Should You Drive Or Fly For Your Vacation?

This is a question we hear quite often when we fly to nearby locations. “Why didn’t you just drive?” It’s a legitimate question and I agree there are several advantages to driving in comparison to flying. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of the airport. You aren’t on such a strict schedule, so if you’re running late you won’t miss your flight. You can bring everything you want with you including food, clothes and your pillow without worrying about how heavy your suitcase will be. However, driving also has its own perils, as it’s no fun to be sitting on a highway in a traffic jam or trying to drive through a blinding rain (or snow) storm.

There are several factors that can influence your decision. The cost of flying vs. driving is an important one. This is compounded if you have a family because any math shows that four airline tickets cost twice as much as two tickets. If you drive, you’d also have to figure out the cost of gasoline and the wear and tear on your car (or the cost of a rental car if you don’t trust your vehicle for a long drive).

For most of us in this time crunched world, the most important factor is how long it will take us to get to our final destination. Figuring in the average time to drive to the airport, park your car and then check in. It’s several hours of time that you need to add to your flight time to figure the actual travel time. Even that assumes everything will go OK with your flights and there are no delays or cancellations.

Fortunately, the folks at iNovia have come up with a chart to show how long a trip of varying miles will take by car, train, high speed rail or airplane.


You see that the intersecting point between a car and plane runs right around 200 miles or four hours of travel time. You can travel up to 800 miles in less than six hours but to drive that long you’re looking at way over ten hours (or more). This chart is assuming that just getting to the airport to get on a plane takes up about four hours of your time. If you’re an expert traveler you may be able to cut that down a bit, but for starters it’s fine. This chart also assumes that you can always take a non-stop flight to your destination. If that’s not possible, add in any layover to that chart.

Why am I thinking about this now? We have to travel out of town soon and were originally planning on driving to our destination. It’s about a 650 mile drive and would take around 10-11 hours with limited stops. We’d have to drive there, stay two days, then drive back home.  Of our four day vacation, two days would be spent in the car. It was a cost effective solution until I looked at it on paper.

We can get non-stop flights so it would take us about five hours in total travel time each way to fly. There’s a low cost carrier flying on the route so we’d only have to pay $250 each for airfare. A rental car for the weekend will only cost $41. The flights are a decent time so we’d have another full day at our destination if we fly instead of drive. If I would drive, I’d have to pay over $100 in gas for the trip plus put 1300 miles on my car.

In our situation, even though flying is more expensive, getting an extra day at our location on a short weekend getaway and getting home at 10AM instead of 10PM is worth the extra money.


What do you think?

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