Things to Know About Cross-Country Travel in the USA

Traveling cross-country by bus sounds like a charming way to travel. Inexpensive and generally safe, you can see the world from the seat of a motor coach. While US bus lines can make travel relatively simple and uncomplicated, there are several tips that can make your trip particularly easy and stress-free.

Booking the Right Bus

The obvious starting point to a good trip is to ensure that you have the right accommodations. When booking a bus trip, there are several items to consider. The departure and destination points will have to be known, as well as the level of accommodation you desire, such as coach or luxury.

Besides these obvious points, you should also consider the safety of the company and, more specifically, the driver. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides each bus company with one of three ratings: Unsatisfactory, Conditional, or Unsatisfactory. Only bus companies with Satisfactory ratings should be chosen, as Unsatisfactory and Conditional could pose serious safety risks. Those without a rating have not been evaluated by the FMCSA and are companies to consider avoiding.

Don’t be afraid to ask about the driver’s history, as well as the company’s policies concerning hiring and workplace behavior. What are their policies on cell phone use behind the wheel or alcohol use and testing? If the drive is longer than 10 consecutive hours, is there a satisfactory relief driver in place?

You should also consider how to book your ticket. Websites such as Busbud.com allow you to input your travel information and then search many different bus companies in order to find you the most inexpensive prices and best routes for bus trips, saving you time and money.

Get the Right Seat

While some bus companies provide assigned seating, others allow passengers to choose their own seating arrangement. If this is the case, you have the opportunity to make your ride much more pleasant.

Your initial consideration should be deciding the person you’d prefer as your seatmate. Women typically feel more comfortable sitting next to other women. Some people want room to spread out or even lay down. There’s also the consideration of aisle versus window. All these factors should be taken into account when choosing the right seat.

A common rule is also that the back three aisles are the best seats to choose. Since these are directly across from a restroom, you won’t be sitting across the aisle from anyone and you won’t constantly have people walking by you. The only downside? A potentially stinky restroom near to you. But if you prefer to lay down or have more space, these back aisles are the Golden Zone and might be worth the risk.

Packing for Comfort

When packing for your trip, there are some important considerations to be made. First, you should check whether the bus line has any conditions on baggage allowances. Certain bulky items may not be allowed per company policy. Baggage typically must be small enough to fit in the overhead or under-the-bus bins or to be carried by the passenger. Also keep in mind that overhead storage is limited.

Besides limits on luggage, you should also consider packing items that will make your trip more pleasant. Most buses now come equipped with free Wifi and charging ports for your devices, provided you bring charging cords and any equipment you might need. For night owls, there are also overhead lights that will allow you to work or read late if you bring your books or paperwork.

Bus lines also recommend a blanket or jacket. They typically keep the buses chilly since a sweaty ride would be miserable for all. Cash is also a good item to pack, since you might be making several stops in venues that don’t always accept credit or debit cards. Keep in mind that experts recommend packing your cash and valuable items in several places, rather than storing it in one wallet or bag that could easily be swiped.

One final item to consider taking is hand sanitizer or wipes. The on-board bathrooms don’t always have the highest cleanliness standards and an extra layer of germ protection never hurts.

Get There Early

It’s required that you be at the station 15 minutes prior to departure, but most companies recommend getting there at least an hour before your bus is due to leave. This is particularly important when seats are not assigned. To have your choice of seat and to get plenty of overhead storage, be one of the first people in line to board.

Many bus companies have also admitted that they overbook their trips in expectation of several people not actually showing up. This can be problematic if all the expected passengers DO show up and can potentially leave you stranded without a seat. Leave yourself plenty of time to get a good seat, use the restroom, buy any snacks or supplies, and be comfortably settled by the departure time.

Crossing Borders

Certain bus companies, such as Greyhound, provide bus routes that travel outside of the US to Mexico or Canada. If you have booked such a trip, there are a few special considerations to be made. You will need to make sure that your passport is on hand, as well as the address where you will be staying in the foreign country and any return tickets that you might need.

Your luggage will be checked when crossing any borders, so be sure not to pack any sensitive items that might cause you to be delayed. Certain fresh foods are also not allowed, so be sure to stick with pre-packaged items. Traveling back into the US will be a similar process and require the same documents.

Overall, traveling across the country by bus can be a pleasant experience when one is well-prepared. With just a little planning, you can explore places, make memories, and have adventures, all from the comfortable seat of your motor coach.

Train Travel in the USA

If you’re planning on commuting by train with Amtrak, your very best resource to reference to get all the information you need about an upcoming train trip is to go to the Amtrak website (amtrak.com). Here, you can get relevant information on schedules, destinations, on board information and services, fares, deals, purchasing tickets, and much more.

Even if you are sure about your trip itinerary when going to the website, try to make a point of looking around the site a bit. There may be some regulations or restrictions on given routes you may not be fully aware of. For example, some routes do not accept checked baggage, only carry-on bags. If you have pets or a bicycle to bring with you, rules can vary on transport of these items. These, and possibly other questions about the route you’re looking into, may arise.

It’s very good to have all the information right in front of you, clear and easily read, before you book reservations for your trip. If you book and pay for a trip right away, and later find that you can’t make this trip for any number of reasons, you may be subject to substantial cancellation fees. It’s just simply better all around to know all relevant information concerning your trip prior to booking it.

Amtrak Fares

Tickets on Amtrak routes come in Saver, Value, Flexible, and Premium options. Fares for travel can vary widely depending upon what level of ticket you elect to go with. Corresponding levels of comfort and number of available amenities increase with each level, so when looking at the route you’re interested in, check out the details of each ticket level to see which one you’re comfortable with paying for.

At the top of the Amtrak website, there’s an area to check out Deals. Toggle on that, and see if there are any Current Promotions or Everyday Discounts that may be applied to your trip. If this is the case, it may be a terrific way to save a lot of money on your travels.

Amtrak Routes

Not all passengers board the train at “end point” departure and destination cities. Travelers may get tickets and board from any great number of train stations along the route. Here again, a website check of the train’s schedule will yield information about all stops, and at what time they stop there, along a given route. Checking this out, and having the opportunity to board the train at a more convenient location can save people a great deal of time and hassle when it comes to getting aboard.

Amtrak Locations

Amtrak services many of the nation’s most populous and popular travel destinations, with some major cities having more than one Amtrak route servicing the city. A comprehensive listing of train schedules- the Route, Major Cities Served, and Region are all under the website’s Schedules tab. Click on this, and from here you can click on the route you’re interested in traveling on.

This may be the most important page for you to examine closely. A great deal of information is here; information that answer many questions you have about the trip. Printing this out and having a hard copy with all this relevant information could be of great benefit all throughout the trip.

William Perugini / Shutterstock.com

William Perugini / Shutterstock.com

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