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Homeward Bound III: The Incredible Journey (Of Cheapskates)
December 8, 2005 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I saved a puppy from certain death. Now I need help getting home for the holidays. Is it possible and cost-effective to travel from Baltimore, MD to Kalamazoo, MI using only public transportation?

Quick summary: I found a puppy, couldn't keep her, she ended up in Animal Control, I found someone to adopt her, but it took $310 to save the puppy from being put down so she could go her new home. This leaves me with approximately $200 to work with to get myself from Baltimore to Kalamazoo, leaving around the 23rd (minus a few days is OK) and coming back around January 6th (again, plus or minus a few days). Airplane tickets are prohibitively expensive, as are Greyhound and Amtrak.

A friend's success at traveling from Baltimore to New York City using Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey public transportation has inspired me. Perhaps I could create some kind of crazy multi-state bus, subway, and light rail itinerary that would get me where I need to go, or at least to Ann Arbor where I could catch a ride. But how? Where do I begin? Has anyone had experience doing this?
posted by schroedinger to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
See if you can catch a ride on Craigslist.
posted by designbot at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2005


A Kayak.com search (no guarantee on how long the link will last) for a round-trip plane ticket from Baltimore (BWI) to Kalamazoo International (AZO) yields a United Airlines flight for $220..
posted by provolot at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2005


What kind of dog was it? I ask because I went through a similar thing with a dog in Baltimore.
posted by OmieWise at 11:49 AM on December 8, 2005


Also, the earlier you leave = the less closer it is to Christmas = the cheaper it gets. Leaving around the 20th of December will get you $190 flights.
posted by provolot at 11:51 AM on December 8, 2005


I imagine that your friend's experience is the uncommon once (since there are non-Amtrak trains running over the same track Amtrak does (with more station stops, obviously, and a short gap in Maryland/Delaware)). Once you head away from that, though, there are generally a lot fewer trains, and almost all Amtrak. As for bus routes, I don't know those as well, but Greyhound is the big interstate carrier.

I know you said Amtrak is too expensive, but it looks like you can get between Washington and Ann Arbor (with a bus from Toledo to Ann Arbor) for $106 out and around $70 back; add in the cost of getting between Baltimore and Washington and that about covers the $200.
posted by Godbert at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2005


Aaaugh, my bad, forget the link above. That was for airports near the two -- unless you can drive an hour from each destination to Harrisburg and Lansing, forget flying, I guess.
posted by provolot at 11:59 AM on December 8, 2005


I've seen quite a number of people travelling with small dogs/puppies recently with soft "gym bag"-like carriers for their pets that fit under airplane seats. I imagine you need to get permission from the airline first, but it doesn't seem to be an issue to take animals into the passanger cabin these days (it used to be). I recently got off a Calgary-Toronto flight (about 4 hours) only to realize that the person in front of me had her dog with her---I hadn't heard a peep for the entire flight! Pretty cool, really.

I imagine these carriers, which run about $30 Canadian, would be very useful for the bus or train also. I'd use it if I were riding in a stranger's car too. Animals seem to think of carriers as caves and are usually calmer in them than carried or in an open cage.

Good luck and good on you, what ever you decide.
posted by bonehead at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2005


If you take the Amtrack down to our Chinatown here in DC you can take one of the chinatown busses to NYC's chinatown for as little as $20. So $10 for Amtrack, $20 to NYC. I have no tips for you beyond that though.

Good on you for your pet rescue. I had a similarly expensive debacle with a kitten once.
posted by phearlez at 12:33 PM on December 8, 2005


Unfortunately leaving on the 20th is too early; the earliest I could make it out is the 22nd or 23rd.

The complication of the Ann Arbor ride is meeting the person I'd be hitching the ride with--she's going home after her U of M finals which end on the 22nd.
posted by schroedinger at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2005


Are you bringing the dog with you? It's not clear whether you are just short of cash because of your puppy rescue (good on you!), or that you're short of cash AND need to transport the puppy to its new home in Michigan.
posted by luneray at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2005


Don't see the utility of the Chinatown bus for this journey, phearlez. Traveling from DC towards NYC seems tangemtial for Baltimore-Kalamazoo.

