I traveled on a luxury overnight bus with lie-flat suites from Washington, DC to Nashville for $125 and was shocked by how comfortably I slept

Brittany Chang/Insider

  • Napaway is a new sleeper bus company with seats that turn into memory foam beds.

  • The motorcoach startup is now running overnight weekend services between Washington, DC and Nashville, Tennessee.

  • My 9.5-hour journey aboard Napaway was shockingly comfortable for a long-haul route.

Traveling on a long-haul budget bus isn’t stereotypically the most comfortable experience.

A person wearing a hat carrying a bag while a Greyhound bus is in the back.

A Greyhound bus in Texas in 2021.Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

After all, packed rows of seats, almost nonexistent WiFi, and broken foot rests don’t make for a luxurious road trip.

A Greyhound bus parked outside in Texas in 2021.

A Greyhound bus in Texas in 2021.Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

If you shudder at the thought of sitting sleeplessly on a budget bus for hours at a time, you’re not alone.

Two side-by-side Megabuses during a pitstop. Two people are standing besides the first bus parked further back.

Two Megabus buses in New York in 2012.Hyungwon Kang/Reuters

And that’s why Daniel Aronov decided to start Napaway, a sleeper bus lined with private suites to provide passengers with a restful and comfortable long-haul journey.

The rear of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Napaway isn’t the first luxury disruptor in the motorcoach industry — Aronov acknowledges there has been a growing number of premium motorcoach services popping up around the US.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

In Texas, Vonlane has been a longtime interstate luxury bus operator with a side of meal services and sofa-like seats.

A close up of the Vonlane logo on plush black seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Insider

And between Washington DC and New York City, there’s the Jet, a newcomer that’s been seeing booking success with the help of its motion-canceling seats.

Rows of black leather seats, some topped with jackets, bags, pillows.

Inside the Jet.Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Insider

But unlike Vonlane and the Jet, Napaway doesn’t operate between two nearby cities.

A matte black bus that reads "The Jet" on the side. Passengers with bags are boarding the bus or putting their bags away into the lower storage compartment.A matte black bus that reads "The Jet" on the side. Passengers with bags are boarding the bus or putting their bags away into the lower storage compartment.

The Jet on a cold January morning.Brittany Chang/Insider

Instead, its primary route is a 9.5-hour redeye between Washington, DC and Nashville, Tennessee.

US Capitol in Washington DC.

US Capitol in Washington DC.Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

And while the Jet and Vonlane both have pretty luxurious seats that feel more like plush couches than seats on the bus …

A row of empty seats.

Inside the Jet.Brittany Chang/Insider

… Napaway brings comfort one step further (and flatter).

A small bed with a pillow and mattress.

Brittany Chang/Insider

The only thing better than sitting down is laying down. And that’s Napaway is lined with seats that can convert into beds with memory foam mattresses.

Two seats pulled down to reveal a grey bed topped with a pillow and a bundled mattress.

Brittany Chang/Insider

The “key” to a pleasant sleep is laying fully horizontal, Aronov realized after seeing his friend slumber on a business class flight with lie-flat seats.

Singapore Airlines A380 business class.

Taylor Rains/Insider

And that’s exactly what he tried to recreate with the sleeping suites aboard Napaway.

A seat pulled forward as it holds a pillow. There's a small table with a cup holder next to the seat.

Brittany Chang/Insider

These seats don’t just lean back a few inches. They lie completely flat.

A flat grey bed next to a seat with a pillow.

Brittany Chang/Insider

This sleeper bus concept already exists around the world, but according to Aronov, these coaches don’t provide the size, comfort level, privacy, or personal space that Americans “expect.”

The exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

To create its row of spacious bedrooms on wheels, Napaway tapped a Chinese aircraft and motorcoach seating manufacturer — Butterfly Flexible Seating Solutions — to create the arrangement.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Source: Butterfly Flexible Seating Solutions

The startup then tasked a separate coach conversion company to retrofit the interior of its used charter bus, bringing the Napaway concept to life.

The exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

According to Aronov, the team spent a few years designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the interior of the coach.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But the actual installation process was “very efficient” because there was no need to renovate anything besides the previous seats.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

To put it bluntly, spending over nine hours on a bus from DC to Tennesse sounds like my personal hell.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But nine hours on the road in a private suite with a memory foam mattress? I could be convinced.

Two tray tables on a wall that divides the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I reserved my $125 seat for the Friday night (10 p.m., to be exact) route from DC to Nashville a month in advance through Napaway’s website.

The front exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

When it came time to travel, I waited for the Napaway coach with one other passenger at the DC pickup location, a dark public parking lot that reverberated the sounds of “Top 100” pop hits from the bar next door.

The entryway into the bus.

Brittany Chang/Insider

After the bus arrived, I was greeted by Aronov and two bus drivers.

Seats facing upright tray tables.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I already changed into my loungewear, brushed my teeth, and finished my skincare routine before I boarded the bus. So by the time I stepped foot into my bedroom on wheels, all I had to do was set up my bed and drift off to sleep.

Rows of bus seats separated by boards.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But for those who don’t have time to prepare ahead, you can use the small bathroom at the rear.

A small sink, toilet, and toilet paper roll.

Brittany Chang/Insider

After a quick tutorial on how to convert my two seats into a bed, we were off on our 9.5-hour overnight journey.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats as someone adjusts the other seat.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I had my apprehensions before boarding Napaway. But surprisingly, my small suite felt like a personal bubble aboard the 18-bed bus.

My bed in the morning after riding in the Napaway bus

Brittany Chang/Insider

Each suite has two staggered seats and tray tables.

Tray tables in front of seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

These tray tables also have phone holders to make the onboard entertainment — a library of television shows and movies accessible through your phone via a QR code — a hands-free experience.

Napaway's onboard entertainment options with movies, series, or clips.

Napaway

Maybe I was using it wrong, but my iPhone struggled to stay upright in the phone holders.

A tray table pulled down

Brittany Chang/Insider

But that was okay with me. After getting carsick while working on the Jet, I’ve since learned to stay away from screens while traveling in a motorcoach.

A laptop with a map of Manhattan. Bus seats and large windows are behind it.

Working on the Jet.Brittany Chang/Insider

And at 10 p.m, I didn’t feel compelled to spend hours scrolling through social media or watching a movie, which was for the best given the fast but spotty onboard WiFi.

Napaway's Wifi screen

Napaway

After a few minutes of sitting upright, decided it was time to turn my two seats into a bedroom.

A seat facing a tray table.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I spent less than a minute setting up the bed. All I had to do was lock the two staggered seats flat to reveal a 6.5-foot bed.

A close up of a black notch on the side of a seat.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I then unfurled the 2.5-inch thick memory foam mattress at the head of the bed to create the base of my nest.

A mattress topper bundle.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And after setting up my pillow, sheet, and plush blanket, I finally had my own bedroom on wheels.

A small bed with a grey blanket.

Brittany Chang/Insider

For some extra privacy, I also pulled down a large but thin opaque screen, which made my suite feel much more secluded.

A black privacy screen pulled down from the ceiling of the coach.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I had to lay at an angle, but my whole 5-foot, 4.5-inch self fit on the bed.

Two legs on the bed of the bus.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And surprisingly, the Napaway bedding was as plush as any typical memory foam bed, a luxury I’ve never experienced while traveling overnight.

A small bed with a pillow and mattress.

Brittany Chang/Insider

After a little over an hour on the road, I started lightly drifting off to the sounds of the passing cars and the sways of the motorcoach as it drove down the freeway.

A pillow and mattress next to the window of a bus.

Brittany Chang/Insider

The thick mattress pad, cozy blanket, and rocking motion of the bus made me feel like a swaddled baby being rocked back and forth.

