Considering last minute travel from NJ/NY/PHL area to STL
December 15, 2015 9:09 PM   Subscribe

My family wants to find something semi-affordable for a last minute rush to see family in Missouri. Airfare is too expensive and seats are short. Amtrak looks about as expensive, and I'm worried about the reliability of long-haul train connections. Would buses work well for our situation, or are we better off driving ourselves even though we don't usually drive more than an hour or two? Special snowflakey details inside.

Some family in Missouri are asking us to visit for Christmas, because a family member's health may be declining.

I found a Greyhound line that travels straight from my area to Saint Louis, which sounds promising. We can get family to pick us up from Saint Louis.

I've seen previous questions on if Greyhound is "that bad." Answers seemed to converge around, "terminals can be dirty or scary, but the bus itself is okay." I also noticed a few women mentioned getting hit on.

As a 20-something man, that doesn't concern me so much, but I'm also hoping to travel with mother and similarly aged autistic sister. My sister is high functioning. She's independent and speaks well, but I'm worried about her ability to make good decisions if she were to get separated and how she'd deal with inappropriate behavior from strangers. My mom and sister would probably go everywhere together, so separation is less of a concern. I've had good experiences traveling solo on Megabus, and I've heard Greyhound's improved to compete, but I'd like to hear recent experiences and opinions.

As for driving ourselves, I don't like the idea of driving extremely far through unfamiliar areas. I'm familiar with my mom's car, I drive myself daily, and we'd drive in shifts, but I'm anxious about long-haul driving. We would rest overnight at a motel. Am I being a wimp? This probably is the case.

If you think driving or the bus are the best, please include tips. Do you have any better plans I over looked? Thanks!
posted by mccarty.tim to Travel & Transportation around Saint Louis, MO (13 answers total)
Best answer: Long haul Greyhound is an ordeal, even in the perfectly acceptable conditions you're likely to find.

Driving with shared labor, GPS and a nice rest stop is easy.
posted by MattD at 9:24 PM on December 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Greyhound is that bad. If there is more then 1 of you drive. Its 14 hours. I would spread it over 2 days.
posted by ihadapony at 9:35 PM on December 15, 2015

Response by poster: Good to hear, looks like we're driving. Thanks!
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:41 PM on December 15, 2015

If your sister experiences any sensory issues, Greyhound would probably be a nightmare-- noisy, crowded, unpleasant odors, limited ability to control temperature. Planes can have similar issues but domestic flights (even cross-country) are much shorter.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:41 PM on December 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am a big fan of Greyhound and have had only good experiences, although I have not traveled that particular route. I've met plenty of neat people and had the chance to interact with folks from all different backgrounds, which I consider a plus. Amtrak is awesome but often expensive, as you are finding yourself right now. (Tickets bought months in advance can be a bargain but surely not at this time of the year.)

However, knowing the details of your situation, I'd also recommend driving together: in some ways, long trips can feel less tedious than short trips when behind the wheel. I would chalk it up to attitude and the newness of your surroundings. As much as I love Greyhound, it is quite the sensory overload and would likely be uncomfortable, if perhaps even unbearable, for your sister.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:43 PM on December 15, 2015

You guys can drive this pretty easily I think. Last year my husband and I drove 13 hours or so to see a relative in North Carolina from New Jersey near Christmastime. We drove in shifts and spent an entire day doing that. We stayed overnight and then saw my family the next day. You can break it into two days if that's easier. Plan your route ahead of time and be sure to check the weather. Good luck!

PS feel free to message me if you have any driving-specific questions. My husband and I have also since driven across the country and that wasn't too bad either.
posted by FireFountain at 9:51 PM on December 15, 2015

Just to add this: I have not read the specific negative comments people have made about Greyhound before but I'm going to assume that much of it may be coming from people who come from a background of enough privilege that it's culture shock of sorts. Unfortunately, due to American car culture, public transportation -- especially long-haul buses -- tends to be the last option for people of means. I understand because I prefer the convenience of a personal car or quick flight but also have had positive experiences and a lot of compassion riding the bus. I've had fellow passengers help me out in a pinch, and I've seen plenty of people with disabilities riding Greyhound, too. I still think that driving will be the best option for your family but taking the Greyhound, were that your only option, would probably work out just fine.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:53 PM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

as someone on the spectrum who has done a lot of long haul grey hound routes this year (Toronto to Chicago, and across Canada) it is a sensory nightmare.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:48 PM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't find the people on Greyhound objectionable so much as the conditions of travel. Frequent delays (especially around the holidays), lost luggage, buses that are difficult to sleep in and terminals that are impossible to sleep in. You can lose time, luggage, and sleep through other means of travel, but rarely will you experience them for such an extended period as you will doing a long-haul Greyhound route.

If you have the money I would do anything else.
posted by Anonymous at 1:41 AM on December 16, 2015

You could do Megabus. Philadelphia>Atlanta>Memphis>St. Louis. That's rather grueling, but at least you won't be the one driving. You also won't need to pay for gas or motels.

Megabus looks to be a LOT better than Grayhound (cheaper too.) But if you can drive, do that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:12 AM on December 16, 2015

This could actually be a fun family bonding adventure if you plan the drive out. Break the trip up into two days. Take frequent snack and rest breaks. The weather in the Midwest is mild this year, and gas is very cheap. I'd go for it.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:29 AM on December 16, 2015

Best answer: I once drove from St. Louis to New York City, by myself. The trip is about 18 hours of driving time, and I split it into two sections. It's mostly highway--are you comfortable driving on the highway? If so, go for it. If you are AAA members, they can still make a TripTik (kind of a Google Maps directions, but on paper) and they can alert you to construction or deviations. If not, any GPS should be able to alert you to congestion and such.

Bring audiobooks or Christmas carols on CD that you can sing along to, play the alphabet game in the car. Stop every two hours at a rest stop to stretch your legs and pee, and switch drivers. Mostly, keep each other awake and alert. You can do this.
posted by Liesl at 7:42 AM on December 16, 2015

Bring audiobooks or Christmas carols on CD
I strongly second this. If you can find a book you would both be interested in, you will be amazed at how quickly the trip will go. My local library lends audiobooks for 21 days, so you have plenty of time to return it. You might want to pick up more than one, just in case.
posted by soelo at 7:49 AM on December 17, 2015

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