Monday, January 2, 2012

Let's travel like it's 1955: taking trips at vintage prices

Let's travel like it's 1955 in the new year.
6:30 am.  The Mega Bus was scheduled to leave at 7 am.  Brandon and I arrived at the Nashville Metro bus station.  "Excuse me, ma'am?"  I said to the lady at the ticket counter. "Where do we catch the Mega Bus?"  She looked at me like I had just asked her where platform 9 and 3/4 was.  

"The what?" She said.

"The Mega Bus." I answered.  I could see she was contemplating whether answering me was worth the energy or not.  She finally shook her head no.  

Brandon and I frantically called Mega Bus.  Shannon answered the phone.  "Hi, Shannon.  I'm calling from Nashville.  We're trying to find out where to catch Mega Bus in 30 minutes."  Shannon was on it.

"Alright, Mrs. Morgan," she said, "You will catch Mega Bus on Commerce Street, between the 4th and 5th blocks."

"Between  the 4th and 5th blocks?" I said, as if she had just told me to go to platform 9 and 3/4.  "You mean, just in the middle of the block.  That's where the bus is coming," I said, making sure I had heard her correctly.  

"Yes, ma'am," Shannon answered.  We hung up.  With 60 lbs of luggage in tow, 2 pillows, and a blanket, Brandon and I ran 4 blocks down to Commerce Street, swearing and vowing to buy a suitcase with rollers the entire way down.  Finally, we arrived at Commerce Street.  There, in the middle of 4th and 5th, were 15 sleepy eyed people, waiting for Mega Bus to arrive.  

I turned to Brandon and said, "Change of plans.  We're going to Hogwarts instead of Florida."  We laughed and thought about the 10 hours of Harry Potter we had uploaded onto the computer for the Mega ride down to Florida.   By 6:50 am there were 56 of us boarding the big blue Mega Bus.

Earlier in the month we had gone on Expedia and reserved a $400 room.  However, since we found it on Expedia we only paid $90.  We could have stayed for $40 at Days Inn, but since we had only paid $1 to go to Atlanta and $11 to go on to Orlando we decided we could splurge and stay on the 56th floor of the Westin Hotel in the heart of Atlanta.  After a trip to Ikea and some awesome cocktails at the swanky strange lounge in The W Hotel, we headed back to the Westin, enjoyed being married, and went to sleep so we could wake up bright and early to catch the Mega Bus down to Orlando.  

After spending 30 hours on Mega Bus in one week I have a love-hate-love relationship with the big blue bus.  However, with fairs as low as $1, I no longer feel like I need to choose between traveling and paying my bills, which fills me with more love than hate for the bus.

Up North, Mega Bus has double decker buses with seats that recline and televisions.  Randy, our driver, informed us that the South doesn't have that luxury yet because Mega Bus is still in the testing fazes for the Southern routes.  However, whether you ride in the North or the South you still get your own electrical outlet, a friendly driver, and have access to a bathroom on the bus. 

Following is what you'll need in your Mega Bus survival kit:

1. Hydrogen Peroxide.  It's cheap.  It's useful.  Put a little dab of this in each ear and it will decrease your chances of getting sick substantially.  Though the Mega Bus was very clean, one still cannot control who boards the bus while ill.  

2. Enough entertainment for at least 1/2 of your trip.  Mega bus does have internet, but it's very inconsistent, especially on the smaller buses.  Brandon and I uploaded 10 hours of Harry Potter and the entire series of Parks and Recreation onto our computer for our Mega trip.  We also brought 1 book each. Before we even realized it we were in Orlando.  

3. Wet Wipes.  Though there is a bathroom on the bus, its more like a Port-a-John.  With that said, there's no way to wash your hands.  However, the bus stops every 3-5 hours, so if you can hold it like a pro, then you can easily use the facilities at the stop, where you will most likely eat at Hardee's.  

4. Snacks.  Though Mega Bus does stop every 3-5 hours, the snack options are limited.  Furthermore, the bottle of water I bought at a gas station was $3, the nuts I bought were $5 and the gross cup of coffee I bought was $2.  For those prices I could have gone to Whole Foods and purchased Artisanal water and snacks along with kombucha and chocolate or I could have gone to Kroger and paid $3 for all of it.  Mega Bus has overhead compartments as well as a cabin for luggage under the bus.  So, if you have a backpack full of snacks and entertainment it'll only be cumbersome before and after your board the bus.

5. Make sure you print out your itinerary.  It will make boarding the bus much easier, as they check off each passenger who boards.  

This year let's travel like it's 1955.

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