04 Mar 2014

Bus Booking Optimization Guide

A guide on how to optimize the bus booking process.

This is Part 1 of the 3-part Bus Booking Optimization Guide:

You’re probably thinking — I didn’t even think booking buses could be optimized. In fact they can! 😀

I. Use Wanderu!

Wanderu is the Google of bus tickets — it pulls and sorts options from all major bus providers so you can identify the best ride across a 100 options instead of the 10 proprietary options the Greyhound/Megabus/Boltbus site provides.

On top of that, you can:

  • Sort the options for the cheapest/fastest/shortest route
  • Select specific carriers
  • Include nearby cities
  • Adjust the time slider to identify only the buses which leave after a certain time or arrive by a certain time.

Once you’ve found a bus, you can either:

  • Pay through the site (100% free as of July 2017).
  • Navigate to the company site and book there.

While I personally find Wanderu the most versatile, another great option is BusBud.

II. Booking multiple dates 1-3 months in advance may be cheaper than booking a single date the week of travel.

Say you’re traveling from Philadelphia to New York on a weekend 3 months in the future, though you’re not sure which weekend.

  1. Check the prices for this weekend, to get a sense of what the cost of a last-minute booking is.

  2. Check the prices for 1-3 months out.

  3. If the prices of a ticket 1-3 months out is significantly cheaper (say $1-5 instead of $20-$30) buy multiple tickets for a couple weekends.

Depending on the route, this can actually be way cheaper than booking last minute. If you do this through Megabus, you can later credit the unused tickets to a future trip.

III. Snag overnight trips if you can.

Since you’ll be asleep a majority of the time, you won’t even realize how much time you’ve been on the bus. Plus, you avoid paying for a hotel that night. 😉

IV. If you travel often, play the rewards game.

Yes, they’re irritating to sign up for, but if you travel often (for example if you’re a college student), being strategic about your trips and using rewards programs can pay off.

Boltbus Rewards

Take 8 trips, get 1 free =)

Greyhound Rewards

Book Reward  
3 roundtrip tickets 15% off next ticket Buy 1 get 1 free for a friend
5 roundtrip tickets 20% off next ticket Buy 1 get 1 free for a friend
8 roundtrip tickets Free trip anywhere  

The best strategy here is to first use Wanderu to figure out which bus carrier offers the cheapest price consistently for your route. Once you find a carrier, use that carrier exclusively and join their rewards program; most of these reward programs require a good number of rides to reap the benefits. Companies like Greyhound and Boltbus offer free rides and rewards with every 8 rides you buy.

Say you’re a college student, and between the months of August and May, you return home on a $20 bus ride for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, and Fall Break (8 roundtrips – a total of 32 roundtrips and 64 individual trips over 4 years). With a Boltbus or Greyhound rewards program, you end up saving $160 with 8 free trips. Not too shabby!

Next up in the Bus Booking Optimization Guide: Tips on Scoring $1 Bus Tickets

Other Posts in This Series: