How to Always Score the Best Deal When Booking Bus & Train Trips

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Unless you’re Scrooge McDuck and swan-dive into a pool of gold coins every morning, cost is likely a major consideration for you when it comes to booking travel. As it should be. The price of a ticket plays a primary factor in where you choose to go and when. Saving $10 on Amtrak or Greyhound is cash you can reallocate toward an AirBnB, a meal, or a ticket to a Shawn Mendes concert (cuz he can treat 🎶 you 🎶 better 🎶). Quite literally, it pays to be smart with your money. Wanderu is designed to help you sift for the best deals on bus and train tickets. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to compare prices from different carriers between cities, all in one simple search. But even when you’re using a booking platform as simple and easy as Wanderu, the best way to snag a deal isn’t always evident at first glance. Which is why we wanted to draw your attention to a few little Wanderu tricks you may have missed that are certain to help you find a better price on your next bus or train trip. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill “book way in advance” sort of tips. That advice is timeless and true, but is also pretty much common knowledge at this point. Instead, for this list we identified seven lesser-known, Wanderu–specific hacks to help you save 💰💰💰. So put away that hammer — there’s no need to smash the piggy bank. Score cheaper tickets with the insider info below.

1. Check Out Calendar View

From the homepage at Wanderu.com, the inclination is to type your place of origin into the “From” field, type your destination into the “To” field, pick a “Departure” date and hit the magnifying-glass button to start your search. Well all that’s fine and dandy, but if you have a little flexibility in your schedule, there’s actually a shortcut to find the best day to travel. When you click on the “Departure” date, you’ll notice a small calendar pop up that shows the different days you can select. It’s easy to breeze right over this while looking for your desired date, but notice that some days have a price listed: This screenshot shows an example of the Wanderu Calendar View. Each box shows the current cheapest price for a ticket on that given day. Even more helpful, the very cheapest prices are shown in bright blue, making it easier to see which day of the week has the best deal. So, for example, if you’re able to leave for New York on Thursday instead of Friday, then you’ll be able to secure some savings. (Better yet, you’ll have an extra day to wait in line for a shot at discount “Harry Potter & the Cursed Child” tickets.) Note: For some less-popular routes, the cheapest price may not actually appear in Calendar View. So this particular trick won’t work, say, for your trip to Iowa City from Fort Wayne. But you can still search a specific date to see the available routes, and filter by “Cheapest” to find low-priced tickets.

2. Book to Nearby Stations

The shortest distance between two points is a line. But sometimes the cheapest route between two cities is through Secaucus, New Jersey. Buses and trains between large cities in the same region are often more expensive than those between small cities. That’s because these big-time routes tend to be more popular, and higher demand drives a higher price. (Yay, capitalism! 😭) So sometimes the best way to save money on a trip is by booking your ticket to a stop or station that’s nearby or just outside of your final destination. From there, you can use public transit the rest of the way, take a Lyft or text a friend to pick you up. To have nearby locations appear in your results on Wanderu, make sure the “Include Nearby Locations” filter is turned on when you search: This screenshot highlights the Include Nearby Stations filter. Mixed into your search results, you’ll then find options that depart from a nearby location, arrive into a nearby location, or both. For example, tickets are often spendy from New York City to Boston because it’s such a popular route. But with “Include Nearby Locations” switched on, you’ll be able to select trips like this one from New York to Cambridge, which is cheaper than the other listed routes: Cambridge is just north of Boston across the Charles River, and is easily accessible to downtown via the T, yet has cheaper ticket prices because it’s just slightly out of the way.

3. Take a Multi-Carrier Trip

As the band Boys Like Girls sang in 2009, “Two Is Better Than One.” Wanderu has the exclusive ability to combine travel options from two different bus carriers into a single trip, allowing you to a) travel to destinations for which there’s no direct service from your location, and b) find better prices on routes for which a direct bus may be more expensive. There’s no special filter you have to enable for these combo-routes to show up in your search results. Simply keep an eye out for options that list “Multiple Carriers,” like this one from Concord, New Hampshire to New York City: Clicking on the bus icon in the bottom right-hand corner expands a full description of the itinerary: This screenshot shows a detailed breakdown of a Multiple Carrier trip itinerary. As you can see, this particular route combines a Concord Coach Lines ride from Concord to Boston with a Megabus ride from Boston to New York — at a price significantly cheaper than a direct bus or train from Concord to New York.

