Greyhound: can I ensure I get a seat on the bus I want to use?
Some bad fortune has required me to change my Thanksgiving travel plans at the last minute. I canceled my train ticket and bought a Greyhound bus ticket instead. I'm concerned by this language on the ticket:
Seating is first-come, first-served. In case of insufficient seating capacity, passengers will be placed on succeeding schedules that have available seats.
I intentionally bought a late departure (overnight trip) ticket. Now I'm worried that was a mistake, if there will be a cascade of travelers bumped from earlier buses competing for seats. Is there anything I can do to ensure I get a seat on the bus I intended to?
Normally you being there in plenty of time should ensure you are the first-came, and excess passengers would be put on after the rest of you. However, this is Greyhound we're talking about, and to further complicate, this is Thanksgiving, the day of the year rules just don't apply ;)
According to one source:
As the ticket policy suggests, Greyhound does not assign you a seat when you buy a ticket. If you show up at 8 AM for your 8 AM bus, the bus may be full. If you show up at 7:30 AM and the bus line already has 55 people in it, you may not get to ride that bus. If you're riding for your first time, you will get a good seat on your bus if you arrive an hour ahead of time, and will probably catch it (unless you need to check bags) if you arrive fifteen minutes ahead of time.
For the expert, how early you show up can be calculated by four variables: (1) Are you checking bags? (2) Is your bus "originating?" (3) Is your departure station popular? (4) Is the route popular?
If you're checking bags, you will have to wait in line. Depending on station , you may have to wait in the general ticketing line. At peak times, there can be 30 people in the general ticketing line--all of which have urgent needs. You don't have a choice about waiting, so budget 15-30 minutes.
An "originating" bus means that your bus will be empty when boarding begins. If your bus is originating, you can show up later, because more seats will be available.
If your departure station is popular (i.e. a large city), more people will be in line, so budget another 15 minutes. If the route is popular (and most are, especially on the weekends and at night), you may wish to budget another 15-30 minutes.
Your best situation is an originating bus, leaving from small town X, at 10 AM. Your worst situation is a North Hollywood bus originating in Los Angeles, CA going to San Francisco at 10 PM on a Friday night.
So given all that, I'd try and get there as early as you possibly can. Because after all, this is Thanksgiving, and you'll already be thankful you have a seat ;)
That's a pretty good source. The only problem with it that I see is that the buses virtually never originate "from small town X". They start or end in major cities.