Tour buses come equipped with fantastic amenities such as couches, beds, outlets, fridges, bathrooms, bars, TVs, cupboards, groupies, blow, you name it.
Tour vans? Not so much.
Most touring bands don’t get to upgrade to the bus level until a hit or two. Touring can be very profitable – even for baby bands – if done smart.
There’s no need to get a tour bus if you’re only playing to a few hundred a night. No matter how rock star you’d like to feel. At $30,000 a month (not to mention gas) it’s just not worth it.
I’ve toured many times. Some van tours. Some SUV tours. Some Corolla tours. I haven’t done the bus tour yet, but been in a few when friends have come through town. They’re nice. But expensive.
Here are 11 things to remember to bring on your next tour that can reduce stress and make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
Most smart phones can be turned into wifi hotspots. Make sure you get a data plan ready for the tour that can support all the laptops and iPads in the van. If your data plan is restrictive (not unlimited) make sure everyone knows they need to limit their YouTubing, Netflixing and boyfriend/girlfriend Skyping.
2. Power Strip and Converter
Those big, white, totally unsafe, gas guzzling 15 passenger vans that every band seems to tour in, have cigarette power inputs, but typically no standard AC outlet. So double check what kind of outlet it has and get a converter if need be. And a powerstrip so you aren’t fighting over charging time.
3. Security System
The last van/trailer tour I did, we had about 3 attempted break ins to our trailer. Luckily the padlocks we had were the uncuttable, indestructible, don’t lose the f’ing key, kind. They couldn’t break it. AND we had a deafening alarm system had they broken the locks (or smashed the van windows). Make sure the alarm system is obvious with bright blinking lights or even big stickers advertising which alarm system guards your gear.
If you’re touring in an SUV, like I’ve done many times, make sure you have a King Size sheet to cover up the gear in the back whenever you stop for food or to sleep. If they can’t see what’s inside through the windows they’ll most likely move on. If they can see something valuable that they could get in a 15 second smash-and-grab, they’re much more likely to attempt it.
Or I-Pass (they are interchangeable at tolls). These can be used in 14 states to get through tolls quickly and without having to hop out and trade CDs for coins with the car behind you. A must for East Coast and Midwest tours.
Seems like a no brainer. But most of your time will be spent driving – much of it at night. Don’t forget that pillow!
6. Trash bags
If you don’t, you will be living amongst banana peels and coffee cups.
$2 bottles of water add up. Save some coin (and the environment) and fill up your canteen at rest stops and gas stations.
8. Frisbee or Football
Or whatever your game of choice is. Getting in 10 minutes of exercise whenever possible is crucial at keeping your sanity. Plan into your travel schedule some extra time for frisbee toss.
The healthy snack. Get them raw or dry roasted. Instead of stuffing your face (and your love handles) with gas station nachos, swing by a Costco and pick up containers to last the tour.
10. Phone Mount
The standard Garmin GPS system is going the way of the camcorder. Each new driver can just pop her phone into the mount on the dash or the glass, open Google maps and soldier on. Make sure you have a charger dedicated for the driver’s phone.
11. Tire Jack
And all the tools you need to change a tire. I’ve gotten a few flats on tours over the years. One time I was in Utah on the highway with zero cell service. Luckily, I had the tools. The car only fell on me twice. I’d call that success.
I took this photo when we drove off the road into a ditch after hitting some black ice. Surprisingly enough, none of us were injured.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter who has played over 550 shows around the world and is the creator of Ari’s Take. Listen to his new album, Brave Enough, on Spotify or download it on BandCamp. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake