Taking the Megabus from Des Moines to Chicago proves to be a relaxing, affordable way to travel with a family.
When I first mentioned taking the new Megabus route from Des Moines to Chicago I got quite a few odd looks and a few more looks that equated to “you’re certifiable”. So many, in fact, that I began to doubt the logic I had so thoughtfully aligned in my mind. And though people questioned my sanity they were all very interested in our trip: How did it go? How did the kids do? How long did it take? Would you do it again?
The short answers? Very well. Terrific! 6 hours. Most definitely. Let me tell you why…
Megabus from Des Moines to Chicago
To get to Chicago from Des Moines is a very long six-hour drive. To be quite honest there just isn’t much to see along the interstate and the time drags when you’re in a car. With my husband, Doug, concentrating on driving and the girls, ages 4 and 6, in the back watching movies or playing games it just isn’t a fun ride. Flying is much quicker, but it is more of a hassle and quite expensive.
Megabus was a great alternative. Doug got to relax, the girls got our full attention and we got to Chicago in about the same amount of time it would have taken to drive. Best of all, my entire family traveled for the price of a single plane ticket.
Megabus leaves from Des Moines twice daily- at 8am and 5pm. If you are traveling with kids, I recommend the early departure as the bus drops you at Union Station in Chicago. Our driver, Dennis, issued (many) warnings for us to watch our purses and pockets – and we arrived mid-day, at 2pm.
My girls were the youngest on the bus- by at least 15 years- and Doug & I near the oldest. Though a few people seemed surprised to see children taking the bus, everyone was friendly and the girls quickly made friends with the people around us.
Megabus picks up at a city bus stop downtown; it’s easy to have someone drop you off or to park in a city ramp. Your driver loads bags beneath the bus, then loads the people. It was really quite nice. No one rushed the door or pushed to get in the line (which always happens at airports). Baggage policy is relaxed “one regular sized bag per person” and we carried on bags with activities and snacks.
On the Megabus
We had hoped for a double decker bus, but Des Moines is still a small market. The girls’ disappointment was short lived since even a regular bus sits very high off the ground and they were able to look down into the cabs of semi trucks riding next to us.
As we settled into four seats facing each other, we were relaxed and comfortable. Doug and I had plenty of leg room and my girls were thrilled to be on a “real bus”. Dennis gave a informative and highly amusing rundown of the rules as well as our cruising altitude (ground level) and speed (around 70 mph). He would give little updates throughout our ride, always ending with “MegaBus. The bus with the fat man on the back, not the dog on the side.” That amused my girls, who soon were reciting the line on cue.
On the interstate, the ride proved to be a bit bumpy, but the seats were comfortable and roomy. The girls spent quite a bit of time looking out the window before settling in to their activities. Doug plugged his computer into the outlet and used the bus wifi to check in at the office. I stretched my legs into the seat opposite me and relaxed; fielding questions, fixing problems and enjoying the ride.
Stops on the Megabus
Our bus made two scheduled stops- one in Iowa City to pick up and drop off passengers and a rest stop in Utica, Illinois.
Because the stop in Illinois was scheduled well past lunch time I packed sandwiches, grapes and some drinks for the drive. The bus was equipped with a toilet; using it proved very similar to using an airplane lavatory during turbulence.
A very quick six hours later, we pulled into downtown Chicago. “Are we there yet?” had not been uttered once.
What to Bring on Megabus
Plan snacks and drinks for the family, but try to avoid carbonated beverages as the ride is a bit bumpy. Double decker buses have tables on the lower level, which provide a nice spot for coloring or small crafty activities. We packed handheld games, though the girls didn’t really use them. They were too buys enjoying the experience of riding a bus, and having our full attention. Doug and I had our Kindles and laptops, though we didn’t use them very much either. We were really enjoying a relaxing ride.
Your bus will have garbage bags, which is nice, but be aware that the lavatory has no sink- only hand sanitizer. Bring a small pack of baby wipes along for hand cleaning and any messes that may occur
The seats do recline some, but there is quite a large space between the seat and the window; if you plan to rest make sure you have a jacket or small pillow.
Jody Halsted began sharing her tips for family travel in 2005 after being told- numerous times- “now that you have a baby you’ll have to stop traveling so much.” She has since proved her family and friends wrong! Jody and her family- husband Doug, daughter Brenna, age 6, and Caelan, age 4- travel as much as time and budget will allow. Near or far, every destination is an adventure to be savored and shared. Jody publishes two travel sites, Family Rambling and Ireland with Kids, is a freelance writer and an authoritative speaker in travel trends and social media.