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.
After all, packed rows of seats, almost nonexistent WiFi, and broken foot rests don't make for a luxurious road trip.
If you shudder at the thought of sitting sleeplessly on a budget bus for hours at a time, you're not alone.
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.
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.
In Texas, Vonlane has been a longtime interstate luxury bus operator with a side of meal services and sofa-like seats.
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.
But unlike Vonlane and the Jet, Napaway doesn't operate between two nearby cities.
Instead, its primary route is a 9.5-hour redeye between Washington, DC and Nashville, Tennessee.
And while the Jet and Vonlane both have pretty luxurious seats that feel more like plush couches than seats on the bus …
… Napaway brings comfort one step further (and flatter).
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.
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.
And that's exactly what he tried to recreate with the sleeping suites aboard Napaway.
These seats don't just lean back a few inches. They lie completely flat.
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."
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.
The startup then tasked a separate coach conversion company to retrofit the interior of its used charter bus, bringing the Napaway concept to life.
According to Aronov, the team spent a few years designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the interior of the coach.
But the actual installation process was "very efficient" because there was no need to renovate anything besides the previous seats.
To put it bluntly, spending over nine hours on a bus from DC to Tennesse sounds like my personal hell.
But nine hours on the road in a private suite with a memory foam mattress? I could be convinced.
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.
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.
After the bus arrived, I was greeted by Aronov and two bus drivers.
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.
But for those who don't have time to prepare ahead, you can use the small bathroom at the rear.
After a quick tutorial on how to convert my two seats into a bed, we were off on our 9.5-hour overnight journey.
I had my apprehensions before boarding Napaway. But surprisingly, my small suite felt like a personal bubble aboard the 18-bed bus.
Each suite has two staggered seats and tray tables.
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.
Maybe I was using it wrong, but my iPhone struggled to stay upright in the phone holders.
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.
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.
After a few minutes of sitting upright, decided it was time to turn my two seats into a bedroom.
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.
I then unfurled the 2.5-inch thick memory foam mattress at the head of the bed to create the base of my nest.
And after setting up my pillow, sheet, and plush blanket, I finally had my own bedroom on wheels.
For some extra privacy, I also pulled down a large but thin opaque screen, which made my suite feel much more secluded.
I had to lay at an angle, but my whole 5-foot, 4.5-inch self fit on the bed.
And surprisingly, the Napaway bedding was as plush as any typical memory foam bed, a luxury I've never experienced while traveling overnight.
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.
The thick mattress pad, cozy blanket, and rocking motion of the bus made me feel like a swaddled baby being rocked back and forth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before I knew it, we finally arrived in downtown Nashville, Tennessee at around 7:45 a.m.
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.
"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."
So far, Napaway has seen "pretty positive" reception to this concept, Aronov said, with many travelers leaving happy.
For now, Napaway is only operating a weekend service with Friday night departures from Washington DC to Nashville, Tennessee and Sunday evening returns.
Because of this weekend service, most of its customers have been leisure travelers.
But this primary demographic could change soon as the startup expands its days of service.
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.
At some point, the company also wants to run shorter daytime routes.
But for now, Aronov is mum about specific cities he wants to bring the service to and when.
Because of its current long-haul overnight route, the startup doesn't see other coach services as its big competition.
Instead, Aronov says it's competing with airlines and people driving their own vehicles.
"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."
He makes a good point: Air travel has been a "hellish" and expensive nightmare this summer.
Airlines have canceled thousands of flights, lost baggage claims have skyrocketed, security lines have grown, and airfare has soared past pre-pandemic levels.
So if you have the opportunity to pass on air travel for a more convenient, affordable, and in this case comfortable option, why not?
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.
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.
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