Two years ago, we were going on our first big road trip together. This bus trip across the USA was our honeymoon, and it lasted almost 3 months, practically the duration of what we are allowed to stay in the States without a visa. It wasn’t planned at all. Actually we started planning the first half of the trip while we were in New Jersey, and the second half while we were in Florida. It was tiring and a little crazy, but we had an amazing time and I would have never thought I’d see so much of the United States in just one trip! Two year later, we finally publish the report of this trip across the USA.
Bus travel across the USA: the numbers
22 bus rides
111 hours of bus (not counting the layover time)
$863 spent on bus tickets for 2
2 domestic flights
$563 spent in low-cost domestic flights for 2
Is it crazy to travel across the USA by bus?
A little, yes. Traveling by bus across the USA is not for everyone, but it was certainly an experience to remember. If you take day buses, you will lose days and have to pay for accommodations at night ; if you take night buses, you might not sleep and get very tired very quickly – but you’re saving on accommodations. Traveling long-distance and somewhat long-term by bus is not ideal, but I doubt we could have been to so many places for less than $450 per person.
It’s also a great way to travel when you don’t have a driving license or can’t rent a car in the States for some reason. I don’t have my license, and Simone wouldn’t have wanted to drive so many hours. And it would have cost us much more than what we spent on those bus trips. It’s also more eco-friendly than to drive a car or take a plane!
You have to be prepared, though. The toilets won’t always be decent. The wifi might not work all the time time. You might have (you will have) crappy seat neighbors who will speak loudly on the phone, eat with their mouth open, fart, listen to music without headphones, etc. You will get woken up by the multiple stops on an overnight bus. You might get hungry or thirsty because you miscalculated your reserves and needs. Bring your own toilet paper (but honestly, you should do so on any kind of trip, anyway). Bring a comfortable pillow (neck pillow at worst, real one at best), ear plugs, headphones, etc.
Itinerary of our road trip across the USA by bus
Paris, France – New York City, NY: Air France Flight || NYC – Loch Arbour, NJ – Asbury Park, NJ: Ferry | June 15
We took a flight from Paris to New York City, where we stopped to eat and go get the ferry that would take us to New Jersey, where Simone’s family lives. Then we spent almost 2 weeks relaxing in Loch Arbour and Asbury Park, taking advantage of the beach and calm moments with family.
New York City | June 27
We spent a few days in New York, where we quickly understood that Midtown was going to be a bit too much with the crowds and the heat. So we went in search of less touristy and nicer things to do. Since the accomodations were so expensive in Manhattan, we took a (not so great) airbnb in Brooklyn.
| Read more: Our favorite off the beaten path things to do in NYC
New York City – Boston: Megabus | June 30
We took a Megabus ride from NYC to Boston. It lasted a bit more than the 4:30 hours planned because there was a lot of traffic to get out of New York. It was our first Megabus ride of the trip and it went fairly well.
In Boston, we stayed at a hostel, basked in the historical vibe of the city and spent a day in Cambridge to check out Harvard University.
| Read more: Most beautiful universities in the US we’ve been to
Boston – Detroit: Flight with Spirit Airlines | July 2
From Boston to Detroit we took a low-cost flight (almost $300 per 2, pretty expensive to compare with our cheap bus rides) with Spirit Airlines, a low-cost company, and it was pretty good. The staff was great, we didn’t have any complaint!
We celebrated the 4th of July in Detroit and spent time with other members of Simone’s family, which we enjoyed a lot!
| Read more: Our Guide on Surviving Low-Cost Flights
Detroit – Chicago: Megabus | July 5
If late, the 5 hours ride with Megabus from Detroit to Chicago went fairly well too.
I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t super in love with the city, but we had a good time nonetheless. Especially since Simone had booked us a huge and super comfortable hotel room at the Marriott, where we celebrated my 26th birthday, yay!
Chicago – State College, PA – Philadelphia, PA: Megabus | July 7-8
The Megabus ride from Chicago to Philadelphia was a little bit less fun than the previous ones, because it was a night ride (we slept zilch) and we had a layover in the afternoon at State College, a town in Pennsylvania. In the end, it took us almost 24 hours to go from Chicago to Philadelphia.
