Cost of a sleeper bus ticket to San Francisco: $115. Not having to fly to LAX and deal with the airport: Priceless
“Dive in face first,” fellow passenger Jason Mow advised me.
I was on Cabin, the start-up bus service outfitted with 24 sleeper beds instead of seats, for an overnight ride from San Francisco to Santa Monica.
Only problem: I couldn’t figure out how to get into the upper bunk I selected. Acting on Mow’s advice, I reluctantly thrust myself forward and rolled in for a perfect landing. (I’m sure there are easier ways to get into bed, but this worked for me.)
I needed to be in the Bay Area, but I had decided against flying (too frustrating) and wanted to try bus options instead. I spent $35.50 for a seat on Megabus on the way up and decided to take Cabin back to Southern California. I wanted to see whether the comfort and convenience, never mind a good night’s sleep, were worth paying more than double the cost of a one-way plane ticket.
I boarded the bus before 11 p.m. The pickup point was easy to find; it’s about a 15-minute walk from BART’s Embarcadero Station near the Ferry Building, though I was lucky enough to have a friend drop me off. I didn’t miss shelling out for a taxi or Uber to the airport.
But mostly, the payoff was psychic. I didn’t have to arrive two hours early. I didn’t have to deal with landing at traffic-choked LAX. I didn’t have to stand in line through airport security, then sit in a crowded airport lounge and listen to the endless announcements of gate changes or struggle to find a spot to charge my cellphone.
Of course, I could have driven myself, but making the 400-mile drive to the Bay Area would have meant having to make the 400-mile drive back home.
I needed to be refreshed, not ragged. And I really liked the idea of using my sleeping hours as travel time.
Mow, an IT engineer from Brentwood who works for a San Francisco-based company, felt the same way. He had taken Cabin to the Bay Area and liked it.
“I usually fly, but the struggle of flying between L.A. and S.F. and how every flight is delayed is pretty frustrating,” he said. “So this is a much more seamless experience.”
I agree. I loved the ride in Cabin’s bed pods, which resemble sleeper cars on trains. A host/attendant greets you when you arrive and stays on the bus the entire time.
Earplugs and a bottle of water were nicely laid out on my bunk too.
Each cabin comes with power outlets, USB sockets and free Wi-Fi, which meant I could charge my phone and get a little work done on my laptop before dozing off.
There’s a seating area on the lower level of the bus for insomniacs who want to work or grab a cup of tea. There’s a single-person bathroom too, but no shower.
I liked snuggling into my bed and pulling the aisle curtain shut for privacy. During my pre-snooze time, I didn’t see or hear any other passengers, just enjoyed a smooth ride and quickly nodded off. Cabin calls its service a “floating hotel,” and I think that’s not such a stretch. I arrived the next morning around 7 at Palisades Park near the Santa Monica Pier.
What did I gain? Instead of leaving San Francisco early for the airport or to start on the long drive home, I had a leisurely dinner with a friend. I saved money on parking a car in San Francisco, taking taxi or Uber rides to the airport, filling my gas tank, and other hidden costs connected with driving or flying. Mostly, I found a way to take the stress out of the journey, and that was well worth the price.
Cabin operates an overnight bus in each direction on select dates in September and almost daily in October and beyond.
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