Stinky and scary: tips and tricks for bus travel.

When I first came to the states eons ago it was by bus. It was a five day trip and I had wished I was dead. I then got on another bus and went to Denver. From there, I got on yet another bus and went home. But I wasn’t done yet! I turned around later and grabbed another bus to Florida. This was another five day trip which I have been trying my very best to block out.

Now, however, since I am on my way on April 15th to visit my parents in Airdrie, Alberta via–you guess it–bus, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks, a few pros and cons for long travel or short.

Avoid getting touched in Nono places. Or at least, having all your stuff stolen.

Sit on it, eyeball it. Seriously, wherever you are that is not on the bus take all of your stuff with you at all times and be in physical or visual contact with it 100% of the time. Going for a smoke? Take it all with you. Gotta pee? Take it all with you. Going to go eat? Take it all with you. Going to stretch your legs? Take it all with you. It seriously sucks but it will seriously suck worse to have all your stuff stolen.

Much like people found in various other places, some of them chilling at bus stops aren’t stellar examples of humanity. Some may just be waiting for a tired passenger to screw up and they are watching.

  • Tuck your backpack under your feet and wind an arm strap around ankle while sitting
  • Sit directly on your suitcase if you can
  • Keep a hand or arm woven through straps or handles
  • Take it all–yes, all of it–to the bathroom with you. Never ever leave it behind on the bus, in the station, with someone you don’t know.
  • Keep your wallet, passport, cellphone and other valuables either around your neck, in your pockets, or at your waist. People are going to notice someone sidling up to you to fondle you for your shiznit more than a snatch n’ grab of a bag.
  • Overhead racks on the bus really aren’t any safer. Consider keeping the most important stuff with you and on you. Just because you and a potential thief are on the same bus together does not mean they will think twice about attempting to snatch yo’ stuff.

Boarding: it’s not just for 2×4’s and your baggage anymore.

Vroom vroom, bitches.
Vroom vroom, bitches.

Getting off the bus and on the bus and off the bus. It seems pretty cut and dry at first, but there are a handful of things to keep in mind here, not all boarding and unloading is the same.

Buses occasionally have maintenance stops. This is when everyone is required to leave the bus and is probably the only time I would semi-sort of be all right with the idea of leaving a bag or two behind. However, common sense applies here–pick your bags off the floor, take anything extremely important to you with you. The bus company will not be responsible for anything lost, stolen or destroyed during this time either.

In between your maintenance stops you’ll have your regular change overs. When you do, get whatever you need to do there done and then attempt to get to the line to re-board first. Most buses are a first come, first serve deal.  Get to the gate, line, door or wherever you need to go A.S.A.P. It is first come, first serve when it comes to travel by bus. So be aware most of your stop over time will probably be spent waiting in line.

Getting in line first is not only beneficial to make sure you do not miss a bus, but seats are also first come, first serve. If you want a particular seat in a particular area, the only way to get there is to get it first.

During all of this boarding, re-boarding, loading, unloading and change over business your luggage has to follow you, too. You are the only one responsible for your bags. Someone will chuck them, heavily, into the under belly of the bus and someone will dump them on the side of the road when it is time to go. Otherwise the moving and transferring of your luggage is all you baby.

If the bus stops to pick up new passengers at a depot, station or stop, if the stop is a longer one–don’t fret. Those who were on the bus first will be allowed back on first while new passengers will have to wait to take their seats. So if you take a break in Missouri but don’t get off there, the bus driver will let you on first before those just starting their journey at Missouri board.

Last but never ever least and most important: buses and drivers will not wait for you. If you leave your bags on a bus and miss it, if you are late to the gate, if you are held up inexplicably it doesn’t matter. They will leave whether you’re on the bus or not. So stay sharp! If you miss the re-boarding call or boarding call, you may be stuck for however long it takes at wherever you are waiting for the next bus!

Comfort, Clothing & Munchies

If you’re going long distance there are some things you should seriously consider packing or taking with you. Buses and bus stops as well as depots are not known for their glorious comforts.

Bus terminals and bus stops often take advantage of tired, hungry, worn out travelers. Their prices are ridiculously high for food, drinks and other such needful things. Save yourself some cash by packing your own food.

Some great travel foods are:
Granola, Fruit cups, Canned Fruit, Any kind of nuts, and bottled water/juice/drinks. Perishable food, such as a sandwich or fruit could work for the first day but will perish quickly without refrigeration. Look for canned, sealed, nonperishable food at a size favorable to traveling by bus. As in: food you’d be willing to lug around with you in a bag or other carry on storage.

Some excellent clothing choices are:

  • Loose, comfortable clothing that will allow your skin to breath.
  • A sweater, shawl, small blanket or warm extra shirt. Temperatures on the bus and off will veer wildly if you are traveling long distances.
  • Sneakers or super comfy shoes. Sitting upright for long periods of time can cause feet to swell. There are only two positions generally on the bus: sitting up right and standing to get off it and back on. Wear shoes that make sense for you.

