The end-of-year holiday travel season is a notoriously busy and expensive time to travel. In the US alone, an estimated 107 million people traveled for the holidays in 2017. While most drove or flew, 3.6 million took buses, trains, or cruise ships, according to AAA.
If you plan to spend the holidays with out-of-town family and friends, the stress of the trip can be daunting. Fret not, with these ten holiday travel tips you’ll travel like a pro, make it to your destination with a smile on your face, and ready to celebrate!
1. Book your travel in advance
The general rule of thumb with holiday travel is to book in advance to lock in the best fares. If you give yourself plenty of time, you can compare routes, carriers, and travel times, to ensure you select the most cost-effective and efficient option.
2. Travel outside the most popular days
Since everyone has similar time off during the holidays, a few travel days are very popular, which equates to expensive fares and a higher density of travellers. In the US, the Tuesday and Wednesday before, and Sunday following American Thanksgiving are three of the busiest travel days of the year. For Christmas, it depends which day of the week the holiday falls on. January 2nd is also a busy travel day.
If you can be flexible with your holiday travel schedule, consider traveling on an off-day. You’ll pay less for your ticket, and won’t face as many crowds.
3. Give yourself a few buffer days
Delays during the holiday season are inevitable, inclement weather and traffic cause cancellations and extended trips. If you need to attend a holiday gathering, wedding, or an event that you know you can’t miss, don’t leave it down to the wire. Give yourself a buffer in between when you plan to arrive and when you need to be there.
4. Arrive at the bus stop early
There are multiple reasons to arrive early for your bus trip, most importantly:
- You won’t have to rush and worry about missing your bus. No extra anxiety needed this time of year!
- To make sure you know where your bus picks up. Not all carriers pick up at a bus station or terminal, some pick up in parking lots, or at meeting points on city streets. And don’t forget, the exact pick and drop off locations are available on your confirmation email and in your Busbud account!
- If you’re in line early you can secure your preferred seat, not all carriers offer assigned seating.
5. Know the terms and conditions of your ticket
Each bus provider’s rules and regulations are different. For example, some carriers will let you board with a ticket on your phone, or a just confirmation number, yet some bus lines require a printed ticket. The last thing you want to do is run around searching for a FedEx Office near the bus stop to print your ticket. While you’re at it, you can take a look at the major bus companies in the US and how they compare.
Read the Busbud confirmation email carefully. It contains all the information that are pertinent to your trip such as exchange and refund policies. What if you get caught late at work and need to hop on a later bus, is that allowed, or do you forfeit the fare? Read up to be prepared!
5. Charge devices and download before you go
You’ll find that some bus companies offer onboard WiFi, while others don’t. However, there are no guarantees on the quality of the connection — it might not support streaming services or could be slow due to everyone on the network.
If you download before you go (movies, TV episodes, podcasts, audio books, etc), and make sure you’re at 100% battery, you’ll have a library of entertainment at your hands during your holiday travel season.
6. Dress for comfort
Even short bus rides can be made longer with holiday traffic. To make sure your busy holiday travel experience is as seamless as possible, dress in comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing for ease and flexibility. Wear layers so you’ll have options if it’s cold/hot due to AC or heaters. Bring noise-canceling headphones, an eye-mask, or a neck pillow to make yourself comfy on the journey. You can also take a look at our guide on how to take long bus trips like a pro.
Make sure you have everything you need for your trip in your carry-on bag. You won’t have access to bags stowed in the luggage area. For more detailed info, check out our luggage guide for the US.
7. BYOS (Bring Your Own Snacks)
No one wants to be the hangry person on the bus stuck in hours of traffic. If you have a longer route, there might be rest stops, but it’s not guaranteed. Also, the food selection at highway rest stations can be limited, not ideal if you’re health-conscious or on a restricted diet.
Pack light and easy snacks that are high in protein and non-perishable to keep you feeling great on your journey; almonds, trail mix, granola or protein bars, or jerky. Also, make sure to pack plenty of water to stay hydrated.
8. Embrace the ‘Mom’ essentials
Mothers generally have large purses filled with various useful items—embrace that mentality during your holiday travels. Think hand sanitizer, packs of tissues, ibuprofen, mints, cough drops, or even packets of Emergen-C/Airborne. If you’re stuck on a long bus ride in traffic, you never know when you might get a runny nose or headache. Not to mention, that the change of weather, a decreased immune system from stress, and germs from other travellers are a recipe for illness, protect yourself!
9. Ship your gifts
If you’re traveling home with presents, consider shipping them before your travel. Pro tip—use Amazon’s gift wrapping option and send directly to your destination! Your packages will be there when you arrive, and you won’t have to worry about carrying heavy suitcases or having fragile gifts flail around the cargo area during your holiday travel
10. Take deep breaths and be patient
If you go into your holiday trip prepared for bumps in the road, lengthy travel times, and crowds, you’re more likely to keep your cool throughout the journey. If you want to stay Zen during the trip, download meditation apps like InsightTimer or HeadSpace. They offer tons of free guided meditations. Try doing some seated deep-breathing exercises or easy stretches. Modify a few of these car yoga poses to work in your bus seat. Just try not to bother your seatmate.
Ready for your holiday adventure?
Traveling on a bus can save you time and money by avoiding overcrowded airports so book your bus tickets on Busbud in advance. With these holiday travel tips you can make the most of your journey, and arrive full of cheer!