4. Combine Bus & Train

Follow in the steps of Steve Martin and John Candy in the classic comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles (though, hopefully, with fewer obstacles preventing you from getting home for Thanksgiving) by combining bus and train travel for a better deal to your destination. This capability allows us to potentially build more budget-friendly trips than if you were to take a train the entire way. Even better, it gives you the opportunity to sing both “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Conjunction Junction” on the same journey. 🎤 To include these linked bus and train routes in your search results, make sure that the “Mixed-Mode” filter is checked on the left-hand side of the page: This is a screenshot of where to find the Multi-Modal filter. Then identify the routes by looking for those that include a bus and train icon together in the lower right-hand corner: Screenshot of where to look for Mixed Modes. Expanded, the full itinerary shows further details for each leg of the trip, including where you’ll transfer: This screenshot shows a detailed breakdown of a route serviced by multiple carriers.

5. Find More Convenient Stations

Time is money. Money is also money. Save both by being more strategic in which station you choose to depart from or arrive into. Say you live in the Bronx and are planning a trip to Boston. The surge price of an Uber to Manhattan, where most buses depart from, could cost you your firstborn child. Lugging your suitcase between boroughs on the subway also sucks. The solution: Find a closer station. And that’s where our “Stations” filter comes in handy. Located along the left-hand side of the Wanderu search page, you can narrow your results to specific “Departure” stations closer to your point of origin, or “Arrival” stations near your final destination: This screenshot shows where to find the Stations filter. To save you the extra time of looking up each individual address, simply click the “Map” pin next to each station name to see where it’s located in Google Maps: From there, you can click the “View Location” link to open the map up in a separate browser tab. Bonus: This feature is also super helpful if you’re flying out of a different city than the one you live in. (For instance, if you found tickets to France were way cheaper out of Boston than New York, using the “Stations” filter you could narrow your results to only show buses that go directly to the airport.) That trick doesn’t necessarily get you a deal on bus or train tickets, but knowing how easy it is to fly out of a distant airport could potentially save you buckets of dough on airfare. (And if you do decide to go to Europe, we have you covered there as well. Like in this itinerary, where we found 10 gorgeous cities in France you can travel to for less than $150 by bus.)

6. Know How to Find $1 Tickets

Hardly anything costs a dollar anymore. Hell, even McDonald’s “Dollar Menu” has been rebranded as the “$1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu.” Know what bucks (👀) that trend? Bus tickets from Megabus and BoltBus. For Megabus, on designated routes, the very first ticket purchased costs only $1. Once that initial ticket is gone, prices jump to $5. As you might expect, the best way to ensure you are the winner of that golden ticket is to book tickets wayyy ahead of time. Like a month or more. Check out how many $1 tickets are available in June for a trip from Philadelphia to New York City if you search in May: This screenshot shows an example of how to find $1 tickets. Even if you’re still wishy-washy about dates, why not go ahead and buy? Worst case scenario you’re out $1. Or if you’re deciding between weekends, just buy tickets for both—you’ll still save by booking before prices start to rise. (Learn about more ways to score $1 Megabus tickets in this extended guide.) For BoltBus, finding $1 tickets is less of an exact science. As stated on the BoltBus website: Every schedule will have at least one $1.00 ticket. The $1.00 ticket will be sold at random and generally within the first handful of seats sold. The earlier you book your ticket, the greater your odds are of grabbing a seat for a buck.” To hunt for these tickets, refer to a trick the we covered at the very beginning of this article — use the Calendar View to flip a month or two ahead and try to spot any dates marked “$1.”  

7. Use the Explore Search Tool

There was a time when intrepid travelers could spin a globe and stop it with a finger to decide where to go next. Nowadays, that’s not always financially feasible. (Hello, student loan debt! 💸) However, we’ve developed a feature that provides you with suggestions of new and exciting places to travel — but on the cheap! Explore by Wanderu is simple to use: just input a place of origin, the day you want to leave, select your budget (e.g., “Under $10) and hit “Let’s Wanderu!” This screenshot shows the Wanderu Explore Tool. From there, we’ll spin up an assortment of potential getaways that fit your schedule and budget. For instance, if you were to enter… This screenshot shows an example of fields filled out in the Explore Tool. …then you’d be served the following: The price listed is the cheapest for that particular date, as of the time of your search. For a more detailed tutorial on how to use the Explore Tool to your advantage, check out our full guide. Budgeting for travel is anything but predictable. Ticket prices fluctuate. Your heavy suitcase could incur a fee. Your bar tab for one round of shots ends up pushing $100. But by applying these booking hacks on Wanderu, you can counter at least some of that uncertainty by finding great deals on bus and train travel. 

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About the author
Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss has danced on tables at Oktoberfest and petted alpacas in the Andes. He prefers to eat at restaurants where the menu is in a language he can’t understand, and likes bars where the lighting is dim and the drafts are cheap. His writing has been published by Condé Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, New York, Outside, Atlas Obscura, Playboy and other fine venues.
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