I hate traveling around the holidays. All transportation companies know that this is the one time that you need to travel, so they hold all the cards.
Here are the ways I like to travel between Boston (home) and NYC (close to childhood home), ranked in order of preference (best first) and lowest agony levels (to borrow a measurement tool from Hipmunk). Afterwards, I’ll share what I did.
Pricing: When flights are at their cheapest, it’s around $49 each way. Right now, holiday flights are ranging around $89-$181 and higher. You knew the little voices in your head were right when they told you to book a month ago.
Time: Worst case scenario: 1 hr (travel to airport) + 1 hr (security and boarding) + 1.5 hrs (flight) + .5 hrs (deboarding) = 4 hours. But it’s broken up, so it’s not that bad.
Agony levels: Minimal. During your security and boarding time you are free to buy things and use the restroom at your leisure. And while you’re flying… you can watch live television! This is one of my favorite benefits of Jet Blue. Also, their seats are so much roomier and comfortable than other airlines.
Delay potential: Low. Usually just weather related, and then your delay is experienced in an airport, which isn’t so awful. Again—opportunity to buy stuff and use the bathroom liberally.
Pricing: Acela trains are around $100 bucks right now, which is decent. Not great, but OK.
Time: Not awful. Worst case scenario: 1 hours travel to South Station and boarding + 3.5 hours travel = 4.5 hours.
Agony levels: Not awful (unless you’re not on an Acela train, in which case… awful). Trains tend to have wifi and outlets, and seats are generally pretty comfy (just sometimes you have to walk a bit to find one). I usually load myself up with DVDs and a couple of snacks and I’m fine.
Delay potential: Medium low. Generally just weather. If not, it’s usually just 15 minutes here or there. But if it isn’t… then you’re stuck on a stupid train. (See above re: not taking anything besides the Acela. It’s just not worth it.)
Pricing: Dirt cheap. Usually it’s around $20 bucks (but buy in advance in case seats run out).
Timing: Average scenario: 1 hour travel to South Station (or less if I’m going to Alewife for World Wide) and boarding + 4.5 ride = 5.5 hours. For best travel time, take a very late bus—I got on a midnight Bolt Bus and was in NYC 3.5 hours later ON THE DOT. You can do anything in NYC at anytime, so why not arrive near Penn Station? It’s perfectly safe now.
Agony levels: So high. People around you stink. There’s no elbow room or foot room or computer room. There are outlets (that may or may not work) and wifi (ditto). The bathroom is small and cramped. The pit stops are always in terrible locations (seriously, has anyone ever voluntarily eaten at a Roy Rogers?) and the view is 95.
- World Wide Bus will sometimes give you water bottles. This is usually only from Boston TO New York, and not the other way.
- MegaBus will sometimes let you board the bus you bought a ticket for. Sometimes not. Get there early and fight like hell.
- Bolt will sometimes let you go standby for an earlier bus. If you bought a ticket, just wave that. If not, have $20 in cash.
Delay potential: So incredibly high. Traffic and weather can compound to create 7 or 8 hour trips (this has happened to me multiple times). DO NOT GET ON THE BUS IF IT IS GOING TO SNOW. Take an earlier or later bus until the storm has stopped. Otherwise you will spend 2 hours driving the 2 miles around the 90/84 interchange. And it will suck.
As you can probably tell, I hate the bus with an undying passion (but I also love holding onto my money). So I compromised and booked an Acela train ($101) for before Christmas and a Jet Blue ticket ($82, after taxes) for after. If it made sense to travel in more off-hours, I might’ve taken the bus. I don’t love that I just spent $183 bucks for services that I *could* have spent $50 bucks on (if I’d taken the bus), but I do love knowing that I’m less likely to spend 5+ hours feeling dead inside each way…