For the Royally Broke, Megabus is like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. It may not be glamorous, but it will get you to a promising destination for cheap. In place of a fairy godmother will probably be a scowling overweight bus driver, and, rather than a prince, passengers will most likely be seated next to a smelly college student or a snoring woman with emphysema.
But the Megabus offers numerous Midwest destinations out of Cleveland and connects with other routes that extend all the way though Canada and the Southern United States. Take these tips to ride like a mega boss, and a summer road trip on the Megabus can be affordable and, maybe to the indefatigable optimist, enjoyable.
Snagging a (really) cheap ticket
Megabus tickets usually do not exceed $50, which is a steal considering it amounts to the cost of about one tank of gas. But for the thriftiest of passengers, frequently checking the Megabus website as if it is a part-time job may be worth it, as only the first few buyers can access the elusive $1 tickets. Bus schedules are released three months at a time. Ticket prices depend on how in-demand seats are, so the earlier you buy, the cheaper tickets will be.
Following Megabus on social media is one way to be notified when a new schedule of tickets comes out. Making a ritual of checking the website every single day is even more foolproof. Those who are serious about getting $1 tickets can remind themselves by making Megabus.com their computer’s homepage.
Comfort is the obvious inclination. But students should consider the possibility of seeing their peers who are headed in the same direction for university breaks. I learned this the hard way, when I thought it best to go braless and ended up running toward the Megabus that was about to depart while my classmates looked down on me—literally—from the top deck of the bus.
Unlike the airport, passengers who look threatening are not investigated; they are rewarded. Everyone wants to sit next to a cute 20-something or a warm looking mom. Shamelessly rocking a dirty or crazed look may score you a set of seats to yourself. If having elbow room sounds appealing, try wearing an offensive T-shirt or growing a few dreadlocks before riding.
A hat is helpful to cover your eyes when sleeping, and uncontrollable temperatures call for layers to pile on and peel off.
Paying customers DO get left on the curb if their luggage is over 50 lbs. or larger than 62 inches when length, width, and height measurements are combined. To take extra luggage, buy an extra ticket.
The one small carry-on policy is not strictly enforced. However, the larger the carry on, the less room there will be to stretch out, as there are no overhead bins on Megabus.
Business people are a rare species on Megabus. This is because people who believe “time is money” are not suited for the laissez-faire lifestyle that Megabus requires.
At best, riding the bus will add two hours to normal drive time. At worst, you will receive a full refund after spending the night at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center. (Yes, this has happened to me. I recommend staking out a bench early on because it may end up being your bed. The current issue of Scene can double as a pillow.)
A seasoned Megabus rider will accept delays gracefully. If transferring to a different bus, always leave a few hours—preferably in the daytime—between arrival and departure times to explore the area or get a nice meal at a restaurant. This eliminates the risk of missing the connection if the first bus is behind schedule.