Go luxe or stay budget: Comparing New York's newest luxury bus with an economy competitor
Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that there are 14 seats on The Jet, not 16 as previously reported.
There's no shortage of ways to get from New York City to Washington, D.C. While we can (and often do) debate the best ways to make that well-worn, 230-mile trip, there's very little debate when it comes to determining which transportation method is generally the most cost-efficient. That distinction, without question, belongs to the bus.
Before you click away and decide the bus is too lowbrow for you, hear us out — you may be surprised by at least one of the options.
There are dozens of bus operators that can whisk you between two of America's most important cities, but not all are created equal. As with anything in the travel world, you typically get what you pay for when it comes to buses. Right now, that can mean spending as little as $20 for a standard bus ticket with FlixBus or Greyhound or $99 one-way for a trip with The Jet, a new luxury bus line.
If you are going to keep things simple and take ground transportation between the Big Apple and our nation's capital, you may be wondering if it's worth paying up for a luxury experience on such a short jump down the East Coast. Fortunately, TPG is here to help.
TPG associate web publisher Kevin Martinez and I set out last month to find out if the higher cost of The Jet is worth the splurge.
In total, we took a combined four methods of transportation on the round-trip journey between New York and D.C. But in this guide, we'll specifically look at the first leg of our trip from New York to D.C.
Here's how two of New York's newest bus options — The Jet and FlixBus — compare to one another.
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Luxury: The Jet
There have been many attempts to make luxury buses work in the U.S., but seemingly none have stuck.
The fact that The Jet launched during a global pandemic and has already made it this far is impressive. I was excited to give the bus a try for this trip down the coast.
The Jet does New York pickups in Hudson Yards on 33rd Street. I had some time to kill before my bus would hit the road, so I walked around Hudson Yards and grabbed a hot dog from the Hebrew National food cart down the street. It wasn't a terrible spot to pass the time.
As I approached the bus, its clean paint job really stood out.
Boarding was quick. I was asked to show proof of vaccination (which is no longer required, as of July 1) and my boarding pass upon entry. I was traveling light with a backpack, so I didn't need to store a bag beneath the bus.
Once on board, I immediately found myself impressed by the clean interior. It was a welcome change from the bus seat patterns we're all used to.
There are faux-wood floors, leather-upholstered seats and massive windows that let you take in the views from the interstate. The seats are spaced pretty far apart, which looks awkward but makes for a very comfortable ride.
There are only 14 total seats on the entire bus, giving it a professional-yet-peaceful vibe.
I quickly settled into my window seat, and the friendly bus attendant asked me if it was my first time riding The Jet. Upon confirming it indeed was, she gave a quick overview of how the seat controls worked. They're wedged between the side of the bus and the seat and let you adjust the recline and footrest.
As I soon discovered, these are anything but old bus seats.
The Jet has outfitted the bus with "motion-canceling" seats — dubbed HoverSeats — that are active on the highway. Similar to how noise-canceling headphones counteract ambient noise, The Jet's seats counteract movement to make you feel like you're sitting still.
It's a bit jarring when they first turn on, but they prove to be very comfortable for sleeping or when you want to work on a laptop. Additionally, each seat is equipped with power outlets and USB ports.
There's a tiny table that pops out of the armrest. While I initially thought the small size would be an issue, as the table is smaller than my 16-inch MacBook Pro, I found that the grippy plastic coating and ability to tilt the table forward made it surprisingly functional. I was able to very comfortably type throughout the journey, even while the bus was in motion.
The bus left right on time, and we quickly made our way to the Lincoln Tunnel and New Jersey Turnpike. Once on the turnpike, the seat's motion-canceling function was activated. Then, the bus attendant came around to offer snacks and drinks.
The snack basket included brand-name items like Coca-Cola products, Nespresso coffee and a selection of beer and wine. The beer selection was basic, consisting of Modelo, Heineken and Heineken Light.
I sipped on a miniature can of Heineken and enjoyed a bag of chips and trail mix. There were also healthier options like granola bars and apple chips on offer.
Everything is covered by the $99 fare, and you can ask for more refreshments whenever you'd like. Or, you can just head to the kitchen at the back of the bus to serve yourself.
The bus's Wi-Fi is excellent and better than any train, bus or plane Wi-Fi I've experienced in recent years.
My speed test showed a download speed of a little less than 95.7 Mbps and an upload speed of around 10.9 Mbps. This is more than enough to stream movies, upload files or perform other business computing tasks.
The last awesome perk of riding The Jet is actually the bathroom. Bus bathrooms are generally known to be, well, disgusting, but this was not the case on The Jet. It looked more like a boutique hotel bathroom, offering brass finishes and white subway tiles. Best of all: It was cleaned frequently throughout the journey.
