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Bus Problems Delay Student Trip to Disney

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RALEIGH — Imagine keeping 48 sixth graders waiting 18 hours for a ride to Disney World. That's the situation some Durham parents and teachers found themselves in early Monday morning. Their story is proof of how quickly a summer getaway can turn into a travel nightmare.

Students from Neal Middle School spent what should have been a sleepy night on a bus headed to Orlando, Florida in a Raleigh hotel instead. A broken-down bus left them tired and loaded with luggage, stranded just minutes after leaving the school parking lot.

Lisa Overcash, one of the parents with the group, says there was a loud bang aboard the bus... and then things got worse.

"The bus was vibrating" says parent Lisa Overcash. "You could smell it. So we pulled off and we sat at a bus station all night with the kids on the bus."

The trip was booked through a charter operator in Boston. The bus service was sub-contracted through a company in Orlando.

Experts say while charter groups can find great discounts, it's important to know who you're dealing with. Parents spent hours making long-distance phone calls and getting the run-around from an out-of-town company.

Barry Raffel, with ITG Travel Centers, says when making travel plans, it's a good idea to deal with someone local, or a company you know. "You want to be able to know who you're talking to, what are you doing, when are you going, and if there's a problem, who do I call directly to handle things."

With their vacation hours slipping away, a parent arranged for everyone to fly to Orlando. The bus company picked up the tab.

Parent Sherry Strayhorn says 12-hour delay was frustrating. "I think they should have gotten some other buses out here when the bus broke down. They should have had one on site in an hour."

The kids have finally arrived in Orlando, but not without a lot of frustration getting there.

Here are some other tips to help prevent this from happening to you:
  • Buy travel insurance when you can. It can help during some travel emergencies.
  • Finding out if a deal is legitimate before you buy can save you a lot of time and money. Be wary of any deal that offers a "free" trip. You often have to pay for extras like travel and food.
  • Many vacation deals can be canceled without notice, so make sure you read the fine print.
  • Talk to other people who've already gone on the same trip. Word of mouth can go a long way. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true it probably is.
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