Living well on the long distance bus ride...

Part of living a One-Planet lifestyle is, if you can avoid it, not driving (in a car) long-distance trips or (in a plane) short-distance trips -- like DC to Philly or to NY.  Those drives can be especially crazy-making.  I shudder to remember one especially bad DC to Boston drive with an ex- that went on for over 16 hours, including three hours on the George Washington Bridge, which then necessitated parking the car on a median in the Bronx to race across an off-ramp to pee at the only place we'd seen in the last 5 miles which all we had traveled in  4 hours, proceeded into hours of anxiety and more traffic, and ended in tears with us missing an event she had her heart set on making. Kinda the story of the relationship actually -- being uncomfortably stuck in the middle, halfway from where we were and where we wanted to be...

Lest I digress, trains have their own hassles -- not very much faster than buses, there's more of a process with tickets, coach can feel almost as crowded as a bus on busy days/times, and coach seats aren't much bigger than bus seats, and go underground in lots of places so phone calls or 3G internet drops, they depart late more often than buses, and  if there are track problems or an incident you can just be stuck on board awhile.  Yes, trains are nicer but at 10-25% of the cost -- even though I can afford either now -- unless time is of the essence, bus is still actually how I prefer to go if I'm paying for the trip out of my own pocket.

But that said -- a really bad bus ride can suck worse than anything, so I thought I'd share my experience... 

General Long Distance Bus Tips
  • All have e-tix you can book and print yourself, about $15-$25 for DC-NY or NY-Boston usually if you buy online in advance. Buying on the spot isn't guaranteed and can involve waiting in line a while.
  • Pick departure/arrival times to avoid rush hours. 
  • Prepare to be on the road as long 50% longer than the normal trip -- don't make plans that require you to be on-time or even close. For DC-NY or NY-Boston, usually it's 4.5 hrs, but can be 7 in terrible traffic.  If I'm prepared with movies/music/reading/work to fill the time, even the longest delays can feel like a gift of 'me-time' if there's no pressure of having to get somewhere.
  • Go early so you can sit toward the front of bus (toilet & its smells and engine noise is in back).
  • Restrooms are generallly not nice so use the bathroom before and at rest stops, and don't drink much before/during.
  • Bring ipod/laptop/headphones  -- there will be people talking to each other or on phones so having your own sound is key.
  • Bring earplugs-eyemask if you want quality nap in daytime as the shades aren't usually that good.
  • No bus line I've heard of actually reliably have the wifi working on-board -- don't expect it.
  • On breaks, I make sure to get out & stretch, and unless I'm really fast-foody that day, will pack or buy some decent food ahead of time.
  • Remember to surrender that I'm still powerless, that there could always be something that's not to my liking.
All common sense I suppose, but I learned the hard way on all of them. But if I keep this stuff in mind, the bus experiences have been fine and I can actually arrive reasonably fresh and happy with any of the companies. 

DC to NY

I have used New Century and Fung Wah and Greyhound and Peter Pan many times.  All of these are fine enough if you follow the tips above, but I prefer the Chinatown buses -- they are faster and leave from Chinatown in DC, a better neighborhood than north of Union Station where the Greyhound terminal is. Also Greyhounds and Peter Pan often stop to pick up/discharge passengers 3 or 4 times and have fewer departures. Chinatown lines have 10-15 buses a day, and there's usually just a short stop in Baltimore and longer one in Delaware at a Roy Rogers in south Jersey.  All now go to the Port Authority or Penn Station in NY, and Chinatown lines also have ones that drop off in Chinatown -- which is really convenient if you're headed to Brooklyn or the Lower East Side. 

From the Yelp reviews of the newer lines, TripperBus looks interesting and Vamoose gets rave reviews, but they both only leave from Rosslyn and Bethesda.  Boltbus and Megabus both leave from H and 11th St NW in DC, and get fair to good reviews.   Going to try Boltbus next time myself -- if you plan in advance, there's a $1 ticket on every bus. They have a fleet of newer buses, mostly 2008 their website says, with power outlets, and have configured them for more legroom. As of April 7, they only posted their schedule through May 12 -- and still had $10 tickets availableOnly Washington Deluxe and DC2NY have Dupont Circle stops, and DC2NY gets better ratings.

Yelp reviews

Have a Happy Ride

"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be" 
  -- Abe Lincoln

Write me if you hear of any other lines worth checking out or have any more tips to share, always glad to hear it.


Thanks Katherine for the inspiration!