The Up (and Down) Side of Cheap Bus Travel

marc acito photo box - cheap bus travelI'm sure it makes me sound hopelessly middle-aged, but being able to post this blog on a Megabus from Manhattan to Washington, DC feels like science fiction to me. At 45, I'm old enough to remember the excitement of getting a push-button phone.

A digression: I'm determined not to be one of those people who romanticizes the past (as witnessed by the fact I'm all gee-whiz-ain't-it-cool-I'm-blogging-on-a-bus), but the digital age has eliminated a lot of truly pleasurable sensations. For instance, like letting your finger take a little ride around a rotary phone, accompanied by a satisfying clack-clack-clack. Likewise for typewriters, which also made you feel like you accomplished something when it went ding at the end of every line.Oh! And rakes! I don't begrudge anyone taking the easy way out with a leaf blower, but it's made autumn obnoxiously noisy when it used to have a reassuring scratching sound. I suppose someone older than me said the same thing about summers and power mowers, but seriously, it's the 21st century, surely someone could create a blower and a mower that doesn't make you want to shoot your neighbor.

Okay, back on the bus.

Having just moved to New York, this trip is the first time I've taken advantage of the growing revolution in cheap bus travel. The cost of going from Manhattan to DC? $9.50. If I'd planned better, I could have gotten it for $5 or even a $1.

True, lines like Megabus, Boltbus and the one that started it all, Fung Wah, make you stand outside in the elements to get picked up. But that could be considered preferable to the purgatorial atmosphere of most bus stations. What's more, Megabus offers power outlets onboard, so if you get wet you can always plug in your hair dryer.

And did I mention the free wi-fi that allows me to blog to you right now -- ON A BUS?

The no-frills bus lines have gotten a bad rap, though I've never found Greyhound to be particularly frilly. I logged in a lot of bus miles as a teen -- visiting friends from summer camp as far flung from my Jersey hometown as Tennessee -- and the only benefit I recall was always seeming to sit next to someone just out of prison or, in all likelihood, soon to be headed back in.

Since this is a personal finance page, I suppose I should offer comparisons of various bus lines, but Seth Kugel, the Frugal Traveler has already done that for me over at the NY Times blog. Be sure to check out the comments, which make for entertaining reading, with tales of drivers steering with their elbows, Chinese people spitting in the aisles and, on one occasion, a bus bursting into flames. I guess safety is considered a frill.

The only advice I can add is to be sure to sit on the left side of the upper deck. That way you have a wider view of the actual world as you engage with the digital one.

And that, my friends, is The Upside.
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