Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
Travelling can be the bane of a performer’s life. Personally, I try to make the most of it and use it as much needed down time. But even so, it can be tiring, frustrating and, let’s be honest, smelly. I write this now as I start a 4 hr trip home after performing at a wonderful show that took me 7hrs to get to yesterday.
It made me think about my preferred methods of travel and which I would personally recommend.
In order of preference.
1. Car Pooling
Sure you can just count driving alone in this if you like, but travelling to a show with a friend or fellow performer can be an awesome experience! Car pooling has allowed me to spend lots of time with my burly wife, but also get to know some performers better. It’s also the best, and most realistic option, if you are travelling with large props, etc.
Pro tip: Apply to shows with one or more friends and offer the combined travel cost as an option for the show promoter. Either way, make sure you cover the petrol money and don’t leave the driver out of pocket. This is great if you have routines that compliment each other.
Pro tip: Only embark on looooong road trips with fellow performers if you think you can spend that much time in each others company, otherwise you’re gonna have a bad time. That said, if you do like the other person enough, it could turn into a roadtrip of awesomeness!
Of all public transport, trains are the most direct, and despite the odd delay, occassionally rude staff or obnoxious passengers, they tend to be a good option. No sitting in traffic, and the freedom to read, sleep or even write (I am writing this on a train right now). Coming home on a Sunday after a show is generally pleasant and less busy, allowing you to sit back and look at the lovely British (in this case) countryside. As trains primarily stay off the beaten track and carve through the countryside, I have seen some beautiful sights I would never have seen otherwise -a feast for the eyes.
Pro tip: trains can be ridiculously and disproportionately expensive – a ten minute journey on a commuter route costs me three times more than the 40 min journey to my parent’s village in the other direction. To get the best deal possible, book as far in advance as you can. And look around for prices, some routes are run by different services/companies, so prices can vary, sometimes a lot. The more flexible you are on your travel time, the better the deal you are likely to get.
Pro tip: If you want a nap, or generally a break from the hub-bub, book your ticket in the quiet carriage (NB. not available on all trains). And if people are being noisy (beyond reasonable levels) then feel free to claim the higher ground and tell them to shut the fuck up or get the hell out (or tell on them. Whatever).
Pro tip: Most booking services will have an option for you to select to book a seat near the luggage rack. This can be hit and miss depending on how packed the train is at the point of booking, but worth a shot to not be too far from your case of awesome. If travelling with larger but delecate props not suitable for the rack, book a table seat so that you can keep it with you.
Observation: Don’t be surprised to see people being served and consuming alcohol on trains regardless of the time of day. Apparently its a thing.
3. Mega Bus
When I first heard of their low prices I figured they must have been coaches refitted from warzones and driven by psychos. But no, I was basing that on the awfulness of National Express that charge infinitely more. Mega Bus, in my experience, are clean, friendly and efficient – I’ve only been delayed once (a London gig during the Olympics, but thankfully I had left loads of time), and they went out of their way to catch up the time by swapping routes and all sorts. Unlike National Express that tries to squeeze as money on ghe way stops as possible into a route, Mega Bus is super direct which often makes it quicker and certainly less annoying. The only draw back to this being that they are direct as a result of their limited destinations.
Pro tip: If Mega Bus doesn’t go to the destination you are performing at, look for a hub station such as London or Birmingham you can use, or combine it with changing to a train. If you book National Express they do this for you and so you get a ticket all the way through but still have to change/wait at a hub station, so just do it yourself for a fraction of the cost. Personally I’ve done Bristol to Brighton for £10 each way – by combining mega bus to London Victoria and then swap to train for Brighton, National Express or a train the whole way were crazy money by comparrison.
Pro tip: Mega Bus is excellent if performing in London – with journey’s back to Bristol at 10pm and 11.45pm it’s easy to just get in and out of the Big Smoke in one day if the show is early enough! Combine with an Oyster card for cheap travel in London and you are set!
4. National Express
This is the final option for the truly desperate! I travelled extensively on National Express as a young person and for a while assumed coach travel was always meant to be this shit. A while later it dawned on me that it was because it had no competiton in terms of coaches, until Mega Bus came along and so no incentive to actually not suck. Pulling no punches here – I have found National Express to be consistently dirty (toilets especially – when they have them at all), broken (the heating and/or aircon is stuck permanently on or off as standard), and most especially overpriced, especially given the above. In fairness, there are occassionally nice drivers who make funny anouncements, but I often wonder if that is to bring joy to passengers or maintain their own sanity whilst in such a soul destroying environment (the heating is stuck at the “sauna” setting, with broken aircon in mid summer for them too remember!).
5. Worth a mention – flying
If you’re having to travel the length of the country, be sure to check out flights. A few years ago I went to Newcastle and discovered that a flight was half the price of the train, the next cheapest option (not to mention quicker). An especially good option if you have an airport close enough to you that travel to and from doesn’t massively bump up the cost.
6. General tips
Leave loads of time. As a show promoter I cannot stress enough how annoying, but also stressful, time consuming and hard work it can be to deal with a performer running late. It should go without saying, that just like in a day job, you should take into account possible delays in getting there. Don’t set out or get the train/coach that will get you there >just< in time. You need to be on at least the one before that, if not the one before again – do your best to plan for the unplanned traffic jams, delays and cancellations.
Know what the fuck you’re doing! If you are getting a train or coach then it is your responsibility to find the right platform and be there at the right time. If you can’t make head or tails of the departures board (and lets face it, some are laid out to purposely confuse like some kind of weird travel pop quiz), find and ask a member of staff. Should it not be a manned point then there will be a phone information number somewhere – find it and use it! If you jump on a train/coach and you’re still not sure, politely ask the nearest passenger or member of staff. Under no circumstances should you try and get a fellow passenger (or anyone’s!) attention by poking them in the head! Just, no!
When calculating travel expenses don’t forget the bus/train/taxi you will need to get to and from your house to your booked travel, unless you’re willing to eat this cost. If its £2 each way on the bus that might be ok, but if its £10 each way in a taxi then think about including it.
No matter if you like babies or not, try to avoid sitting near infants, especially on long trips. They may be cute, they may even be surprisingly quiet, but sooner or later they will start to smell. Bad. Generally avoid children under 10 – if you end up at a table with a child in possession of a new tea set, they will want to play with it. Furthermore, when they insist they must have actual liquid to put in the teapot, be warned that their unreasonably complicit parent will agree to this, and yes it will end up all over you (and any of your items within range).
I personally feel this goes for life in general, but do try and sit next to an interesting looking older person if you have to share seats. 8 times out of 10 you will have awesome conversations (the other 2 counts are when you sit next to an asshole – the old can be assholes too).
Applying make up in transit can be time saving and a fun way to pass the time. Trains are generally best for this but coaches will suffice as long as you are on a long, clear stretch of motorway. Do not apply makeup if you are driving. If applying full stage makeup, especially drag-esque, on public transport be prepared for weird looks, come to bed smiles, and accusatory glares (sometimes all from the same passenger).
Finally, why not make the most of travelling by taking the time to visit the area your performing in or visit with friends and/or fellow performers. Let’s face it, travelling for shows can be one of the perks of the job. I have especially sought out bookings in places I have never been or want to visit and have enjoyed every moment.
Obviously this list is not exhaustive and people have had different experiences, so I’d love to hear any other tips your Crunchettes might have.
Have love, will travel