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Traveling Round-Trip, NY <-> DC


DonRocks
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I'm thinking about my options of getting to/from DC/NYC - has anyone rented a car in one city, and dropped it off in the other? 

Amtrak round-trip between the two cities seems to be $88 for economy tickets, or $176 round-trip.

Renting a car one-way appears to be about $100 a day (that would be renting at one airport, and dropping it off at another - for example, renting at Reagan, and dropping off at Kennedy). That's a lot of money for a car rental, *but* if you can do what you need to do in one day, and get the car returned within 24 hours, it isn't much more expensive than taking the train.

Are there any drawbacks to this that I'm unaware of? I'd like to drop off some things in New York, so a one-way car rental, followed by taking Amtrak on the return trip, would be an ideal situation for me. 

Having never done this before, I'm wondering if there are any pitfalls that I'm unaware of (tolls, for example - I'd need to remember to bring my EZ-Pass).

Thanks in advance if you have any opinions or insight - I thought a one-way drop-off would be more expensive than this, and perhaps it is.

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8 minutes ago, DanielK said:

Is the volume of stuff so high that you can't take the bus? Round trip on the bus is $50.

Yes, and it's fragile. But I have heard great things about "the Chinatown bus," and I know there are others as well. If anyone could give some details about bus service to-and-from NYC <-> DC, we could easily support a separate thread for it. 

I assume there's no WiFi - what about restrooms?

When it comes to stuff like hotels, trains, etc., I've mostly slummed it for my entire life (*). I'm getting older now, and I'm embracing my old age - I joined AARP, and, especially with my injury, I'm going to stop living like a rat. (There's nothing wrong with living like a rat; it's just that I don't want to do it anymore!) :)

(*) As an example, when I was in my 30s, I went to Miami for a long weekend, and stayed in a $30 hotel (I ended up gathering my things at 4 AM and leaving when a cockroach crawled on my face - when I turned on the light, they were *everywhere*). For dinner earlier that evening, I had a $60 glass of Cognac. My priorities have always been completely out of whack, and I guess to a large degree, they still are.

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16 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Yes, and it's fragile. But I have heard great things about "the Chinatown bus," and I know there are others as well. If anyone could give some details about bus service to-and-from NYC <-> DC, we could easily support a separate thread for it. 

I assume there's no WiFi - what about restrooms?

There are several very good buses going up to NY - particularly slightly more upscale ones than the Chinatown buses, which do not have the most incredible safety records.  Megabus and Bolt bus leave from downtown.  I believe both have wifi (all have restrooms). If you're willing/able to leave from Bethesda,both the Tripper bus and Vamoose leave from the area. The latter, in particular, has a gold bus ($60 or so versus $35) that has three leather seats across instead of 4.  Even the regular one is good though - I took it every weekend for a couple years.  Wifi is hit or miss, but I tend to just doze off anyway, so not a big concern of mine.

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Actually, the buses do have WiFi and bathrooms. And other than busy/holiday weekends, you can often walk-up and get a seat, at around $25-$30 one-way.

Some pick up in downtown DC, some at Union Station, some in the MD/VA suburbs. Pretty much all of them drop you in midtown.

A few I'm aware of: Greyhound, Bolt (owned by Greyhound), BestBus, Hola, MegaBus, TripperBus (the one I take the most, because they pick up in Bethesda), Vamoose, Washington Deluxe.

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The tricky part about the one way rental in this situation is the return strategy.  If you're able to drop off what you need to in the city and drop the rental back at Newark Airport, then grab the Amtrak from there, this isn't as much of an issue.  But if you have to drop the car somewhere else and then cab... that adds a significant cost to the equation.  Is there a reason you couldn't rent round trip and just drive back?  This is also an area that, especially if just for one day, I'd take the full coverage from the car company in case you get dinged, scratched or a love tap.

Have you driven from here to there before?  And, are you going into Manhattan or somewhere else?  If Manhattan and you're flexible, timing the tunnel entry correctly can save you an hour+.

People roll their eyes at us all the time when we say we're driving to the city.  If its just two of us for a weekend and we're traveling light back when we lived in DC or Arlington, sure Amtrak was fine.  Ohhh the Sunday morning hangovers on the NE regional through Jersey.  But now there are strollers, car seats, pack-and-plays, etc plus an hour drive to Union Station.  Flying into the Marine Air Terminal at LGA was always a breeze, but the last few years it has gotten ridiculously expensive and there is still the luggage factor.  The car gives you control and cargo space that's hard to beat, just be careful with timing and traffic.  

 

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1 hour ago, genericeric said:

The tricky part about the one way rental in this situation is the return strategy.  If you're able to drop off what you need to in the city and drop the rental back at Newark Airport, then grab the Amtrak from there, this isn't as much of an issue.  But if you have to drop the car somewhere else and then cab... that adds a significant cost to the equation.  Is there a reason you couldn't rent round trip and just drive back?  This is also an area that, especially if just for one day, I'd take the full coverage from the car company in case you get dinged, scratched or a love tap.

Yes, the reason is that I'm flying out of JFK (although I intended for this thread to be more general than just for my specific case - *lots* of people will be reading it in the future, for lots of different travel situations) - I'm actually starting off making a delivery up around Nyack, then *might* have a meeting in Manhattan, and will end up at JFK, where I'll return the car and spend the night (at least, that's one option) - I'd Amtrak back when I return. As long as I have you on the line, what's the best way to get from JFK to Penn Station? No doubt it's the subway, but do you know which?

In general, I take out collision insurance if I rent a car for only one day (I find that if I'm going to scrape it, the scrape happens early on, when I'm not yet familiar with the size of the car) - plus, for a weekly rental, paying insurance for all seven days *really* adds up. However, today I'll be taking possession of my Brand! New! Chase! Sapphire! Reserve! Visa! (I can't recommend reading that entire thread enough, for people who dine out and travel a lot), and this credit card has primary (not just secondary, but primary) car-renter's insurance, so I don't even have to let my insurance company know I dented the car, should it ever happen.

I've switched from driving to taking Amtrak over the decades (mainly because I go solo, so the train tickets only cost me half as much), and I can use WiFi now. Thirty years ago, I'd fly; no longer! Hell, People Express used to fly from Charlotte, NC to Newark, NJ for *NINETEEN DOLLARS* - I kid you not! I'd go for three-day weekends when I was in graduate school - that's how inexpensive it was.

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19 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

As long as I have you on the line, what's the best way to get from JFK to Penn Station?

You take the JFK Air Train (Red) to Jamaica Station, then the LIRR to Penn Station. About an hour door-to-door. $5 for the Air Train, and I think about $7 for the LIRR.

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I can't imagine taking the bus to NY in any situation, even nicer options like the Sprinter Bus (http://royaltraveler.com/), although one of our board members took the sprinter from Tysons after the last Amtrak derailment and enjoyed the trip. I can't imagine that the bus (any bus) is faster than the train, even the regional. And, with heavy discounts available on the regional trains (AAA, AARP, student, etc) and 14 day advance purchases, probably not much cheaper.

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3 hours ago, Keithstg said:

I can't imagine taking the bus to NY in any situation, even nicer options like the Sprinter Bus (http://royaltraveler.com/), although one of our board members took the sprinter from Tysons after the last Amtrak derailment and enjoyed the trip. I can't imagine that the bus (any bus) is faster than the train, even the regional. And, with heavy discounts available on the regional trains (AAA, AARP, student, etc) and 14 day advance purchases, probably not much cheaper.

If you're not in DC near Union Station, the bus can be faster, depending on time of day. I took the 8 pm bus every Sunday night from Bethesda for two years and arrived in NY between 11:30 and midnight.  The regional takes either 3:25 or 3:45 and you have to get downtown so add whatever that is. Acela is 2:49, so no real time save after getting to Union Station, but runs $130-$200 versus $30 for the bus.  I did take Acela occasionally as an alternative, but usually preferred the bus.

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I took the 8pm Acela almost every Sunday for a year and a half - it was generally on time and I was in my hotel room by 11:30, same time that the bus (might) have been arriving at wherever the bus arrives - port authority or canal street? I'd gladly pay $100 for an additional hour late on a Sunday night when all is said and done - that is a significant time save.  That said, didn't think about the difference between getting to Union Station and to a garage in Tysons or Bethesda. Definitely some food for thought on bus re: regional train.

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On August 29, 2016 at 9:53 AM, DanielK said:

You take the JFK Air Train (Red) to Jamaica Station, then the LIRR to Penn Station. About an hour door-to-door. $5 for the Air Train, and I think about $7 for the LIRR.

Listen to this advice.  Too many people that I've known have taken the other JFK Air Train to the A train to Penn Station, since it seems like the best "public transportation" option.  It takes forever and wends thru Queens, then Brooklyn, then into lower Manhattan before getting to Penn Station.  It saves you just over $4 from the LIRR, which zips from Jamaica right to Penn Station.

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On 8/29/2016 at 9:32 AM, DonRocks said:

I'm actually starting off making a delivery up around Nyack, then *might* have a meeting in Manhattan, and will end up at JFK, where I'll return the car and spend the night (at least, that's one option) - I'd Amtrak back when I return.

Consider genericeric's suggestion to return the rental at EWR (possibly renting a hotel room there) and boarding Acela or the Northeast Regional in Newark. Using public transport or uber/taxi between EWR and Newark's Penn Station might be easier than connecting JFK and NYC's Penn Station. Take AirTrain from EWR to Newark Penn Station if you're staying at the airport hotel. Or have the Hilton Newark Penn Station pick you up from EWR then walk to the train station the next morning.

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On 8/29/2016 at 8:42 AM, genericeric said:

The tricky part about the one way rental in this situation is the return strategy.  If you're able to drop off what you need to in the city and drop the rental back at Newark Airport, then grab the Amtrak from there, this isn't as much of an issue.  

On 8/30/2016 at 0:32 PM, Gary Tanigawa said:

Consider genericeric's suggestion to return the rental at EWR (possibly renting a hotel room there) and boarding Acela or the Northeast Regional in Newark. 

I apologize for not making this more clear. I'm considering renting in DC, driving to NYC, returning at JFK, flying out of JFK, coming back to JFK, and only then will I need Amtrak to get home - hence, my question about getting from JFK to Penn Station. 

But your answers will benefit a lot of other people, so thank you for having taken the time to write them!

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56 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

I apologize for not making this more clear. I'm considering renting in DC, driving to NYC, returning at JFK, flying out of JFK, coming back to JFK, and only then will I need Amtrak to get home - hence, my question about getting from JFK to Penn Station. 

You can get an UberPOOL from JFK to Penn Station for $35, for a "limited time," however long that lasts..

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On 8/28/2016 at 4:49 PM, zgast said:

There are several very good buses going up to NY - particularly slightly more upscale ones than the Chinatown buses, which do not have the most incredible safety records.  Megabus and Bolt bus leave from downtown.  I believe both have wifi (all have restrooms). If you're willing/able to leave from Bethesda,both the Tripper bus and Vamoose leave from the area. The latter, in particular, has a gold bus ($60 or so versus $35) that has three leather seats across instead of 4.  Even the regular one is good though - I took it every weekend for a couple years.  Wifi is hit or miss, but I tend to just doze off anyway, so not a big concern of mine.

On 8/28/2016 at 4:51 PM, DanielK said:

Actually, the buses do have WiFi and bathrooms. And other than busy/holiday weekends, you can often walk-up and get a seat, at around $25-$30 one-way.

Some pick up in downtown DC, some at Union Station, some in the MD/VA suburbs. Pretty much all of them drop you in midtown.

A few I'm aware of: Greyhound, Bolt (owned by Greyhound), BestBus, Hola, MegaBus, TripperBus (the one I take the most, because they pick up in Bethesda), Vamoose, Washington Deluxe.

On 8/29/2016 at 8:46 PM, zgast said:

If you're not in DC near Union Station, the bus can be faster, depending on time of day. I took the 8 pm bus every Sunday night from Bethesda for two years and arrived in NY between 11:30 and midnight.  The regional takes either 3:25 or 3:45 and you have to get downtown so add whatever that is. Acela is 2:49, so no real time save after getting to Union Station, but runs $130-$200 versus $30 for the bus.  I did take Acela occasionally as an alternative, but usually preferred the bus.

I've never ridden a DC <-> NY bus before, but you all have me seriously thinking about Go To Bus, which leaves from Rosslyn, and arrives near Penn Station - it takes an hour longer, but it's $27 vs. $162, which is the least-expensive Amtrak ticket I can find when I want to go. Are you crammed into these buses like sardines? And if not, is the WiFi reliable? If this is even a halfway-pleasant mode of travel, it'll work better for me - especially given that I can get to Rosslyn much more easily than I can to Union Station.

On buses, I've experienced the entire gamut, from hot, sweaty, cramped, hell-on-earth nightmares (one in Russia was particularly evil), to modern, comfortable, climate-controlled, just-as-nice-as-a-train transportation.

So I guess my five questions are:

1) Reasonably pleasant seating? Are they bench seats, or bucket seats?

2) Temperature comfortable? Decent air circulation?

3) WiFi halfway reliable?

4) Luggage okay?

5) Arrives close to on-time?

5 1/2 hours is a long time on a bus, but if I can work, then it's not long at all - many thanks for these recommendations. I don't mind spending money, but I detest *wasting* money, and I think taking the train might be a waste of money in this situation. Quite honestly, if the bus is as nice as I'm hoping it might be, I'm going to start going to New York and Philadelphia a lot more often. "The Walking Dead Diet" ends tomorrow, and by damn we're going to get these forums going if I have to do it all myself. 

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It's not really an hour longer, because you have to drive to Union Station, park, etc.

They're reasonably comfortable seats - I think comfort and space-wise comparable to the Amtrak regional. The WiFi isn't good enough to stream a movie, but fine for surfing. Even when I was taking the Acela, though, I usually stuck with 4G.

It might be a different calculus  if it were just me, but when I take the kids and buy 3-4 tickets, the bus is a no-brainer.

1. Bucket

2. Yes

3. Varies.

4. Yes

5. Yes, though unlike Amtrak, you are of course at the mercy of 95 corridor traffic. But it's left right on time every time I've taken it, even in rain/snow.

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I really appreciate everyone's responses, and have one more question. The website says you're supposed to arrive 30 minutes prior to departure. If you have a bus leaving at noon, do you just have Uber drop you off at 11:30, and walk onto the bus with your e-ticket on your mobile phone? With someone outside stowing your luggage underneath? I assume this isn't much different from Amtrak, other than that you're out in the middle of the street instead of in a train station.

This is probably a banal question that I wouldn't even ask if others wouldn't benefit in the future from your responses - plus, I'd rather look ignorant than make a costly mistake.

I can honestly say I haven't taken a multi-hour bus trip in decades, although there was one particularly grizzly experience in Russia on a hot, rickety, jam-packed, death-trap-of-a-bus which included a poor gentleman (who was actually a physician from Bethesda, and could potentially read this). He had eaten some tainted caviar beforehand. Every single person on that bus genuinely pitied this poor soul with all their hearts (he was perfectly fine after the worst two hours of his life), while also being unable to flee from an unspeakably foul stench - all the suffering man had available was a tiny little plastic sandwich bag, when I suspect he would have *gladly* paid $10,000 for a 30-gallon trash bag. :blink:

If you're out there, my friend, I'm sorry you had to go through that ordeal. Everyone was delighted to see you in good spirits, treating the whole incident with amazingly upbeat humor on the return trip. I'll bet you haven't had caviar since.

