I’d like to share my experience taking the Van Galder bus from Madison to Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD). I’ve taken this bus on about a half dozen times and feel I have a good picture of the service, and can share my review.
My experience has been positive, and I do recommend their bus service.
You can pay for a bus fare either online prior to your trip, or pay the bus driver directly. If you pay online, you’ll need to bring a printout of your confirmation. That’s what I’ve done in most cases, however I’ve also simply walked up to the counter, paid the fare, and boarded.
If I could improve one thing about the ticket buying process, it would be to have a more mobile-friendly web site. My wife was recently buying tickets for us, and the site was slow, and not particularly optimized for iPhone.
To buy tickets, you can go up to CoachUSA.com.
Van Galding and Coach USA provide trips throughout the midwest. You can take a bus from any of their cities for a relatively good price. In my experience, the busses are on time, and follow their schedule to the minute.
The trips to Chicago have recently been slightly behind schedule because of the enormous construction along the toll roads. Not really anything they can do about that, though. I’ve noticed the bus drivers are compensating by having shorter stops (even asking the passengers to not exit the bus at stops, like they used to).
On recent trips, the buses are usually not even half-filled to capacity, meaning you can spread out and take up the extra seat next to you (which is awesome). Also, on every trip I’ve taken they’ve provide free wireless internet. You don’t even have to enter a password — it just works! Although, it’s a bit slow. I did a speed test, and got 12kbps. It works great for casual surfing, and basic work.
There are definitely alternatives, the Megabus comes to mind, which is a newer bus service with doubledeckers. If you schedule way ahead of schedule with them you can often get good deals. You might want to do a comparison.
Most of the time, we’ll buy two adult-passenger tickets for $30/each (one way) and one ticket for our 2-year old daughter (it was $10, they do charge for kids, but we’ve taken a lap baby on for free before).
The buses are comfortable, have soft cushioned seats, and a restroom on board. Highly recommended!