Hop on the Megabus!

24 Sep

The Megabus! Pathway to adventure

The Frugal Bon Vivant was planning a jaunt yesterday–from Cleveland off to Indiana in mid-October, to take in some important museum exhibitions and enjoy the changing leaves. Didn’t feel like flying, no sensible train pattern available. And I don’t drive. So that means one thing–the bus. Now Greyhound does have multiple schedules, and now has several pricing structures–it matters whether you buy online, buy two weeks in advance, etc. They’ve started to pattern themselves after the airlines, complete with discomfort, crowding, and waiting. What I wanted to do was to take the Megabus. I took an exploratory journey to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, just to see how it works in a world without stations or long distance ticketing (you can plan a Cleveland to New York trip, for instance, but you do it on your own, coordination the Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh-New York legs with independent pricing). Megabus allows bookings only about two months in advance–a system that doesn’t change daily (the last postings go up to Dec. 13, and I want to travel on the 14th, but it may be a while before those bookings open). If you’re early or have an unpopular travel date, you might only pay $1–the price creeps up as the bus fills, and all purchases are online via credit card. You wait at a designated downtown spot (in Cleveland it’s a side street by Tower City), flourish your print-out at the driver, and up you go. I love it. It got in early both times I took it, it’s got more legroom than Greyhound, and it has plugs for your cell phone and free WiFi–just like Amtrak! In Pittsburgh the meeting point is under an overpass, so there’s rain (and snow) protection while you wait for your bus.

But while there was a swift Megabus from Columbus to Indianapolis, no way to get to Columbus besides Greyhound–and I wanted to take a sidetrip to Bloomington once in Indiana, and again–Greyhound only. So, a split ticket. I didn’t get the best rate for Megabus because I didn’t get it when it opened up–still, $48 round trip is great in comparison to the same Greyhound route ($62, $64.80, $72, $82, depending on ticket type). But here was the hitch–no Cleveland Greyhound could get me a good connection to Columbus. This is when I started to think more creatively about the jaunt. I don’t know Columbus, and I didn’t much care–but I had been through it for targeted reasons twice, and was interested in the quick look I got at the Brewery District and the German Village. Why not leave from work on Greyhound for the two hour plus ride to Columbus, stay over and leave on Megabus in the morning?

Columbus's Sheraton Capitol Square--formerly the Hilton

With that decision, it was time to hotel-hunt. In Bloomington, I wanted to stay at the Biddle Hotel in the Student Union. I went to IU for grad school, and knew how convenient it was to a campus visit–it would be the splurge, at $122 (not including tax) for a room with antiques. But Columbus and Indianapolis? Oh, the cheapie route. I decided on Hotwire for Columbus and snagged a downtown hotel just across from the Statehouse–the Sheraton at Capitol Square (3 1/2 stars) for $90.10, including tax. Not too frugal, you say? True–but doable for the location and some luxury, since no self-respecting bon vivant stays in a dive! I could have gotten something comparable for Indianapolis, but decided to take the Priceline name-your-own-price route. I said, “Give me a four star for $53 dollars”–and it said okay, but with tax it’ll be $71.46. Priceline is more relaxed than they used to be with “name your own price”–you can change your standards without undergoing a waiting period; I’m sorry I didn’t try them for Columbus. But the Indy hotel sounds great–the University Place Hotel, a four-star downtown on the IUPUI campus, with complimentary breakfast and evening hors-d’oeuvres. Bet part? Like my great Pittsburgh hotel, the Wyndham University Place in Oakland, this hotel has a free shuttle to downtown stops. The convenience and money you save by not taking taxis! (Now, do tip $2-3 dollars).

University Place Hotel, Indianapolis

I’m looking forward to the trip, though I was given pause by the very late hour the bus leaves to return to Columbus–but staying in the Greyhound station, then taking a taxi to the Megabus stop isn’t a bad alternative. In the meantime, I’m researching great things to see, eat and do in three places: Columbus, Indianapolis and Bloomington. None would be my choice vacation destinations, but this is actually a work trip because of the museums–and thus tax deductible in part! And since these are the spots I’m going to, like every thrifty bon vivant I must squeeze all the juice out of them! More news on the trips once they’re made, as well as ways to prepare for a delightful bus ride.

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One Response to “Hop on the Megabus!”

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  1. Gratitude 94: Megabus! « Perpetual Gratitude: A Photographic Diary - November 9, 2011

    […] Hop on the Megabus! (thriftybonvivant.wordpress.com) […]

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