If you are planning a trip on the Greyhound bus in the near future, you may have concerns about your bus being overbooked. You might have heard that this happens sometimes on Greyhound and you probably are wondering (a) how often does overbooking really happen (b) what can you do to keep it from happening to you and (c) what to do if, even despite your best efforts, it happens to you.
Let’s start with out first question: How often does overbooking really happen? Well to be honest it happens WAY more than it should. And in recent months it seems to have been happening more frequently. I monitor complaints about the Greyhound bus on social media on a regular basis and I have seen the number of people complaining about overbooked buses soar in the past 6 months.
But before you get too scared and cancel your Greyhound trip let me just add here that I have been on numerous Greyhound bus trips over the years, even a few in the past 6 months, and I have only had to deal with an overbooked bus once. And that was because a bus broke down and all the passengers had to be switched to my bus.
So overbooking happens and it has been happening more frequently, but I still believe that the majority of people who ride on the Greyhound bus will not have to deal with this issue.
It’s impossible for me to give any numbers or percentages here because Greyhound, for obvious reasons, doesn’t publish and statistics on how often they overbook buses. But I would guess somewhere under 10% of buses get overbooked on a bad day. This is still horrible, but at least it’s not as bad as you might have heard.
So this brings us to our second question: How can you keep overbooking from happening to you?
Well the short answer is that you can’t. If for some reason Greyhound wants to sell too many tickets for a bus that you are traveling on there is really nothing you can do about it. However, there are some things you can do to make sure you get on the bus before it fills up.
For instance, getting to the Greyhound bus station early (I recommend at least an hour before your bus is scheduled to leave) will allow you to be one of the first people in line when the bus begins to board. Even before the boarding line forms find the door your bus will be boarding out of and stand or sit as close to it as possible. That way when the line starts to form you can be in the very front of the line.
The closer you are to the front of the boarding line the better your chances of getting on the bus before it fills up.
If you are travelling with children, have a disability, or are a senior citizen then you have the right to ask to board the bus before all other passengers. Don’t be afraid to speak up and use this to your advantage so you make it on a overbooked bus.
If you are traveling alone, aren’t disabled, and are under 62 then you have no excuse not to be up at the front of the line.
Another way to try and avoid the woes of an overbooked bus is to travel on unpopular days and at unpopular times. The chances of your bus having more passengers than seats is way higher on the weekends during the day than it would be on say a Tuesday before 11 a.m. So if possible try and travel midweek and early in the morning or late at night. The buses aren’t usually packed during these times and therefore it’s rare you will ever find yourself in a overbooking situation.
Quick Tip: Did you know that traveling midweek can also save you money on your Greyhound bus ticket? Check out my video on the subject:
But what if despite your best efforts you find yourself unable to board your scheduled bus because it was overbooked? Well first off-DON’T PANIC! It will be ok. You will make it to your destination. Yes it’s going to be a hassle and your are probably going to have to do some waiting around but it’s not the end of the world.
The first thing you want to do is sprint as fast as you can to the ticket desk and tell them you need a ticket for the next bus that is going to your destination (or the next major city on your trip). The reason I say sprint is because it’s very likely that other travelers will have been turned away from boarding the same bus and you want to beat them to the ticket counter.
You want to get a ticket on the NEXT bus and if you don’t get to the ticket counter quickly that bus might get sold out as well. So run to the ticket counter and do whatever it takes to get on the next bus out of that station going in your direction.
Now to be honest, sometimes the next bus doesn’t leave for hours. This sucks! The only thing worse than not making your bus is having to wait 6 or more hours for the next bus. Sometimes, however, you can find a sympathetic ticket agent who will work with you and try to find you a route that leaves sooner but will still get you to your final destination. So ask about this when you go to get your ticket reprinted.
And yes, you want to get your ticket reprinted for the new bus time or schedule. Do not let them tell you that your old ticket will be ok. You may find yourself unable to get on your next bus at the next station because your ticket will say the wrong time. So get a new ticket printed.
And DO NOT let them charge you a fee for re-issuing your ticket. This is a trick some stations try to play on unsuspecting travelers. But the fee doesn’t apply when the reason you missed the bus was an error on Greyhound’s part. Don’t let them screw up your travel plans and then get another $20 out of you while they are fixing them.
So hopefully, if you are ever unable to board a bus because it was overbooked you will be able to find another bus leaving fairly soon after so you can continue on your journey. Sadly sometimes, however, you may end up having to wait a few hours. My advice when this happens is to embrace the fact that there is nothing you can do about the situation and try to make the best of it. Getting angry and making a scene won’t change anything, you’ll still be sitting there until the next bus comes.
In conclusion, while overbooking is problem that Greyhound needs to address, don’t let the fear of it keep you from taking your next trip. Chances are it won’t happen to you (especially if you follow my advice) and if it does at least now you know what to do about it.