There is really no other way to say it: I spend a hell of a lot of time on a bus. More specifically, I’m constantly on the BoltBus between NYC and Boston — a 4+ hour ride. Ah, the things we do for love. The days of bus travel have become a lot better in just the few years that I’ve been taking them — after all, we started out our travels about four years ago on the infamous Chinatown buses. They get the job done, but the nauseous feeling I always had getting off of the bus at the other end after hours of treacherous weaving and braking seemed like it wasn’t worth the $15 fare.
A few years later, we’re now taking the BoltBus which we find to be a little safer and more comfortable. If you are the first customer to book a seat on any bus, you get it for $1! They usually post schedules about a month in advance, so if you time it right you can do a round trip for a whopping $2. We’ve done it before — it’s possible.
Here are a few of my tips for having the most pleasant bus trip possible:
- Try to book off-peak times if possible. If you will be traveling on a Friday evening, wait until after 6pm to leave if you can’t tolerate sitting in traffic. The one major downfall of bus travel is that it is subject to traffic just like every other car on the road!
- If you are booking with BoltBus, sign up for an account first! This will always give you priority seating (an “A” group ticket) and you can activate a Bolt Rewards account that will earn you a free one-way trip for every 8 round-trips that you take.
- Get to the station at least 15 minutes early. It says this on the ticket, and they mean it! There is almost always a standby line, and if you show up 2 minutes before departure, your seat will probably already be given up to someone on standby.
- Bring a laptop — there is WiFi! This makes the ride a little more tolerable. In fact, I’m writing this post right now on the BoltBus. Aren’t I so modern?
- That said, bring a book or magazine in case the WiFi fails. I’ve been on more than one BoltBus that has technical issues and the WiFi or electrical outlets don’t work properly. It’s majorly frustrating, but sometimes it can’t be helped. If you aren’t the reading type, bring DVDs to watch on your laptop. Oh, and don’t even think about streaming video on the bus — the connection totally isn’t strong enough.
- Be prepared to fend off annoying seatmates. You’d be amazed by how many people want to chat when you have to sit next to each other for four hours. My recommendations are to bring headphones, avoid too much eye contact, and keep looking busy. Of course you shouldn’t be rude, but there is no rule that you have to engage in conversation if you don’t feel like it!
- On the other hand, I’ve met some pretty interesting people on the bus as well. It all depends on how friendly you are feeling, but it can make the ride go by faster. I’ve listened in on some conversations that turned into an exchange of phone numbers… the next hot place to pick up a date? Who knows!
- Finally, for the sake of every person who has ridden a bus and been stuck next to someone sort of, ehhh, offensive, PLEASE shower and brush your teeth before boarding. Also, avoid bringing really smelly or messy food with you. Your fellow passengers will thank you, and I will thank you as well if I happen to be one of them!
You can buy BoltBus tickets between Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia here. BoltBus did not pay me for this post — I’ve just spent more of my paychecks than I’d care to think about on their service. Thanks to Flickr user Mr. T in DC for the photo!