Taking Greyhound: A Gadling blogger’s thumbs up experience (mostly)

As airline fares go up, or your favorite route gets canceled, don’t push aside the possibility of taking Greyhound. I’m serious. This summer, due to high airfare costs, I traveled with my six year-old son to New York from Cleveland, Ohio on the train. (see post) We bused it back to Columbus because that was more convenient.

Although the train had a bit of panache, and felt like a grand excursion, (it doesn’t take much to please me), the bus was good enough for getting home. Fun even.

For my son, Greyhound was an adventure that was almost as wondrous as the train. Our one-way tickets from New Paltz, New York to Columbus cost $180 total. (Children’s tickets are 40% of adult fares.)

Advantage of bus travel:

  • I didn’t need to know our exact travel date or departure location until last minute. Although buying a bus ticket early can save a few bucks, it’s not so much money that you need to plan ahead. I shuffled our travel plans a few times and enjoyed the flexibility instead of being held to a travel date and time.
  • We took loads of snacks and drinks on the bus without problems.
  • There wasn’t a fee for the first checked bag for each of us. I carried our bags to the bus myself so there wasn’t a chance of our luggage going to the wrong destination or being left behind.
  • Upon arrival we didn’t need to wait at baggage claim, but snagged our suitcases right as we got off the bus.
  • My husband could meet us right at the bus so he was able to help carry our bags, a big help since our son had fallen asleep and had wobbly legs.
  • I was able to read to my son, read my own books, and enjoy my son’s company.
  • There were three rest stops and one dinner stop which broke up the journey. Rest stops were about every three hours.
  • The service plazas where the bus stopped had a variety of food, generally much less expensive than airport eateries. We bought lunch to eat on the bus at one service stop and ate dinner at the Pittsburgh bus station. The meatball sub was actually pretty good.
  • We could watch the scenery go by. Granted there’s not a lot of variation with highway travel, but there is a sense of movement.
  • We did not have to go through security.

Disadvantage of bus travel:

  • It took us 12 ½ hours. If we flew it may have been half that long, but then again, with a delay or a canceled flight, it could have been the same.
  • Changing buses in Port Authority in New York City is a pain if you don’t know what you’re doing. In general, airport signage is easier to follow. (Part 2 tomorrow.)
  • Bus stations are not as snazzy as airports.

Tips for bus travel:

  • Because there are various route options, check carefully beforehand so you don’t end up arriving later than you want, or making unnecessary detours. We were almost routed through Cleveland which would have been STUPID. Very STUPID.
  • If you can purchase priority seating, do. For $5 extra for each ticket, we were able to board the bus first at Port Authority in New York City. This meant we were able to get first dibs on the seats. This option is not available at all stations.
  • Sit close to the front of the bus. If you sit too far back, you’ll notice the bus’s movement more. Also, sitting close to the front meant we could look out the bus’s front window.
  • Bring a lightweight jacket, sweater, shawl or some sort of cover-up. The air-conditioning can feel nippy.
  • A neck pillow can help you sleep more easily.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. Taking shoes off when seated feels more comfortable than leaving them on.
  • When you get off at a rest stop or for dinner, leave your belongings on the bus in order to save your seat.

What we didn’t have which I didn’t miss, but would bring the next time just in case:

Something to listen to music.

What we did have that lasted just long enough:

A laptop so my son could watch a DVD until the battery became too low.

What my son played with most:

Silly Putty