If you are wondering if you should fly or drive on that next trip or family vacation, here are some key factors to consider.
Plane Tickets vs. Gas
The main thing that most people think about when deciding whether to fly or drive is the cost of plane tickets vs the cost of gas used to drive. This is certainly the best place to start. When calculating your plane ticket cost, remember that what you pay online for your tickets may not be the final cost. Be sure you know what baggage fees or other charges you will face on the plane. These charges can really add up.
To calculate the cost of gasoline you can do some quick math by taking the miles per gallon of your vehicle and divide the trip miles by that, then multiply by the cost of a gallon of gas. Go conservative since driving at highway speeds is not the most energy efficient. Your car may do better or worse on the highway that it does in the city, depending on how you drive around town.
There are a few other costs that must be known. If you fly you will likely face a parking ramp fee at the airport or perhaps a taxi fare. If you are going for an extended period call a hotel to see if they offer free long term parking if you stay overnight. You may find that with a $80 hotel stay you get a week long parking spot that would cost you $100 at the airport, and you can use the hotel’s free shuttle to get to your plane. That saves you $20 and gets you a night at the hotel.
With auto travel see if there are toll roads on your trip. While these usually are not expensive they can add up depending on which part of the country you live in.
Hotels and Meals
If you fly it is very likely that you won’t need to pay for a hotel until you get to your destination, but if you drive and have a long way to go you might be looking at a hotel stay. Don’t forget to add that cost into the cost of your trip.
Like a hotel, a meal may be avoided if you can fly directly to your destination. However, a long drive will certainly be accompanied by a meal or two. This may not be a factor since you would eat anyway, but the cost of a meal on a plane or in an airport and the cost of any restaurant you can select from on the road can be very different.
If you are in a big hurry the plane is most likely your fastest option, but maybe not. For shorter trips you can end up spending enough time in transit, waiting for flights, and waiting to rent a car on the other end of the trip to make a day’s drive not such a big deal. For a trip of any length this isn’t even close. Driving will always take longer than flying once you are going more than a few hundred miles away.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is, if you are in a hurry and have the money, go ahead and fly. If you are trying to save money, driving will almost always be the cheaper option, but it will take you longer. Your schedule and your budget will ultimately make the decision for you on whether you should fly or drive.