However, Dan Aronoff, Napway’s founder and CEO, says the long way is more efficient.
“The quick show is: Not all time is equal,” Aronoff told me. “Wake-up time is not the same as bedtime; comfortable time is not the same as uncomfortable time; stress time is not the same as relaxation time.”
Instead of spending half your day getting to and from the airports, you can travel all night and wake up in downtown Nashville. It’s like taking a red eye, but with the ability to get a good night’s rest.
To test this theory, I booked a $125 one-way ticket and tried the luxury bus. By comparison, my one-way trip home was $244.60; The road is often cheaper, but it was a weekend getaway.
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The bus was scheduled to leave at 10 p.m. from a parking lot in the capital’s NoMa neighborhood at 180 L St. NE – Half an hour across town from my apartment. I walked into the Lyft at 9pm in a lot of stretched jeans, a soft t-shirt, and a sweatshirt, and arrived with enough time to get a slice of pizza nearby.
It took some deliberation to choose an outfit for the trip. The other passengers would be put away in one of Nabway’s 18 private suites, and we were all there to sleep. However, we’ll get off the bus in central Nashville at 8 a.m., and I won’t be able to check into my Airbnb until 4 p.m. instead of going into pajamas, or dressing like some travelers I know, have settled on something in between.
A Nabway worker helped me put my duffel bag under the eight-wheeler with its tinted windows and a picture of a twinkling constellation on the side. Travelers can store two pieces of baggage below for free, and you can bring more for $25 per bag. There are no weight restrictions, and even larger items like unfolded bikes are allowed for $25 (folded items are free if they are one of two items checked).
What’s not allowed: Children under 8, dogs (other pets welcome), weapons, open alcohol containers, illegal items and any items that might distract other passengers on board such as pungent food and noisy electronics.
Then I got on as if I were on a regular long-distance bus. Except for the small bathrooms, this is where the similarities between a Napaway and a Greyhound come to an end.
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My suite had two seats that fold down and up with a “butterfly” cushion, providing a 6.5-foot-long flat bed with 48 inches of legroom and 40 inches of hip width. It came complete with pure white bed sheets, a full pillow and a huge fluffy blanket. There was also a three-point seat belt for the seat position, and a two-point harness for the bed.
Aronov says it took years of working with Butterfly Flexible Seating Solutions to develop the suites, each with more than 13 feet of usable space and a pull-down privacy screen. The CEO was inspired after hearing that a longtime, frequent friend slept like a baby on a fancy reclining seat in business class (he had never been able to sleep on a plane before). If they can put flat seats on planes, why not put them in carousels?
“It sounds kind of trivial, but the key to good sleep is to be flat,” he says. “Not kind of flat, not lying down, not sitting in an armchair – actually lying down.”
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Before we set off, I made my bed and opened the Nabway toiletries kit. It contained a light-blocking eye mask, earplugs, a disposable toothbrush, toothpaste, and a damp makeup-removing towel (a helpful touch after a greasy dinner).
With no weather delays or shortages of pilots to dread, we left on the right at 10pm, I pulled up my privacy screen like a home movie projector and piled into sheets smelling of fresh hotel scent. As a person of 5 to 4 people, I felt comfortable and spacious. Aronoff says the maximum height for a full stretch is 6-4, so taller people may have to bend their knees. I put on my headphones to listen to an audiobook and did an abridged version of my nighttime routine from bed.
Then, like that old Disney ad, I was so excited to get on the bus to sleep, I felt dizzy like I was at a traveling sleepover party. So I played on my phone, read Napaway’s FAQ, and tested my internet speed – it’s fast enough to stream movies from your own device; There aren’t any TVs or monitors on board – and I’m starting to get some itching in the car, unfortunately this happens on a regular basis. It didn’t take long to fall asleep, which cured my car sickness.
In the middle of the night, the turbulence of the road woke me up a few times, but it was easy to fall back asleep. I also woke up briefly when the bus stopped at its scheduled stop. Passengers can go out to walk around or grab a coffee, but I stayed tucked into my little cocoon both times.
When we got an announcement that we were 15 minutes away from our final destination, I actually woke up. I pulled out a mirror to check for damage. My face was a little puffy and my hair got messy at night, but I didn’t mind. I felt the same excitement in sleep camp during sleep and slept deep enough for full-fledged dreams.
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At 8 a.m. on point, Nabway parked in downtown Nashville at 421 Rep. John Lewis Way North. A woman behind me commented that she fell asleep the moment the bus lights went out and woke up the moment she heard the last announcement.
I grabbed my bag and grabbed another passenger before she left. What made her on the bus? Was the claim that it was more environmentally friendly than boarding a plane? Was she afraid of flying?
Because she commutes between D.C. and Nashville often for work, she said she’s always looking for cheaper alternatives to flying, especially after this unpredictable year of air travel. With flights that seemed particularly expensive, a friend told her about Nappawie. The trip went well, and she is now trying to see if she can rent the entire bus for future events.
At the moment, Napaway only operates on a limited schedule, departing from the capital on Friday nights and returning from Nashville on Sunday evenings. Aronov says before the company expands to other cities, it will add more options to its existing schedule. In November, it will launch more options for Wednesdays and Thursdays and plans to offer more rides on holidays.
While the US lags behind Japan and other countries in Europe, Aronoff says the domestic market for luxury bus travel is expanding, with companies like Vonlane, RedCoach and The Jet already operating across the country. (Others like Cabin from California and LimoLiner from Boston went before the pandemic.)
After my blissful experience at Nabway, I hope more Americans will take part in this direction.
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