I typically choose overland travel when possible because I usually have time to spare, but not money. Past experiences have included an overnight bus between Agnes Water and Airlie Beach, Australia, a 9 hour train ride across Germany and an overnight bus from Atlanta to New Orleans here in the US. My next
mistake adventure will be taking a bus from Atlanta to Toronto, Canada. Needless to say, these experiences have turned me into an old pro when it comes to finding what to pack for long overland journeys, whether by car, bus or train.
Anything over 5 hours on a bus seems crazy, but yet I’ve done it many times. When it comes to keeping your sanity, it’s all about options. Make sure you have a backup for your backup, in case your Kindle or laptop dies and you’ve already read your book and magazine.
Magazines – Flipping through magazines is also a good way to keep yourself entertained during a long trip. I save all my magazines for these trips and read them all at once. I recommend AFAR Magazine to fuel your wanderlust en route to your destination.
Laptop or DVD player – I usually load my laptop with movies and TV episodes before a trip since there aren’t monitors like the ones you find on airplanes. You can also bring DVDs to watch in smaller CD cases to keep them from getting scratched. Some buses even have WiFi, but the reliability isn’t always there, so don’t count on being able to go online.
Chargers – The Megabus trips I’ve taken always have at least 2 plugs in between the seats, so if you forgot to charge before you left home or are running low on juice, you can plug right in.
Journal – Write about your trip, taking note of where you’ve stopped or odd people who get on the bus or train.
Travel games – Bananagrams or travel chess can be played with a friend.
Don’t expect to get much sleep on bus journeys, as in many places it is required by law for the driver to stop every few hours to rest, refuel or let off passengers. This usually means turning the bus (and air conditioning!) off and turning all the lights on. I’ve included these items as wishful thinking for a little bit of shuteye.
Eye mask – Not everyone will want to sleep, so there will be lights on. I can’t go anywhere without an eye mask.
Ear plugs – Between people talking and the noises of the bus, if you can’t go to sleep with your iPod playing, get yourself a cheap pair of ear plugs. I like the foam type best.
Travel pillow – I didn’t bring one on my last bus trip and instead balled up my hoodie, but I definitely wished I had it.
Melatonin – Some of us need a little help in falling asleep and melatonin is the natural remedy for it.
iPod/playlist – My go-to sleep playlist is full of songs by Bon Iver, Sigur Ros and Adem. Don’t forget your earbuds or noise-canceling headphones to go with it.
Hoodie or blanket – I get cold on buses, so I always bring a small blanket or hoodie to keep me warm throughout the night.
>>You could also try a Turkish Travel Towel as a lightweight blanket.
Tissues – The cold air gives me the sniffles, so bring a little pack of tissues that can double as a napkin or toilet paper if needed.
Vicks Vaporub – It sounds like an odd addition to this list, but I now swear by it. During my overnight bus trip in Australia, I was horribly painfully sick and couldn’t stop coughing. I paid $14 for this tiny tub of it and have sworn by it ever since. I put a little bit under my nose to clear my sinuses.
>>Or try Tiger Balm.
Snacks – Don’t pack anything too salty, as it will make you feel tired and not in a good way. I recommend granola, dark chocolate, peanut butter and fruit. Most buses stop at least once or twice during the journey, so you can buy something if you need to.
Water – Bring at least one water bottle full to drink along the way and fill it up again when you stop. Just as on airplanes, you need to stay hydrated.
Wet wipes and hand sanitizer – You don’t have to pack both, but wet wipes can make you feel slightly cleaner so you can immediately keep going when you reach your destination. Hand sanitizer is important because bus bathrooms and gas stations rarely have soap.
iPhone apps – I’m always curious about where in the world I am when in between cities. I check Google Maps or Foursquare to check my location and see how much longer until the next stop.
Do you have any other suggestions for things to pack for overnight bus trips?