Yes I said road trip and no we don't have a car
May 3, 2010 6:03 PM   Subscribe

East Coast Road Trip!! Caveats: Medium amounts of luggage, and no car.

My friend and I are moving out to the east coast for the summer. Destinations: Philly and Pittsburgh, with start dates for work ~1 week apart. We would like to see some fun places on the east coast beforehand (places like Boston, NYC, Philly, possibly DC). We're flexible about where we go, but would like to spend up to about a week exploring before going to our respective internships.

Neither of us have a car. Renting is an option, but we're both under 25 so it gets pricey. Should we fly out and then rent a car? Which city should we fly to? Is there reasonable public transportation to certain cities? And if so, would it be navigable with a summer's worth of luggage (one big bag + miscellaneous luggage each)? Which places are more manageable and fun given our restrictions?

MeFites, you are more experienced in traveling the east coast. Specific tips, advice, and wisdom please!
posted by mokudekiru to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
posted by kthxbi at 6:22 PM on May 3, 2010

Best answer: You need a home base -- maybe even a crash pad. Bring all your crap, and leave it at your base, taking only what you need for the existing trip. If someone's going to be located in Philly, I suggest basing there, and splitting the cost of a week's sublet. Philadelphia 30th St. is a fantastic train station. You can catch the Mega Bus from Center City last I checked, and the Bolt Bus from 30th St.

It's really easy to train, bus, or even catch a ride from Philly to NYC, Boston, Atlantic City, DC, Baltimore, etc. Bolt / Mega Bus is the cheapest of all the legitimate travel options. Regional rail (NJ Transit, MTA, MARC, SEPTA, etc) can cost a little more, depending. Amtrak is more expensive than that. A car is really only worth it if you're going to be travelling outside of cities. It will be a hinderance in cities.

More information about what you like, what you want to see, what your dates are, what your budget is .. or well .. any information at all will help us answer your question.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:39 PM on May 3, 2010

Buses are great, because they are cheap. However, buses are not fun to travel on with lots of luggage. Mostly because buses between the cities you mention are usually full and very crowded.

BUT all the cities you name are connected by Amtrak (Boston --> NYC --> Philly --> DC) and the trips between then are not that long (no leg of that trip in the previous brackets is more than 4 hours). Pittsburgh is connected to Philly by a regional rail, as well.

I love the train, it is my favorite way to travel, and I love the line that runs between Boston and DC, since there is often interesting stuff to look at (less so between Philly --> DC, but Boston ---> NYC has plenty of interesting surroundings).

All of the cities you mentioned are good choices, and I really think it comes down to where you have been before, where you think you might get to again, and what your interests are. History, go to DC. Art, probably NYC (though I would still put a vote for DC!). Experiencing a big city with small town feel, Boston.
posted by CharlieSue at 6:42 PM on May 3, 2010

Response by poster: More information about what you like, what you want to see, what your dates are, what your budget is .. or well .. any information at all will help us answer your question.

Haven't been anywhere on the east coast (travel buddy has seen a bit more but not anytime recently) so normal sightseeing would be fine. Likes: good food (asian/middle eastern), live music, art, museums are good, shopping, bubble tea, cafes, exploring, parks, etc. College students so university areas are fun sometimes. Budget is a question mark, but generally trying to keep costs down (travel/lodging tend to be big expenses and we have lodging with some of her friends).

Thanks for the tips so far guys!
posted by mokudekiru at 9:36 PM on May 3, 2010

I'm planning a road trip as well and one reason I decided against taking the bus (specifically the aforementioned Megabus) to my destination is that it restricts when and where I can stop along the way. Also, I don't like putting up with strangers who have bad manners. And finally, the only schedules available for my particular departing city and destination were such that I'd either have to be leaving at 4am or arriving at either 6am or 11pm, none of which seemed great for the people who would drop me off at and pick me up from the bus stations. And yeah, lots of luggage on the bus is bad. That said, I highly recommend trying the approach to packing. I'm going to try it for my trip.

You seem to be new to the community but I'm happy to report there's at least one Mefite I will hopefully be meeting along the way. That's a great benefit of Metafilter; having friends in places you've never been to.

If you are looking for sites to see along the road, take a look at Roadside America. Road Trip America is equally as awesome and has great tips and reviews, and forums for your questions as well.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:26 PM on May 3, 2010

Not that I am part of the East Coast Bus Trip Conspiracy or anything, but the northeast corridor busses run pretty much hourly or bihourly, except for the longer distance onces which leave every 2 or 3 hours.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:45 AM on May 4, 2010

seconding megabus, boltbus, DC2NY and all the rest of them. Pick your timings wisely since you don't want to be caught on I-95 hellhole during rush hour. All the cities you mention are commuter friendly so getting around without a car should not be a problem (in fact it is recommended).

have fun !
posted by cusecase at 7:51 AM on May 4, 2010

The biggest piece of advice I can give you re: road trips is to pack as lightly as you possibly can. Really. I know you're going to an internship and thus will require work clothes but seriously, pack as lightly as you possibly can, especially because you won't have a car. Is there anyone who can ship stuff to you once you reach your final destination? I would recommend doing that instead of taking one large bag plus misc. luggage with you on the road trip. If you can get everything you need for that week to fit into a smallish backpack, that would be ideal.
posted by cooker girl at 8:01 AM on May 4, 2010

I highly recommend DC - Bolt Bus / Mega / etc come here regularly. You can get cheaper Bolt tickets by going to the Greenbelt stop and taking the metro in (it's right at the metro). Museums are free; there's tons to see, shop at, etc. However, it is horribly hot (for me) and rather expensive. Great food, especially if you're into (or have never had) Ethiopian.

I've gone to NYC about once or twice a month on Bolt for the past year, and like it. Traveling with luggage is ok (be aggressive at the luggage compartment), but not a summer's worth of luggage. You'll definitely want to drop that off in Philly first. Bolt and Mega both have free wireless; on Bolt, look around for a seat with an outlet.

You could probably occupy yourself in DC for a week (if you need suggestions, memail me). But you could very easily do Philly to DC (~3 hr? I think), then DC to Baltimore (1 hr) (haven't spent much time there but I've been assured there are things to do!) or DC to NY (4 hr) for relatively cheap (I usually get $20/ticket, even on a Friday evening trip). And, as everyone said, avoid taking the bus during rush hour; sitting on I-95 or the turnpike in traffic is nauseatingly horrible.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2010

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