Michael Stacey, 48, drove from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk to Sunderland, where he had booked a hotel room to meet with the teen.
However, Newcastle Crown Court heard that he had in fact been communicating with an undercover police officer.
Prosecutor Paul Reid told the court: "He travelled from his flat in Great Yarmouth to the North East for the specific purpose of meeting a person he believed was 13 with specific purposes of having sexual intercourse.
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"The child in question was a decoy operator on the site 'Chatty' on October 12 last year.
"She later suggested they started talking on WhatsApp and the defendant provided the decoy with his telephone number.
"The operator told him at the beginning of the conversation that she was 13.
"He spoke at some length about her friends and boyfriends and asked if he was himself boyfriend material."
The court heard that Stacey said he wanted to spend a few hours at his hotel kissing and cuddling her, and mentioned the use of condoms and seeing her "every day."
Mr Reid added: "He said it was better she was nearly 14 and that 13 was a bit young even for him.
"On October 15 she sent a message and he replied saying he couldn't stop looking at her natural beautiful photo."
Stacey was apprehended on October 27 and he later admitted arranging a child sex offence and engaging in sexual communication with a child.
Lee Fish, defending, told the court that Stacey, of York Road, Great Yarmouth, had been visiting the area to see his parents.
Mr Fish added: "The position is the defendant pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
"At the time he was working extremely long hours as a bus driver.
"This meant he was not getting enough sleep and this combination of factors caused a return of his mental health issues.
"He presents a very lonely and isolated individual and that loneliness combined with his mental health issues at the time undoubtedly contributed to him engaging with online chat, most of which was perfectly legal online chat.
"But unfortunately, on this occasion it was not legal."
Judge Robert Spragg jailed Stacey, who has relevant previous convictions dating back to 2002, to four years and eight months with a further four years on licence.
The judge said: "You were arrested on October 27 2021 having travelled from Great Yarmouth to the North East for the specific purpose of meeting a child you believed to be 13 have sexual intercourse.
"In fact it was not a real child but it was a decoy operator by an undercover operation.
"You said you were visiting your parents in the North East. You said you would have to be careful so you wouldn't get into trouble.
"Probation believe the motivation was sexual gratification and a desperation for company and a relationship."
Stacey was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order and the sex offender's register for life.