In 1991, Janet and Rodney Waterhouse weren’t looking for the next great adventure. Rodney was working part-time jobs and Janet worked at Saint Joseph’s College, when they decided to buy an old GMC bus in New York and drive it home to Windham.
“Rodney drove a bus for VIP and worked for Hood. We set up tours for our square dancing crew and loved both parts (scheduling trips and driving the bus),” said Janet. Now Janet sets up the business and Rodney drives the buses. Vacationland Tours has two buses now.
“We don’t want to be a big bus company, just to fill his retirement and have fun with it,” she said. “We don’t go out looking for a lot of business. We just want to be busy enough to make enough money.”
Most of Vacationland Tours’ business comes by word of mouth. They also have transported project graduations, including the Windham project graduation last weekend. They work with the Westbrook seniors and business leaders, who hirer Vacationland Tours to transport staff to different locations. Each bus carries 47 people.
Janet is getting closer to retirement age herself, she said and would like to do more charter work and schedule trips like the one they have planned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, August 13-16. She also plans many gambling trips to Connecticut, Hollywood Slots in Bangor and the Oxford Casino. Trips she’s looking forward to scheduling soon are to the Rockettes in New York City and Niagara Falls.
Janet works with special companies that help set up local tours for bus tour guests once they are in the area. “They find tours you’d never know about if it wasn’t for these companies,” Janet said.
On the Lancaster trip attendees will eat in an Amish home, stop at an Amish bakery and drive through a barn where free range cows wander in and out.
Most of the people on the tours are seniors and middle-aged. “There are a lot of walkers underneath our bus,” Janet said with a laugh. And, although the buses are not entirely handicapped accessible, Janet and Rodney do make accommodations when they can.
Running a bus tour company is not all fun and games. There are a lot of rules and regulations that must be followed, including carrying $5 million liability insurance per passenger. Vacationland Tours is also registered with the State of Maine and has to stop at all the Department of Transportation checkpoints. The buses are well-maintained with a mechanic on-staff. The company also has a part-time bus driver, Larry Sprague, who fills in or drives the second bus when needed.
“It can be pretty stressful. You always worry how it’s going,” Janet said, but follows that statement up knowing she has contingency plans at the ready should something happen.
“We want to do trips, meet people and make a little bit doing it,” she said.
To contact Vacationland Tours about upcoming trips or if a group needs a bus for a tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-892-8005.