luggage will be in the hold, so have a small bag you can take with you on board to keep your essentials in. Most coaches don't exactly go overboard on the amount of luggage space available, so keep what you take with you down to the absolute minimum you can survive with.

We think that a couple of small cartons of fruit juice and a cereal bar or two are essentials for your bag. Not chocolate - some coach drivers run the heating pretty hot so that their passengers fall asleep, and chocolate melts easily.

Make sure you've something to keep you occupied. Having a good selection of mp3s on your phone or player helps to pass the time, as does a good book. If you've got a Kindle or an iPod, make sure it's fully charged before you set off.

Know your baggage

You're going to say this sounds stupid, but believe me it happens. Before you hand it over for the driver to put in the hold, make sure you know what your luggage looks like. You need to be able to identify it when you get to the resort, and you're going to look pretty stupid if you end up with someone else's stuff.

Believe us, it happens. We know one person who got to their hotel room, opened their case, and only then realised that it wasn't their stuff inside. Fortunately they were able to track down the passenger to whom the bag belonged, and sure enough, they had their suitcase and were able to swap back.

Label your stuff clearly, and put some form of identifying item on it that'll let you spot it quickly.

Here we go...

Whether you're on a transfer coach from the airport or you're doing the whole trip from scratch, by the time you actually get your seat on the coach all you're likely to want to do is fall asleep. So now is the time to dig out that travel pillow.

There's not a lot that can be said about coach trips, as they are in general mind-numbingly boring. Staring vacantly out of the window usually ends up as the order of the day. It's amazing what you see during these trips: travelling through Albertville in 1992 there was a flying saucer parked on top of one building. A poster nearby was promoting a conference on "les OVNI" - the French term for UFOs - so I suppose the building was the proposed venue. On another occasion, the coach I was on was overtaken by a DeLorean sportscar, complete with an "OUTTATIME" license plate, just like Christopher Lloyd's car in Back to the Future.

Although you're likely to make regular stops, this is the time when you'll be glad you brought those cartons of juice and cereal bars with you. We always get a bit peckish on coach trips. This is particularly useful if you encounter some of the phenomenal traffic jams which seem to happen regularly on French roads.

Don't drink and ride

A word of advice - don't get drunk during a coach trip. Not only can it end up being unpleasant for you, it can be a nightmare for the people you're travelling with. We've known people who travel in cars without any problems at all to come down with a bad case of travel sickness after too many swigs of duty free on the back seat of the coach. Trust us on this: monopolising the coach's toilet, if it has one at all, will not endear you to your fellow travellers.

Drinking can have unforeseen consequences, too: one member of the HFO was on a coach trip where the driver got so fed up waiting for two drunk members of the coach party to return to the bus after a rest stop that after an hour he left them there - in a service station in the middle of France. I bet they sobered up quickly when they realised what had happened.

Take care when alighting

Be careful when you step of the coach. A few years ago I travelled to Val Thorens in a party of two coaches. When we arrived at the hotel, a girl on the other coach stepped out - straight on to some ice, broke her leg, and spent the entire holiday in plaster.

Look after your stuff

Make sure you pick up all your belongings and take them with you. Don't leave anything on the coach. Make sure you collect your luggage out of the hold and not someone else's.

It's a sad thing to say, but there seem to be thieves everywhere. Don't leave your luggage unattended for a moment, even if it's just lying next to the coach while you check in to the hotel. If you're travelling in a group, make sure someone's responsible for looking after your stuff.

But you're here. You made it. Well done.

And most importantly of all at this point: Have a great holiday!