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An illustration of a woman with a lot of beauty products on a crowded bus Lindsay Mound

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Travel Beauty Essentials for the Megabus

Is it possible to make this miserable ride a little more glam? Probably not.

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We, as a culture, are obsessed with looking and feeling good on airplanes. A surplus of stories on how to keep your skin from drying out mid-flight and what celebrities wear when they fly have all led to a complete oversaturation of airplane-specific content. And that’s okay: I personally love knowing how Gwyneth Paltrow functions at cruising altitude and what Kim Kardashian puts on her body to glide through LAX.

But as a broke girl living in New York with a significant other in Washington, D.C., I find myself on a Megabus far more often than an Airbus A320. As a result, my search history is rife with terms like “Megabus beauty” and “how to survive the Megabus” and “luxurious Megabus travel.” Perhaps not surprisingly, none of these stories actually exist.

Where is the Glamour article on how to best layer for the bus? Or the Allure feature on the best in-transit masks to scare away potential seatmates? There’s not even an #ITGTopShelfie for bus beauty! Disappointed, I set out to curate my own positive Megabus experience (while simultaneously writing the internet’s first-ever post on Megabus Beauty Essentials).

To prep for my most recent trip, I aggregated air travel tips from Oprah and Gwyneth, because the things that suck about airplanes also suck about the Megabus — mainly, the cramped quarters, gross circulated air, and lack of running water.

Then, I packed like I’ve never packed before and lugged a Madewell tote stocked with beauty products, snacks, and a bottle of Smartwater to the New York Megabus stop in hopes of having the best trip of my life.

I knew from experience that Megabuses err on the side of freezing, so I wore a loose Gap T-shirt and an Old Navy cardigan, along with a pair of Lululemon leggings, socks, and Adidas tennis shoes — the finest athleisure for the four-plus hour ride. I also packed my favorite scarf from a trip to Chile (do I sound like a jetsetter yet?) in hopes of warding off the Megabus’s signature chill.

I took off my makeup from the day using an Acure Organics Coconut + Argan Oil Cleansing Towelette, which come in travel-sized packs. I spread some rose-scented Glossier Balm Dotcom on my lips and cuticles and some R & Co. Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste through my bangs. This dry shampoo in particular is especially convenient for bus travel because you don’t have to disturb other passengers with a spray.

I also rubbed a little bit of lavender oil on my wrists and temples to relax (and to cover up the scent of the egg salad the person behind me was eating). After that, I put on a sheet mask. Weird looks aside, it wasn’t successful in scaring away other passengers. There are more frightening things on the Megabus than a sheet mask.

But even with all that prep, I still felt like shit when we pulled into Union Station. My skin was greasy, I smelled like egg salad, and my muscles ached from the small seat. I was defeated. How could this have gone awry given all the money I spent at Birchbox?

Maybe there’s a reason there are so few articles on luxury bus travel. The cramped seats, the other passengers, and the constant delays actually make it physically impossible to enjoy a trip by bus. I turned this over in my mind during my weekend trip, and when I boarded the bus on Sunday, I figured it had to be true.

(That is, until I saw two women a few rows back clinking portable plastic cups filled with red wine. It was then that I promised myself to continue my quest for a luxurious Megabus trip — just this time, with a thermos of pinot noir instead of a bag full of “beauty essentials.”)

So what is actually worth bringing on the Megabus? I find that the circulated air actually does dry my skin out, but it’s often easier and less messy just to use a sheet mask as a remedy once I’ve reached my destination. Removing makeup doesn’t change much, though those wipes are nice to have handy regardless, because the Megabus is gross.

I do recommend bringing along the dry shampoo paste for after the ride, too. Other, more practical accoutrements worth considering are a gel eye mask (available at most drugstores) and noise-cancelling headphones.

These things, while nice to have, likely won’t transform your Megabus seat into a first class flight, as much as you wish they did. But then again, the same goes for most travel. No amount of content from Goop or Allure or Into The Gloss or any other lifestyle site touting luxurious travel can make being up in the air or on the road any easier. Though there exists a complete empire of beauty ritual-related travel content, it’s likely that much of it won’t change a thing.

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