BUT, it was forgotten exceptionally fast since we had an amazing time in Philadelphia. It became right away my favorite city we had visited so far. I loved everything I saw and wanted to move there right away and apply to Upenn. I could totally see us leave there.
| Read more: 3 days in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA – Pittsburgh, PA: Megabus | July 11-12
After three great days in Philly, it was pretty hard to leave but Megabus took us to Pittsburgh in a bit more than 7 hours and we arrived a bit after midnight.
The only reason we went to Pittsburgh was to go to the Guns’n’Roses live, which was an impressive and very long show.
Pittsburgh, PA – Washington DC: Megabus | July 13
The Megabus ride from Pittsburgh to Washington was pretty fast and cheap: 3 hours 40min and 12$ for two people. We were hosted in the town of Bethesda in Maryland so we took a uber to get there since it was pretty late when we arrived.
We were warmly welcomed and treated like family. However the heat in Washington DC was unbelievable, it was probably the worst heatwave I had to endure. Spending time outside just to go from museum to museum made my lungs burn. Totally insane.
For that reason we didn’t get to enjoy Washington much, but still had the opportunity to go check out Georgetown university.
| Read more: 7 most beautiful universities in the US that we visited
| Read more: A Day in Georgetown
Washington DC – Atlanta, GA: Megabus | July 16-17 || Atlanta, GA – Savannah, GA – Charleston, SC : Greyhound | July 17-18
If you wonder why we were taking Megabus that much, it’s because it was cheaper and seemed easier than Greyhound. In retrospect, we 100% preferred Megabus anyway.
We only went to Atlanta because it was on the way to go to Charleston. The 13 hours and 30 min long overnight ride from Washington to Atlanta was pretty tough, and we spent the day trying to shake off the fatigue, going to the movies and relaxing in the lounge of the gorgeous Marriott’s Hotel. We left Atlanta at the end of the day, to go from there to Charleston with Greyhound. It was one of the worst rides since the beginning of our trip. We had to stop at Savannah in the middle of the night (from around 1am to 6am), and it was impossible to get any sleep at the badly managed bus terminal (impossible to lay down, people screaming, super strong light). Since it was the second overnight bus ride in a row, we started to think that overnight bus rides were overrated…..
It took us in total more than 12 hours to go from Atlanta to Charleston, so we were not the happiest when we were told there was a problem at the hostel in Charleston, where they had basically misplaced the key to our room. However there was a restaurant with vegan options not too far so we made the most of it.
If not a haunted one, Charleston seemed like a cute town, but we didn’t stay long enough and we were too tired to really enjoy it as we could have.
Charleston, SC – Savannah, GA – Jacksonville, FL: Greyhound | July 19
Once again, going from Charleston to Jacksonville with Greyhound meant stopping by Savannah. It wasn’t such a big deal this time since it was in the afternoon, but the place was so badly managed we so more than a few people missing their bus…
However, 5 hours later we arrived in Jacksonville where a cousin of Simone’s came to get us and drive us to their house in Ponte Vedra.
Jacksonville, FL – Lake City – Gainesville, FL: Greyhound || Gainesville, FL – New Orleans, LA: Megabus | July 23-24
As you have understood, we essentially favored Megabus, and the fact that we had a big issue on that trip only strengthened our preference. The driver that should have taken us from Jacksonville to Lake City did not go to work. For almost two hours we were left in the dark, not knowing if we would make it to Lake City, where we had to take another Greyhound bus to Gainesville (there wasn’t another ride scheduled until the next day). Anyhow, another driver covered for the one who didn’t come, and we arrived pretty late in Lake City. However the bus going to Gainesville was waiting for us and we made it without more issues.
The stop in Gainesville is not the same if you ride with Greyhound or Megabus, so we had to go and find the Megabus stop – but Google Maps saved us on that one and we had time to stop and relax at a cafe before going to the Megabus stop for our overnight ride to New Orleans.
This 9 hours long overnight bus ride was pretty hard too… We arrived in New Orleans with our eyes completely glued by fatigue….. Since we couldn’t get inside our room right away, we just went to drop our luggages and roamed in the city, stoped to watch a movie in a cool cinema, and went back to the guesthouse.
We were so tired by our bus trips and by moving around that much when we reached New Orleans that we didn’t enjoy the city as much as we could have. And to top it all up, it was raining cats and dogs non stop from the second day to the end of our trip. We didn’t even have any signature cocktails in famous bars and clubs, but preferred strolling around, and discovering Uptown.
