Long-distance relationships can be difficult for many reasons, but a main concern is how much it costs to visit each other. Here in Chicago, a less expensive travel option is Megabus, although you can only visit other major Midwestern cities within the circuit. But for those with a sweetheart in one of those cities and the patience for a long bus ride, the price is sweet relief compared to gassing up the car or flying.
My fiancee lives in Memphis, TN, and before Megabus added a Chicago-to-Memphis line in April 2008, we had been flying back and forth to see each other. That was not easy on the wallet, especially because the city of Memphis does not allow certain discount airlines to fly in and out due to its status as Northwest/Delta Airlines' main hub. Round-trip visits were costing us between $250 and $400. Amtrak and Greyhound were not viable options because they were almost as expensive, and travel took ten hours each way instead of the ninety minutes it takes to fly. But Megabus had greatly discounted fares maxing out at about $60, and their hook was that if you reserved a ticket early enough, you could ride for just $1. Neither of us have been fortunate enough to grab one of those tickets, but typically we've reserved a ride for around $30 each way, which is still about ten percent of what we were paying to fly!
The riding experience has not been bad at all. Many people think the worst when a ten-hour bus ride comes to mind: Cramped seats, inadequate air conditioning, sitting next to a smelly commode, etc. But Megabus has not had these problems during the four trips I've made or the six trips my fiancee has made. The a/c has been fine, the seats are fairly comfortable, and there hasn't been a problem with an odor coming from the lavatory. I can't vouch for the cleanliness of the lavatory because I haven't used it. There is at least one rest stop (sometimes two) during the ten-hour ride, and I've chosen to use the facilities at the rest areas during these stops. There are plenty of food options at the rest areas; the Effingham, IL rest stop has a Sbarro's and KFC in addition to the usual snack-food options. There are no assigned seats on the bus, so the recipient of the $1 fare is never revealed, nor is he/she forced to sit next to the restroom or something. And the Chicago-to-Memphis line also features a stop in Champaign, IL, home of the University of Illinois, so it's perfect for college couples on a budget. Bring headphones to drown out any crying kids or the overhead DVD screens, which can be used by anyone to play any movie they bring along. And definitely bring a blanket, sweater, and pillow to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
So my recommendation for Megabus is, it's certainly a quality ride for the value, it's not a dirty bus, and the people aren't disgusting vermin as one might expect on a discount bus. I believe the key is, with Megabus not having a bus station of its own, they don't have a place set up for anyone to buy $1 tickets or $30 tickets or whatever price tickets on the street. As far as I know, only someone with internet access and a credit or debit card can get these seats, so that eliminates a somewhat sizable portion of the general public. I'm not sure how they make enough money to keep the fares so low, especially with current gas prices, but they don't seem to skimp on anything. The bus to Memphis had some seats equipped with trash bags, which I thought was a nice touch. For Midwestern travelers, a trip on Megabus appears to be as good a bus ride as you can get for the money.