My sister Lauren, who lives in Philadelphia, recently took a little adventure with her family to New York City. She had a conference to attend. She and her husband Will figured they might as well make a mini vacation out of it. Her employer was paying for the hotel; they would just have to cover meals and transportation.
Before she left she rang me up to chat about the logistics. As she put it, “This was our first trip that did not have us arriving at a family or friend’s house to stay. First time in a hotel room, first time taking the bus anywhere outside of Philly (even for Will and I!)”
Away they went on their adventure. As the weekend ticked on Lauren sent me text messages and photos of their time in the city. It looked like they were having a blast. I wanted to know more, so we did a little Q&A session about her trip once she returned. Parts of her journey I was all too familiar with (packing, hotels, ground transport) but something like taking a baby on a bus for 3 hours was very new to me too. I thought it was worth sharing a little of her journey.
To make the information a little easier to digest, I’ve split Lauren’s recap into 2 parts- Riding the BoltBus and Weekend Exploration. So without further delay, I’ll let Lauren take over.
Why the BoltBus? I chose the BoltBus over the Mega Bus because they accepted more luggage in the undercarriage. That was a huge factor for us because we wanted to bring our stroller and we had packed all of our breakfast foods (cereal bars, fruit and dry milk for Lilou) in our suitcase. Both buses got good reviews on Yelp and were recommended by friends. Both had free Wi-Fi. In the end we made the decision based on the amount of luggage we could bring.
Savings and Convenience: Manhattan isn’t cheap. After doing some research, parking our car for 4 days would have cost $200 ($50/day). With tolls and gas it could have cost upwards of about $300. In the end we paid $43 for the 3 of us to travel round trip on the BoltBus from Philadelphia to NYC. If you add in $10 for a couple of subway trips and $25 for taxis, we ended up saving about $220 on transportation costs alone.
Packing: I really wanted to pack light. After looking at one of your blog posts, I only brought 3 books, 3 toys, Lilou’s blanky and her special teddy. I also packed her sippy cup, bottle, a bottle of watery juice (we use this as something special for traveling), snacks (dried fruit, cereal bars and graham crackers), powdered milk and an extra water bottle.
The most important tool I had was my iPhone. I downloaded a few free games for Lilou before we left, some of which you also mentioned on your blog, and of course we had Netflix, which streamed her absolute favorite show “Yo Gabba Gabba”. When you and I were kids it would have been coloring books and listening to audiotapes, but this is the next generation. Drawing games happen on tablets and iPhones, and listening becomes looking and listening, etc. We truly used the iPhone as a last resort, and mixed things up by turning it off to play peek-a-boo and other interactive games. I got over my guilt of using the iPhone as a toy pretty quickly though as it helped everyone stay happy and calm during the trip.
Baby Logistics: Our main concerns for the ride up were meltdowns and poopy diapers. Who wouldn’t be worried about this? But for a baby who is used to sitting backwards in her car seat, sitting with mom and dad, being able to look out the window and chat with our neighbors opened up Lilou’s whole little world. She was a delight. We marveled at how well she adapted. As a new walker she did get rammy on occasion. We would let her walk across us or we would bounce her standing up and down from time to time.
We lucked out with the diaper. No poops there or on the way back. We would have had to change her in our seat. The bathroom was really rocky and there was no real surface to change Lilou on. That would have been a downside, but that would have been on any bus.
Timing You Trip: We wisely chose to travel close to dinnertime. This filled up most of our ride with eating a small meal together. I didn’t purposely choose dinnertime in my planning process, but looking back scheduling our bus ride over a meal time was really great. It gave us all something to do, and ensured Lilou was full and content. We traveled over breakfast time on the way back and got equal results.
Know Before You Go:
- The BoltBus picks up across the street from Philadelphia’s 30th Street station and drops you off in Manhattan at 34th and 8th. The BoltBus has several other departure cities. Check the website for more details.
- Purchase tickets online or by phone. You can also purchase tickets same day but risk not being able to get on the bus you want if it is sold out.
- Fares vary by day and time you wish to travel, but can be as low as $1. For the cheapest price, plan to buy your ticket 1-2 weeks in advance. Even last-minute tickets can be very affordable though.
- Children under 2 years old ride free if they are in your lap
- If you buy a ticket for your child you are allowed to bring a car seat on board. You are responsible for securing the car seat down and having all necessary gear to do so.
- Baggage- you are allowed one piece of luggage in the undercarriage and 2 small carry-on bags.
- Buses are equipped with free Wi-Fi, power outlets and restrooms.