Travel for Only $1: How to Snag the Cheapest Seats on BoltBus and Megabus

$1 bus
Rasica under Creative Commons

When Drew Macomber wanted to travel from Orlando to Tampa on the cheap, he and his travel companion looked for some of Megabus’ elusive ultra-cheap fares. The pair’s tickets for the 95-mile ride costs a grand total of $3.

If you live in a major city, you’ve likely heard of BoltBus and Megabus, as well as their rock-bottom $1 tickets.

But how do you get your hands on one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-them bargain fares? Follow these tips to grab the lowest-priced tickets.

Pick Your Route

Before you start saving, make sure these carriers take you where you want to go.

Megabus offers routes in 34 U.S. states as well as the province of Ontario, Canada.

BoltBus focuses on popular East Coast and West Coast routes, including New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Bay Area, as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.

Understand the Pricing Strategy

BoltBus and Megabus both use a technique called “yield management” to fill their buses, which means they charge more for premium schedules. This strategy is similar to how airlines fill their seats.

Their goal is fill empty seats during off-peak times, which is when you can score a deal..

Book Your Ticket as Early as Possible

To get the best chance at the cheapest fares, book your seats as far in advance as possible. If you can book months in advance, you’ll have a better shot at snagging a $1 ticket than if you wait until a few days before your trip.

Each scheduled trip will offer at least one $1 fare every day, says the BoltBus FAQ. This unicorn of a deal isgenerally within the first handful of seats sold. The earlier you book your ticket, the greater your odds are of grabbing a seat for a buck.”

Be at the front of the line for Megabus, too. The company only gives $1 fares to “the first or initial customers that purchase a ticket for that trip,” according to its terms and conditions

As seats fill up, prices increase. Even if you don’t get a $1 fare, booking early can help you snag a $5 seat, which is still a steal.

Even if you’re not sure exactly when you’d like to travel, sometimes it makes sense to get a deeply discounted ticket just in case — and if you don’t wind up traveling, you’re only out a buck

Time Your Trip Right

Since routes offer only a few $1 fares, you’re more likely to score a cheap ticket if you can be flexible with your travel dates. Skip Friday and Sunday travel, as well as holidays and busy weekend times, to get the best deal.

The popularity of the route also goes into the pricing equation, as Megabus notes in its terms. While these routes still might only have a single $1 fare, less-popular trips may well have other low-priced tickets.

Look for Special Offers

From time to time, both companies run special offers and promotions. Following them on social media is a great way to stay on top of these deals and jump on newly announced trips.

You can also search for promo codes online on sites like RetailMeNot and WanderU, a bus and train travel site.

Sign Up for Bolt Rewards

BoltBus offers a frequent rider program called Bolt Rewards.

The deal is very simple: Travel eight times on BoltBus and your ninth one-way fare is free. It doesn’t matter how long the routes are, or how much you’ve paid — just travel eight times and your ninth ride is on them.

Your Turn: Do you use BoltBus or Megabus for your travels? Do you have any other favorite low-cost bus services? Let us know in the comments!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.