A flat grey bed next to a seat with a pillow.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But while my little nook was undeniably comfortable, I wasn’t able to stay in a deep sleep during the entire more than nine-hour ride.

Two staggered bus seats with a pillow on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Throughout the night, I found myself half-awake and cognizant of my environment especially as the bus pulled into its two pit stops just a few hours apart.

Rows of bus seats separated by boards. A pillow is on the closest seat.

Brittany Chang/Insider

However, I definitely still had a longer and better night’s slumber compared to some red-eye flights and coach rides I’ve taken in the past.

The exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

It gets bright in the early hours. Luckily, each suite has an amenity kit with a surprisingly comfortable eye mask, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipe, and ear plugs.

An eye mask with ear plugs, wipes, a tooth brush, and tooth paste on white sheets.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Before I knew it, we finally arrived in downtown Nashville, Tennessee at around 7:45 a.m.

The exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And while I didn’t sleep through the entire night, I still had more than enough energy to go about my day without being cranky or groggy.

My reflection in a mirror as I take a picture in the bathroom

Brittany Chang/Insider

“It’s a good way to have the full day at both your origin and destination points,” Aronov said. “[When you] leave in the evening and arrive first thing in the morning, you don’t lose either of the days.”

Two staggered bus seats with a bundle of sheets on one of the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

So far, Napaway has seen “pretty positive” reception to this concept, Aronov said, with many travelers leaving happy.

Tray tables in front of seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

For now, Napaway is only operating a weekend service with Friday night departures from Washington DC to Nashville, Tennessee and Sunday evening returns.

The exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Because of this weekend service, most of its customers have been leisure travelers.

A tray table on a wall that divides the seats.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But this primary demographic could change soon as the startup expands its days of service.

A paper with a QR code and plastic water bottle.

Brittany Chang/Insider

After a scheduling expansion, Napaway will consider more routes in the southeast, midwest, or even upstate New York with the larger goal of operating a national network.

Rows of seats on the bus.

Brittany Chang/Insider

At some point, the company also wants to run shorter daytime routes.

Rows of bus seats separated by boards with tray tables.

Brittany Chang/Insider

But for now, Aronov is mum about specific cities he wants to bring the service to and when.

A small sink and toilet paper roll.

Brittany Chang/Insider

Because of its current long-haul overnight route, the startup doesn’t see other coach services as its big competition.

The view from my bed in the Napaway bus

Brittany Chang/Insider

Instead, Aronov says it’s competing with airlines and people driving their own vehicles.

jetblue, american, southwest

Getty Images

“People who hear about it usually get it,” he said. “And when you consider how much of a crazy mess flying has been this summer, I think it resonates.”

airline delay, people wait in line for their flight

Flight delays and cancellations will likely continue throughout the summer, analysts told Insider.James D. Morgan/Getty Images

He makes a good point: Air travel has been a “hellish” and expensive nightmare this summer.

Düsseldorf airport

David Young/picture alliance via Getty Images

Airlines have canceled thousands of flights, lost baggage claims have skyrocketed, security lines have grown, and airfare has soared past pre-pandemic levels.

A picture showing abandoned luggage in Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Luggage are piling up at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.Adam Kent

Source: Insider, Insider, Insider, Insider 

So if you have the opportunity to pass on air travel for a more convenient, affordable, and in this case comfortable option, why not?

The upper storage area of the bus with a blanket.

Brittany Chang/Insider

I showed up early, boarded the bus, slept, and arrived in the morning refreshed and ready for my day. It was a completely seamless and comfortable travel experience.

Legs on a bed in a private suite aboard Napaway.

Brittany Chang/Insider

And that sure beats what we’ve all come to expect of summer air travel: large crowds, long security lines, and extended waits at boring terminals.

The front exterior of the Napaway coach on a bright cloudless day.

Brittany Chang/Insider

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