Booking inter-city bus trips and finding the best deal just got easier as the rapidly growing travel website Wanderu.com on Wednesday started posting schedules and fares for bus lines that serve the Twin Cities and 40 other cities in the Midwest.
Travelers type in their departing and arriving cities and dates of travel. The website combs the schedules of its 28 bus partners nationwide to find the best routes and fares, allowing bus passengers to shop for tickets just like airline passengers do on sites such as Kayak.com and Orbitz.com.
Passengers can also use the site to find out the cheapest day to travel.
"It makes planning a bus trip really easy," said Wanderu.com CEO and co-founder Polina Raygorodskaya, who noted that Amtrak schedules will be added to the site soon.
Wanderu.com debuted a year ago in the highly competitive Northeast market and has steadily expanded its reach across the country. Along the way, it has partnered with multiple carriers both large and small, including MegaBus, Bolt, New York/Adirondack Trailways and its newest member, Greyhound.
With its expansion into the Midwest, travelers can use Wanderu.com to book bus trips to more than 1,000 cities in North America.
A report out earlier this year from DePaul University showed that buses are the fastest growing mode of city-to-city transportation in the United States. But until Wanderu.com launched last August, there was no schedule and fare aggregator to allow riders to compare their options.
"I did lots of travel by bus and booking bus trips was inconvenient because there would be 10 options between major cities and I'd have to go to each website, and some didn't even have online ticketing," she said. "Booking was a big pain in the butt. Once on the bus I loved it because it has plug ins and WiFi and I could use it as a mobile office."
Raygorodskaya got the idea for the website while on a cross-country campaign to get young people to visit national parks and forests. She and three friends were stranded in Virginia when the ride share they had arranged canceled, leaving them with the task of finding a bus to get to their next destination. They could not find that information.
That frustrated Raygorodskaya, who quit her public relations job and teamed with COO Igor Bratnikov to start the website.
More than 500,000 users a month have been using the website and their mobile phones to price compare and book trips, Raygorodskaya said.
"We solved the problem, not only for ourselves but for everybody else," she said.
Photo: Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov