Allow me to preface this by clarifying that if I did have a car, I would not have the pleasure of writing this article right now. However, I don’t which means that the Redcoach bus is the simplest way for me to get home, which I am thankful for. Even if my most recent trip home felt like the most dangerous bus driver I have ever had in my life. But that is neither here nor there. So, obviously, this is not an advertisement for Redcoach. Although, anyone who has ridden with Redcoach before is likely familiar with the drawbacks that come along with it. There are many ways that you could be making these trips a little more bearable.
1. Get to the stop early
They’re never exactly consistent with the time they arrive at your stop. Sometimes the driver is experienced or the traffic was good so they are able to make it there early and be gone by the time they said on the ticket. Other times, the driver arrives at the expected time on the dot and is still there 15 minutes after boarding everyone. The bad part about this is that you can never be sure about which one it will be, making it hard for people to be sure about when to arrive. Due to missing the bus and going through the trouble of getting a new ticket, I choose to arrive 30 minutes early to ensure that if they arrive early, I can be ready for them. This may be a little bit of a pain to arrive early to these stops, especially if they are late instead of early. However, if you miss the bus one time, you may end up traumatized like me, making you early to every bus stop since then.
2. Plan for a delay
Due to traffic and the time, it makes loading and unloading people at each stop can cause a delay in arrival. I have never had a bus arrive on time to my destination, it has always been at least one hour late. If you have someone coming to pick you up from the bus stop or an important event to be at that day, plan for the delay to be an hour to two hours so that you are not missing anything and can plan accordingly. Plus, if you are traveling to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, early delays make for the long delays later in the trip, which tends to be in these two cities.
3. Finding the cheapest tickets
Tickets can be found for the best prices around Monday through Thursday and are cheapest in the early morning or late at night. Being that this is when we have classes, it’s hard to plan around these and get the right times. If you do have to travel on the weekends, try to get an early morning or late bus ride because these are still less popular on the weekends. Also, I’m sure you have noticed that each time on the dates you have chosen has three different prices. It is probably tempting to pay for the least expensive and be done. Where the difference in these prices matter is with the refund process. Web fare allows for a 50% refund, the standard fare will give you a 70% refund, and the flexible fare is a 100% refund. This may or may not matter for you depending on if you are unsure or plan on possibly canceling your trip. If you do cancel, it has to be before 3 hours before the time of the ride.
4. When not to travel
A small anecdote for you: I was traveling back for Thanksgiving my first year taking the Redcoach. To give you perspective, I go from Orlando to Tallahassee, a simple 4 hour to 4 1/2 hour drive. That Sunday it was after Thanksgiving and I was supposed to be at the station by noon. When I got there, I was notified that my bus was going to have a two-hour delay. Which turned into a three-hour delay. The traffic was terrible at this time with people driving back home after the holiday breaks. I was home by 10pm. This was about double what the trip would have been, leading me to begin creating a list of days and times not to travel. I do not recommend traveling the Sunday after Thanksgiving, during midday when traffic could be at an all-time high, or when you will be driving through larger cities at peak times, or in the days leading up to following a holiday. If this is unavoidable, refer to the times above for what times of day to travel.
5. What to bring
Redcoach allows for two bags and a carryon, but doing what is recommended is not always easiest in the case of taking a bus. If you are going to be traveling for a long period of time, then do utilize two bags, but this is slightly harder to travel with on these buses. For your carryon, make this a backpack or large purse for ease of storing, not all buses have overhead storage, so you may end up carrying it to your seat, which is not as spacious. Other items to bring in your carryon that you will want to access on the bus is a blanket (the buses tend to be colder), light snacks (like fruits and nuts), water, and a laptop or other activity to keep you busy. I find that it is best to do my homework on the bus before reaching my destination, but I just have an excessive amount and this may not be an immediate need for you.
6. Switching buses
Switching buses occurs most often in Orlando when the trip tends to be about 5 hours in. In order to give the driver a break, allow people to stand, and possibly to allow for maintenance on the bus, they will ask for everyone to unload. During this time, you may be able to get snacks and water from vending machines at the station. You can also use the restroom and stand for a moment. They will also ask you to find your luggage and then you will have to go through the process of getting onto another bys where they may go through the check-in list once again to make sure everyone got off when they should have and that the people continuing on are back on the bus. This does tend to delay your trip anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and is something you should plan for. Though, it foes not always occur and not at every stop, only at stops where they are at an actual Redcoach station.