Ground travel, rock 'n roll style

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One of the fastest growing segments in luxury travel is among friends and extended families.  And while hotels and resorts are adapting packages and services to meet the multigenerational demographic, getting everyone around in style can still be challenge.

While dropping off a rental car recently, for example, I watched an extended family trying to figure out how to get that last person, and everyone’s luggage, into the company’s largest vehicle, a cargo-style van.

I think they finally managed, but I’m not sure they were legal.

And we all know that even the group transfers offered by the most luxurious of  resorts can be anything but luxurious if the vehicles are full and the ride more than 20 or 30 minutes. Then, of course, there is the challenge of having the freedom to come and go as you please, as a group.

Enter Bandago, a luxury van service that lets groups travel like rock stars rather than sardines.

Founded more than a decade by musician Sharky Laguana after his band missed some tour dates thanks to a broken down rental van and poor service, the company now rents first-class vans for up to 15 people out of offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Portland, Ore., and at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. And this year, it is eyeing expansion into Atlanta and Austin, Texas.

The interior of a Bandago van.
The interior of a Bandago van.

Offering everything from Ford and Chevrolet vans to Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, even the most basic models include Wi-Fi, video game consoles, power outlets, wireless headphones and DVD players. The more luxurious vehicles have hardwood floors and business-class, captain-style chairs. The company is upping the ante this year with some new vehicles that offer first-class layback seats, foldout tables and satellite TV.

Laguana calls his company the “Virgin America of van rentals: Even if you’re in coach it’s going to be a better experience than anyone else.”

Although the company was founded with an eye toward giving touring band members reliable, comfortable vehicles, (their web site lists an impressive roster of famous musician customers) Laguana says his base is now only about 40% musicians, with about 30% to 35% families and the rest being sports teams and church and corporate groups.

Laguana says that while there are other companies that make these types of vehicles available, they are generally limousine-type companies that come with a driver.

Bandago, he said, is great for groups who want to drive themselves, whether it’s from an airport to their destination, or in lieu of flying for shorter trips or vacations that involve moving around a lot, like touring the Napa Valley.

“We have rented vehicles to household names … people whose net worth start with a B,” he said. “They could afford to be driven around if they wanted to. But sometimes they don’t want to. They want to have a shared experience, and they just want to go.”

Currently, Laguana says, his vehicles can only be rented by calling or through the website. Though he has no formal travel agent program, he says that could change as they grow, and he welcomes collaboration with travel professionals.

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