And you can keep yourself sane by:

  • Carrying your favorite book(s)
  • Your preferred Mp3 player
  • A hand held game system
  • A cell phone to text the hell out of your husband and friends wishing for the boredom to stop (oh, wait, that’s just me I guess)
  • A sketch pad
  • A diary to write in between long stops or on the bus if you are a master at bumpy writing

Does this Bus seat make my butt look big?

Where to sit on a bus? That’s the question. Some people don’t really care so long as they get a seat and some are particular. Here’s some tips for my fellow picky bitches. Representin’.

Mmm, comfy spine breakers.
Mmm, comfy spine breakers.
  • Back aisle seats do not recline.
  • Front aisle seats close to the driver do not have lights.
  • If you like to get up and down a lot, a seat nearest the aisle is best.
  • If you like to sit in one place, take a window seat.
  • Sitting on the aisle seat tends to discourage people from trying to squeeze in by the window and may net you two seats to yourself. That’s only if the bus isn’t crowded.
  • Major stops in major cities will always be crowded.
  • Bus bathrooms are only meant for emergencies and –well–stink. Sitting near them might be an experience you’ll want to avoid.

Safety Tips

Don’t look like a mouse. Sit up straight, look around you alertly (but not like a crack addict looking for the police okay?) and don’t be afraid to look people in the eye. Try and keep proper posture with shoulders back. Even if you are tired and beat, try and walk with confidence.

One of the first thing most predators of any kind look at is body language. The guy hunched over his feet staring at his toes is going to be a hella lot easier to steal from than the chick beside him that seems to have her shit together.

I would even advise some sort of self-defense extras if possible and legal. Mace is great for doling out the justice and laying the Spicy Eyes smack down if really needed. Use at your own discretion however…a baseball bat or machete might hamper your travel.

Random Bus Fun Facts:

  • Travel is best in the middle of any month because it is less crowded. The first and last of every month tends to be far more crowded.
  • Children, students, seniors and those who order their tickets well in advance get discounts.
  • Rules regarding luggage can be very strict. Call ahead of time or visit your local Grayhound website to learn before hand weight specifics and any other restrictions on luggage and carry on’s.
  • Label your bags in a manner that will make them stand out to you. Not only will it help you find it, it’ll be harder for the 300 pound bearded man to explain why he’s wheeling away a black suitcase with SPARKLY PRINCESS (YOUR NAME HERE) 😀 in bright bold, pink, and glittered suitcase to the security and/or police.

Pros and Cons

The good:

  • Dude this is way cheap, way cheaper (now that gas prices are down) than flying or the train.
  • Lots and lots of time spent by yourself. You can blend easily with the thousands of other human fish minnowing about their day to day traveling with you.
  • Get to meet some super interesting folks that are traveling with you.
  • Get to stop some times in the weirdest and best places and depending where you are going, major cities.
  • You aren’t driving and you aren’t making your significant other, friends, parents and the like drive either.
  • Travel is stimulating, period. New places, new faces, new people, new sights and things to take in.

The bad:

  • You can’t lay down to sleep. If the bus is full you can’t even recline well.
  • There’ll always be that guy or girl that REALLY NEEDS A BATH sitting near you, passing you by, or doing the same during your stops/change overs.
  • You can’t always get two seats to yourself and have to deal with other people’s body parts all up in yours. Maybe even some one sleeping and drooling on you.
  • You could get your stuff stolen at any time, on or off the bus.
  • Traveling very long distances–there’s no accounting for the weather. A snow storm, flood, torrential rain and other lovely things can screw up a route. You may end up waiting hours for a road to clear.
  • Vehicle accident death is still way, way, way, way higher than airplane. How many bus crashes do you hear about in a year? Okay, now how many airplane crashes? Right.
  • People are rude bitches and 90% of them will take the bus.
  • Bus bathrooms smell like pee.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is my advice to you. I hope that if you’re ever faced with bus travel that my mind numbing experiences will be able to help you out.

Have you traveled by bus and feel that I have missed something? What important tip or fact would you give someone traveling by bus? I’m interested in hearing it!

2 Replies to “Stinky and scary: tips and tricks for bus travel.”

  1. Heya Jack!

    Glad you thought so!

    Most of the buses I’m familiar with and have traveled on aren’t anywhere near first class and generally crowded or uncomfortable. It’s the price paid for cheaper tickets and cheaper travel however, so it’s not all bad. Also, all of my bus trips have been several days together, that probably colors my experiences a little!

    Good advice about intertwining legs through straps or arm staps! Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. This is some great advice. The last time I took a bus was after a 6 hour plane ride, and the space on a first class bus was luxurious compared to the plane.

    There can be a huge difference between a first class bus and a cheaper discount bus. The first class bus I was on had full reclining seats and tons of space, I was actually able to sleep a little bit.

    Always keeping your stuff in contact with you is great advice too, I keep everything I absolutely need in a backpack and make sure it never leaves contact with my body, usually by intertwining my legs through it.

    Jack posted: Quickest Way To Lose Weight

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