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A few weeks ago I wrote about alternative transportation modes for the business traveler. During my research for that article, I came across Vonlane. I promised myself I’ll give them a try when I find the right opportunity. Well, today as I’m writing this article, I found that opportunity and I’m riding Vonlane between Dallas, TX, and Houston, TX.
Boarding the Bus
After I had booked the trip online, I received an Email containing my confirmation number and pick up location for today’s ride. For Dallas, TX, they pick up at the Double Tree Hotel at Love Field Airport. The hotel lobby makes for a very swanky waiting area with a coffee bar serving Starbucks and snacks. It set the tone and expectation for my trip.
The bus pulled up outside the Hotel fifteen minutes before departure. The driver greeted me outside, took my luggage and stored it under the bus. As I got to the top of the boarding stairs, I was welcomed aboard by the Attendant who introduced herself as Angela. Angela checked my reservation and pointed me to my seat 7C.
Just before we left, and just like on a plane, the other passengers and I watched a safety video. The only two things I missed from the video are the parts about oxygen masks and life vests. But since it’s a bus and not a plane, I don’t really need these safety items in an unlikely event. The video did go into how to open the emergency exits and the workings of a seat belt. In any case, it did feel a bit like boarding a plane especially with the level of professionalism displayed.
After the safety video, our Attendant Angela made PA announcement to reintroducing herself and introduce our driver Willard. She mentioned if we had any questions for the driver to ask her, and she will speak with him. Also, she gave everyone onboard the internet access instructions and told us how long the trip would take. We pulled away from the Double Tree driveway on time at 6:00 AM.
The Trip and Onboard Experience
As soon as we got on the freeway, our Attendant Angela asked each passenger if they would like a drink and snack, I had a coffee. Also, she offered me a lap desk to use for my laptop and any other items.
At my seat, I had power, both 110 volts, and 5 volt USB. In the seat insert, there was a menu card offering ‘Just-in-case’ items. Some of these are a Wireless Mouse, Universal Laptop Charger, Lint Brush, Pencil, Pens and a Smart Phone Charger. Also, they have onboard Screen Cleaner for your laptop, Eye Glass Cleaner, and Hand Sanitizer. All excellent just in case items.
Besides Coffee, they have tea and an assortment of soft drinks. To eat in the mornings, Muffins, Yogurt, and Fruit are on the menu. The rest of the day they have sandwiches, wraps, and salads. All of which are complimentary.
Just across from my seat C7, is a table that seats four. You can reserve a place here and use it as a conference table, or a table where you can spread out your paperwork.
The internet on the bus is excellent. I tested the download speed and got an awesome 30Mps! The upload speed was 10Mps. It is much faster and more reliable compared to that on an airplane, a train or Megabus.
If you don’t want to work, they have Noise-Cancelling Headphones you can borrow to watch satellite television, listen to the in-seat satellite radio or your own device. If you just want to catch up on some sleep they have blankets, pillows and eye masks you can use. All you do is just ask the attendant these items.
Most high-end hotels and restaurants don’t have restrooms as beautiful and clean as Vonlane’s onboard restroom. Unlike Megabus’s room at the back with a bucket, Vonlane’s has a full-size flushable toilet. Also running hot and cold water at the sink and a soap dispenser that actually dispenses soap and not air. Imagine that! All of this with plenty of room to move around inside, unlike an airplane restroom.
Arrival and the Finishing Touch
As we approached Houston, we took the expressed lane and just flew by traffic parked on the highway. Just looking at the parked traffic, I was happy I didn’t drive. Our Attendant made a PA announcement that we are only ten minutes away from our arrival just outside the Hyatt Regency Houston.
When we arrived another PA announcement thanking each passenger for riding Vonlane. Then getting off the bus, at the bottom of the last step, our attendant was there holding a small basket of chocolates and thanked each passenger personally.
Our driver Willard already unloaded our bags and had them there waiting for each passenger to pick up. No long waits at baggage claim! Perfect. Since Vonlane picks up and drops off at major downtown hotels, you don’t need to worry about catching a taxi or public network transportation. They were plenty of taxi’s waiting outside the hotel. I used Uber who were only a minute away from my drop off location.
I’m a fan of alternative transportation methods to driving and flying, but they must make sense in time and cost. My Vonlane trip left Dallas at 6 AM and arrived in Houston 15 minutes early at 9:45 AM. Not bad for a 240-mile road trip.
I could have driven, but I wouldn’t have been productive during the journey and not as refreshed when I arrived. Also, I would not be able to use the express lanes in Houston adding an extra half hour to the drive. I could have flown. Per Google Maps, flight time between Dallas and Houston is one hour and five minutes. But that’s flight time from taking off to landing. It does not include check-in time which is a minimum of one hour at most airports and the time to pick up your checked bags, at least half an hour from the plane arriving at the gate. So, for the sake of argument, the absolute minimum trip time flying, if all goes well, is two hours and thirty-five minutes.
Let’s look at the cost of the journey between Dallas and Houston. Driving one-way, 240 Miles, would cost me around $30 in gas in my Toyota Sienna and about $17 in my Prius. Flying one-way on American Airlines, the seven-day advanced ticket is $195, plus $25 to check a bag. On Southwest, the seven-day advanced is $195 and no baggage check fees. Vonlane’s price is $99. And just for comparison, Megabus averages price for the same trip is $33, but remember it’s a bucket in the bathroom, no onboard refreshments, and attendant.
Most importantly for me, when I arrived in Houston I felt relaxed. My trip was stress-free, I worked, and I started this article. My only wish is Vonlane offered their service in other states including Georiga, the state I live in.
Pictures From My Trip
Video Tour of Vonlane
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Thank you for reading,