Should You Fly or Drive to Your Vacation?

by David Ning · 4 comments


Our family vacation this year involved a trek from Lafayette, Indiana to Norfolk, Virginia with a 10-month-old infant in tow. Before we even started the first leg of the trip, my husband and I had a major disagreement. He felt that the 13-hour drive would be easier and cheaper than flying. I felt that the cost of the flight — which involved a layover in each direction — was worth it considering the amount of travel time necessary to take the car.

If you’re planning a long trip and are not sure if flying or driving is the best option, here are some factors to consider:

fly or driveWhich Will Cost More?

It used to be that driving was the hands-down winner in the cost comparison, but that was when gas prices were much cheaper. Even with the higher cost of fuel, driving will often cost less overall. AAA offers a fuel-cost calculator that can help you determine approximately how much your road trip will cost.

When you compare that figure to the cost of a plane ticket for each member of your family plus (possible) additional airline fees in addition to the cost for parking or a shuttle to the airport plus the cost of a rental car or local transportation at your destination, driving seems to be the smart option financially.

However, it’s important to figure in the cost of your time. If both parents need to take an additional vacation day at either end of the trip in order to drive to and from their destination, that cost should be factored into the price of driving too.

What’s More Convenient?

This is another factor that is not as clear-cut as it once was. It used to be that flying was a fairly glamorous and low stress enterprise, where you sat back and relaxed while you traveled.

Driving, on the other hand, was hours of tedium punctuated by refereeing fights between Junior and Sis in the back seat. Neither of those are still the case. Flying now involves long waits and intrusive security measures before you get on an overcrowded plane.

And in the digital age, driving can mean the whole family (except the poor driver) gets a chance to catch up on their favorite media—DVDs, audiobooks, or blogs while eating up the miles.

To decide which mode of travel will be more convenient depends a great deal on how far you have to go. It’s worth it to calculate the amount of time you will be traveling door-to-door in both cases to decide which method is most likely to have you still talking to each other once you get there.

What’s Safer?

This is the one component that is easy to calculate. Flying is one of the safest modes of transportation, and driving is the most dangerous way to travel. It’s easy to forget these facts since we drive every day and fly rarely — and because every airplane crash makes the news while we hear next to nothing about the thousands of car wrecks that occur every single day in America.

If you do decide to drive, take your safety seriously by making certain your car is in good condition before you leave, by buckling up, and by placing your small children in appropriate child-safety seats with 5-point harnesses.

For our trip to Virginia, we decided to brave the potential frustration and definite cost of air travel rather than give up two days of our vacation in travel time. My husband probably won’t admit it, but I’m sure we made the right decision by flying.

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  • Luis says:

    Hi all
    Personally agree with Steveark
    We live in Springfield, MA and every year we take vacations to Florida.
    There are Pros and Cons, Driving or Flying.
    From 8 years that we have been taking vacations to Florida, only one was flying. Yes is true, it was fast and time saver. But in the other way, cost you more because you have to add the rental cost of a car, unless you grab a vacation package. Also, flying in this days for vacations it will limit what you can have in your luggage. Only the necessary, if is overweight you have to pay more.
    Now if you’re going to drive, again is true that is a sacrifice but, depend of the kind of car that you rent.
    We always rent a car because they’re new and has the eco feature (gas saving). We don’t like to put those mileage in our daily use cars. Driving allow you to take a small cooler, cookies, snacks, prepared food, etc. and enjoy the sights…… Remember, are vacations……
    When we drive long distances, we divide our trip in half to a hotel near the highway with “BREAKFAST INCLUDED” and with some interest things around.
    Example: From Springfield to Myrtle Beach are 12 hours. We start driving early in the morning like 6 to 8hrs then we stop in a hotel near Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA. Next day of arriving, we go to the park for the kids or the Outlets store for my wife, etc. Then we drive like a 4 or 5hrs more to our destiny.
    Driving is fun, educational, and there’s a lot of quality time to share in family.

  • Taya Dianna says:

    I frequently drive from Wilmington, DE to Monticello, IN area (near Lafayette! #boilerup). I used to fly but then realized that I was really only saving a couple hours of travel time due to the necessity of arriving early to the airport, potential delays, waiting for luggage & then waiting for a rental car. Cost-wise, driving was much cheaper AND I could load up my car with stuff/supplies going to or taking home from family. I really enjoy the drive – taking the time to myself, jamming out to the radio, appreciating the scenery, reminiscing about family road trips… & of course there’s the added benefit of being able to travel w/my dog when I drive. For families today, I encourage you to take the drive & have designated “technology free” times to talk, play road games, teach the kids how to READ A MAP, calculate gas mileage…all things I think so many kids today are missing out on.

  • DNN says:

    I’m a bit nervous in the air.

  • Steveark says:

    We generally drive everywhere because as an early retired, empty nest couple half the fun is getting there. Our last three thousand mile road trip had no iteniary and very few plans other than one major destination. You miss a lot in the fly over states that you get to see when you drive. But we also have all the time we want to spend, so a three day trip can turn into a two week trip on a whim. We do fly on overseas trips, some places you just can’t drive to!

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