Fifteen Tips for Making a Long-Haul Bus Ride More Enjoyable

It can take hours to pass through airport security, and the cost for tickets and baggage fees can leave you looking for other options. Passenger trains do operate in most major cities, but services are limited and ticket prices can be steep. Buses can usually get you where you need to go for a fraction of the price you’d pay for any other mode of transportation. Unfortunately, long-haul buses such as Greyhound, MegaBus, and Trailways have something of a bad reputation. Horror stories of screeching babies, body odor, and bizarre interactions abound. Fortunately, you can have a positive experience. These tips will help you get where you need to go on the long-haul bus while keeping your sanity intact.

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15. Carry a backpack for your carry-on. You are going to need plenty of supplies for your trip, so a purse or small messenger bag is likely not going to be large enough. Backpacks are also a good option because of the numerous pockets which make it easier to find what you’re looking for quickly. Choose one that is small enough to fit at your feet so you are not forced to put it in the overhead storage compartment.

14. Book an overnight bus, if at all possible. While opinions will naturally differ, most people would agree that the overnight buses are less crowded and much quieter than daylight buses. If babies or children are on your overnight bus, they will likely sleep through much of the dark hours. Overnight buses usually have fewer stops than day buses, which will help you get to your destination faster. If your trip is longer than seven or eight hours, try to include as much night-time riding as possible on your itinerary.

13. Carry a small pillow and a dark-colored, thin, fleece throw blanket. These items can be rolled up tight and jammed into your backpack where they will take up minimal space. Buses can be cold, especially if you are trying to sleep. Place two or three pillowcases on your pillow. If one become soiled, you can remove it and still have a clean place to lay your head. An extra pillowcase can also be used as a bag in a pinch, or used to cover a stained seat and protect your clothing. The fleece can be used as a blanket, a wrap, or a ground cover, should you decide to picnic during a layover. Put the blanket over your face at night if you don’t want to wake up for rest stops, as the driver will turn on the overhead lights for safety’s sake.

12. Get a good pair of headphones. The best type cover the whole ear and rest snugly against your skull. Get a pair that folds, to save space in your bag. You can use them to listen to music and you can also wear them to block out other noise. If you don’t care for this style and prefer the earbud style, pack a pair of foam earplugs for noise reduction.

11. Pack nutritious snacks. Trail mix, cereal in a resealable baggie, protein bars, nuts other than peanuts, and hard candies are much cheaper and fresher at your local store than they are at rest stops. Pack familiar foods that you know will not upset your stomach. For safety’s sake, do not pack anything containing peanuts. Anyone on the bus could be allergic, and the simple act of chewing releases the oils in them and can cause a deadly reaction in a sensitive individual. A rendezvous with an ambulance can lengthen your trip by hours.

10. Pack loperamide, ibuprofen, and potassium tablets. Loperamide is often sold under the brand name Immodium and stops diarrhea. The average long-haul bus can seat up to forty or more people and has but one small, cramped toilet. Take a tablet at the first sign of diarrhea. Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain relievers are also essential for long bus trips. If you start to get sore or feel a headache coming on, a mild pain reliever can make the trip much more enjoyable. Finally, potassium helps to stop or avoid cramping. If you experience cramping in your legs or back while sitting for prolonged periods, a potassium tablet (or a banana, in a pinch) can work wonders.

9. Bring your chargers and keep them where you can get to them. The vast majority of long-haul buses have plugs at every seat, free for all passengers. Use this to your advantage. Charge every device you carry, from your MP3 player to your tablet. This will allow you to listen to music or play games for as long as you want without fear of running down your batteries. Arriving at your destination with a charged cell will give you peace of mind, too.

8. If you have ever suffered from motion sickness a day in your life, bring several gallon-size or larger plastic bags and some dimenhydrinate. While no one wants to vomit on a bus, you definitely don’t want to do it all over yourself or your seatmate. Keep the bags accessible. Dimenhydrinate is sold over-the-counter, usually under the brand name Dramamine. It is an anti-emetic, meaning it helps to avoid or stop vomiting caused by motion sickness. If you absolutely must vomit, ideally you should do so in a bag in the toilet cubicle located in the back of the bus. Close the bag tightly, wrap it up in another bag, and place it in the trash. This will contain the odor and keep the lavatory clean for everyone.

7. Keep your toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant in your carry-on luggage. You will want to tend to personal hygiene at rest stops. If you are embarking on a trip longer than eight hours, baby wipes are another excellent option for freshening up during rest stops. Focus on cleaning yourself rather than masking odors, as applying cologne or perfume can irritate your fellow passengers. The coughing, sniffling, and sneezing of others is never pleasant, so don’t chance being the cause of it.

6. Wear comfortable shoes. After sitting for hours, your feet can swell. If this happens, having your feet encased in unforgiving leather will not be pleasant. Wear sneakers so you can loosen the laces or take along a pair of soft, slip-on moccasins for the journey. Plan ahead so you are not tempted to take your shoes off, which will be frowned upon by your fellow passengers and is a safety issue should someone step on your foot. Don’t wear open sandals. The bus can get cold and you will be sorry if another passenger stomps on your toes.

5.Don’t ever count on the wifi. Most major bus lines boast free internet access on all coaches. In actuality, many passengers in all areas of the country have reported that this rarely works and when it does it is painfully slow. Bring plenty of activities to keep you occupied if you will not be sleeping. Novels, puzzle books, handheld games (with the volume muted), and MP3 players are all excellent ideas. If the wifi does work, don’t stream television shows or movies. One person streaming can cripple the service for everyone else on the bus. Download some shows to your hard drive before you leave if you’d like to watch while riding.

4. Carry some cash on you, including coins and some small bills. Most of the shops along major highways accept debit cards. However, systems crash, card readers fail, and ATM fees can be outrageous. Make sure you have enough cash to pay for your meals and drinks along the way, just in case your card isn’t accepted. You may also need coins or small bills for vending machines.

3. The circulated air on buses can be extremely dry, so bring water and lip balm. Be careful with the water, as you don’t want to need to visit the lavatory too often, but don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated. A tube of lip balm will help you stay comfortable and stop you from constantly sipping your water or licking your lips. If you wear contact lenses or get dry eyes easily, bring some lubricating drops along.

2. Keep transfers to an absolute minimum. Transfers will add hours upon hours to your journey. Many major carriers offer express services between major cities. If possible, get an express ticket from the major city closest to your departure to the major city closest to your destination, then buy tickets to fill in the gaps on each end of the trip. Consider filling short gaps by local bus, train, or subway to save even more time. It may cost a little more, but it can save you a ton of layovers and transfers.

1. Lose the negative attitude! Seasoned bus travelers cringe when they see someone get on the bus with a surly sneer or terrified eyes. Don’t go into the trip afraid of everyone on the bus and thinking it will be a terrible experience. Don’t arrive with the attitude that your dignity or social standing is being insulted by being a bus passenger. While you may indeed encounter a questionable character or a mentally unstable individual, you shouldn’t live in fear of it. Unnecessary anxiety can ruin your trip before you’ve stepped foot in the terminal.

Traveling by long-haul bus is an adventure. You never know who you may meet or what might happen along the way. By keeping these tips in mind, you can have an awesome journey for a rock-bottom price, all while keeping transfers, layovers, and drama at a minimum.

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