Greyhounding It: A Guide To Surviving Bus Travel

On this recent trip, we did not at any point, intend to spend any amount of time traveling by bus. And yet, here we are, writing a post about surviving bus travel!

So, what went wrong? In a word. Everything. 

Through a series of unfortunate events, we wound up sitting in a Starbucks in San Francisco, trying to find a way back to San Marcos while we watched a drug-addled redhead pull his hair out on the sidewalk. It blew around like little orange tumbleweeds...

Imagine our luck when we found a cheap flight from Los Angeles to Houston! We would be picked up in Houston, so all we had to do was get down to Los Angeles. 

We'd rent a car, drive the PCH, and spend a day in LA with my friend and boss, Peder. The rental car didn't work out. And in a matter of minutes that 22$ bus ride to LA turned into a 200$ bus ride to LA because we booked it within two hours of departure. 

And then our ride home from Houston fell through. And then there were no direct buses from Houston to San Marcos. And then we had to spend a night and a day in San Antonio.

The expensive flight from San Francisco to Austin would've, ultimately, been the cheapest option. However, we had some great adventures in such a short span of time, and we certainly don't regret a moment of it. Like my mom always says, "there is never money wasted on travel or education". 

I've never believed that "everything happens for a reason", but I do believe that when things go wrong you have the awesome opportunity to make them go right in a whole new way. 

So, after three days spent sitting on and around buses with zero preparation or expectation, here's the only advice you'll ever need for not just getting through those seemingly insufferable bus trips, but enjoying them.

10 tips for surviving bus travel

1. Pack snacks, drinks, and beyond

To be prepared, yes, but also to make the most of the amazing opportunity you have to sit on your ass, guilt free, all day! 

My personal shopping list prior to a bus trip includes water, soda, and one of those awesome pre-bottled Starbucks Frapuccinos. For food, a series of dollar menu items from McDonald's (don't judge me!), a series of healthy and unhealthy snacks from a convenient or grocery store, and something sweet like cookies or yogurt covered pretzels.

You'll feel disgusting afterwards, but who cares, you survived a bus ride! 

2. Stock up on movies, tv shows, games, music, whatever

Yes, the bus driver makes an announcement about using headphones for your entertainment, but nobody will. So unless you want to listen to Beyonce on your left, the latest episode of Monk in front of you, and Finding Dory from behind, I suggest you come locked and loaded with your own entertainment.

On our (fortunately very short) ride from San Antonio to San Marcos, the person across the aisle was listening to a Spanish news podcast at full volume, no headphones, the entire time.

3. Wear your comfies

Sometimes, when you have no last minute choice but to hop on a bus, you aren't afforded the opportunity to get into your coziest, comfiest, squishy squashiest clothes.

If you do have time, a bus is the best place to confidently, unabashedly wear your sweatpants and your dad's old cheeto-stained tee-shirt (maybe that's an exaggeration, but the point is wear whatever you want and are comfortable in), I assure you.

4. Pee first

This may seem like an obvious tip that anyone should follow, but it's important! Nobody wants to use a bathroom on a bus. It's somehow so much worse than a bathroom on a plane, isn't it?

I do what I can to avoid it by peeing before we board, and not chugging any liquids once we've boarded. Usually this tides me over until we stop at one of those little hubs along the highway.

5. Don't assume the outlets or lights are functioning

Lesson learned. No offence to anyone or any bus, but buses are different in Canada, and somehow, much more glamorous. I hopped on with a dead phone because, obviously, all the seats have outlets and USB ports and personal espresso machines and massage options. Just kidding. But they do usually have outlets and USB ports.

Out of all the buses we took on this trip, only one had functioning outlets, lights, and those little air vents above the seats. So, charge your stuff, and wear something without sleeves under your sweater just in case you find yourself in an accidental sauna bus. 

6. Be sure of your bus and don't be afraid to ask for help

They'll leave you behind. I think. Fortunately I've never had it go that wrong.

There were a lot of buses leaving San Antonio at the same time, and since we were getting off along the way and not at the end, it was a confusing rat race to find our bus. 

When we finally figured it out, we were last in line to board! 

7. Bring some scented hand lotion or something

People love farting on buses, I guess.

If you don't have something potent on you, you might find yourself covering your nose with your shirt every few minutes. I was diving for a big whiff of my hand sanitizer so often I just kept it in my lap! 

Gross, I know, but it's a reality of sitting in an enclosed tube of people for an extended period of time. Instead of ignoring the problem, I think it's important to accept it, and bring something that smells good for peace of mind...and nose.

8. Bring a sweater

Your personal air may not work, but boy, oh boy, the air conditioning the driver controls sure does!

I find myself either so cold that my fingernails turn purple, or so hot that I'm daydreaming of a stroll through the Sahara desert. Most of the time, fortunately (fortunately?) it's the former. 

Wear something comfy and pack some extra stuff in your bag for warmth. And hey, if you can fit a blanket and pillow in your backpack, you win at bussing. 

9. Bring headphones

If you haven't picked up a pair of noise cancelling headphones yet, I urge you to go try them out.

Your own music and no one else's?! It's amazing.

If not, any headphones will do. But they are certainly, definitely, a necessity on any bus ride. As I said in point number two, there will likely be people all around you who did not bring headphones, but that doesn't mean they didn't bring their music and movies.

10. Bring someone you love

I probably would've called my mom crying from 1,000 different situations by now if Ricky weren't beside me. Sitting in the scary Houston bus station, having to pay more for that bus ticket, losing my ride home all would've been too frustrating and overwhelming to deal with on my own. 

I've traveled alone and done well, but every little inconvenience can be laughed about so much faster when you're with your best friend! 

As always, thanks for reading, and don't forget to follow the sloth!

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