Megabus (with kids): A Review

Megabus even has plugs
for your dvd player!
Every time I told someone I planned to travel from Pittsburgh to Washington DC on the Megabus with my two small children, their eyes widened a bit and they said something like, "you're crazy."

For the first hour of the trip, I felt confident that I would be loudly signing the praises of Megabus and was even mentally planning future trips. New York! Philadelphia! Toledo! I imagined trekking all over the country in a bohemian dress, with happy, well-behaved children in my arms, seeing the sights, while someone else drives.

It was very easy to find the stop and board the bus. We left Pittsburgh on time. I only paid eleven dollars for 3 one way tickets from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, hands down the cheapest way to travel that route. Amtrak was about $140 for a similar trip. The bus wasn't that crowded and the driver was helpful in loading my bag underneath the bus.

As we rolled down the highway towards Morgantown, I even fell asleep. Daytime naps for the win! Laurel was happily watching Finding Nemo on her portable DVD player and Mark O was conked out in my lap. When I woke up, we were going very slowly up a steep two lane road. It seemed odd that the route would take us on such a small road, but I didn't think too much of it, until a good 45 minutes went by and I pulled out my phone to see where we were on the map. This is when I discovered that we were circling Morgantown. Other people must have realized what was going on because soon another passenger began giving directions to the driver. We got to WVU about an hour late and found 50 or so people huddled and shivering in the rain. They are probably writing very bad reviews of Megabus right now.
How Mark O feels about
the Megabus trip.

We were soon cruising down the interstate again. It was about this time that Laurel slammed her dvd player shut and announced that she was tired of watching tv.

"Oh," I thought, "This could be a problem."

I only had one coloring book and three kids' magazines. I was really counting on her watching movies most of the way. Instead, she took great delight in going up and down the extremely steep stairs and visiting the bathroom many times. (You never know when a three year old is bluffing about needing to use the potty.) And how fun that was, with Mark O attached to my front in a carrier.

Eventually, she tired of the stairs, settled back in for Charlotte's Web, and was pretty good for the rest of the trip. I would have considered the bus trip a total success if it had lasted the 6 hours it was scheduled for. As it was, it took 7 1/2 hours, and Mark O was not loving the last 2 hours or so. Sorry, other Megabus passengers. Babies cry. Also, there was no space to change a diaper. (We did get one stop at a Pilot gas station that had a changing table.)

So, here's a few things I learned about traveling by bus.

1. Ditch the car seats. Unless you need them at the other end, the bus isn't really equipped to buckle them in correctly, and there's barely enough room on the seat. They recommend it, but don't require it.
2. Most of the Megabus seats are regular old small bus seats. There's no overhead storage bins on the second floor, so your bags have to sit under your feet. It definitely pays to get there early and get one of the seats that have a table.
3. The Megabus drivers get lost. A lot. I heard similar stories from several other people. You'll probably get where you are going, just not when they said you would. Bring your GPS because they might ask for directions.
4. The advertised Wifi is spotty. Nobody on my bus could get it to work.
5. Book early. That's when it's cheap. I felt like I got my money's worth for 11 bucks, but I'm not sure I would have felt the same way had I paid $50.
6. It was really awesome to be able to nap and look out the window (when my kids weren't freaking out).
7. People who have control issues would not do well with long distance bus travel. You really have to be able to roll with the punches. And pushing your kids beyond their comfort zones builds character, right?

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