The Trouble with Tour Buses

images-4Nothing nurtures my mind and body like a vacation; I’m refreshed mentally and physically when I return from a trip, because I get so much sleep. On tour buses.

When traveling, I might as well have “tourist” inked on my forehead. Having packed all the wrong things, I dress inappropriately. My purse bulges with pharmaceuticals, just in case. I worry about the availability of bathrooms and the intricacies of tipping. But my most irksome habit by far is sleeping on tour buses.

I’ve napped on crowded vans, sleek coaches blasting icy air at my frozen sinuses, and re-purposed school buses air-conditioned by broken windows. I’ve snoozed during the monologues of both dramatic and drunken tour guides. I’ve dozed next to a disgruntled fellow passenger complaining about the frequent stops to sightsee and a cautious couple carrying pepper spray and flares. I’ve slumbered through the ruggedness of Alaska and the towers of Manhattan.

images-2I don’t know what causes my unstoppable siestas. I can be rested, interested, hungry, or cold. I can be irritated with the way my traveling companion blinks or uncomfortable because my stylish slacks are too tight. But eventually my head hangs, my body slumps, and I slide toward sleep.

I’m not alone. Occasionally, I’ve regained consciousness long enough to notice others bobbing, twitching and snoring as well. Sleeping seems to be as prevalent on tours as Pepto Bismol. So I’ve quit trying to maintain consciousness every minute; instead, I strive to make my snoozing socially acceptable—to drowse with dignity by employing the following strategies.

I push aside the well mannered, unsuspecting, and slow in order to claim a window seat, where I can brace my head between the window and the seatback. If startled awake, having my head supported lessens the likelihood I’ll experience whiplash.

I never lean my cheek or forehead against the seatback in front of me because doing so stamps my skin with red sleep lines that don’t fade until long after the museum visit is finished, which causes school children to think I’m an animated artifact.

images-3When leaning back in my seat, I vary my head position so I won’t develop a sleeper’s flat spot with hair fluttering above it like feathers on road kill.

I practice brief, encouraging phrases:  ”My, that was a bargain,” or “I couldn’t agree more,” until I can repeat them in my sleep if I sense a pause in my seatmate’s monologue. That way my companion won’t nudge me for a response and awaken me prematurely, causing peevishness on my part and petty retribution.

I don’t fall asleep with candy in my mouth, because the result is never elegant.

On some trips, though, I don’t have the stamina to bulldoze sweet ladies or shoulder aside strong men, and I get stuck in an aisle seat, doomed to throw my head about willy-nilly, drop my jaw into a dental position, and perform aisle-blocking, body tilts whenever the bus corners.

They don’t pay tour guides enough.


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15 thoughts on “The Trouble with Tour Buses

  1. When my Raymond was alive I used to lean on him, and dribble down his jacket. He never seemed to notice because he was usually asleep already and his jackets were usually a bit grimy around the collar any road. After he had passed away I bought an inflatable thing that goes around your neck, it was supposed to support your head comfortably. It ruddy didn’t. And the plastic seam chafed against my neck. I threw it away and always made sure I sat next to a single man. They never seem to mind a bit of drool on their lapels. I suppose it made them feel useful.


  2. Ah Janet, you make me laugh, now as a senior I qualify to ride the “Blue Rinse Express” I agree, always grab a window seat and be aware of drooling. My favorite bus trips were in Egypt- the bus leaves when it is full, packed full, two drivers quarrel the whole journey, in dark of night we get a flat tire, they slap the young boys riding awake, the lads dig a hole in the road under the flat, bang on the dubious spare and on we go. Fourteen hour ride, small Nile Village, a water trough, open air on the main street with a sign in english- MEN’s TOILET- all the women and I legged it to the ladies, an alfalfa field…never been on an organized tour. I hear the Grand Canyon school buses are cool. Thanks for the laugh.


  3. My worst tour bus experience happened many years ago in Luxembourg. We had been on a prop jet (any idea how long ago that was) that had been delayed due to the heat in August. We had to stop over in Iceland in the middle of the night to refuel, plus there was a crying baby on board. When we got on the tour bus to see the sights of a very interesting and beautiful country, we both fell asleep immediately, only to awaken when the bus stopped for photo-ops. We have many pictures of beautiful places, but we have no idea what they are, because we slept through the tour guides description.


  4. Too funny .. I don’t do too well on the “tour bus” route either.. I get antsy and like to walk around and I feel like a bird in a cage. Now as far as naps go, I work my holidays around my nap schedule. No nap=dragging


  5. I think folks who can fall asleep on trains, planes and automobiles have a superpower! I wish I could do that!

    “I never lean my cheek or forehead against the seatback in front of me because doing so stamps my skin with red sleep lines that don’t fade until long after the museum visit is finished, which causes school children to think I’m an animated artifact.”

    Hilarious! I am laughing at the picture that my mind’s eye has drawn. Oh, and I’m laughing with you, not at you. Ummm, you are laughing, aren’t you?


    • Yup, I’m laughing, Mr. 1500, and I’m glad I gave you a chuckle as well. The paragraph about the sleep lines is my favorite passage in the post; I amused myself with that one. Good to hear from you.


  6. Such a fun, laugh out loud post, Aunt Beulah. I equally enjoyed the comments. Unfortunately I can’t identify with everyone because I’m the rider who sits alert, watching the road, making sure the driver pays attention, and arrives exhausted from the effort. I feel I’m the traveler who keeps you sleepy-heads safe.


    • And we’re very grateful for the care you take, Mercy. I play a similar role in the family sedan, and I’ve found that an occasional, timely shriek from me works wonders for my husband’s ability to to stay alert; but I trust there’s someone like you looking out for me on tours.


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