I Took the Greyhound for 15 Round Trips in 10 Months to Maintain a Long-Distance Relationship -- This is How I Survived

It's useful to always prepare for the worst; I experienced more trips where something went wrong than trips where the Internet worked.
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Annie Latsko
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It's useful to always prepare for the worst; I experienced more trips where something went wrong than trips where the Internet worked.

After living with my boyfriend for a year in metro Detroit, I moved to Pittsburgh for school. We decided to stay together and see each other as often as possible. I took fifteen round trips with Greyhound in 10 months to keep my relationship strong.

There were a few reasons why I picked Greyhound:

· They have Internet and to my surprise, it usually worked. It blocks YouTube and other video services, however.

· They have outlets that almost always work.

· Something will almost always go wrong, so you’ll get at least part of your trip refunded. I rode twice without getting a refund.

There are a few tricks to getting your tickets inexpensively. For one, order your tickets early, they’ll be slightly cheaper.

Order a “Web Only” ticket because it’s usually less than half as much as the other tickets. These are tickets that you can buy online and print out at home or pick up at will-call. Make sure that you have the correct dates. If you don’t have the correct dates, you will have to physically go to your local Greyhound station and pay $20 in cash to change the ticket to another date. This is (1) often more expensive than your actual ticket, and (2) the only transaction, as far as I can tell, that is cash-only.

Before you order your ticket, make sure that you sign up for their Road Rewards program. They will send you a coupon that’s either 10% off or 15% off your first purchase after joining the program. You can use this immediately. You will then immediately get three coupons on your account that you can use for subsequent trips. If you think that the original “sign-up coupon” was a better deal than the coupons you get, sign up for a new Road Rewards account with a different email address each time you travel.

Finally, make sure that you print out your ticket at home. If you don’t, you’ll have get there at least an hour and a half early to ensure that you have enough time to get through the will-call line, which is lumped in with the “everyone else’s problems” line. It will take literal hours and will cause you to miss your bus. If you don’t have a printer, drag your butt to FedEx or your school and use their computers to buy the tickets and then print them out. It’s worth it.

Don’t delete you confirmation email until you’ve completed your trip and decided that you don’t need a refund. It has your order number on it.

What to ALWAYS Bring:

It's useful to always prepare for the worst; I experienced more trips where something went wrong than trips where the Internet worked. So I suggest you ALWAYS bring the following items.

Frosted Animal Crackers are a dangerous choice because people always want some.

Frosted Animal Crackers are a dangerous choice because people always want some.

Hooded sweatshirt: throw it on for warmth. Sometimes, the buses don’t have heat. Sometimes, the bus driver will turn up the air conditioning to make sure that he or she is able to stay awake. If you don’t need it, you can always use it as a pillow.

Socks: see all of the reasons above, except using them as a pillow.

Snacks: one time, my driver made too sharp of a turn and got half of the bus stuck in the mud so that it was tilting precariously and making it impossible to open the door. I was stuck in the bus on top of the people on the opposite side of the leaning bus (had to counter that tilt) for an hour, and then had to wait for a state trooper to take everyone’s contact information for another two hours. Trail mix would have helped immensely.

Quarters: if you want food, a lot of the stops only have vending machines that are under no obligation to actually take your paper money. Having a bag of quarters is your best bet for making sure that you’re able to get the food you need if your snacks run out. Bring at least $4 in quarters.

Charger: charge everything on the bus because there are more chargers on the bus than in the station.

Headphones: make them big and obvious. This will make it less likely that people will strike up conversations to you and tell you why scientology would be pretty all right if they weren’t already self-described “rabid Christians.”

Arrival Time:

Sometimes, one bus will get bumped so there will be more people on your bus than there are supposed to be. The people whose bus has been bumped have priority and might cause you to get bumped to the next bus. I’ve been one of the people bumping other people off their bus but, after spending 9 hours in a freezing Greyhound station because my bus didn’t show up, I didn’t care.

The other problem is that they will overbook and seats will be on a first come, first serve basis. I suggest getting there forty-five minutes early your first time. Because I often travelled the same route and realized that the 7:45 AM bus out of Pittsburgh wasn’t popular, I was able to get there later than 7:00 and feel confident that I’d have a seat.

Seating:

First, make sure that you look as intimidating as possible. This will dissuade people from sitting next to you. If you’re presenting as female, you’re automatically going to be the bus partner of choice for scared dudes in their early twenties on their first Greyhound trip, as well as for other females in general. If you want to maximize your chances of getting your own seat, look intimidating. I have worn fake piercings, applied temporary tattoos to my neck, worn large, shapeless clothing, and a huge winter coat with a hood that I can pull over my eyes.

Next, put something substantial in the seat next to you. Stick your backpack on the seat and loop your arm through it if you’re planning on sleeping. A coat isn’t going to cut it. You need to create an obvious, physical barrier. If you only have a coat with you, put your feet on the seat or even lean over and pretend to sleep on the seat. Most people will only ask you to move if they absolutely have to.

Never look people in the eyes when they’re coming onto the bus. Many people will take this as an invitation. Conversely, if you think that the bus is going to be full, try to make eye contact with the person with whom you’d be comfortable sitting in order to increase the chances that he or she will sit with you.

If you’re the one looking for a seat, find someone that you personally don’t find threatening and ask them to move their stuff. Always ask if the seat is free and if it’s okay that you sit there. You’re asking to be polite because, unless the seat is saved, no one will say no.

Babies:

Looking intimidating will reduce the chances that a parent will choose to sit with you. If they do, don’t be rude. Just put in your headphones to drown out baby wails. There’s nothing that you can do. If the baby starts punching you, and the parent’s not doing anything about it, pretend to fall asleep and then start jerking in your sleep every time the baby hits you. 

Of course, asking the parent to make the baby stop hitting you is also a great option for those who aren’t passive aggressive.

Drunk People:

Pretend to be asleep. Let them sit on the aisle so they have somewhere to puke.

Unwanted Conversation:

Wearing headphones all the time will allow you to avoid this. Otherwise, just give a reasonable explanation, such as wanting to get some sleep or needing to work on a project.

Refunds:

Call (214) 849-8966 as soon as possible (other numbers won’t be as effective). The longer you wait, the more likely it will be that you won’t be able to get a full refund. If you were delayed for the same amount of time that your trip is supposed to be, or close to it, you should be able to get a full refund. If it’s your first time calling and you were delayed for three or four hours, then you should still be able to get the full refund for that part of the trip anyways. They keep track of how many times you call.

Make precise notes of the time that the bus was supposed to be there and the time that it actually arrived. You will need this when you call. You will also need your order number, which is on your confirmation email.

Set aside an hour for this task. They don’t have a ton of people answering phones.

Final Notes:

Most people who take the Greyhound won’t steal your stuff, won’t hit on you, or otherwise be awful. Many of the drivers will be willing to help you. Just keep in mind that this is public transportation and Murphy’s law applies.