When veteran traveler Thursday Bram journeys by train or bus, her packing list includes food and motion sickness pills. Before a trip, Bram purchases simple snacks to avoid pricey club car dining. She also carries motion sickness tablets in two formulas: non-drowsy tablets for short trips and regular formula to rest comfortably on overnight rides, which save her the cost of an additional hotel stay.
There are several strategies to make the most of train or bus travel.
Plan ahead: Many cities in the U.S. and abroad offer budget passes for residents and tourists. Check out www.eurail.com for pricing and travel options on train passes valid across multiple countries in Europe. Travelers in South Florida can purchase an "Easy Card," which provides nonstop access to city buses and trains for a specified time. The travel pass is $100 for one month, $26 for a seven-day ticket and $5 for a one-day pass. Check out public options in your destination city.
Know when to splurge: We enjoyed value and comfort during a high-end bus ride from Ecuador to Peru. Perks included cushioned reclining seats with foot rests, on-bus restrooms, staff to guide us through international border-crossing procedures and a beverage service. A hot meal of chicken, rice and vegetables was also included, along with movie showings. Likewise, our ride to Manhattan from Long Island was a journey through scenic luxury thanks to the Hampton Jitney. The bus company provided magazines, beverages, snacks and comfortable seats as we rode to and from the Hamptons.
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But there's also value in budget rides. In Thailand, we traveled from Ayutthaya to Korat with minimal perks. We shared a train car with locals and a few chickens to save money and enjoyed a great view, plenty of leg room and breezes from open windows.
Travel rewards program: Greyhound offers a frequent travel program, called Road Rewards. Register online or at bus terminals. Points — based on travel miles — translate into discounts for bus tickets and food, with free round-trip tickets after you hit certain point levels. Amtrak and Greyhound also offer periodic specials for companion tickets and student fares.
Online rates: Transportation companies offer Internet-only specials for train and bus trips, with prices often cheaper than tickets purchased over the phone or at terminals. Check for package deals on short and long-distance travel.