Flights can be expensive. This is no secret. It’s often cheaper to drive but time restraints and other factors can make the option unviable. BUT the decision to fly or drive is not always as clear cut as this. By not flying all the way you can score a much cheaper trip with little or no added time.
This trick works best when you’re flying from smaller airport hubs to major hubs. For example, when I was in college I had to fly out of Albany airport as it was the closest. Albany is not a major hub and as expected, flights were often much more expensive and were never direct flights. This meant that I was paying more for a flight AND having to often having lengthy layovers that would make the total flight time pretty long. On the other hand, JFK airport out of New York City is a major airport hub.
A flight from Albany, New York to my ultimate destination, Nashville, Tennessee would take approximately 4 hours long. The price in this example is $214.
A flight from JFK airport in New York City to Nashville would take approximately 4.5 hours long. The price in this example is $136. Since we are starting in Albany I could take a Greyhound bus from Albany to New York for a measly $19 and arrive there in under 3 hours. This brings the total trip time to 7.5 hours and the total cost to $145.
*Flights are one-way and savings are bigger for round-trips.
**This hack doesn’t always work to your favor and on some date combos the price was actually higher from JFK to Nashville. You have to play around with it, but this works most of the time!
Bus Travel Pays Off
Yes, some of you won’t want to spend the extra couple of hours adding a bus trip to the mix but the time difference is often misleading to say the least. With layovers and frequent delays you can end up spending just as much time (or muchhh more) when flying.
With that said, heavy traffic, accidents, dead squirrels, and bad drivers can likewise delay a bus on the road. I find it’s a risk either way but in my experience I’ve run into far more delays on flights than I ever have on buses.
Obviously a huge advantage of buses is the affordable price. If you can do a segment of your trip on a bus you can save a nice chunk of drinking money. The savings is multiplied when doing a round trip as the example above uses one-way flights. For many routes that aren’t too far such as Washington DC to NYC a bus trip is a no-brainer. Bus trips can cost as little as $15 each way while flights are $100 or more. The time differential is about an hour and half which is severely eaten into by the added time of going through airport security and check-in.
The savings goes farther than just the sticker price though. For the frugal traveler every little amount counts and buses definitely have a few nice advantages:
- Food: Food purchased in the airport or on the plane costs a premium. When taking the bus you can purchase cheap food before or during a rest stop during the trip. I just hate being stuck in an airport and paying $4 dollars for a snicker bar because it’s the cheapest thing you can buy. (Disclaimer: This is not about Snickers…I freaking LOVE snickers!)
- WiFi: While some airports are getting better about this, in my experience most airports charge for wifi internet access. Wifi has just been introduced to planes relatively recently and is not exactly widely available. When it IS, you’ll pay far too much for it. Almost all buses have free wifi to boot and that is a nice touch.
- Outlets: Again, while some planes have charging ports, they are not as readily available as they are on buses. Keeping your iPhone, iPad, and laptop charged is often essential and at the very least can ensure that you’ll be able to read your eBooks, listen to music, play games, or even get work done for the duration of your trip.
- Comfort: Unless you’re sitting in first class, comfort is not the first word that pops into your mind when you think of airplane seating. Bus seating is much more spacious and allows more leg room when every inch helps (seriously).
A bus ride cross country is often out of the picture but using bus travel as a complement to air travel can often cut the price drastically with minimum added time. It also includes some nice perks that make it worth your consideration past the sticker price.