Eric and I have been away since last Wednesday (sorry to our loyal followers for our brief hiatus) on a great trip to Washington, DC and New York City! We were so excited to travel to our nation’s capital and the largest city on the east coast and spend time with great friends. We decided that the best way to get there and back was using a super affordable mode of transportation: Megabus.
Yes, the bus. The Megabus. This one right here…
And yes, you read that right – you can get a fare for as low as $1! While most fares will cost you between $40 and $100, if you book early enough, you may be able to get your ticket for just one buck! Traveling from North Carolina requires that you catch the Megabus in Charlotte or Durham (or just over the Tennessee border in Knoxville). The bus from Charlotte heads north with stops in Durham, NC and Richmond, VA and finishes its route in Washington, DC (a journey of just under eight hours). Once you get to DC you can head most anywhere in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York or catch the bus to Boston, Albany, or Toronto, Canada. The bus service also offers routes across the midwest and the southeast.
Traveling by bus definitely has its pros and cons. Of course it is ridiculously affordable (or cheap, if you will) – but the trips are quite long, the accommodations aren’t the greatest, and your fellow passengers can be a real pain in the ass.
On our way back early Tuesday morning – we took the overnight bus from DC to Charlotte – I made a list of things that I HAD to share with all of you if you decide to take the Megabus for your next journey. Here we go…
- Book Your Trip Early – As I said, you can travel by Megabus for dirt cheap if you book early enough. All Megabus routes have a handful of seats available for $1 on the first day of sale. Plan accordingly and you can be sure you have plenty of money to spend on cheesy shot glasses and those squished pennies that actually cost you like $1.50 to make (and you still have to do the crank work to get the finish product – how bogus is that?).
- Get Creative - For our trip, we wanted to go to New York – Megabus doesn’t go directly from Charlotte to NYC. You have to book a ticket from Charlotte to DC and then another ticket from DC to NYC. It was the perfect opportunity for us to spend a day in DC and take in the sights. We stayed with a friend and then headed to New York the next day. An important note about booking multiple tickets: since you may have to book tickets for your travels and transfer between buses it’s very important that you leave yourself at least one and a half to two hours between your arrival and departure times. Megabus will not refund you if you miss your bus – even if it’s their fault. Plan accordingly.
- Arrive Early – Megabus requires that you be at your stop at least 15 minutes before departure time. I suggest you get there 45 minutes to an hour before. They’ll start loading the bus about 15 to 20 minutes before you leave (if the bus is on time) and if you wait much longer, you may not get a good seat (or, if you’re traveling with someone, you may not be able to sit with them). It’s also good to check the Megabus website before hand to get an idea of where your stop is. In Charlotte, for example, your ticket will just say “Outside the Charlotte Transportation Center;” however, if you look on the website you’ll be given more specific directions about where to meet your bus.
- Print Your Reservation - To board the bus you must simply show your reservation number to the driver and they will check it off of their travel list. They will accept the reservation on your phone – you can simply pull up the e-mail from Megabus on your smartphone and show it to them on your way through the line. They will not, however, accept your excuse of how you had the reservation but you must have deleted it or it was wiped out of your e-mail by evil alien hackers from Jupiter. Print the reservation and bring it as a back up. No reservation = no ride on the Megabus.
- Bring Your Headphones and/or Earplugs - The video you’ll watch when first getting on the bus will ask you to keep conversations, laughter, and music to a courteous level. People don’t care. They will listen to their music without headphones. They will talk on their cell phone loudly…the entire trip. And they will get off the bus at 4 in the morning at a gas station when you driver takes a break, buy a bag of potato chips, and then proceed to eat the entire bag, making sure they get the chip out of the bottom of the damn bag each and every time before loudly crunching the chip in your ear. THEN, you’ll get kicked off of the bus for slapping your fellow passenger and dumping their chips on their head while screaming, “Who’s louder now, BIOTCH?!?!”
- Bring a Sweater/Cardigan/Jacket/Blanket - It never fails that the air is blowing full blast at 3 in the morning when you’re trying to sleep on a seat the size of 2X4 piece of lumber. Bring something to keep you warm.
- Be Prepared to Be Uncomfortable - As I stated earlier, the Megabus is the most comfortable ride you’ll ever make. There is little to no lumbar support (i.e. lower back support) in your seat and if your ass happens to be wider than a Subway footlong sub (like Jared BEFORE the Subway diet) you’ll have to do a little squeezing…for eight hours. But, remember, you only paid $1 for that ticket (think about all of the footlong subs you can buy now that you saved your money).
- Don’t Rely on the Bus’s Wi-Fi – Megabus is really proud of the fact that they offer Wi-Fi on their buses. They’re even more proud of the fact that you can call them, during business hours, if the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. And they’re even more excited to tell you that the driver has no control over the Wi-Fi so don’t bug him when it doesn’t work. On our trip from Charlotte to DC, DC to NYC, NYC to DC, and DC back to Charlotte – the Wi-Fi worked for a total of five hours. Out of 24 hours of travel time. Don’t rely on it. Bring something else to keep you entertained…like a magazine (you know, the real kind, with paper and words and shiny pages).