Handy-Dandy Tips for Travel

(Photo: Melissa Kania)

This may sound like a cliche, but traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve never flown, but instead have only traveled by car and bus, but I’m here to offer you some tips I’ve picked up along the way.I can’t say that I’ve traveled extensively far, but as of just about a year and a half ago, I’ve gotten into traveling alone, and it’s really a great feeling. The adventure, the independence – knowing that you’re in control, and that no one can stop you from going where you want and doing what you please.

(That’s not to say there isn’t some value in traveling with friends and family, of course. It’s nice to get away with people you care about, too.)

If you were to Google something like ‘travel tips for Greyhound bus,’ many of the articles that will come up are negative. They’ll say things like “Buses are terrible, fly instead” or other horror stories that might make a queasy passenger less likely to go Greyhound.

Personally, I’ve never had any issue with Greyhound, and so far I’ve taken it to Pittsburgh and Toronto. This coming weekend, I’ll be going on a longer trip – actually, the farthest I’ve ever gone – to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I’m hopeful and optimistic that everything will go smoothly then as well.

I’ve also taken Megabus, a cheap alternative to Greyhound. Most people I’ve spoken to have never had any issue with Megabus; I’ve taken it twice and had an issue one time. The first time was a trip to Toronto, and the bus showed up in Buffalo over an hour late – it had come from New York City and apparently hit major traffic. The worst part was that there was absolutely no communication, so we had no idea (was traveling with my mom) when or if the bus would ever come.

The return trip home was fine, as was a trip from Pittsburgh to Buffalo this past December.

I digress. Let’s move on to the tips.

  • Always bring a sweater. This goes for any type of travel – bus, plane, car, whatever. It’s always a good idea to have an extra sweater or cardigan on hand. Buses are often air conditioned and can get chilly sometimes; even if your arms aren’t cold, you can lay the sweater on your legs for warmth. In a worst-case scenario, you can fold it up and use it as a makeshift pillow.
  • Don’t bother bringing a pillow unless you absolutely need to. It takes up a lot of space and the Greyhound seats are relatively close together. Not to mention, you’re only allowed to bring a bit of luggage on the coach.
  • If it’s a short trip, try and pack light so you don’t have to store any luggage under the bus. If you do have to store it, make sure it’s tagged properly and make sure it’s transferred when you have to change buses. I always try to just pack a backpack as well as a smaller bag, and I’m able to take both of these on the bus (I don’t bother with the overhead storage.)
  • Make sure all of your electronics are charged before you board. This, again, goes for any type of travel. Some of the newer Greyhounds have plugs and wi-fi, but not all of them, so be wary of your battery usage. Anticipate that you may NOT have these luxuries.
  • Bring snacks and water. Also, bring change (quarters, dollar bills, etc.) for vending machines in case you stop at a bus station or rest stop and are craving something. If it’s a long trip, bring hand sanitizer and toiletries in case you need to use the coach’s restroom.
  • Know where your tickets are at all times, and also print out a few copies of your itinerary. It’s fun (for me, at least) to follow along and see what our next stop will be, how long I have to transfer, etc. I’ve already written up my itinerary for this weekend’s trip, complete with miles listed and everything.
  • Always, of course, be aware of your surroundings. Listen to the driver, pay attention, and relax!

Now, just a few trips for traveling alone, or traveling in general:

  • Try to plan your trip out. When I go to Toronto or elsewhere, I like to have my day(s) all figured out – when I’m going where, etc. I also print out walking directions and have all of this written down before my bus even leaves. It’ll make the trip less chaotic, more organized & less stressful.
  • Planning things out can also help you save money! Do your research online beforehand – you might find some coupons or discounts or other deals. Some cities have a ‘Discovery Pass’ allowing you to see different attractions for a discounted price. Also, be sure to check social media like Foursquare – that’s how I got a free tour of Toronto’s Steamwhistle Brewery!
  • Having a map on hand is never a bad idea.
  • If you don’t know how to use the public transit system, don’t use it. Some systems may be complicated and taking the wrong train/bus/whatever could put you an hour out of your way. If you aren’t sure, don’t do it.
  • If you’re going to use the system, don’t be afraid to ask drivers or ticket booth operators if what you’re doing is correct. It’s much better to be humble and ask than get lost and look stupid later.
  • Always carry an umbrella or a poncho.
  • Don’t “look” lost. Be confident, keep your head up and enjoy the sights.
  • Take photos, pick up brochures, and write notes for things you want to remember. A good vacation or trip is great, but being able to look back and remember it with some mementos months or even years later is also great.
  • Never go home broke. Whatever your budget may be for the trip, here’s a tip you should do before you leave: stash $20 (or more) in your house. Sure, it’s a little less money you’ll have for the trip, but it’s nice to come home and have a little extra money lying around.

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