Cheapest way to get someone across the country?
September 25, 2010 1:45 PM   Subscribe

We have a friend who, through a series of bad decisions, ended up stranded in Florida with no income stream. We're trying to help her figure out the cheapest way to move within a month.

Good news: She has family in California that can give her a place to stay while she gets back on her feet.

Bad news: her family is dirt poor and can't help her buy a bus/plane ticket.

This girl's about a month away from being homeless, so we're trying to find a way to get her across the country that's within her (very meager) price range. My current assumption is that buying a Greyhound bus ticket online is the most economical solution to a "you and the clothes on your back" move -- I've found web fares that are ~$200 per person if you buy them a month in advance.
I don't think we're going to find anything cheaper, but I wanted to consult the hive mind to see if there was something we were overlooking ("buy plane tickets on Tuesdays," or something).

We're in a different state and are on a tight budget, so we're not in a position to do much "in-person" helping, nor are we able to fund the trip (although we're planning on pitching in).
posted by ®@ to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Where in Florida? If she is in Miami, advice will be significantly different than if she is in the panhandle.
posted by gatorae at 1:51 PM on September 25, 2010

Have you tried something like's "name your own price" for flights? There are websites that can give you good ideas of bidding strategy and bids that are likely to be accepted, but on most flights, you can save at least 25% this way. Good luck!
posted by decathecting at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may have luck with ITA's airfare search, which can show you a month's worth of ticket prices to pick out the cheapest one-way ticket (the lowest prices are shown as orange.) Purely as an example, a search from Jacksonville, FL to Sacramento, CA shows me 7 days in October with a $153.90 fare available. You'd have to buy the actual ticket elsewhere (generally I buy through the airline's site or see if there's any cashback deals with Expedia or whoever) but it's a nice overview. Good luck to you.
posted by sysinfo at 1:58 PM on September 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Look for a rideshare across the country on craigslist. Offer to do a lot of the driving (if that is an option) and say you can't offer much in the way of cash. You might be suprised what she is able to find!

And carefully vet possible rides, but there are lots of excellant riders using rideshare (I do, every week!). As another woman who occasionally is alone for large stretches of time with riders, I have a simple, easy trick. When I meet someone who seems even slightly sketchy, before they even get into the car I smilingly ask for a driver's license. Say, "I'm sorry, my Mom/boyfriend/girlfriend insists I do this every time I do a rideshare." Hold out your license. Without fail, the people pull out ID and are happy to wait while I call X and say, "Oh hi! Yes, I'm here with ______, the guy I'm riding to California. I'll call you sometime tonight, but here's his Florida Driver's license number: _______."
posted by arnicae at 1:58 PM on September 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

California and Florida are huge states. Which cities? You're asking people for advice about a desperate situation -- the more details the better. You never know when someone might have a great idea based on knowing the details.
posted by John Cohen at 1:59 PM on September 25, 2010

By the time she buys food on a long bus trip, a pricelined airfare (even if it's a bit more expensive) may work out better in the long run. Good luck to her.
posted by cyndigo at 2:24 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to finding a cheap way to move cross-country - if possible, can she kill two birds with one stone and sell off as much stuff she can part with? Even if she only raises $25 or so, it might go a long way towards an economy-class bus or plane ticket. And it sounds like she won't be able to bring a lot with her.

Good luck to your friend and hope things are different for her in CA.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: Modest Needs was established precisely to fill this kind of need.
posted by availablelight at 2:52 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Driveaway car, if she looks good on paper. Here's one company, to show what I'm talking about. She would have to pay for gas, meals, and lodging (or sleep in the car, I suppose). Since she'd have her own car she could go to grocery stores instead of the fast food places Greyhound stops at.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Southwest airlines has some really good deals for non-refundable airfare. I found some stuff only a few weeks in advance from my city, not too far from FL, to California. I think it was 108 dollars. It looks like they offer a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego for 129 on the 4th of October, with various other dates also having some really low prices. That might be better than greyhound even if she has to spend some money to get to that airport, because as others have pointed out, she wouldn't have to buy food. I'd definitely see if southwest is an option.

It definitely depends on where in the state she is, and if she has the means to get to an airport and so on.
posted by ZeroDivides at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: All really good answers, thanks! I'd factored gas into the cost of this trip, but not food. Along with the cheap prices some of you unearthed, it looks like planes are definitely the winners.

We'd considered ride-sharing in a fashion -- we're actually moving to LA in a year, so were thinking of scooping her up "along the way" -- but the timing just doesn't work.

Modest Needs is a really wonderful site and I'm glad it exists, I'll keep it in mind next time I have some money budgeted for charity.
posted by ®@ at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2010

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