As for the overall vibe of the bus, it was quiet and peaceful. No one talked on a cellphone or had a loud conversation at any point. Many riders — myself included — were working on laptops during the drive. In many ways, it felt similar to riding in an Amtrak train's quiet car or a commuter train.
I also loved the fact that there were only 14 people on the bus, which made the whole experience feel exclusive and — dare I say — kind of luxurious.
We made it to D.C. 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The bus dropped us off near downtown's Metro Center station, putting us within easy reach of all major Metro lines and plenty of cafes and restaurants. I quickly got off the bus and walked to the Metro Center station to take the Metro to my hotel.
Overall, I am very impressed by The Jet.
The HoverSeat, clean bathroom, speedy Wi-Fi and attentive service made the roughly four-hour journey actually enjoyable, and I wouldn't hesitate to take it to Philadelphia or Boston from New York if service is later expanded. I think it's well worth the added cost for the extra space and comfort, especially if you're someone like me who generally despises long bus rides.
Unlike Andrew, I started my journey by taking the subway to Penn Station. When I arrived, I still had to walk about three blocks from the 34th Street station to the corner of 31st Street and Eighth Avenue, my bus's departure point. I eventually found the rows of green and orange buses with signs next to them indicating where they were heading and what times they were departing — though it was admittedly kind of confusing to figure out.
As I made my way toward one of the buses, a bus driver pointed me in the right direction, as I almost made the rookie mistake of getting on the wrong bus heading to Philadelphia, which would’ve been ... not great.
I was lost in a maze of FlixBuses and had to ask for some help, making for a less-than-ideal start.
The same bus driver didn't point me in the direction of a FlixBus but rather a white Eastern Bus, which was serving as a partner bus for FlixBus for this specific route. So despite my plans to ride a FlixBus for this test, I ultimately ended up experiencing one of its partner buses. These operate much like a regional airline assists larger carriers.
I placed my small duffel bag under the bus and waved goodbye to my belongings, not having access to them again until I arrived in D.C.
As I waited in line to hop on the bus, I had to pull out my FlixBus ticket, which I had handy on my phone via a QR code — you can print it, too, if you prefer a hard copy. I showed the bus driver my QR code, and he scanned it before letting me pass. I then took my seat at 6A.
Luckily for me, no one was seated next to me, so I was able to secure a small row to myself.
As I sat down and got comfortable, I started playing around with the seat itself and took a look at the overhead storage, which was pretty sizable. I was able to lean back without bothering my back-seat neighbor.
Once settled in, I connected to the bus’s Wi-Fi. Although I was able to connect, the speed was not great. I could stream music and send messages, but I couldn't do anything beyond that. Stick to cellular data if you want to stream Netflix or do more than send a few messages.
Around halfway through the four-hour journey, the bus stopped at the Biden Welcome Center just outside Wilmington, Delaware. The bus driver made a general announcement indicating that we would be stopping for 20 minutes. As someone who gets antsy on long car rides, I was relieved to be able to step outside and walk around for a bit.
Once we hit the road again, traffic began to pick up, especially as we approached the D.C. metro area. Traffic is common in and around D.C., so I expected we'd encounter some congestion as we neared the end of our trip.
Before long, the bus pulled into the FlixBus stop near Union Station, I retrieved my bag from the bottom of the bus and I started exploring all that the nation's capital had to offer.
Overall, I would say my experience on the FlixBus was pretty good. While I didn’t technically ride in a FlixBus, the experience was pretty similar to what you can expect on a mainline FlixBus, from what I've heard.
For a bus ride down to D.C. from New York City, it was very reasonably priced compared to other alternatives. I couldn't believe I could get to D.C. for just $22.
For these shorter journeys, don't discount the bus.
It's a good bargain compared to a flight — not to mention, you get to skip the hassles that come with going in and out of airports. Economy airline tickets on this route usually cost $125 to $200 each way, and if you need more space in first class, you'll be paying even more than that. So, even if you go with the luxury bus option, you're still probably paying less to drive than to fly.
FlixBus and The Jet are convenient transportation options for getting between New York City and Washington, D.C. Both start and end in city centers, so you can continue on to your final destination without adding an expensive (and sometimes time-consuming) Uber or Lyft.
Both got the job done during our test, though we think it's well worth the extra money to upgrade to The Jet if your budget allows. The added comfort and amenities make the journey truly enjoyable.
If you have work to do, you'll especially appreciate traveling via The Jet, as the internet is faster than on any other mode of transportation I've tested recently. The seats actually make it easier to type on a laptop, too, so you won't fall behind despite the change of scenery.
Additional reporting by Kevin Martinez.