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yeah when i have taken the bolt bus that's just what you do, Don - you arrive at the stated intersection before the departure time, see the bus and the few people already in line, you give your "checked" bag to somebody who puts it underneath, and you grab a seat.  easy as pie.  worst case scenario is that the wifi isn't working and the traffic is bad, but that worst case scenario is not the worst day.  bring a book just in case.  plus, they used to have pirated first-run movies and you'd all take a vote on which one to see.  not sure if that's still true.

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Both the Tripper and Bolt websites state that they only guarantee your reservation until 15 minutes before departure.

Tripper says it may offer your seat to a standby passenger at that time.

Quote

Passengers should arrive at least 15 minutes before departure time. Reservations are not guaranteed beyond that time and your seat may be offered to standby passengers. When you are late you lose your seat and the funds you used to purchase the seat.

Bolt says it will release your seat to standby passengers at 5 minutes before departure.

Quote

Buying tickets online - You can purchase tickets online at www.boltbus.com until 30 minutes before departure (for example, we would stop selling the 3pm schedule at 2:30 pm). After purchase, you will receive an email confirmation that also serves as your boarding pass and a receipt for your purchase. We don’t oversell our schedules so this boarding pass will guarantee you a seat on your ticketed schedule provided you arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time to claim your seat. At 5 minutes prior to departure, any unclaimed seats are released to walk-up and standby passengers.

 

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I would not plan on doing any work on WIFI.  I generally find it fairly poor quality and when you get into NJ you loose your personal Cell Data as well at times.  The bus quality depends on the network and how overloaded the bus users make the connection. 

One benefit of arriving early is a better seat selection.  Most buses do not have reserved seats so people line up in advance and board based on their position inline.  So if you arrive early you are more likely to get your preferred window or isle seat and be near the front of the bus farther away from the bathroom.

I've not taken MegaBus recently but I've read that they now offer prepaid seat locations.

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To update I have travelled to Northern Jersey/NYC many times by car, train, bus.  If I don’t feel like driving, the bus is remarkably more value laden than the train.   Tremendous price difference, far easier to board, far easier for access from the burbs.

Not as comfortable, but comfortable enough and the difference is worth the price.  Considering door to door travel it might be as fast as the train considering g where you live.    

On the bus I’ve found a number of folks that take advantage of lower prices and suburban locations to take one day trips to NYC, see a show, stay over one night, dine.

Now that is a great idea. 

Boy oh boy though.   I need to re read about dining near Penn Starion.

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1 hour ago, DaveO said:

On the bus I’ve found a number of folks that take advantage of lower prices and suburban locations to take one day trips to NYC, see a show, stay over one night, dine.

Now that is a great idea. 

And it's so much fun using the restroom, too!

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39 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

And it's so much fun using the restroom, too!

In all seriousness, and I’m sure multiple trip users would agree,  use a restroom before you leave.  It’s usable on the bus but far from optimal.   For a price difference that is ordinarily +$100 to +$150 less than the train/per trip it is well worth it especially for those that travel often

It does make Broadway and other features more accessible than I previously thought

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21 hours ago, DaveO said:

In all seriousness, and I’m sure multiple trip users would agree,  use a restroom before you leave.  It’s usable on the bus but far from optimal.   For a price difference that is ordinarily +$100 to +$150 less than the train/per trip it is well worth it especially for those that travel often

It does make Broadway and other features more accessible than I previously thought

I took the BestBus last year. Its the "expensive one", $30. Their gimmick is they give you a free bottle of water when boarding. They drop you a block from Penn Station. In my case, they dropped us right in the middle of a crowd of ComicCon people- blue and pink people. It occurred to me, being from New York, that this was not out of the ordinary for the city. I thought about tourists from the Midwest coming to Manhattan for the first time and their reaction to this craziness. 