I'm guessing your best bet is with Greyhound. Their site shows itineraries between Baltimore and Ann Arbor for $80, taking at a minimum 14 hours.
posted by Rash at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2005


Err, ooh, what I mean is she's leaving on the 20th. So arriving at Ann Arbor isn't an option.

bonehead, the puppy is not mine--thankfully, I don't have to worry about traveling with her. I just found her, found her a new owner, and paid the money to spring her from Animal Control. The new owner couldn't afford to pay the money right then because of the cost of the vaccines and medicine and spaying, and if she wasn't sprung immediately they'd just put her down.

OmieWise, the puppy is a pit bull. But she's a sweetheart, I swear, that's why I shelled out $310 for her even though someone else is owning her now! ]
posted by schroedinger at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2005


Small correction, Godbert about getting from DC to NYC on public transit: I live in Delaware. SEPTA trains run through the northern part of the state, so you can Amtrak to Delaware, then hop on SEPTA to Philly, and then do NJ Transit to NYC.

Your best bet may be to try to get a flight to DTW or O'Hare and then Greyhound to Kzoo; flying into major airports is often less expensive than flying into regionals.

Another bus line is Peter Pan, but I'm not sure if they operate outside the Northeast.
posted by eilatan at 12:57 PM on December 8, 2005


I could see how this would be possible on the east coast with the overlapping metro areas (i.e. you can get from Philly to Trenton on a SEPTA train and then from Trenton to NYC on a PATH train). But in this case, I don't see any way that you could avoid traveling through rural areas with no public transportation. Maybe you should give Priceline a try. You've got nothing to lose by putting in a bid, although at this time of year, it might be tough getting a flight for the price you want.

(On preview, I see eilatan covers the SEPTA part).
posted by Otis at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2005


Were driving from NYC to Northern Michigan (with a potential stop in Ann Arbor) on the 23rd. Three adults, with room for one more. However, I'd need to check with my brother and my fiancee about whether or not they're OK with having a puppy and a stranger in the car. If the dog is not housebroken or barks too much, then I doubt we can accommodate you. But maybe...email me your contact info and I'll get back to you.
posted by camworld at 1:43 PM on December 8, 2005


As funny as this is, gotta jump in here. Folks, schroedinger is not, repeat not traveling with the puppy. He prefaced his post with the puppy tale to explain why his holiday travel fund was unexpectedly depleted.
posted by rob511 at 2:04 PM on December 8, 2005


schroedinger, I'm a U of M alum and I still have access to the University's "Marketplace" website. There is a rideboard on there. Email me (in the profile) if you find a way to make it to Ann Arbor. I'd be happy to post a ride wanted ad for you. My bet is there will be tons of kids heading from school back home to Kalamazoo between the 20th and the 23rd. If you let me know and I post it early enough, chances are good you'll find your ride down I-94.
I'd suggest you use the rideboard the whole way, but your itinerary is unfortunately backwards of any Baltimore-native U of M students. Best of luck.
posted by PhatLobley at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2005


So, what you're saying is...

Schroedinger's dog is alive?
posted by armoured-ant at 3:02 PM on December 8, 2005


Maybe you can somehow leverage the puppy story.
posted by staggernation at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2005


Greyhound round-trip would be under $200 if you purchase the tickets separately (two one-way tickets) instead of round trip, oddly enough.

Greyhound usually gives a good discount for 7-day advance purchase, but apparently doesn't do this for travel on the 22nd, 23rd, or 24th of December. They DO, however, do this for January 6th. So you could get the discounted advance-purchase ticket ($65) for the return trip, and a full-price one-way ticket for the Baltimore-Kalamazoo trip on the 23rd ($112) for a total of $177. Or you could travel on the 25th (for which they sell discounted advance-purchase tickets) and pay $130 round trip.

You could also try some of the chinatown buses. This page lists one company that goes from NYC to Michigan. Greyhound would be safer. Either one will take a long, long time.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:29 PM on December 8, 2005


(And playing with the kayak.com link mentioned above, it seems that you can travel round-trip for $178 if you travel on the 25th--probably not a great way to spend Christmas morning, but perhaps nicer than spending 20 hours on a bus.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2005


Another bus line is Peter Pan, but I'm not sure if they operate outside the Northeast.

Peter Pan is a subsidiary of Greyhound that operates some of its routes - same prices (I think).
posted by cillit bang at 8:09 PM on December 8, 2005


Maybe you can somehow leverage the puppy story.

You'd certainly think that Greyhound would be sympathetic.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:38 PM on December 9, 2005


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