Whether you’re traveling in Texas for work or pleasure, at some point you’ll need to navigate across this vast state. Flying is an option between major cities, but after getting to the airport and dealing with security lines and possible delays, that 45-minute flight is never as quick or convenient as it seems. Road trips can be fun, provided you’re armed with the right playlist, snacks and companion, but even those require a lot from the driver. As for buses, well, those usually conjure bad memories of middle school or involve a rundown Greyhound station.
Unless you’re flying private (don’t fly private), the best case scenario is a comfortable ride in which you can relax, sleep, work or watch a movie, ideally with a beer in hand. That’s the promise of Vonlane, a luxury bus line that dubs itself a “private jet on wheels.” The company launched in 2014 with a single route between Dallas and Austin, and it’s been expanding ever since. After the February debut of a nonstop route between Dallas and San Antonio, and existing nonstop routes that connect Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, it’s arguably the best way to get around Texas.
“Non-stop service between Dallas and San Antonio is consistently our most requested route,” said Alex Danza, founder and CEO of Vonlane. “Texans are tired of the long slog between these major metropolitan areas. They’re looking for a way to maximize their work and leisure time without the hassle of driving themselves or making that inevitable stop in Austin along the way.”
A Vonlane coach has 22 first-class seats, nearly a third fewer than the standard bus. The roomy seats recline and have pop-up leg rests, so you can lie back and relax. Travelers can also take advantage of the wifi to send off some emails before you reach your destination. There’s still a good chance I-35 will be littered with construction and traffic, but you’ll care a lot less when you’re catching up on The Last of Us. That goes double if you’re also eating and drinking. Like an airplane, there are attendants on board to serve complimentary nonalcoholic drinks and snacks, and actual food like sandwiches, wraps and salads. Beer, wine and spirits are available for purchase. Vonlane also provides free amenities like neck pillows and sleep masks, and they’ll even loan you noise-canceling headphones and laptop chargers.
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Each bus is equipped with a real bathroom — like the one in your house — rather than the typical bus or airplane experience. So go ahead, have that second beer. And if you’re traveling with a few colleagues, you can book a four-person conference table in the back to convene on the road.
According to the website, “travelers are expected to exhibit professional courtesy and behavior onboard Vonlane motor coaches.” That means speaking with a “library voice” and keeping phone calls to a minimum. Basically, act like a normal person who cares about others and respects personal space, and you’ll do great.
Vonlane doesn’t have dedicated terminals. Instead, it departs from partner hotels in each city it operates in, and boarding begins 15 minutes before departure. All-in, it’s a better and often quicker way to travel than taking a short hop on Southwest Airlines, especially considering the potential for long security lines, flight delays and software glitches.
Before the pandemic, Danza says that roughly 60% of Vonlane riders were traveling for business, but those numbers have flipped, and these days more people are using it for personal trips, including weekend getaways and to attend festivals like SXSW and ACL. Whatever you’re traveling for, the service features multiple routes per day between its destinations, so you can get there and back at your convenience. For that convenience, the company says you can expect one-way fares to cost between $99 and $139 when booked over a week in advance.
Vonlane operates primarily in Texas, but last fall they launched a route between Nashville and Atlanta, and soon they’ll begin service between Nashville and Memphis. The company doesn’t have a stated plan to operate exclusively in top-notch barbecue destinations, but it seems like a sound strategy to us.
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