How to Get to New York City on a Budget

Photo by Zach Miles on Unsplash

I was anxious.

I’m not a road trip kind of person. I like to be at point A, and then point B.

That’s why I hate hiking. I love being at the bottom looking up at the top, or at the top looking out at the bottom. But the middle stuff — hiking all the way up only to turn around and hike back down? — hard pass.

So when my friend Kim Kirton suggested we take a Greyhound bus from Toronto to New York City for vacation, I was hesitant.

Here’s some questions I had:

But the cheapness of the bus ticket, coupled with the convenience of arriving in Manhattan instead of the Newark Airport, made the choice easier. After lots of back and forth, we decided to take the bus.

I had a few weeks to mentally prepare for the 11-hour ride, but it wasn’t enough.

By the time D-Day arrived, I had worked myself up to a level of anxiety I’d never exprienced before. I had scoured the internet looking for articles with tips on how to survive long bus rides (see sources at the end). I spent an entire day prepping for the trip, and memorized all the advice I had collected from trusted internet strangers.

When I arrived at the station, I relayed all the information I’d learned to Kim, and made references like, “well the articles said” multiple times throughout the trip. I also gave her a thorough tour of my bag based on the internet strangers recommendations.

Here’s what I packed:

  • Ear plugs / Eye Mask / Neck Pillow
  • Blanket
  • Noise-isolating ear phones (because it turns out noise cancelling head phones are hella expensive)
  • Healthy snacks
  • A lock for my suitcase
  • iPad (with 48 hours+ of movies and tv shows on Netflix)
  • iPhone (with 100 hours+ of music and podcasts)
  • A book (The Hate U Give — SO good)
  • Deck of cards (in case Kim or potential new friends on the bus wanted to see my magic trick)
  • Hand sanitizer / Tissues / Toiletries
  • Gatorade (for the electrolytes) and water (because water)

Additional Tips:

  • Take off your shoes. It sounds weird, but it automatically makes you feel more comfortable and helps you fall asleep.
  • Sit at the middle of the bus — most accidents usually happen from the driver crashing into someone, or the bus getting rear ended. It’s also far enough away from the driver who listens to music to stay awake, and the bathroom which is loud and all around disgusting.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In the end, I was definitely over prepared.

Since we took the night bus, we chatted for an hour, and then we both fell asleep for the remainder of the trip. It wasn’t the most restful sleep since we had to transfer in Buffalo, and then we stopped every two hours for bathroom breaks that were IMPOSSIBLE to sleep through. The driver turned on all the lights, and then the other passengers kept bumping us awake in their hurry to get off the bus.

But looking back, I’m grateful that I over prepared . I was ready for much worse, and it was a pleasant surprise when the trip went better than I’d imagined. When we arrived in Manhattan at 7am the next morning, I looked at Kim and said, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!”

But would I do it again?


And am I considering a last minute flight home instead?