I took a ride on the Rolls-Royce of buses — and it was way better than Amtrak

Thanksgiving travel can be stressful.

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Thanksgiving travel can be stressful.
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Hollis Johnson

  • The week of Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times to travel all year.
  • On a recent trip to Boston, I compared an Amtrak regional train to a luxury bus service called LimoLiner.
  • LimoLiner far exceeded my expectations and was better than Amtrak.

The airport is not the most enjoyable place to find yourself, especially in the midst of the Thanksgiving holiday rush.

Security lines, forever-rising ticket prices, and seemingly arbitrary fees all create a stressful and pricey experience.

Some are looking to other forms of transportation for an alternative. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor alone counted some 11.9 million passengers in its 2016 fiscal year, its highest ridership yet.

And a study from the Chaddick Institute found that intercity bus ridership across the US had also risen by 3.3 million passengers since 2013, reaching a new high of 61.6 million.

But buses are cramped and slow, earning their spot at the bottom rung of the transportation ladder. Trains aren’t getting any faster, either, as the nation’s rickety rail infrastructure ages and high-speed proposals are stymied.

I travel from New York City to Boston frequently, usually by bus, but after countless trips with my legs folded up like origami in uncomfortable seats, I’d just about had enough.

I had heard about LimoLiner, a luxury bus service that makes three round-trips between New York and Boston Monday through Thursday every week. It makes more trips between the two cities over the weekend. With perks like free meals and individual leather seats, LimoLiner made Megabus sound like a stagecoach by comparison.

On a recent trip to Boston, I decided to compare LimoLiner with an Amtrak regional train to see which one offered a more comfortable experience for the price – and I was surprised by what I found.


I was pretty excited to be taking the train after so many terrible bus rides to Boston and back. I boarded the Amtrak train at Penn Station, a cavernous and ill-conceived grotto of labyrinthine walkways and escalators beneath Madison Square Garden in New York. No one wants to go to Penn Station.

Thanksgiving travel can be stressful.

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Hollis Johnson

The train left right on time after a painless boarding process, and within five minutes we were zipping through Queens.

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Hollis Johnson

At $128 one-way, the train isn’t wildly expensive, but it’s not exactly the lap of luxury. Of course, the prices differ depending on the departure time. My train left at 7 a.m.

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Hollis Johnson

Plus, coach is considerably less expensive than business class and much less costly than the Acela high-speed train. This is the coach experience: one aisle, two seats on each side, similar to the average economy-class flight.

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Hollis Johnson

The cloth seats are roomier than the typical plane seat, but at the end of the day, you’re still stuck next to someone else unless you luck out with a barely filled train.

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Hollis Johnson

The views are pretty stellar, though.

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Hollis Johnson

Working outlets: check.

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Hollis Johnson

Leg room is adequate for a tall guy like me but nothing noteworthy. I can cross my legs, but just barely. If anyone reclines in front of me, all bets are off.

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Hollis Johnson

Sleeping is easy, as the train ride is smooth. Taller passengers may find difficulty stretching their legs, though.

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Hollis Johnson

Overhead storage for luggage is standard.

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Hollis Johnson

The seats have a fold-out work table, and each one has literature to keep you occupied if you’re really bored. Unfortunately, no hilarious train version of SkyMall just yet.

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Hollis Johnson

The table is big enough to hold a laptop easily, even my old behemoth of a computer. The Wi-Fi is a little on the sluggish side, though it was free.

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Hollis Johnson

The train was keeping time well and we rolled into Stamford, Connecticut, in about 50 minutes. The regional train usually makes seven stops from Penn Station to South Station in Boston.

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Hollis Johnson

There’s a café car in the middle of the train, offering sandwiches, drinks, and snacks — at a price. I passed on the $4.50 trail mix and bottled water for $2.25.

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Hollis Johnson

And the bathroom … is a bathroom. Not a chaotic nightmare, but it’s a little messy and includes the strong cleaner smell that often accompanies a public restroom.

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Hollis Johnson

The train rolled into South Station in Boston at 11:10 a.m., five minutes ahead of schedule. The trip took 4 hours, 10 minutes. Not bad, considering I’ve heard stories of Amtrak trains being over an hour late because of freight-train traffic.

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Hollis Johnson

I may be biased, but South Station is quite a refreshing experience compared with Penn Station. I can see sunlight!

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Hollis Johnson

After a delightful weekend in Boston, it’s time to head back to New York. I find my way to the LimoLiner bus boarding area, directly in the shadow of the Prudential Tower in the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood. I booked the 3 p.m. bus, which left punctually.

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Hollis Johnson

I step on, and I’m impressed immediately. There are widely spaced leather reclining seats for all — that alone is worth the flat price of $99 for a ticket.

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Hollis Johnson

The bus smells like nice leather, and there’s gleaming wood everywhere. Well, it could be plastic, but it looks nice all the same. There are large TVs all around, which show news or movies.

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Hollis Johnson

There are storage bays for large luggage and overhead space for carry-ons. Overhead storage is airplane-style, with closed compartments above each seat. The bus attendant will gladly help with any overhead luggage. There are even pillows in the overhead should you want them.

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Hollis Johnson

Working outlets: check.

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Hollis Johnson

Plenty of leg room here, and even a little footrest. I can actually stretch out my legs!

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Hollis Johnson

Plus, I can cross them with room to spare, even with a reclined seat in front of me.

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Hollis Johnson

The bus runs on the highway, so the views aren’t always the prettiest, but there’s plenty of sun coming in from the large windows, and there are shades if you want to sleep. The ride is a bit bumpier, but the comfy leather seats sure help.

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Hollis Johnson

Each seat has a fold-out work table as well. They’re a little on the small side, but I can make it work with my laptop. The Wi-Fi is slow, but it’s faster than Amtrak’s and easier to connect. As on Amtrak, connecting to Wi-Fi is free.

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Hollis Johnson

Complimentary beverages, including soda, water, juices, teas, lemonade, and coffee, are available — just ask the attendant. Plus, there’s another cupholder in the seat!

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Hollis Johnson

A complimentary meal is served on a red place mat. I chose a chicken parmesan and pasta dish. The other option was a grilled chicken salad. There are also vegetarian options, which you should note when you order your ticket.

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Hollis Johnson

Sure, it’s microwaved, but it’s really not bad considering. Hot all the way through, the cheese is melted, and the chicken is moist. Plus, need I repeat: It was included with the ticket.

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Hollis Johnson

Snacks — like chips, pretzels, fruit, popcorn, and cookies — are offered later in the ride.

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Hollis Johnson

The bathroom is probably the nicest bus bathroom I’ve ever experienced. While that may not be a high standard, it’s still pretty nice. The room is bright and clean, and there’s even some generically unobtrusive art on the wall.

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Hollis Johnson

No gross bathroom spills or trash here. I’m impressed.

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Hollis Johnson

The bus drops off at the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Midtown. The downside was the length of the trip: The bus was scheduled to arrive in the city at 7:40 p.m., but it was 8:15 p.m. by the time we disembarked.

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Hollis Johnson

I’m massively impressed by the LimoLiner service. Considering what I got for $99 — comfy seats, a meal, drinks, snacks, and amenities like Wi-Fi and outlets — this bus beats Amtrak easily. Amtrak is generally more reliable than a bus, and I’m sure the business-class train experience is a different experience, but for the price, LimoLiner is my choice.

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Hollis Johnson