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4 hours ago, Mark Slater said:

I took the BestBus last year. Its the "expensive one", $30. Their gimmick is they give you a free bottle of water when boarding. They drop you a block from Penn Station. In my case, they dropped us right in the middle of a crowd of ComicCon people- blue and pink people. It occurred to me, being from New York, that this was not out of the ordinary for the city. I thought about tourists from the Midwest coming to Manhattan for the first time and their reaction to this craziness. 

I've taken the bus a fair amt in the last few years.  Many of the trips are on short notice.  Driving tires me out and some of the trips are going up and down in a day or two.  I've taken the buses from a range of $30-75/trip I think, some with volume discounts.  So much less expensive than the train when having to arrange things on short notice.  Its just not bad and the price differential between that and the train is enormous.   Either all or almost all the buses drop you off near Penn Station/MSG.

As to the craziness in the city.....I miss it at times.

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4 hours ago, DaveO said:

I've taken the bus a fair amt in the last few years.  Many of the trips are on short notice.  Driving tires me out and some of the trips are going up and down in a day or two.  I've taken the buses from a range of $30-75/trip I think, some with volume discounts.  So much less expensive than the train when having to arrange things on short notice.  Its just not bad and the price differential between that and the train is enormous.   Either all or almost all the buses drop you off near Penn Station/MSG.

As to the craziness in the city.....I miss it at times.

The bus is a good value and I have never had a bad experience. I hear you about hating the long drives. 

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The bus is terrible if you are arriving any time where there may be a backup at the tunnels though. I was in a long distance relationship DC-NYC for several years and getting into NYC between 3-8 on a Friday on the bus was torture. It added 2 hours to the trip. I sucked it up and took the train usually. Got a bottle of wine and some cheese and made it a party. Arrived pleasantly buzzed and in time for a late dinner. 

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54 minutes ago, Rieux said:

The bus is terrible if you are arriving any time where there may be a backup at the tunnels though. I was in a long distance relationship DC-NYC for several years and getting into NYC between 3-8 on a Friday on the bus was torture. It added 2 hours to the trip. I sucked it up and took the train usually. Got a bottle of wine and some cheese and made it a party. Arrived pleasantly buzzed and in time for a late dinner. 

Love it. 

It is true that if traffic is backed up around the Lincoln Tunnel it can add a lot of time to a trip.  

Hmmm.  I had a long distance relationship in NYC.  Used to drive up most of the time.  Finding a parking space could take 10 minutes or an hour....plus it is frustrating as hell.  Next morning had to get up early b/c of alternate side of the street parking.   Drive around for up to another hour sometimes to find another space, or be very early and very lucky and grab a space ASAP.   Also used to have late dinners on a Friday--small spaces, tight quarters, but I recall the food, liquor and especially the company were pretty good---for a while.  ;)

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I'm guessing that none of you advocating for the bus are 6'3".  If you are, it sucks. And you can get a ticket for the train, the last humane mode of transportation, for $50 if you plan at least a month in advance.  That said, if I have to get to DC on very short notice, I often drive or take the bus. But I definitely prefer the train, even at the non-discounted rate of about $130 (it jumps up to like $300 if you book right before the trip, which is ridiculous).  And if I'm not paying, I take the Acela.  Flying has always struck me as kinda stupid, but I'll probably try it eventually. 

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14 hours ago, RWBooneJr said:

I'm guessing that none of you advocating for the bus are 6'3".  If you are, it sucks. And you can get a ticket for the train, the last humane mode of transportation, for $50 if you plan at least a month in advance.  That said, if I have to get to DC on very short notice, I often drive or take the bus. But I definitely prefer the train, even at the non-discounted rate of about $130 (it jumps up to like $300 if you book right before the trip, which is ridiculous).  And if I'm not paying, I take the Acela.  Flying has always struck me as kinda stupid, but I'll probably try it eventually. 

Flying is pointless. There have been at least two occasions where a ground hold was announced for a Delta shuttle flight I was on, and I was able to get off the plane, get to union station, get on a train and STILL beat the flight.

Budget travel aside, the train is absolutely the way to go.

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