Does your school allow you to rent vans? 319 has rented two 15-passenger vans for the past two years and loved it. It works out to be cheaper and more convenient than a bus as long as you have the drivers.
EDIT: NE FIRST also helps teams rent coach buses, allowing multiple smaller teams to share a bus to and from CMP.
Be careful with this; some states (South Carolina was one) have laws that prohibit their use to transport children. Other youth organizations have their own rules about it.
That said, there was one rent-a-car place back home that had a couple 15-passenger buses that were built and rated as school buses (which requires more stuff than a mere “bus”) that found frequent use among several teams in the area. That may be a better look for you, if you can find a company that rents them nearby.
20 people is less than half the capacity for a coach bus. It is going to be expensive. Local knowledge is best. If your team is associated with a school, ask if the school has any policies. For example we are required to use approved charter companies. If available, the yellow bus (school bus) it potentially a lot cheaper.
If the distance to the tournament is far enough away that the bus stays with you the using it for local transport will be small or no additional fees. If it is a drop and return it will be lots more.
It’s going to be difficult to suggest good coach bus companies, as they are pretty much all regional businesses. My suggestion would be to go to other activities in the school that send students on trips each year (band? choir?), and ask them who they use.
You might also find that the price varies depending on the route you’re taking. We’re in suburban Minneapolis. One year we shared a coach with a team in western MN to travel to Milwaukee, and a coach company out there was the best price. Fewer miles of deadheading, ya know.
I recommend going the 12 passenger van way. It will be much cheaper and easier logistically. Check with your local car dealership. Our ford dealership rents 12 passenger vans to our school at $100 for the whole event (2-3 days) but we cover gas.
I just realized you may be looking for district competition. Below works better for a long trip like Worlds. For shorter trips, you probably should talk to your local school districts. They often have established relationships with bus companies and can give you the best advice.
Also, if you do decide to have a drop-off/pick-up only (i.e. the long distance travel bus will go home and come back for you after the event), you frequently can get event transportation event locally. What that looks like usually depends on the locale. Check with the event’s local school district to see if you can arrange transportation through them. Sometimes hotels offer shuttles. Call ahead to find out if they can make that work for you.
We’ve had a good experience with Peter Pan Bus Lines. We try to arrange going out with another team in order to fill out as many spaces as possible on a 54 seat bus.
Whatever line you go with, I recommend asking them if you can come by and inspect the bus that you’ll be getting (or similar) before you decide to book it. Make sure they put in the contract any specific requirements you have, such as bus model, luggage storage, wifi, power outlets, window shades, bathroom, etc. They should also requires their drivers do not drive more than 8 hours at a time. Peter Pan was very good about this.
Peter Pan wasn’t the cheapest but they were less per seat than FIRST and the trip was considerably better than some of our low bidders of the past.
Also for mini vans, there may be certain insurance regulations and restrictions to who drives or is certified to drive. Make sure you either check with your school district or if you are a non-school team know the risks of having somebody drive students.
If you are set on going the bus route see if there is someone in your district who has been involved in renting buses for other school events. Using an existing channel for transportation takes some of the load off instead of forging new ones. Often times a district might have a special rate with a certain company when they need a coach or school bus.
When I was a student in CT we used to use DATTCO as our bus vendor. They always worked out well, and we used them for our travel regionals, as far as the Chesapeake regional. I know my former school district required coach bus transportation for events out of state (even if the ride was shorter than some in state events).
If you are thinking of renting vans you run into a number of problems if the van has more then 12 seats including the driver. You should definitely clear it with the School District staff before hand. We rented one in Arizona last year and received an email from the district afterword that was not pleasant. We were told that over 12 was not legal. I had done the homework and a regular class C license can drive a 15 passenger van in Arizona. Then they stated that we were in violation since we need a driver with a commercial license and a Passenger endorsement. I found this amusing since my license on file is a class B with Passenger endorsement.
15 passenger vans have next to no baggage room. That is where the last row of seats go. With only one carry on size bag per person and two suit cases for the team we we maxt the volume with our two adults and twelve students. We could not have taken one more person.
Keep in mind while technically different, illegal and against school policy has the same net effect. (Not that you were implying otherwise.) Policy is often tied to insurance constraints. You want to be well covered when driving 12 or 15 people. A lot of liability there. Our school no longer allows us to use 12 or 15 passenger vans.