I was visiting Miami for a few days, so I figured I should go ahead and make a side trip to Orlando to visit my brother, as well. After all, I was in no rush to get back to New Jersey in mid-November. Yes, I do prefer days of endless sunshine to gray skies and bitter cold!
But how to get cover the distance. A flight? Too expensive. Rent a car? Ditto.
Bart had told me about his experiences using a bus service to get around the state. Megabus features routes from Orlando to Miami and back (with stops in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale), and the fares can be incredibly cheap.
Megabus sometimes runs promotions and sells seats for as low as $1. The earlier you book your fare, the best chance you have to snag the lower fares: $1 and $9 seats, for example. I booked a week out from my trip and paid $25.50 ($23 plus a $2.50 admin fee). Still, not too bad to get from Miami to Orlando, a 4.5-hour hour ride.
It's a double-decker, with seats on the lower level from the middle to the front of the bus. The upper deck has seats all the way from front to back, and any movement of the bus swaying will be more noticeable up there. A bathroom is in the middle of first level right next to the steps that lead up to the top. The space at the back of the bus on Level 1 is used for luggage.
Seats are soft, so the ride was fairly comfortable. I found it a bit tight, though, as I am 6-foot-4, the bus was full, and I had a seat mate in my row. The seats recline, and the bus I was on had no tray tables. There are a few quad seat groupings that share a table area between them. Outlets to charge your devices are located in several spots on the ceiling throughout the bus and in between each seat near your knees.
The rides offer free Wi-Fi, but as my driver said "If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
OK. Fair enough.
You can book online at US.Megabus.com. The confirmation and ticket is sent by email.
I clicked on the ticket link that I received in my email and took a screen shot of by reservation in case I lost my Internet connection at the bus terminal. You simply show up to the bus waiting area ahead of your scheduled departure. I arrived a half-hour early at the Intermodal Center at Miami International Airport and joined the line that was already forming at the Megabus area (the center services other buses, such as Greyhound). You can pay more to reserve a particular seat, but people typically just pick whatever is available.
When the bus arrives, the driver checks for your reservation, has you place your luggage to be stowed in a neat lineup and tells you to go ahead and get onboard the bus. The driver then stows the bags, hops on the bus and takes off. Our driver gave us a quick overview of the trip, pointed out the restroom area and the features of the bus (mainly just the outlets and sketchy Wi-Fi) and then the bus was mostly silent as we completed our journey to Orlando.
The Wi-Fi on my ride was not working well, and from what I could hear from others, they had little luck. I have a good data plan so I didn't need it anyways. If you want to use a laptop to get work done while riding the Megabus, you should make sure you can provide your own data. I downloaded some Netflix shows to my phone and just watched them during the ride, which helped the time pass nicely.
Pack plenty of water or other drinks to keep hydrated, as well as a few snacks. This is essential if you are on a nearly five-hour ride.
My trip was blissfully uneventful. I have heard that you often encounter unique characters on these trips, but everyone I rode with was respectful, quiet and polite. At least on the first level where I was seated. (Who knows what kind of party was going on upstairs?)
I hope this helps if you are considering using Megabus.
Thanks for reading, and always travel happy!