What's the best inexpensive last-minute way to travel from Boston to DC?
August 29, 2010 8:10 AM   Subscribe

If you were looking to travel from Boston to Washington D.C. next week, as cheaply as possible, how would you do it?

With the fares I've found so far, I may end up having to drive. But I'm wondering if you might know of some resources for last minute travel that I'm not aware of. Bus, train, airplane -- each way suits me just fine.
posted by .kobayashi. to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Chinatown bus.
posted by paultopia at 8:14 AM on August 29, 2010

(Or Auto Driveaway. Or hitchhiking.)
posted by paultopia at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: That's what I thought, but as it turns out the Chinatown Bus doesn't go to Boston.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2010

It doesn't go directly, you can transfer in NYC.
posted by jedrek at 8:22 AM on August 29, 2010

You may have to take one of the Chinatown buses to NYC and then switch to a different bus to get down to DC. Check options on Ivy Media and Bolt.
posted by hansbrough at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2010

Bolt Bus goes from Boston to NY and then from NY to DC. You will have to walk to a different bus stop and book two different tickets.
posted by posadnitsa at 8:24 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's more than one Chinatown bus co. Fung Wah and Lucky Star both run between NYC and Boston.
posted by zippy at 8:25 AM on August 29, 2010

Fung Wah goes from Boston to NYC.
posted by ifandonlyif at 8:25 AM on August 29, 2010

Bolt Bus! They have tons of legroom plus wifi. My sister swears by it.
posted by scarnato at 8:25 AM on August 29, 2010

... andI believe you can buy a separate ticket for NYC to DC as others have pointed out above.
posted by zippy at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2010

Fung Wah Bus does. So does Megabus.

It looks like if you want to go the bus route, you'd have to buy one Boston-New York ticket and then one New York-Washington DC ticket.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: Boston and D.C. were the points A and B of my college-family home commute for five years. I've done plane, train, bus, and automobile multiple times. The end result, unless things have drastically changed, is that it all sort of evens out in the end.

A plane ticket, if you do your research and don't have to pay cab fares ends up being about the same as a train ticket, only it's incredibly faster. Unfortunately you have to go through Logan and Dulles security, the two bitchiest airports possibly on the planet. You can save considerable dime flying into BWI, especially if you've got a ride on the other end.

Trains are bucolic, and I do love Union Station, but it's a full day of train travel. Unlike planes, the ticket prices don't seem to fluctuate as much, and you can definitely get a seat even if you're buying a ticket the day before. You also aren't subjected to the indignity of airports, and packing your own food makes things much more comfortable. There are two trains that stop in different places. One is the milkrun and stops in every little town along the way, and the other is the more direct commuter rail, stopping only in maybe four cities along the way. The commuter is, of course, faster, and more expensive.

Bus takes even longer, is less comfortable than the train (and possibly less so than the plane!) but may be cheaper. I did the bus only two times before I swore I'd never go the whole jaunt that way again, so I'm not up on my prices. If you have very short legs and a large bladder, you may be well-served by investigating the non-greyhound bus lines. It is certainly possible that you may be able to hop between discount buses the whole way down. Maybe the chinatown to NYC and some tiny route between NYC and Philly and so-on until you're in D.C.? I honestly don't know, and am not sure it's worth the risk of missing the bus somewhere. (Or, as was the case with a friend of mine on the Chinatown once, the risk of the bus catching on fire and the driver blithely trucking on down the highway.)

A car will take about 10 hours or so to get down to D.C. depending on traffic. If you cut through NYC at the wrong time of day you get stuck in traffic, but if you go through the scenic mountain route it generally evens out time-wise. Gas is ridiculously expensive, but you may find it the best choice in the long run. Of course, once you get to D.C. you'll have to arrange parking, and depending on your endpoint, the cost of parking might add up to more than a plane ticket ever would be.
posted by Mizu at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2010

I used Fung Wah and Lucky Star between Boston and New York a couple of times. If you are taking it from NY, buses may not arrive on time, so be careful if your schedule is tight. From Boston, it is punctual from my experience.
posted by theTokyoGirl at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2010

Oh, and, depending on your timing, you might be able to make some kind of arrangement via Craigslist to carpool down to D.C. with someone. School is starting soon, so there may be students in need of a lift who would split gas money with you one way or another. This is notoriously unreliable but may be worth it depending on your factors.
posted by Mizu at 9:11 AM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: Lots of good ideas here. Mizu (or others familiar with the city), do you know if there's any effective public transportation into the city from Dulles, apart from cabs? The Dulles flights are still reasonable, but are less so if there's a $40 cab ride each way from the airport.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:19 AM on August 29, 2010

Your other option with Megabus is to take one bus from Boston to Philadelphia, and then Philadelphia-DC. May be cheaper.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2010

You can take the Washington Flyer bus ($10 one-way, $18 round-trip) from Dulles to West Falls Church Metro, then take Metro into the city.
posted by candyland at 9:29 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: You can compare "chinatown" bus options at http://www.busjunction.com/.
posted by flicken at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Metrobus runs to Dulles (bus 5A), but I wouldn't try it during rush hour or if you have a lot of luggage.

I can tell you the china town buses from NY to DC are fast and easy, probably preferably to flying. Not sure about Boston-NY, although I suspect it's much the same.
posted by anaelith at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2010

Best answer: If you can get a cheap flight, I second the Dulles Airport 5A bus into town. It's $6 and ends at a well-connected Metro (subway) stop, L'Enfant Plaza. I've taken in from Dulles to DC during the AM rush hour and managed with lots (for me) of luggage. I got on at the origination point outside the airport, so I had my pick of the racks near the ceiling for my enormous frame pack and laptop bag. You might be fine in rush hour.

Also, don't rule out bus transportation from BWI. The B30 Metrobus (also $6) takes you to the Greenbelt Metro Station on Metrorail's green line. You'll always be able to get your luggage on, because the line originates in Greenbelt (= empty trains). The green line is convenient to many neighborhoods in DC (Petworth, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, U Street) and continues to downtown. I take this bus all the time, as BWI flights suit my tiny budget, and I've been really happy with it.
posted by celilo at 11:39 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another public transit option from BWI (if you're traveling on a weekday) is the MARC train (Penn Line), which runs from the BWI rail station (there's a free shuttle from the airport) to Union Station in DC. It's also $6, and will get you downtown faster than the B30 and Metro, though outside of rush hour you could end up having a longer wait between MARC trains than between buses.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:44 PM on August 29, 2010

Groovy link, flicken.
posted by Rash at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2010

Megabus has $1 fares from Boston to Philadelphia on 3 different trips next Wednesday. Fares from Philadelphia to DC range from $1 to $3. $2 one way is pretty cheap.
posted by jaimystery at 1:24 PM on August 29, 2010

If you do fly into BWI, there's also an Amtrak station there -- more than the MARC, sure, but more flexible in terms of schedules.
posted by darksong at 1:38 PM on August 29, 2010

I would fly jetblue on a weekday to BWI (was recently running around $40 when bought far enough in advance, but that was more than a week ahead) and take the MARC train (again, weekday only) to union station.
posted by advil at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. A Jetblue flight to Dulles plus the bus celilo recommended made for the perfect marriage between price and convenience for me. But there were lots of great options here.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:12 PM on August 29, 2010

« Older Hi-rise apartment buildings?   |   High temperature adhesive for ceramics? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.