Do you stay home much more than you’d like because you don’t have the money to fly? Why not take a road trip instead? I regularly use road-tripping as a viable way to travel as far away as 700-800 miles. In fact, I’ve driven to destinations 1900 miles away (just not in one day!). So…should you fly or drive?
Driving 750 miles is very do-able in a single day. What might surprise you is that it doesn’t take much longer than traveling the same distance by air…and it certainly saves you money! Want to see the proof?
Driving from San Diego to Salt Lake City is a drive I have made many times. I’m going to show you a comparison of time and expense, just for illustration’s sake.
My trip to Salt Lake City was for a total of six days, so if I had flown, I would have had to rent a car or sponge off family members for nearly a week. As you can see in the chart above, you save less than two and a half hours by flying, and you’ll pay at least two and a half times more! But you don’t have to take my word for it. To determine if you will fly or drive, choose any two cities and calculate the cost of airfare vs. the cost of driving, and you will find similar results. For example, if you want to travel one-way from Columbia, SC to New York City, the distance is 708 miles. Flying will cost $94.00 one-way, and driving your own car will be $41 for gas.
Websites that can help you calculate driving costs include GasBuddy and ViaMichelin. Another great website, BeFrugal.com, has a Fly or Drive calculator which surveys you about your destination, make and model of car, need for rental car, etc. and then shows you the detailed cost of flying or driving.
Of course, there are many variables…the kind of mileage your vehicle gets and the cost of gas in different parts of the country. (My vehicle averages 30 mpg on the freeway.) And when it comes to choosing airfares for comparison, I chose the very cheapest possible option; however, the chances that you would be able to book at that price on the exact day you want to travel are not good. You could be paying significantly more for airfare.
While I was on my last road trip (just last week, actually), I decided to write down all the pros and cons of flying vs driving, and here they are:
Pros of Driving
- You can decide at the last minute to take a trip and the cost doesn’t change.
- You don’t have to pack carefully; just throw everything and anything into the car and go.
- You can stop whenever you want to…to check out a roadside attraction, to get a bite to eat, or to take care of children’s needs.
- You will pay significantly less money, even if you require lodging for one night.
- Your savings is multiplied many times over if you are traveling with several people.
- If the weather is bad, you are not subject to flight delays; you get to make the call whether or not to drive in bad weather…or just stay put until the weather clears.
- The views are great! You are at ground level and can enjoy the scenery for your entire trip.
- Car seats are more comfortable and less restricting than airplane seats.
- It’s easier to take a nap (unless you’re the driver!)
- If you’re a passenger, you can continue checking emails and making phone calls for work.
- When you arrive at your destination, you have your own car for getting around.
Cons of Driving
- You are sitting in a seat for the entire trip.
- You have to pay attention to road conditions and traffic.
- You could experience bad weather and traffic congestion.
- You have to share the road with semi-trailers.
- It takes longer than flying.
- You have to stop to use a restroom.
- Potential for mechanical breakdowns
- Greater risk of accidents
Pros of Flying
- Potential for saving time
- You can just sit and relax; no traffic-induced stress.
- In-flight movies
- Aerial views can be awesome!
- There is a bathroom available on the plane
- You can sometimes take your seatbelt off.
- High safety factor
Cons of Flying
- More expensive
- Airport security: lines, emptying pockets, removing shoes, x-ray machines, etc.
- Necessity to pack light and pack fluids separately; everything must be contained — you have to be much more organized
- A lot of time is wasted waiting…for parking shuttle, for check-in, for security, for loading at the gate, for taxiing and takeoff approval, disembarking from plane, etc.
- Uncomfortable chairs in airports while waiting
- Limited space on the airplane
- High chance of delayed flights (weather/mechanical issues)
- Possibility of lost baggage
- Airport prices for food and amenities
- When you arrive at your destination, you still need transportation (rental car, train, etc.)
- If you must make a trip at the last minute, the fare will be significantly higher.
When we make road trips, my husband is often able to travel without taking much time off. I do the driving while he sets up a hot spot with his cell phone and uses his laptop to conduct work, check/reply to emails, and sit in on conference calls. A road trip is a win-win for us…unless the weather gets bad. On this last road trip, it took us thirteen hours to make the drive home, and we spent the first five hours struggling through a winter storm. That is a rare exception for us.
Ultimately, you need to make the decision for yourself, based on what is best for you and your family, your finances, and your stress levels. My goal has been to convince you that you might be able to travel a lot more if you’re willing to make road trips. Best wishes on your trip plans!
Related posts you might enjoy reading:
- Packing for Success
- The View from the Window is Great (cockpit window views)
- Perspective of a Flight Attendant
- Road Trip — Keeping the Kids Happy
- Amazing Airport Amenities