So, you’re in a long-distance relationship. (Or, as the ultra-hip say, an “LDR.”)
You have our sympathy.
Because, seriously, it’s tough! There’s no getting around that. Maybe your significant other moved away for work or for school. Maybe you were the one who moved. Maybe you met on vacation at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and, even though you live 500 miles apart, decided to give it a shot.
Regardless of how it came to be, the two of you share a closeness that can withstand the miles (or kilometers) between you.
No one says it’s easy to make a long-distance relationship work. Sure, you can talk every day, or even video chat, but there’s no substitute for seeing your partner in person. That said, traveling frequently can be expensive, and it takes time.
We at Wanderu are committed to making life for folks in long-distance relationships a little bit easier. Our website and mobile app already allow you to compare the fastest and cheapest travel options to your destination — by bus, train or plane — all in the same search.
To assist even more, we’ve cooked up the following seven LDR-specific travel hacks so that you can see your person on the regular without breaking the bank.
1. Flip directions to see which is cheaper.
Say you have an apartment in Washington, D.C., and your significant other resides in New York City. Typically you take turns, alternating every weekend who comes to visit the other. But that’s a pretty arbitrary system, isn’t it? You might think that tickets from city-to-city run roughly the same no matter which direction you travel, but that’s not always the case.
Using Wanderu, you can easily flip the trip direction to see which way is cheaper. Notice how in the following search, the cheapest ticket from Washington to New York on Friday, Oct. 6, costs $21.
Simply hit the arrow button to reverse the route, and look at the calendar view again. The opposite way, the cheapest ticket from New York to D.C. on the same Friday costs just $15.
Sure, $6 may not sound like much, but those incremental savings can really add up over time. You could also conduct a full search and review all the results for either direction to find even bigger savings. That equals more money in your pocket for your next date night.
2. Meet each other halfway.
If the distance between you is particularly far, or if travel between your two cities is especially expensive, consider meeting in the middle. (*Cue that Zedd song.*)
Finding a midpoint for you and your partner to convene can also bring a much-needed change of scenery to your relationship. Use it as an opportunity to explore new places together — ideally, places that are cheap and easy to get to.
To discover what destinations make the most sense, try out the Explore by Wanderu tool, which allows you to find cheap destinations from your city for any date you select. For instance, let’s say you’re a student in Boston and your boyfriend lives in New York, and you want to find a last-minute place to spend the weekend. Pick a price point and conduct two separate searches, one from each city. Find an example of one such search below:
As you can see, you may stumble upon a deal to a great in-between destination like Hartford, Connecticut, or Providence, Rhode Island.
Alternatively, do it the (kinda) old-fashioned way: Pull up Google Maps, pinpoint a potential city that seems like a good waypoint, and see whether there are good bus or train prices from your cities of origin.
3. Sign up for rewards programs.
If you or your partner are making the exact same trip over and over again, take advantage of rewards programs to earn free travel.
You’re probably familiar with the frequent flyer programs of major airlines like Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus. For every trip you take, these programs allow you to earn “miles” that can be redeemed for things like additional flights on that airline, hotels or rental cars. In some cases, you can even redeem them for perks like magazine subscriptions.
Well, airlines aren’t the only companies with loyalty programs. Amtrak Guest Rewards, for instance, allows travelers to accrue points for every train ride they take — points that can later be put toward upgrades and future discounts on Amtrak rides. (As an added bonus, you can earn Amtrak Guest Rewards points when you book on Wanderu.)
Bus companies such as Peter Pan and BoltBus have loyalty programs as well. Consider signing up, and let all those trips to see your partner start paying for themselves.
Those enrolled in rewards programs are also typically the first to hear about about sales and exclusive offers.
4. Get a travel credit card.
If you’re ready to rack up even more perks, why not sign up for a travel credit card? You can earn points just by making your usual purchases, and get other neat benefits. The CapitalOne Venture Card, for instance, will reimburse you up to $100 if you enroll in Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. That means you can breeze through security (or customs) en route to see your significant other. If you’re a frequent flyer with one airline, you could also sign up for their branded card and accumulate points to get you even closer to free travel.
Amtrak even offers their own Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard. There are two different tiers: One has no annual fee and gives you 12,000 points if you spend at least $1,000 within the first three months of signing up, and the second has a $79 annual fee and offers you 20,000 points for spending the same amount in the first three months. The card with the annual fee includes other snazzy extras, such as:
- one complimentary companion coupon per year,
- one complimentary class upgrade per year,
- and one complimentary station lounge pass upon account opening.
Other travel credit cards often operate in a similar way. They usually have a sign-up bonus if you spend a certain amount, and some have annual membership fees (although the fee may be waived for the first year).
Before signing up, make sure you read the fine print so that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Do a bit of research on a site like The Points Guy, and weigh the cost-benefit of each card. Opening a new credit card will affect your credit score, so keep that in mind before you pull the trigger on a new piece of plastic.
5. Take a risk and book in advance.
Booking tickets can be a guessing game when it comes to prices. Fares can multiply overnight without warning. However, if you already know that you’re going to visit your partner soon, and if you have a bit of date flexibility, it may be worthwhile to buy a cheap ticket months in advance — even if you don’t end up using it.
That’s an impractical strategy with plane tickets, of course. But it’s a plan that can be especially lucrative when it comes to bus travel. Companies like Megabus and BoltBus offer fares as low as $1, like in the sample screenshot below.
You can find deals on dozens of other bus tickets when you purchase early. Book ahead to snag the super-low fare, and even if something comes up and you can’t make the trip, you’re only out the cost of a couple of snacks from the vending machine.
Bonus: Booking in advance will also give you something to look forward to after your last visit ends.
6. Look for last minute deals.
If you don’t manage to score a dirt-cheap ticket in advance, then you can always be on the lookout for last-minute deals. Airlines and hotels will often drop their prices drastically to avoid empty seats and rooms. Even bus tickets can be subject to this phenomenon in cases where a route is so popular that they add a second bus at the last minute.
This is where being spontaneous really pays off. Prep a bag with a toothbrush and a change of clothes that’s ready to go at a moment’s notice. That way, if you find a last-minute steal, you can jump right on it and surprise your special someone with a visit.
7. Book your departure and return trip separate.
Because there are so many different options when you travel by bus, you can build some flexibility into your schedule by waiting to book your return home until the day-of.
For example, if you frequently go back and forth between Milwaukee and Chicago, you know there are multiple bus companies making that same trip everyday. (There are three bus carriers that make 23 trips per day between the two cities, to be exact. But who’s counting?)
Say you want to visit your significant other in Chicago for the weekend. You begin by booking your trip down to Chicago on Friday night, but hold off on that return trip. You’d originally thought about coming back Sunday morning, but end up getting a great price on matinee tickets to The Chicago Theater. Because you waited to buy, you can easily adjust your departure time and book a return ticket for the evening instead.
Being in a long-distance relationship is already a test of patience and endurance. It doesn’t need to test your budget, too. Keep these tips in mind when planning your next visit, and before you know it you’ll be in each other’s arms once again.
Just remember: Cheap travel opportunities are endless with Wanderu. Compare routes, schedules and prices on bus and train fares across the United States (and Europe!), and book your tickets on a single platform without paying a premium. Just download the Wanderu app or visit Wanderu.com to start your search.
And for even more travel hacks, review our guide on how to always score the best deal when booking bus and train trips.