Yes, you can travel in luxury on a bus: A few bus lines around the country are providing luxury bus service on intercity routes up to about 300 miles, especially in areas where air and rail service is either sparse or expensive. To qualify as “luxury,” my primary requirement is that a line must provide one-by two seating, with extra legroom, in a full size intercity bus, along with an onboard lavatory, Wi-Fi and/or streaming TV, snack/drink service, and no-fee baggage checking. That’s all typically much more comfortable than a plane, and sometimes more comfortable than Amtrak. Fares are around double regular bus fares, because the lines fit only 22 to 35 seats into buses that nominally hold 55 to 60 seats, in addition to extra passenger amenities.
I found 10 lines that qualify, listed here alphabetically, with samples of posted one-way fares as shown in low season (early January to mid-February trips). Most lines employ capacity-controlled pricing: As buses fill up, fares for remaining seats increase. Most lines also offer a variety of round-trip, multi-ride, frequent-traveler membership, student, and similar discounts. Most require reservations, and pick up and leave travelers on public-street loading zones, or sometimes at hotels.
Luxury bus at airport
BestBus is one of the many bus lines that operate between New York City and the Washington, D.C. area. Although most of its trips use conventional intercity buses, one or two daily trips feature “Prime” service that offers the necessary luxury mix. At least one trip operates most days nonstop between New York Penn Station and Washington-area dropoff points at DuPont Circle and Union Station and three stops in suburban Virginia. The Prime fare for November starts at around $45 one-way, compared with $28-$30 for the regular service; trips take four hours and more.
Amtrak offers frequent competition, with trips taking from a bit under three hours (Acela, advance-purchase fares starting at $119) to 3:30 hours (Northeast Regional, starting at $69).
C&J Bus Lines
C&J operates at least two daily trips, all with luxury buses, on two main routes:
Connecting Boston with Dover, Portsmouth, and Seabrook New Hampshire. Trips take 50 minutes to Seabrook, at $12.99, to 1:45 to Dover, at $12.99.
Connecting New York with Tewksbury, Massachusetts, Seabrook and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and, seasonally, Ogunquit, Maine. Trips take 4 hours to Tewksbury, fares are $69.
Concord Coach Lines
Concord operates several trunk routes, but offers its luxury “Plus Bus” on one daily round trip each on its route connecting New York City with Portland, Maine (6 hours, $79).
Amtrak connects New York with Portland, but a train trip requires changing trains and stations in Boston. The shortest connection takes seven hours and costs $80 plus taxi or subway fares between stations in Boston. The only competitive air service is to Portland, with fares starting at $79 but most are much higher.
Dartmouth Coach operates luxury bus trips at least once daily with extra weekend service between New York City and Hanover/Dartmouth and Lebanon, New Hampshire. Trips take about six hours; fares start at $79.95. This company is affiliated with Concord Coach Lines and appears to offer a similar luxury product. Dartmouth also operates from the Boston area, but only with conventional buses.
Amtrak does not go near Dartmouth or Lebanon. Flights from New York to Lebanon start at $138, and require about four hours with a plane change at Boston.
The Hampton Jitney operates between New York and the main eastern Long Island centers, including three to four daily luxury “Ambassador” service trips to/from Montauk, with additional trips to/from Amagansett. Montauk trips take 3:15; fares start at roughly $45.
The competition to the Hamptons is the Long Island Rail Road, which operates 5-8 daily round trips on its Montauk line. Montauk trips take 3:15 and cost $22.50 off-peak, $30.50 peak.
Red Coach operates a complex network linking Miami with Tallahassee while also serving key intermediate stops. Although it also operates conventional buses, Red Coach operates luxury First Class runs several times daily between Miami and Tallahassee via Orlando. Miami-Tallahassee trips take about nine hours, with fares starting at $74; Orlando-Miami trips take about 4:30 with fares starting at $45.
Red Coach competes with Amtrak, Brightline, and Tri-Met between some South Florida stops, but no rail line operates to/from Tallahassee or between Atlanta and Florida. Miami-Tallahassee nonstop flight fares start at $200, taking about 1:30.
Tripper Bus Elite
Tripper Bus is one of the many lines that operate between New York City and the Washington DC area. The line runs between two and seven trips each day, and on most days one of those trips uses a luxury “Elite” bus. Trips run between New York City Penn Station area and stops in suburban Bethesda and Arlington. Travel time is 4:00 to 5:00 hours; elite class fares are $40-$55, compared with regular fares which start at $27. See “BestBus” entry for Amtrak and airline competition.
Vamoose is yet another New York-to-Washington bus line that operates a luxury service. “Gold Bus” trips operate at least twice a day between midtown Manhattan and stops in Bethesda, Maryland, and Arlington and Lorton, Virginia. The trips take 4:00 to 4:30 hours to/from Bethesda; 5:00 to 5:30 to/from Lorton. Gold Bus fares start at $40, depending on time of day; regular fares start at $20. See “BestBus” entry for Amtrak and airline competition.
Vonlane operates an extensive network of all-luxury bus routes connecting Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. All stops are at city-center hotels except for Dallas, where the terminal is at a Love Field hotel. Sample fares from Houston to Fort Worth are $99-$105; the trip takes four hours.
All Vonlane routes are serviced my multiple airlines, including Southwest. Sample nonstop airfares for Houston-Dallas in mid-February start at $110. Amtrak operates one train daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth and one train daily Dallas-Austin-San Antonio. Coach fares Dallas-San Antonio start at $30 for a 10-hour trip.
Washington Deluxe is the fourth (on my list) New York-Washington bus line that offers a deluxe option. “LUX” buses operate less than daily between New York/Penn Station and Washington/DuPont Circle. The trip takes 4:00 to 4:30; the fare is $35. See “BestBus” entry for Amtrak competition.