New Orleans, LA – Houston, TX: Megabus || Houston, TX – San Diego, CA: Spirit Airline Flight | July 27
We had originally planned to go to Las Vegas before reaching California. However when we finally decided to book flights, the prices were so expensive we wondered how we would even make it to California. In the end, we had to forget about Las Vegas and take a Megabus ride from New Orleans to Houston, where we took a low cost flight to San Diego…
…our favorite city in the States! San Diego was a beautiful discovery and if the accommodations weren’t so expensive we would have stayed there much longer! We loved the beaches, downtown, the atmosphere, the food…
| Read more: 2 incredible days in San Diego
San Diego, CA – Los Angeles, CA – Santa Cruz, CA: Greyhound | July 30-31
Once in California, we were once again stuck with Greyhound, even though we would have preferred traveling with Megabus… To go from San Diego to Santa Cruz, we had to first take a bus to Los Angeles, wait a few hours in at the L.A. terminal, then take an overnight ride to Santa Cruz. We arrived so early on the Sunday that we couldn’t go right away to our friend’s place. So we spent some time in a Starbucks, waiting for a more decent time to go and wake up our host.
Santa Cruz was a place where we really took the time to relax, do nothing, and eat better. We could go do groceries and cook healthier dishes, stroll along the water,… do nothing and watch Netflix.
| Have a look: Our Santa Cruz Photo Diary
Santa Cruz, CA – Sacramento, CA: Greyhound | August 5 || Northern California Road Trip: car rental
After some relaxing time in Santa Cruz, what felt like the second half of our trip started. We took a 5 hours ride with Greyhound from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, where a new friend hosted us.
We had a great time with him and some of the best moments of our trip: he had rented us a car for a few days to go on a road trip in Northern California. That was amazing, and we had the opportunity to understand how diverse the state of California is. We started from Sacramento to Yosemite NP, where we had the luck to spot a bear on our hike.
Then we drove to Yountville, a cute little town in the Napa Valley where we were hosted by a couple of friends who told us more about Californian wine and the Valley.
Then we took the car again to go north, up to Mendocino, and spend the night in a better motel than the one we had stayed in after Yosemite. The next day we took some time to explore around Mendocino, went back to Yountville, and then back to Sacramento.
| Read more: A 4 Days Road Trip to Northern California
Sacramento, CA – Oakland, CA: Greyhound | August 13
After these incredible moments in Northern California, we took a Greyhound bus to Oakland, where we were hosted by friends again. During the week, we took the time to relax, went to the movies again, explored San Francisco (not our favorite town) and checked out the university of Berkeley.
| Have a look: San Francisco Photo Journal
During the weekend, we had another little road trip, with our friends, that ended up being another one of our best moments in the US. They drove us to Lake Tahoe, where we spent a day kayaking and SUPaddling and basically having the time of our life in this breathtaking landscape. If you guys hear about a house on sale in the neighborhood, shoot us an email right away!!
Oakland, CA – Santa Cruz, CA: Greyhound | August 21
Broke and tired, we went back to Santa Cruz where our friend was leaving us his apartment since he was going away on vacations. That really saved us because once again, Santa Cruz was our safe heaven.
We watched entire seasons of tv shows on Netflix, and slept complete nights. It was rejuvenating, and we really needed it!! We didn’t only bum around though, we visited the town and went as far as to go to UCSC.
| Read more: Lazy guide to Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA – Los Angeles, CA: Greyhound | September 1
Finally, the last city of our trip: Los Angeles. I had no expectations about this city, and was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. I certainly didn’t like the $150 a night we had to pay to stay at a guesthouse in West Hollywood (one of the cheapest options and I loved the place). But man, was I wrong. Spending the day in the Greyhound bus was a fair price to pay. I L O V E D Los Angeles, and practically refused to leave. We had long walks that made us feel like we had lived there all our lives, we enjoyed the huge beaches, had amazing food and drinks, loved our time in UCLA…. It was heartbreaking to leave without the opportunity to spend more time in LA.
Los Angeles, CA – Paris, France: Air France Flight | September 4-5
So would you do the same? Are you ready to go and discover the USA by bus? For the record, we kept going on super long bus ride since a few months after that trip we went from Paris to Belfast by bus, a trip requiring to take a 9 hours bus from Paris to London, then wait for a 12+ hours overnight bus from London to Scotland, where you have to take the ferry to Belfast, and then a short bus ride to the city center. Not kidding.